Cambodia is just an amazingly beautiful country. And if someone would have told me five years ago that 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. But anyway, trust me, there are just so many important things to know before going to Cambodia.
In other posts, I introduce to each of our destinations in Cambodia but here I want to give you some super helpful Cambodia Travel tips. 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 insight into this country with such an amazing culture.
What to find out in this post
Quick Info about Cambodia
- A Country in South East Asia
- 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 in Khmer
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
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)
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, for instance, it seemed impossible to find a bank which let us withdraw Riel)
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 affordable, especially when you travel during monsoon season as we did. In Battambang, for example, we had a private room with private 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
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.
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 that information is 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 in Cambodia
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.
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 common sense as you might wanna call it.
- 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 sometimes 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
Even in general, we always felt safe during our time in Cambodia. Well, the guys that tried to sell us drugs were not less annoying than the tu- 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 leads to the beach. These 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.
The Infrastructure 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.
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 Kampot and Angkor 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 or by motorcycle as in Cambodia there are probably still around 6 Million landmines around.
If not, you might like my post on what to bring on your trip and what not to. Click for my ultimate 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.
The dark History of Cambodia
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 dictatorship of the Khmer Rouge.
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 wear 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 soldiers 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 beings 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.
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