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Cambodia

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Asia : Southeast Asia : Cambodia

Cambodia is bordered by Vietnam to the east, Laos to the north, Thailand to the north and west, and the Gulf of Thailand to the south.

Flag
Image:cb-flag.png
Quick Facts
CapitalPhnom Penh
Governmentmultiparty democracy under a constitutional monarchy established in September 1993
Currencyriel (KHR)
Areatotal: 181,040 sq km
land: 176,520 sq km
water: 4,520 sq km
Population13,363,421 (July 2004 est.)
LanguageKhmer (official) 95%, French, English
ReligionTheravada Buddhist 95%, other 5%
Calling Code855
Internet TLD.kh
Time ZoneUTC +7

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cambodia Travel Guide :

Cambodia

Understand

Following a five-year struggle, Communist Khmer Rouge forces captured Phnom Penh in 1975 and ordered the evacuation of all cities and towns. Over 1 million displaced people died from execution or enforced hardships. A 1978 Vietnamese invasion drove the Khmer Rouge into the countryside and touched off 13 years of fighting. As a result of the devastating politics of the Khmer Rouge regime, there was virtually no infrastructure left. E.g. no institutions of higher education, money and all forms of commerce industries were non-existent in 1978, so the Country had to be build up from nothing. UN-sponsored elections in 1993 helped restore some semblance of normalcy, as did the rapid diminishment of the Khmer Rouge in the mid-1990s. A coalition government, formed after national elections in 1998, brought renewed political stability and the surrender of remaining Khmer Rouge forces.

Cambodia

Regions

Map of CambodiaMap of Cambodia
Map of Cambodia

North-West Cambodia:

Eastern Cambodia:

Southern Cambodia:

Cambodia

Cities

  • Battambang
  • Kompong Thom — waypoint between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap
  • Phnom Penh — the capital
  • Poipet — filthy town on the Thai border
  • Siem Reap — the access point for Angkor
  • Sihanoukville — seaside town in the south, also known as Kompong Som
  • Stoeng TrengStoeng Treng — if you're heading North to Laos you'll be stopping here for the night.
  • Kampong Cham — sleepy provincial capital on the Mekong
Cambodia

Other destinations

Cambodia

Get in

All visitors, except citizens of some (but not all) Asian countries need a visa to enter Cambodia. As usual the visa can be obtained at any Cambodia Embassy or General Consulate overseas. Visa is available on arrival at Pochentong International Airport (Phnom Penh), Siem Reap International Airport, all six international border crossings with Thailand, and some international border crossings with Vietnam. Recent reports (mid-2005) suggest a visa on arrival facility is being introduced on the border with Laos. You will need one passport-size photo, filled forms and a passport which is valid for at least 6 months. Tourist visas cost US$20 and business visas US$25. The tourist visa is valid for 30 days and can be extended for another 30 days in country itself at a cost of US$ 15 through most travel agencies. Beware of the scams listed in the "by bus" section.

Cambodia

By plane

Phnom Penh International Airport (http://www.cambodia-airports.com/phnompenh/en/) (previously Pochentong International Airport) and Siem Reap - Angkor International Airport (http://www.cambodia-airports.com/siemreap/en/) are the two most commonly used airports for travel to and from Cambodia. Travellers going specifically to visit the Angkor temple ruins may prefer to use Siem Reap as it's only a few minutes away from the main sites.

Direct flights connect Phnom Penh with China (Guangzhou | Hong Kong | Shanghai), Laos (Vientiane), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), Singapore, Taiwan (Taipei), Thailand (Bangkok) and Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City).

Direct flights connect Siem Reap with Laos (Pakse | Vientiane), Singapore, Taiwan (Kaohsiung | Taipei), Thailand (Bangkok | U-Tapao) and Vietnam (Danang | Ho Chi Minh City).

From November 2005, low-cost carriers Air Asia (http://www.airasia.com) have introduced flights from both Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap; JetStar Asia (http://www.jetstarasia.com) have begun flying between Singapore and both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh; and PMTair (http://www.pmtair.com) have launched Phnom Penh to Bangkok and Siem Reap to U-Tapao services.

Other airlines already operating flights to/from Cambodia include Angkor Airways (http://www.angkorairways.com), Asiana Airlines (http://flyasiana.com/english/), Bangkok Airways (http://www.bangkokair.com), China Southern Airlines (http://www.cs-air.com/en), Dragonair (http://www.dragonair.com), Eva Airways (http://www.evaair.com), Lao Airlines (http://www.laoairlines.com), Malaysia Airlines (MAS) (http://www.malaysiaairlines.com), Shanghai Airlines (http://www.shanghai-air.com), Siem Reap Airways (http://www.siemreapairways.com) (a subsidiary of Bangkok Airways), SilkAir (http://www.silkair.com), Singapore Airlines (http://www.singaporeair.com), Thai Airways International (http://www.thaiair.com), and Vietnam Airlines (http://www.vietnamairlines.com).

Cambodia

By bus

There are no direct bus services from Thailand, but there are good Thai bus services to the main border crossings. On the Cambodian side, more basic and less frequent bus services are available from Poipet and Koh Kong. There are direct bus services from Saigon to Phnom Penh. You may want to get your visa from a Cambodian embassy/consulate in advance to avoid the "extra fees" corrupt border officials will want to charge. Travelling by land almost always requires at least one change of transport at the border. If you purchase a single ticket from a travel agent you'll get a spot in a van or pick-up truck. Truly "public" transportation involves taking a bus (or train) to the border and then negotiating for space in a car or pick-up. While this is usually the cheaper option, it will take up a good chunk of time and some (or more) hassle with waiting touts. Beware of scams if traveling overland through Cambodia. In the past scams have included requirements to purchase a SARS health form for 50 baht, a fine for not presenting an international vaccination certificate, a $100 US Dollar into Cambodian Riel exchange requirement and a visa fee of 1000 or more Baht (which is more than the official 20 US $). Tourist bus employees often take kickbacks from restaurants and guesthouses they suggest. Tourist buses will stay at rest stops for 2-3 hours or feign mechanical problems, extending the travel to 12 or more hours, which usually makes tourists too tired to argue when arriving at an overpriced guesthouse. For a good overview on the current overland-transport situation try Tales of Asia (http://www.talesofasia.com)

Bangkok-Siem Reap: The overland route across the border at Aranyaprathet/Poipet is in better shape than it once was but still a bit of a hassle, particularly when entering Cambodia. See Aranyaprathet and Poipet for details.

Bangkok-Sihanoukville: This overland route crosses the border at Koh Kong/Hat Lek. Starting in Bangkok catch a bus to Trat, from there a minibus to the border. After crossing into Cambodia there are two possibilities to go on. 1) Take the boat to Sihanoukville, but keep in mind that it leaves only once a day. 2) Catch a minibus or taxi to Sihanoukville or Phnom Penh. But think well about what you are doing as the road is not the best (but this is Cambodia, isn`t it ?).

Saigon-Phnom Penh: It can be interesting to go by tour (3 days) on the Mekong delta, ending up in Phnom Penh. The cost is about 35 US in total for three days from Saigon to Phnom Penh (2002).

Cambodia

By boat

To/from Laos - There is one border crossing for tourists on the Mekong, about 1 1/2 hours speed-boat-ride north of Stung Treng. The border guards are quite corrupt and try to make some extra dollars from tourists.

To/from Thailand -- There are no ferry services between Cambodia and Thailand. However it is possible to cross the border from Thailand to Koh Kong on foot, take a 15 minute share taxi or motodop (a motorbike taxi) ride, and then proceed to Sihanoukville by ferry from there (or vice-versa).

To/from Vietnam -- It's possible to travel between Saigon and Phnom Penh by boat, or by combination of road and boat.

Cambodia

Get around

Cambodia

By road

Cambodian roads, while somewhat improved from their previous state, remain mostly in abysmal condition. Although the three main routes to Phnom Penh (from Siem Reap, Sisophon, and Sihanoukville) are all sealed and in good condition, most other highways are unpaved dirt, and while now maintained fairly regularly, they fall apart with alarming speed in the wet season. Overloaded logging trucks also do a good job of smashing poorly built bridges. In all, buffer your schedule and expect delays when travelling around the country.

Motorcycles can be rented with or without a driver by the hour or day in just about any town, with the notable exception of Siem Reap. For quick trips across town, just stand on a corner for a minute and someone will offer you a lift-- for a small, usual standard, fee.

For longer journeys there is a system of buses and pickup trucks that usually depart from the market square between 6-9am.

Ask price in your hotel, then go to the market and bargain for half of it.

For example: for the trip between Siem Reap and Battambang (2003) By bus you can go for 10 US. By pick-up arranged from your hotel you can go for 5 US. By pick-up arranged yourself bargaining at the truck stop you can go for 2 US. And even this is likely to be well over the local price.

Cambodia

By boat

Ferries operate seasonally along many of the major rivers. Major routes include Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and Siem Reap to Battambang. Boats are now slower than road transport, charge higher prices for foreigners, and are often overcrowded and unsafe — sinkings occur regularly. Then again, Cambodia's highways are also dangerous, and boats are probably the safer of the two options.

Cambodia

By train

Cambodia

Talk

Cambodians primarily speak Khmer, which unlike most languages in the region is not tonal, but makes up for it with a large assortment of consonants and vowels. Many older Cambodians speak French as their second language, but most of the younger generation knows at least MTV English. German and other European tongues can be found in the tourist centers and Japanese is also a popular language for tourist industry workers.

Cambodia

Buy

The Cambodian riel is the local currency, but US dollars are so widely accepted in Cambodia that you don't really even need to exchange money. The exchange rate is fairly stable at 4000 riel to the dollar, and it's not uncommon to receive change in a mix of the two. Thai baht is also accepted, particularly near the Thai border (eg. Poipet and Battambang).

VISA and JCB are the most widely accepted cr cards. MasterCard and American Express cards are becoming more widely accepted slowly. American Express traveler's cheques in US dollars are the most widely accepted. Cr cards and traveler's cheques are accepted in major business establishments, such as large hotels, some restaurants, travel agencies and some souvenir shops. Keeping some change of riel to pay for transportation rentals is a good idea.

ATMs can be found only in Phnom Penh and some ANZ and Canadia ATMs now accept international withdrawals, although it would be foolhardy to rely on this entirely. If you must get money, you can go to a bank and get a cash advance on a cr card, but this is expensive and time consuming. For the rest of the country it's best to stick to cash or traveler's checks.

Cambodia

Eat

Cambodia food uses coconut, seafood, chicken, and the ubiquitous "river spinach" found in much of Southeast Asia. There is a strong French influence found in the availability of good coffee (served with sweet condensed milk), French bread, and Laughing Cow brand cheese.

Aside from the national noodle dish there is lots to be found on the markets. Try the tarantula, snakes on a stick and different sorts of insects. A simple, cheap but complete meal with rice, veggies, and meat is often served in a plastic bag on the streets.

Cambodia

Drink

Cambodia's domestic beers include "Angkor" and "ABC", most big international labels (San Miguel, Carlsberg, etc) can also be found.

Wine is on most moderate to upper range restaurant menus, but probably wont be found in many bars or night clubs, unless they are in Western hotels.

If you are lucky you can find some coconut beer to try.

Cambodia

Sleep

Cambodia has the usual Southeast Asia range of accommodations from $100-and-up air-conditioned high-rises to $2 guesthouse rooms. On the budget end, expect to provide your own toilet paper, sheets, towels, etc.

Cambodia

Learn

Cambodia has limited opportunities for language and cultural studies.

Cambodia

Work

There are opportunities for volunteer work, mostly in Phnom Penh in the areas of English Language as well as health education, working with homeless youth and other development projects.

Cambodia

Stay safe

Land mine warning signLand mine warning sign
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Land mine warning sign

Cambodia is a safe and friendly country, with the usual exception for large cities late at night (particularly Phnom Penh) and unobserved luggage or wallets.

Cambodia suffers from a legacy of millions of land mines left during the war years. For the average tourist, however, mines are not really an issue: areas like Siem Reap and Angkor Wat have long since been thoroughly demined. But exercise caution in border areas like Preah Vihear, and heed any warning signs you see: do not venture outside paved roads and paths recently cleared of vegetation.

Cambodia

Stay healthy

In general medical services in Cambodia and especially outside Phnom Penh are not of high standard. So be sure to have sufficient insurance cover as there may be a need for evacuation to Thailand. Regarding vaccinations you should contact an experienced doctor several weeks before starting your travels. In the moment there are no vaccination requirements, but situation may change. Note that Malaria is a problem in Cambodia, so prophylaxis should be considered (for current situation and recommendations see the CDC traveller`s health section (http://www.cdc.gov/travel) and consult your doctor. HIV/ AIDS is a major problem in Cambodia, so it`s your turn to take precautions. Tap water is generally not drinkable anywhere in Cambodia and the same goes for ice; many travellers and even residents play it safe and stick to bottled water.

Cambodia

Respect

Cambodia

Contact

Country Code: +855

Internet cafes are cheap and popular in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh but may be scarce elsewhere in the country.

Cambodia

Get Out

Airport taxes are levied on all international and domestic departures. The international departure airport tax is US$20/pp at Phnom Penh and US$25/pp at Siem Reap. For domestic departures, the tax is US$5/pp at both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

You have to pay this fee after checking in at the airlines counter, before going through customs clearance. Do keep the receipt with you since it will be checked later.




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