Cambodia

Are you eager to learn about the culture of Southeast Asia, to get lost in its ancient Buddhist temples and to try the local cuisine while avoiding mass tourism? Then, welcome to Cambodia!
When planning a holiday to Southeast Asia most of us immediately think of countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia. Despite having so much to offer, Cambodia is rarely considered an attractive destination and is largely ignored by tourists. This makes this country the perfect place to learn about the culture of Southeast Asia while avoiding the many tourists visiting its neighboring countries. Cambodia is a country full of history and here you will be able to visit some of the most astonishing ancient religious sites in the world! Prices are extremely cheap making Cambodia the perfect destination for you if you’re traveling on a budget. In this country, you will be able to explore ancient temples, see floating villages and enjoy wonderful beaches! If you’re eager to try new exotic flavors, if you are willing to get lost in the celebration of the local water festival, and if you’re interested in the culture of Southeast Asia, then Cambodia is the perfect place for you! Pack some light clothes, a good deal of suncream, and your camera, here we go! 
Phnom Penh, Cambodia –  Cambodians on their dragon boats as they await the boat race to begin as part of the Bon Om Touk or Water Festival.

 

The coast of island Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia. Long deserted beach with white sand and clear water. Aerial view.

Cambodia is situated in Southeast Asia and it confines Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. The country is characterized by a central plain surrounded by gentle hills and small mountains. Cambodia has plenty of rivers and is home to the largest freshwater lake of Southeast Asia, Tonlé Sap. This lake is worth visiting as it hosts around 170 floating villages, with houses built directly on the water! The capital of the country is Phnom Penh and if you decide to visit it, make sure to take a look at the royal palace. Other less crowded but still interesting cities are Sihanoukville and Krong Battambang. Cambodia is surrounded by over 80 islands where you will have the opportunity to try out scuba diving and enjoy the sun on one of their many wonderful beaches. The island of Koh Rong Sanloem is one of the most popular! 

Ancient stone faces of Bayon temple, Angkor wat Siam Reap Cambodia

Cambodia is characterized by a tropical climate. This means that only two seasons exist in the country: the wet season and the dry season. The good news is that you can expect to find warm temperatures all year round, regardless of the season. The best months to visit Cambodia are December and January when days are sunny and dry, but be ready to encounter many tourists. The rainy season lasts from May to November with September and October being the months with more precipitation. If you suffer the heat, make sure to avoid the months of April, when temperatures easily reach 40°C, and the ones of May and June when the climate is not only warm but also wet. 

Traditional Cambodian khmer fish amok curry meal

The most popular dish of Cambodia is probably Fish Amok. It consists of fillets of freshwater fish cooked in coconut milk, sugar, eggs, and fish sauce. It’s usually served in a bowl made out of banana leaves and next to Kroeung, a typical paste made from the local kaffir lime, lemongrass, a mix of spices, and turmeric. If the heat is killing you, a fresh salad is a right solution! Try out the typical chicken and banana flower salad. It usually contains slices of chicken breast, fresh veggies such as shallots, garlic, chilies, and obviously, a crunchy banana flower! If you want to try something a bit more unusual you cannot miss the vast choice of edible insects that Cambodia has to offer. Even though technically not an insect, here you can eat fried tarantula, crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside! Another popular option is one of the local delicacies consisting of a bunch of scorpions on a stick. You will find plenty of food stands selling this unusual snack in the capital! If insects are not your thing, you can still try Balut, the fertilized embryo of a duck. Although it may seem disgusting to the Western eye, this is one of the Cambodians’ favorite snacks, usually eaten directly from the shell. 

 

SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA –  artists posing in traditional Khmer costumes at the Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap in Cambodia.

As said, Cambodia is a warm country all year round, so make sure to pack the right clothes. Natural fabric such as cotton, linen and silk are the perfect option. Leave your pair of favorite jeans at home, despite being beautiful, they are way too warm for Cambodia. A good idea is to wear a loose-fitting t-shirt coupled with a long pair of light trousers, or a skirt, to protect yourself from the many mosquitoes. During the rainy season, an umbrella helps more than a rain jacket. In places of worship, you will be required to cover your legs and arms so always be prepared. While packing remember to bring the right adaptor for your electrical devices, here associated plug types A, C and G are in use.

Locals can usually be seen wearing Krama, a piece of cotton cloth that they wrap around their neck. The Sampot is the national costume of the country used by both men and women. It consists of a rectangular cloth, approximately one and a half meters long, that is worn around the waist. 

King Father Norodom Sihanouk as a young monk portrait on 100 Cambodian riel – KHR, the official currency of Cambodia

In Cambodia, US dollars are widely used even though the Cambodian Riel is becoming more and more popular. The country is currently trying to get rid of US dollars and has started to promote the Cambodian Riel instead. What this means for you is that $1, $2, and $5 bills are no longer accepted in most places in the capital. For this reason, make sure to always have a few riels with you, as no one, especially in the countryside, will change a $20 bill for a $0.50 purchase. Anyway, this shouldn’t be too difficult as you will often receive change in riels and all banks in the country exchange dollars for the local currency. 

Prices in Cambodia are very cheap. A main course is usually around 2-3£ and Airbnb can easily be found for 8-13£ per night or about 5£ per person if you’re travelling in two. So if you want to travel on a budget that’s the perfect destination for you as the biggest expenses you will have to cover will be your flight. 

night market, inscription in Khmer and English, illumination

Khmer, also known as Cambodian, is the main language spoken in the country. Cambodian is also spoken in the southeastern part of Thailand and the south of Vietnam. English is widely used and understood, especially in comparison to neighboring countries where English is only used in the tourism industry. However, the main language is still Khmer and you will still find plenty of people who don’t understand English. So, before your trip, make sure to learn a few basic words in Khmer such as ‘hello’ ‘thank you’ and ‘bye bye’. Cambodians are always very pleased when they see tourists putting an effort into learning their language. 

Cambodian monks walk past the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Approximately 95% of the population of Cambodia is Buddhist and you will find plenty of ancient Buddhist temples to visit! The most popular is Angkor Wat, the largest religious site by area in the world! Other religious sites worth visiting are Preah Vihear Temple and Sambor Prei Kuk. If you’re interested in the traditions and habits of Cambodia don’t miss Bon Om Touk, a water festival celebrated around the end of October and the beginning of November in the capital! Visitors from all over the country travel to Phnom Penh to watch the local boat races, contemplate the fireworks and take part in the many evening concerts. 

If you decide to visit this country, you will soon notice that most of the people here are extremely young. This is due to the Cambodian genocide, a dark part of the country’s history largely unknown to many Europeans, which took place around the late ’70s and resulted in the death of approximately ⅓ of the whole population. Unfortunately, Cambodia still has problems as it currently has one of the highest per capita percentages of amputees in the world due to the many land miles that can still be found on its soil.

Kingdom of Cambodia Visa on passport

To enter  Cambodia, you will need to apply for a Visa. It will cost you about 25£ and it will take about 3 business days for your Visa to be processed. During the Visa procedures, you will be asked for a passport-size photo in digital format and a credit card. Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months on arrival or you won’t be let in. The Visa will be valid for 3 months and you will be able to stay in the country for 30 days.  Make sure to leave the country at the end of this period as, for every extra day you will remain in the country past your Visa validity, you will get a 10 euros fine. But this is not all, you are also running the risk of being detained and deported if you stay longer than your Visa allows. 

Phnom Phen, Cambodia –  man working at tangled wires on electric poles in Cambodia

A, C, and G are the three varieties of Cambodian plugs. Two parallel flat pins are found on plug type A, two round pins are found on the same plug, and plug type G contains three rectangular pins in a triangle configuration. Cambodia runs on 230V and 50Hz.

 

Why travel to Cambodia?
Phnom Penh, Cambodia –  Cambodians on their dragon boats as they await the boat race to begin as part of the Bon Om Touk or Water Festival.

 

Location and Geography
The coast of island Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia. Long deserted beach with white sand and clear water. Aerial view.

Cambodia is situated in Southeast Asia and it confines Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. The country is characterized by a central plain surrounded by gentle hills and small mountains. Cambodia has plenty of rivers and is home to the largest freshwater lake of Southeast Asia, Tonlé Sap. This lake is worth visiting as it hosts around 170 floating villages, with houses built directly on the water! The capital of the country is Phnom Penh and if you decide to visit it, make sure to take a look at the royal palace. Other less crowded but still interesting cities are Sihanoukville and Krong Battambang. Cambodia is surrounded by over 80 islands where you will have the opportunity to try out scuba diving and enjoy the sun on one of their many wonderful beaches. The island of Koh Rong Sanloem is one of the most popular! 

Climate and weather
Ancient stone faces of Bayon temple, Angkor wat Siam Reap Cambodia

Cambodia is characterized by a tropical climate. This means that only two seasons exist in the country: the wet season and the dry season. The good news is that you can expect to find warm temperatures all year round, regardless of the season. The best months to visit Cambodia are December and January when days are sunny and dry, but be ready to encounter many tourists. The rainy season lasts from May to November with September and October being the months with more precipitation. If you suffer the heat, make sure to avoid the months of April, when temperatures easily reach 40°C, and the ones of May and June when the climate is not only warm but also wet. 

Cuisine
Traditional Cambodian khmer fish amok curry meal

The most popular dish of Cambodia is probably Fish Amok. It consists of fillets of freshwater fish cooked in coconut milk, sugar, eggs, and fish sauce. It’s usually served in a bowl made out of banana leaves and next to Kroeung, a typical paste made from the local kaffir lime, lemongrass, a mix of spices, and turmeric. If the heat is killing you, a fresh salad is a right solution! Try out the typical chicken and banana flower salad. It usually contains slices of chicken breast, fresh veggies such as shallots, garlic, chilies, and obviously, a crunchy banana flower! If you want to try something a bit more unusual you cannot miss the vast choice of edible insects that Cambodia has to offer. Even though technically not an insect, here you can eat fried tarantula, crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside! Another popular option is one of the local delicacies consisting of a bunch of scorpions on a stick. You will find plenty of food stands selling this unusual snack in the capital! If insects are not your thing, you can still try Balut, the fertilized embryo of a duck. Although it may seem disgusting to the Western eye, this is one of the Cambodians’ favorite snacks, usually eaten directly from the shell. 

 

Clothing and dress
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA –  artists posing in traditional Khmer costumes at the Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap in Cambodia.

As said, Cambodia is a warm country all year round, so make sure to pack the right clothes. Natural fabric such as cotton, linen and silk are the perfect option. Leave your pair of favorite jeans at home, despite being beautiful, they are way too warm for Cambodia. A good idea is to wear a loose-fitting t-shirt coupled with a long pair of light trousers, or a skirt, to protect yourself from the many mosquitoes. During the rainy season, an umbrella helps more than a rain jacket. In places of worship, you will be required to cover your legs and arms so always be prepared. While packing remember to bring the right adaptor for your electrical devices, here associated plug types A, C and G are in use.

Locals can usually be seen wearing Krama, a piece of cotton cloth that they wrap around their neck. The Sampot is the national costume of the country used by both men and women. It consists of a rectangular cloth, approximately one and a half meters long, that is worn around the waist. 

Currency
King Father Norodom Sihanouk as a young monk portrait on 100 Cambodian riel – KHR, the official currency of Cambodia

In Cambodia, US dollars are widely used even though the Cambodian Riel is becoming more and more popular. The country is currently trying to get rid of US dollars and has started to promote the Cambodian Riel instead. What this means for you is that $1, $2, and $5 bills are no longer accepted in most places in the capital. For this reason, make sure to always have a few riels with you, as no one, especially in the countryside, will change a $20 bill for a $0.50 purchase. Anyway, this shouldn’t be too difficult as you will often receive change in riels and all banks in the country exchange dollars for the local currency. 

Prices in Cambodia are very cheap. A main course is usually around 2-3£ and Airbnb can easily be found for 8-13£ per night or about 5£ per person if you’re travelling in two. So if you want to travel on a budget that’s the perfect destination for you as the biggest expenses you will have to cover will be your flight. 

Language
night market, inscription in Khmer and English, illumination

Khmer, also known as Cambodian, is the main language spoken in the country. Cambodian is also spoken in the southeastern part of Thailand and the south of Vietnam. English is widely used and understood, especially in comparison to neighboring countries where English is only used in the tourism industry. However, the main language is still Khmer and you will still find plenty of people who don’t understand English. So, before your trip, make sure to learn a few basic words in Khmer such as ‘hello’ ‘thank you’ and ‘bye bye’. Cambodians are always very pleased when they see tourists putting an effort into learning their language. 

Culture
Cambodian monks walk past the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Approximately 95% of the population of Cambodia is Buddhist and you will find plenty of ancient Buddhist temples to visit! The most popular is Angkor Wat, the largest religious site by area in the world! Other religious sites worth visiting are Preah Vihear Temple and Sambor Prei Kuk. If you’re interested in the traditions and habits of Cambodia don’t miss Bon Om Touk, a water festival celebrated around the end of October and the beginning of November in the capital! Visitors from all over the country travel to Phnom Penh to watch the local boat races, contemplate the fireworks and take part in the many evening concerts. 

If you decide to visit this country, you will soon notice that most of the people here are extremely young. This is due to the Cambodian genocide, a dark part of the country’s history largely unknown to many Europeans, which took place around the late ’70s and resulted in the death of approximately ⅓ of the whole population. Unfortunately, Cambodia still has problems as it currently has one of the highest per capita percentages of amputees in the world due to the many land miles that can still be found on its soil.

Passport & Visa
Kingdom of Cambodia Visa on passport

To enter  Cambodia, you will need to apply for a Visa. It will cost you about 25£ and it will take about 3 business days for your Visa to be processed. During the Visa procedures, you will be asked for a passport-size photo in digital format and a credit card. Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months on arrival or you won’t be let in. The Visa will be valid for 3 months and you will be able to stay in the country for 30 days.  Make sure to leave the country at the end of this period as, for every extra day you will remain in the country past your Visa validity, you will get a 10 euros fine. But this is not all, you are also running the risk of being detained and deported if you stay longer than your Visa allows. 

Electricity & Plug
Phnom Phen, Cambodia –  man working at tangled wires on electric poles in Cambodia

A, C, and G are the three varieties of Cambodian plugs. Two parallel flat pins are found on plug type A, two round pins are found on the same plug, and plug type G contains three rectangular pins in a triangle configuration. Cambodia runs on 230V and 50Hz.

 

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Will be traveling through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam for a month. What essentials should I pack?

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I’ve heard alot about terrible scam problems that tourists face in Cambodia and I’m not too sure how I can avoid this issue on my trip to Phnom Penh. How can I verify or spot scammers when I am there?

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I'm visiting Phnom Penh soon, and I was hoping to go on a day trip to Oudongk during my stay. Is it possible to go on a day trip from Phnom Penh to Oudongk? What's the best way to go about this?

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