Things I wish I had known before visiting Cambodia

Cambodia is just an amazingly beautiful country. And if someone would have told me five years ago I would be backpacking around here for one month I would have probably never believed it.  I am still trying to organize all these impressions from four weeks in Cambodia. Not as easy as it may seem. It’s just such a multifaceted country. During the next week I will explain our destinations inside of Cambodia in more detail but now I would like to focus on the main information. As during our trip we often had this “I wish I’d have known that before”- moments. And I would like to give you a little inside into this country with such an amazing culture. 

Quick Info about Cambodia 

  • Country in South East Asia
  • Kingdom
  • Language Khmer
  • 181.040 Km2 big
  • Currency Riel
  • The biggest waters are the Tonle Sap Lake in the West and the Mekong River in the East 
  • Telephone +855

Best Time to visit Cambodia

November – February

Hot Season in Cambodia

March  + April

Raining Season in Cambodia

May – October

Important Words

Leute Kultur Kambodscha vicki viaja

The pronunciation of the Khmer was really complicated for us. That’s why we couldn’t learn many words. Usually we like to know some words in the local language to make us understood. Anyway, here is our short list of words:

  • Thank you – Arkoun
  • Hello – Suasdey
  • Good Bye – Lea
  • Delicious – Chhnganh

Money

Währung Kambodscha

Currency

The main currency in Cambodia is the Riel. Anyway, the US Dollar usually gets accepted everywhere as well. Actually, in many touristic areas it is even more common to find the prices displayed in US Dollar than in Riel. We figured out though that you can save up some Cents everytime you pay in Riel. (Doesn’t sound much but it adds up) 

Withdrawing Money

In every place we’ve been to in Cambodia it was possible to find an ATM somewhere around. In the main cities, such as Phnom Penh and Siem Reap you will find them on every corner. 

Some companies might charge you a fee for withdrawing money though. This fee can be around some Cents up to 6 Dollar. Some banks don’t accept foreign credit cards yet (don’t despair – the next bank is probably just some meters away) and other banks don’t allow you to withdraw Riel, but just US Dollar. (In Siem Reap it seemed impossible to find a bank which let us withdraw Riel)

Pricing

The prices in Cambodia are not comparable to the ones we are used from Europe. Almost everything is much cheaper. Especially food is kinda cheap here. You can easily get a good lunch or dinner for less than one Euro. But take care when you enter tourist restaurants. You might get charged European Prices.

Moreover, also accommodation is pretty cheap, especially when you travel during monsoon season as we did. In Battambang for example we had a privat room with privat bathroom for just 5 Dollar per night. Say whaat?!

On the markets or with Tuk Tuk drivers you are allowed to bargain (If you are not as bad in it as I am)

Tipping

In Cambodia it’s not obligated to give tip in such a way as e.g. in the US. Some Tuk Tuk driver might tell you otherwise though. Depending on the trip you can tip some Cents up to few Euros.  

In Restaurants and Bars you might wanna leave a small tip when the service was excellent. But no one expects you to tip in a way you might do it in the US.

Cambodia Budget & Saving Money in Cambodia

If you want to know how much we spent during our trip to Cambodia or are interested in saving a lot of money in Cambodia be sure to read my Cambodia Budget Post here.

Visa

landscape cambodia vicki viaja

In Cambodia there are several ways to get a Tourist Visa. Well, I can just speak for European Citizens as I don’t know much about the process for others. But I assume it’s similar. Anyway, please keep in mind that visa regulations can change anytime so better check again in advance from an official source.

You can either apply for a visa in the next Cambodian embassy around, check online for an E-Visa or receive your Visa-on-Arrival.

For us the Visa-on-Arrival was the easiest option. Going by bus we would have to wait for all the people that decided to stand in line in order to get the visa-on-arrival anyway. So why not going with them?  When you enter the bus  to Cambodia (from Vietnam) the driver asks you whether you already have a visa. If not you can pay him 35 US Dollar per Person and hand him your passport. The staff of the bus company usually fills out all necessary information on the Arrival-Card. Thus, when arriving at the border we just had to let a picture get taken and give our fingerprints. We were already back in the bus about 30 minutes later.

(But please keep in mind that we have traveled in Raining Season. In high season it might take longer.)

With this visa you are allowed to stay 30 days in mesmerizing Cambodia. But you will find many agencies that can help you expand your visa if you wanna stay longer.

Author’s note: Please note that information can change at any time. Please make sure those information are correct by contacting an official source before your trip or applying for your visa. This post is just for general information and I can’t guarantee or be made responsible for any changes or exceptions. 

Security

Pick Pockets and Scams

Before going to Cambodia I’ve read so many bad things about how often people get stolen or scammed nowadays there. But we actually didn’t feel like that there. Everyone treated us nicely and we didn’t meet anyone that actually got rubbed. I don’t say it doesn’t happen at all but I think there is no reason to get paranoid. Just be careful and don’t believe everything that people on the street might tell you. Especially Tuk Tuk-driver like to tell you some little lies to make you hire them. (“Oh XY is closed today. But I can bring you to XX instead really cheap”) But there are also honest and kind Tuk Tuk Drivers. Our Driver Chan even invited us to have lunch with his sweet family at home.

lunch cambodia vicki viaja

Yes, you have to be careful but I wouldn’t describe this beautiful country as dangerous at all.  

Of course you should comply with some “rules”or as you might wanna call them “common sense”.

  • If you walk near or on the streets you should either use a backpack (with lock) or if you wanna use a purse don’t hold them on the street site (we got warned some times that motorcycles might drive by and just snatch the bag out of your hand or even cut it off and drive away with it)
  • You shouldn’t carry big amounts of money with you and especially don’t show them in public
  • Don’t use your smartphone/ tablet etc. on the street
  • You might wanna leave your LV bag and the designer sunglasses at home and take a save backpack instead

General Security

Even in general we always felt safe during our time in Cambodia. Well, the guys that tried to sell us drugs were not less anoying than the tuk tuk drivers, but dangerous? I don’t think so. Just stay with your no and keep walking. 

The only time we didn’t feel perfectly fine was at night time on the beach of Sihanoukville. (Having read some nightmare stories before of girls getting raped at the beach at night time didn’t help either I guess) We just wanted to have a small walk around the beach until two guys appeared out of the bushes behind us on the completely dark street which lead to the beach. This guys started following us and from the corner of our eyes we could tell they had some long things in their hands. At first, I just told myself that I might be a little paranoid and we kept walking. But when we arrived at the beach and stopped in order to hold our feet into the shore, they suddenly stopped as well watching us. And we started to feel really uncomfortable. Anyway, next to us were two local guys that appeared to be drunk. In the end, they started discussing with the guys that followed us and we used our chance to get out of there as fast as we could. Well, maybe this was just a paranoid situation, so I cannot really tell to be honest.

But if you are in big cities there are usually always people around. Even at night. That makes you feel much safer. 

Infra Structure

The Infra structure doesn’t meet the Western standard by far. The streets are usually full of holes and the hospitals are not comparable to our Western ones as well. 

roller kambodscha vicki viaja

If you wanna rent a motorcycle, please drive more careful than you are used to from your country. In touristic places on the other hand usually the streets are well paved. (We’ve been driving fine in Kampott and Ankor Wat – besides the snake that suddenly fell from the tree directly on front of us which made us freak out a little)

Anyway, please don’t leave the paths either by foot nor by motorcycle as in Cambodia there are probably still around 6 Million land mines around. 

Already packed?

If not, you might like my post on what to bring on your trip and what not to. Click for my ultimative Packing List (+free printable) here.

Internet in Cambodia

The Wifi is more or less fine everywhere. You will find free Wifi in many touristic restaurants and almost every accommodation around Cambodia offers free usable Wifi. We didn’t buy a Sim Card though. 

Anyway, we met many people that did and were complaining a lot about the bad internet connection. The Internet often just costs around 1 Dollar for 10 GB so I guess it is worth a try though.

History

Cambodia has a really sad past that actually hasn’t happened that long ago. Between 1975 and 1979 around 25% of the Cambodian population has been either murdered in a huge genocide and passed away from hunger and hard work on the fields under the dictator ship of the Khmer Rouge. 

killing tree phnom penh cambodia vicki viaja

The aim of this Dictatorship was to build a state of farmers. Everyone that tried to resist got killed immediately. Later it was just enough to were glasses (as they were a sign of “too much education”) or having soft hands (meaning that this person wasn’t working hard enough) in order to get killed by the soldiars of the Khmer Rouge.

Even many people that went to the fields to work as obligated by the Khmer Rouge, died from hunger and hard work, as most of the food got sold to other countries instead of feeding the locals. Unbelievable how human beeings can do something like that to each other.

Everywhere in the country you can find a lot of memorials that teach you about that dark history of this country. 

Is there anything you want to know or anything you wish you would have known before visiting Cambodia? Please let me know in the comments below.

Where are you heading to?

Also check out my Top 10 Guide to Phnom Penh and my 3-Days Angkor Tour Guide.

About me

Vicki

Hi, my name is Vicki. Here you can accompany my boyfriend Eduardo and me on our way through different countries of this world. Let's travel together!

More About Me

Interested in Cambodia?

Things I wish I had known before visiting Cambodia
5 (100%) 1 vote

28 thoughts on Things I wish I had known before visiting Cambodia

  1. These are some great tips Vicki, and I’ll certainly keep them in mind if I ever go! I’m so jealous that you got to have dinner with your driver’s family in their home though, that must have been such an amazing experience 🙂

    • Yes, it was an awesome experience and the food was great. And his daughter was just so adorable. We played for hours 🙂

  2. Wow, really great insight into Cambodia. I’m planning a trip there and this article has really helped me get a heads up for a few things. Thanks for sharing <3

    • The rest of the country felt so different to siem reap. So you should definitely see the rest as well if you have the chance. I can especially recommend you to visit the South 🙂

  3. Very scary, the part when those guys appeared out of a bush?!? Definitely waiting to ambush! Glad you got out of the situation into safety quickly.

    Thanks for sharing! I’ve never been to Cambodia so these would be helpful!

  4. I have been dying to go to Cambodia but all these practical tips are so helpful because safety is a primary concern. Love the tip about keeping your bag away from the street so motorcycles don’t snatch it.

  5. Thanks so much for sharing these tips! I’ll sound naive, but I never knew there was enough to keep people occupied for 4 weeks!

    Gosh that’s scary about the two guys, glad you got away okay.

    • Yes. We could have even stayed longer if our visa wasn’t about to expire. We had such an amazing time there. 🙂

  6. Excellent tips Vicki. The landmines and guys watching and following you sounds scary; glad you didn’t have any upsetting incident. I have loved Angkor Wat since I read about it and saw it in the movies and hope to visit Cambodia soon.

  7. Loved reading your post. I have heard so many people saying that they loved visiting Cambodia. I’ve never been to Cambodia but this country is on my bucket list. Thank you for sharing your travel experience ! Your post includes really useful and informative tips.

  8. I was very on the fence about Cambodia. I found the people friendly but eager to try to take advantage and though I didn’t necessarily feel unsafe I didn’t feel as safe as in other countries through SE Asia. Glad I went but not in a rush to return.

    • I guess it really depends on what kind of people you get in touch with. I guess we were really lucky when it comes to the people we met there. We made much worse experience in Vietnam actually…

  9. What an amazing experience! And such helpful tips for traveling to this region. The history sounds like it is packed with touching moments.

    • Yes, it’s true. And you can meet a lot of people there that can tell you their own story of what happened there years ago

  10. Great tips. I also felt more unsafe in Sihanoukville than elsewhere…it just seemed like such a seedy resort town where everyone assumed all backpackers were going to be drunk all the time. It was honestly kind of gross. I also got creepily harassed by a guard at a remote temple that was part of the Angkor complex (one of the ones 15 km away from the main set). But in the less-overwhelmingly touristic places like Battambang and Kampot, I had amazing experiences and felt super safe.

Leave a Comment