Cambodia Travel Tips

Before leaving on your Cambodia tour, you are advised to make two copies of your passport identification page. This will facilitate replacement if your passport is lost or stolen. Leave one copy at home with friends or relatives. Bring the other one with you with a passport-size photo, but keep it in a separate place from your passport. Leave a copy of your tour itinerary and contact information with family or friends at home so you can be contacted in case of an emergency.

Cambodia remains consistently hot year-round – seasons are defined principally by rainfall rather than temperature. The dry season runs from November to May, subdivided into the so-called cool season (Nov–Feb), the peak tourist period, and the slightly warmer and more humid hot season (March–May). The rainy season (roughly June–Oct) is when the country receives most of its annual rainfall, although occasional downpours can occur at pretty much any time of year.

The electrical supply is 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Most Cambodian sockets take two-pin, round-pronged plugs (although you’ll also find some which take two-pin, flat-pronged plugs). The electricity supply is pretty reliable, although power cuts are not unknown and some places (particularly island resorts in the south) may rely on solar power.

Getting online in Cambodia is relatively easy. Almost all hotels  now offer free wi-fi (as do many restaurants and bars), while most towns of any size boast at least one internet café. Rates are generally cheap (2000–4000 riel/hr), although connections may be slow.

You can get laundry done practically everywhere, at hotels or private laundries in all towns – look for the signs in English. Prices are pretty uniform, at 500–1000 riel per item or $1–2 per kilogram. In Phnom Penh and Siem Reap there are a number of places with driers, giving a speedy turnaround 3 hours.

Cambodia uses a dual-currency system, with local currency, the riel, used alongside (and interchangeably with) the US dollar, converted at the rate of 4000 riel to US$1 (an exchange rate which has remained stable for several years now). Riel notes (there are no riel coins, nor is US coinage used in Cambodia) are available in denominations of 100, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000. You can pay for most things – and will receive change – either in dollars, in riel, or even in a mixture of the two; there’s no need to change dollars into riel. Larger sums are usually quoted in dollars and smaller amounts in riel (although sometimes, as in menus, prices are quoted in both currencies).

All large Cambodian towns now have ATMs accepting foreign cards and dispensing US dollars. The two main networks are those belonging to Canadia Bank (which accept both Visa and MasterCard) and Acleda Bank (pronounced A-See-Lay-Dah, which accept Visa only). Canadia Bank ATMs won’t charge you a commission fee to withdraw money – although you’ll still be charged by your card issuer back home – while Acleda and other banks generally charge $4–5 on top of whatever fees are levied by your card provider.

Most banks also change travellers’ cheques, usually for a two-percent commission; travellers’ cheques in currencies other than dollars are sometimes viewed with suspicion and may be rejected. You can also get cash advances on Visa and MasterCard at some banks and exchange bureaux (including the Canadia, ANZ and Acleda banks – although the last accepts Visa only). It’s also possible to have money wired from home. The Acleda Bank handles Western Union transfers, while the Canadia Bank is the agent for Moneygram. Fees, needless to say, can be steep.

Banking hours are generally Monday to Friday 8.30am to 3.30pm (often also Sat 8.30–11.30am).

Dates for Buddhist religious holidays are variable, changing each year with the lunar calendar. Any public holidays that fall on a Saturday or Sunday are taken the following Monday.

Note that public holidays are often “stretched” by a day or so, particularly at Khmer New Year, Bonn Pchum Ben and for the Water Festival.

+ January 1 International New Year’s Day
+ January 7 Victory Day, celebrating the liberation of Phnom Penh from the Khmer Rouge in 1979
+ February (variable) Meak Mochea, celebrating Buddhist teachings and precepts
+ March 8 International Women’s Day
+ April 13/14 (variable) Bonn Chaul Chhnam (Khmer New Year)
+ April/May (variable) Visaka Bochea, celebrating the birth, enlightenment and passing into nirvana of the Buddha
+ May 1 Labour Day
+ May (variable) Bonn Chroat Preah Nongkoal, the “Royal Ploughing Ceremony”
+ May 13–15 (variable) King Sihamoni’s Birthday
+ June 1 International Children’s Day
+ June 18 Her Majesty the Queen Mother’s Birthday
+ September 24 Constitution Day
+ Late September/early October (variable) Bonn Pchum Ben, “Ancestors’ Day”
+ October 15 King Father’s Commemoration Day, celebrating the memory of Norodom Sihanouk
+ October 23 Anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords
+ October 29–November 1 (variable) King’s Coronation Day
+ November 9 Independence Day
+ Early November Bonn Om Toeuk, “Water Festival”
+ December 10 UN Human Rights Day

If you are going to be spending long in Cambodia or making a lot of calls it’s well worth buying a local Sim card, which will get you rates for both domestic and international calls far below what you’re likely to pay using your home provider (although obviously you’ll need to make sure that your handset is unlocked first – or buy one locally that is). Sim cards can be bought for a few dollars at most mobile phone shops; you’ll need to show your passport as proof of identity. International calls can cost as little as US$0.25 per minute, while domestic calls will cost about 300–500 riel per minute. Cambodia’s three main mobile phone service providers are Cellcard/Mobitel, Smart , and Metfone , all of which offer reliable countrywide coverage, with Cellcard/Mobitel perhaps being the best. A pre-paid mobile broadband account costs around $30 per month, although given the universal availability of wi-fi, it’s unlikely to be worth the money unless you’re spending a lot of time in very out of the way places.

Cambodia is 7hr ahead of GMT; 12hr ahead of New York and Montréal; 15hr ahead of Los Angeles and Vancouver; 1hr behind Perth; 4hr behind Sydney and 5hr behind Auckland; 5hr ahead of South Africa. There is no daylight saving time.

Tipping is not generally expected, but a few hundred riel extra for a meal or a tuk-tuk or moto ride is always appreciated.

Visas for Cambodia are required by everyone other than nationals of Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. Visas are issued on arrival for $20 at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap international airports, at Sihanoukville port, at all overland crossings from Thailand and Vietnam, and at Voen Kham from Laos. A single-entry tourist visa obtained on arrival ($20; one passport photograph required, or pay a small surcharge – usually a dollar or two – to have your passport photo scanned) is valid for thirty days, including the day of issue, and can be extended once only, for one month. Note that at the Thai border Cambodian officials may ask for an bit more than the official fee – having an e-visa avoids this hassle. You can also buy a business visa ($25; one passport photo) on arrival. Like the tourist visa this is valid for thirty days, but can be extended in a variety of ways (ranging from one-month single-entry extension, three months’ single-entry, six months’ multiple-entry and twelve months’ multiple-entry; costs range from $42 to $270). Multiple entries are only available on a business visa.