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Travelling in Cambodia

Traveling in Cambodia is easy and there are many different ways to go from A to B. Both, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are famous for their oversupply on Remok’s and motorbikes. When leaving the hotel or restaurant most of the time there a driver will already be waiting for you. In the smaller cities where not so many tourists can be found Remok’s are rather rare.

Still, supposedly any other Cambodian owns a motorbike so there will always be the possibility to go around the cities.

A visit to Cambodia wouldn’t be complete if you hadn’t done an overland through the country and to do this there are a lot of possibilities. Today there are operated flights from Phnom to Siem Reap almost every 4 hours and for those who like an airfare can also charter a helicopter from either Phnom Penh or Siem Reap to Sihanoukville or any other destination in Cambodia. Frankly the more interesting way of traveling throughout the country is overland by car or bus.

For tourists who would like to try the public local transport – which is an opportunity to get to know the country from a different perspective - it is always being advised to book two seats in a bus or even a taxi in order to get the least bit of comfort as the front seat in a taxi for example would have to be shared if not booked exclusively.

For those who are really looking for an adventure a train rides through the country it is. The railway network has been installed by the French almost 100 years ago and hasn’t probably been renovated yet. A ride therefore is really bumpy and trains often have a lot of delay facing problems like cows, people, or smaller bamboo trains on the road.

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TRAVEL TIPS

Where to go in Cambodia?
Most visitors fly in to Siem Reap, visit the Temples of Angkor, and then leave the country. 
This is a real shame as the rest of the country is filled with fantastic natural beauty and historic temples. So, depending on how long you have and where your interests like, the guide below can help you plan your trip. 

To truly experience Cambodia, you need to spend a few weeks traveling around. Natural attractions range from the northeastern jungles, to the lovely beaches of Sihanoukville, and the mighty rivers that cut across the country. Our staff and guides are enthusiastic about their country of residence and are more than happy to help you plan a journey perfectly suited to your needs. Whether you seek luxury travel, an adventurous journey, or a classic tour of Cambodia’s main sites Global Travel & Tours knows the best program for your holiday.

When to go in Cambodia?
The winter months (October to February) are the best time to travel to Cambodia as the air is cool and the skies are clear.  However, the dust at this time of year can be irritating and the crowds at the Angkor temples are at their highest numbers.  March to May sees hotter temperatures and dry skies, and the heat continues in to June through August when the monsoon season starts.  The rains, however, do not usually cause a major problem for travelers as they tend to be short- but hard- afternoon showers.

The Cambodian water festival in October is a lively affair with 3 days of dragon boat racing taking place in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh and Buddhist New Year in April sees families gathering at temples to celebrate.  Although both are spectacular events, several restaurants and shops are closed meaning slight disruptions may occur in your travel plans.

General Advice on Travelling in Cambodia
Official name: Kingdom of Cambodia
Area: 181,035 square kilometers
Monarch: HM Preah Borom Moneath Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia
Ethnic Groups: Khmers 90%, Chams (Khmer Islam), Hilltribes, Chinese, Vietnamese
Population: 14 million
Religion: Theravada Buddhism: official religion; Islam (500,000); Christianity (125,000)
Provinces: 23 provinces

Currency & Exchange
The local currency is the Riel; however, in Phnom Penh and most major tourist destinations, almost all goods and services are calculated and paid for in the US currency. The rate of exchange (at time of printing) is approximately 4,000.- Riels to one U.S. Dollar. Credit cards, traveler’s checks and currencies other than U.S. Dollars are accepted only at a few places such as major hotels, at some foreigner-owned restaurants and at some souvenir shops. It is best to carry U.S. Dollars in small denominations. Automatic Teller Machine Service (ATM) is offered by ANZ Royal Bank, Cambodian Public Bank, SBC Bank and Canadia Bank. ATMs accept all major credit cards and can be found at various places in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang and Sihanoukville.

Customs and Formalities
Regulations are relaxed and simple formalities should be observed when entering the country. Every traveler has to complete a customs declaration form during the arrival flight and must submit it on arrival.

Any amount of foreign currency can be brought into Cambodia, but the amount of Cambodian currency must not exceed 100.000 Riels per person. Tourist and non-resident carrying over USD 10.000 in cash or its equivalent must declare so in order to ensure they will be allowed to exit the country with that amount.

A Global Travel & Tours will meet travelers at the exit of the airport building, after airport immigration and customs control points have been passed. For easy recognition, our representative will display a sign with the names of the guests or group. It also will be this representative who will be in possession of tickets for ongoing flights of the clients. Should clients have bought international tickets with us they will receive them on their departure day.

Domestic Flights
Cambodia has a domestic service to some provincial towns in the country; with the focus on Cambodia Angkor Air and Siem Reap Airway operate continuous air services between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap with up to six flights in each direction during the high season between November and February.

During the quieter months of June-September scheduled services drops to four in each direction. ATR 72s & Boeing 717s are currently in service on these routes.

Festivals, Ceremonies & Public Holidays

Mid April: Bonn Chaul Chhnam (Khmer New Year)
The New Year’s festival spans three days following the end of the harvest season. Khmers clean and decorate their houses with altars for offerings. Then they play traditional games such as Angkunh, Chaol Chhoung, Leak Kansaeng and tug of war.

13 - 15 May: HM the King’s birthday
The newly appointed King His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodaom Sihamoni celbrates his birthday with a three day public holiday.

May: Bonn Chroat Preah Nongkoal
The Royal Plowing Ceremony is the inauguration of the planting season. The plowing ceremony is performed by a man. King of Meakh, who leads the yoke and plough, followed by a woman, Queen Me Hour, who sows seeds. After thrice circling the rice field, the procession stops at a chapel where Brahmins invoke the protection of the Gods. The sacred cows are unharnessed and guided to seven silver trays containing rice, corn and other foods. Based on their choice, predictions are made for the coming year.

End of September/early October: Bonn Dacca Ben & Bonn Pchoum Ben 
The Spirits Commemoration Festival is held for the spirits of the dead. Bonn Dak Ben – the offering of food to the monks – lasts for 15 days. The 15 day of the ceremony – the full moon – is called Bonn Phchoum Ben, the collection of the bens (offerings). During this celebration, if departed souls do not find their family making offering at a Wat, it is believed that the soul is cursed and will bother the descendent throughout the year.

October: Bonn Kathen
The 29-day religious festival is marked by town and country folks marching in procession to the Wat where the Monks are waiting to change their old saffron robes for new ones offered during the festival. The ceremony brings spiritual merit to both lay people and the monks.

31 October - 1 November: HM the retired King’s birthday
His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Norodom Sihanouk Varman, the retired King of Cambodia, was born on 31 October 1922 in Phnom Penh. Every year his birthday is celebrated in regal fashion and the entire nation joins in to honour their King.

9 November: Independence Day 
Independence Day, the date Cambodia achieved independence from France in 1953, is marked by a parade with floats and spectacles highlighting the nation’s achievements.

Early November: Bonn Om Touk (Water Festival)
The Water Festival, which ushers in the fishing season and marks the reversing of the current in the Tonle Sap River, is a spectacle to behold. At the height of the rainy season, the water in the Mekong River flows with such power that it backs up into the Tonle Sap River, forcing the Tonle Sap to reverse its current and begin flowing northward to the Great Lake. As the water level begins to subside, the current reserves again. The festival draws tens of thousands of people to the river banks to watch longboat races, fireworks and a lighted flotilla of boats under the full moon.

Food/Cuisine
Khmer cuisine is closely related to those in neighboring Thailand and Laos, although it is not as spicy. Curries, stir-fried vegetables, rice, noodles and soups are staples of the Khmer diet. Fresh river fish and shellfish are both abundant and delicious. Western food is provided only in the major cities although other Asian dishes are widely available. Cambodia is well known in the region for its Prahoc, a strong, fermented fish paste used in a variety of traditional dishes. Tap water should never be drunk. Bottled mineral water and bottled drinking water are available in all reputable hotels and restaurants. Similarly, salad and fruit served at these establishments are safe.

General Advice
Drink lots of water. Purified, bottled water is available everywhere.  Never drink tap water. Use an insect repellent against mosquitoes. It is the only way to be sure of protection against mosquito-borne diseases.

Since Cambodia has a hot and humid tropical climate, casual and lightweight clothing is best. Clothing made from natural fibers is the best option. A jacket might be needed on cool winter evenings or in hotels and restaurants using excessive air-conditioning.

A hat and high-factor sun block is advisable as protection against the hot sun when sightseeing outdoors. 

When visiting temples or pagodas, including those of the Angkor complex, shorts and T-shirts are acceptable. Shoes (as well as hats) are generally removed at the entrance to pagodas. For visits to the Silver Pagoda, which is within the Royal Palace grounds, visitors are asked to dress more formally. Gentlemen are required to wear long trousers and ladies should wear long trousers or long skirts.

Color standard film (such as Kodak, Konica or Fuji), slide film, video film and camera batteries are widely available. Photos are inexpensive to process in the country. Any specialized photo or video equipment should be brought with you. Photography and video in airports, railway stations and near any military installations is forbidden and discretion should be used when photographing people, particularly monks and those in hill tribes.

Health 
Although no vaccinations are officially required for entry to Cambodia, they are highly encouraged. Visitors are advised to check with their doctor or a travel immunization clinic regarding protection against malaria, Japanese Encephalitis, typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A and B. Any essential medications should be brought with you as there is no guarantee that they will be available in Cambodia.

International Flights
Direct flights to Phnom Penh are available from Bangkok, Guangzhou, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Nanning, Pakse, Seoul-Incheon, Shanghai, Singapore, Taipei and Vientiane. Airlines currently serving Phnom Penh are Air Asia, Asiana Airlines, Bangkok Airways, China Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Dragon Air, Eva Air, Jetstar Asia, Korean Air, Lao Aviation, Malaysia Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Silk Air, Air France, Thai Airways International and Vietnam Airlines.

Direct flights to Siem Reap are available from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Danang, Guangzhou, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Kaohsiung, Kuala Lumpur, Kunming, Luang Prabang, Pakse, Pusan, Seoul-Incheon, Singapore, Taipei and Vientiane. Airlines currently serving Siem Reap are Air Asia, Asiana Airlines, Bangkok Airways, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Jetstar Asia, Korean Air, Lao Aviation, Malaysia Airlines, Silk Air and Vietnam Airlines.

Language
Khmer is the official language. It is inherited from the Mon-Khmer family and enriched by the Indian Pali and the Sanskrit languages. There are various dialects spoken in areas outside Phnom Penh. English is the second language, followed by French, even though they are not widely spoken except in the capital.

Local Time
Cambodia runs at GMT +7 hours, the same time zone as its neighbors Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. Opening Hours of Museums in Phnom Penh

Toul Sleng Genocide Museum: Open every day from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm.
National Museum:  Open every day from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm.
Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda: Open every day from 8.00 am to 11.00 am (closed to new visitors at 10.45 am) and from 2.00 pm to 5.00 pm (closed to new visitors at 4.45 pm), except when His Royal Highness King Preah Borom Moneath Norodom Sihamoni conducts religious ceremonies at the Silver Pagoda or Royal rituals at the Royal Palace, then one of the two or both compounds will be closed. During the Water Festival, open only in the mornings on the first two days and closed for a full day on the third day.

Passport and Visas
Immigration formalities are quicker when travelers already possess their visa. However, Cambodia has very liberal visa regulations.  For USD 20 all travelers can obtain a tourist visa valid for 30 days upon arrival at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports, in Aranyaprathet (Poipet border crossing), at the Bavet / Moc Bai border crossing coming from Ho Chi Minh City, at Kaom Samnor Mekong River, at Phnom Den (Takeo) / Tinh Bien (Chau Doc), at Trapeang Plong (Kampong Cham) / Xa Mat (Tay Ninh) crossing points between Vietnam and Cambodia at  Prek Chaak (Kampot province) / Xa Xia (Ha Tien province), at O-Ya Dao (Rattanakiri) / Le Thanh (Pleiku) visa up on arrival is  available on Cambodian side. At Cham Yeam (Koh Kong) / Hat Lek (Trat) coming from Thailand, at the border crossing of Chrok Prom (Pailin), at Poipet (Battambang province), also in the Battambang province at the border crossing opposite Ban Laem and at O’Smach in the Anlong Veng district in Odor Mean Chey province as well as coming overland from Laos (Dông Kralor land border crossing) visa on arrival can be obtained.

A passport valid for at least six months beyond the end of the visit and one passport photo are needed. For travelers joining a Diethelm Cambodia tour departing from Bangkok, visas can be arranged there within two working days. Every traveler has to complete an immigration and a customs form during the arrival flight or upon arrival.

Visitors can also apply for a tourist visa on the internet. Valid ports of entry and exit for e-Visa holders are:

Phnom Penh International Airport
Siem Reap International Airport
Bavet – Moc Bai (Cambodia-Vietnam border)
Koh Kong - Trat (Cambodia-Thailand border)
Poipet - Aranyaprathet (Cambodia-Thailand border)

All ports are equipped with the latest version of terminal system and there will be a special e-Visa lane in each port. For more information and to apply for e-Visa, please log on to www.mfaic.gov.kh  

Safety
After years of political and social upheaval, Cambodia now enjoys relative stability. Continuing efforts are made to reconstruct the country from decades of war, to upgrade the infrastructure (roads, bridges, airports etc) and to ensure security. Cambodia is now once again safe for travel.

Shopping
There is a wide variety of items available for purchase in Cambodia. 
The country was once well known for its superior silk weaving, metal work and woodcarving. After decades of neglect, many of these arts are being revived. Visitors can find silver items, jewelry, gems, colorful cloth for sarong and hols (variegated silks), wood carving, paper maché masks, stone copies of ancient Khmer art, brass and bronze figurines and oil paintings in the different markets and shops on main avenues. The traditional clothing for both men and women is the krama, a long, narrow checked silk or cotton cloth available in most markets and shops. Jewelry is generally not up to international standards for design and workmanship and buyers should use caution when purchasing gold and gems, many gems are fake and we recommend not following anybody’s recommendations. The export of antiques is subject to approval of the Ministry of Culture. Bargaining is essential for all souvenirs shopping, if travelers are to obtain reasonable prices.


Tipping
Tipping for service is not expected in Cambodia but is most certainly appreciated. A tip of one or two dollars for a meal or $US1 to a cyclo driver can be a substantial bonus in a country where the annual average income is less than $US300! You should tip at your own discretion however we recommend you allow $US15 per day for your guide and $US10 for your driver. Back to top