Prepare for your journey with this 'at a glance' breakdown of information you need to know about Cambodia to help you on your way to understanding this beautiful and fascinating country.
Geography & Climate
Occupying an area of approximately 181,000 sq km, Cambodia is bordered to the north and west by Laos and Thailand, to the east by Vietnam, and to the south by the Gulf of Thailand. Cambodia's climate is characterised by three distinct seasons, unofficially known to resident expats as ‘hot, hotter and hottest.’ The rainy season extends from May to October. It is followed by a short, cool dry season from November to January, which develops into a hot dry season from February to May. Average daytime temperatures generally range from 25C to 30C, but can drop to 20C during the coolest months and hit 40C during the peak of the dry season.
Cambodia at a Glance
|Area:||181,035 sq km|
|Local Time:||GMT +7 hrs|
|Tourist Visa:||US$30 for 1 month|
|Int. Tel. Code:||+855|
|Money:||US$1 = 4000r (riel)|
|Business Visa:||US$35 for 1 month|
A Constitutional Monarchy was instituted under the leadership of HM King Norodom Sihanouk, following democratic elections in 1993. The Cambodian People’s Party runs the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen (CPP).
Population and People
Cambodia's population is about 15 million and expanding rapidly. Khmers make up 90 percent of the population, while a variety of other ethnic groups make up the rest. They include a diverse group of Chinese, Vietnamese, Cham, and a number of tribal groups such as the Bunong, Kreung, Tampuon, Kuoy and Jarai among them.
Cambodia's national language is Khmer, which is also referred to as Cambodian. English is the first language among young students, while French is still spoken by some of the older generation. Chinese and Vietnamese are also widely spoken in urban areas and Thai is quite well understood in Western Cambodia.
Cambodia's official religion is Theravada Buddhism. It was introduced in Cambodia in the 12th century. It is enhanced by traditional animist beliefs and Brahmanist practices long imported from India to form a very Cambodian fusion religion. There are also 500,000 muslims, mostly of Cham origin.
No vaccinations are required for entry into Cambodia. However, it is recommended that all visitors be innoculated against typhoid, tetanus, and hepatitis A and B. It is not wise to drink tap water. Prescription drugs are easily obtainable in urban areas. Precautions against malaria, such as doxycycline or larium, are not necessary for Phnom Penh or Siem Reap and other urban areas, but are recommended when visiting remoter provinces. Travellers should consult their doctor or travel centre before leaving for Cambodia.
Rice and fish are the staple diet for most Cambodians. Local specialities include curries, a variety of soups, and traditional beef, pork and poultry dishes. The national dish is amok, which is fresh fish steamed with coconut, curry paste and lemongrass in a banana leaf. Fresh seafood is also available and is especially popular with visitors travelling to the coast. Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine are also common in Cambodia, as is a variety of western cuisine which can be found in abundance in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
All urban areas have minimum electricity (220 volts). Many places are equipped with private power generators. Most sockets found in hotels are French style two-pin, but most properties can provide an adaptor on request.
Cambodia offers a wide range of handicrafts, such as beautiful silverware, pottery and jewellry. Religious themes and scenes of daily life feature strongly in oil paintings and intricate carvings made from sandstone, marble and some of Cambodia's tropical hardwoods. Perhaps most attractive to visitors are the wide range of traditional silk and cotton cloths which can be made into fine clothing by local tailors at a low cost. In true Asian tradition, open marketplaces are an integral part of Cambodian life. These markets sell everything from mainstream and exotic foods, clothes and electrical appliances, to hundreds of krama, the multi-purpose scarf worn by many Cambodians. Even for non-shoppers, the markets offer a fascinating glimpse of Cambodian daily life and culture. Bargaining is possible in markets and with street sellers where no fixed prices are displayed.
There are two international gateways to the Kingdom of Cambodia. Phnom Penh International Airport serves the capital of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap International Airport acts as a popular portal to the temples of Angkor. Airlines currently servicing Cambodia include local carrier Cambodia Angkor Air (a subsidiary of Vietnam Airlines), as well as international carriers Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Silk Air, Malaysia Airlines, Dragon Air, Lao Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Eva Air and Vietnam Airlines. There are also several budget airlines, including Air Asia and Jetstar Asia. Direct flights to Cambodia are available from Bangkok, Saigon, Hanoi, Vientiane, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Guangzhou, Taipei, Shanghai and Seoul.
Daily flights are available between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, gateway to the temples of Angkor, with Cambodia Angkor Air. There are also regular flights between Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, a great way to link the temples of Angkor with the up and coming Cambodian coastline. There are also airports in Battambang, Stung Treng, Ratanakiri and Koh Kong, but they are not currently operational and there are no flights to these destinations.
US$25 for international flights from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, but it is now included in the original ticket price, so no cash payment at the airport is required. The US$6 charge for domestic flights is also included in the ticket price.
Passports & Visas
One-month tourist visas, costing US$30 and requiring one passport-sized photograph, are available on arrival at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports and all land border crossings. It is also possible to arrange a visa through Cambodian embassies overseas or an online e-visa (US$36) through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: https://www.evisa.gov.kh/. Anyone planning an extended stay should get a one-month business visa for US$35, as these are easier to renew. *There will be a US$10 increase to all visa fees from 1 October 2014.
The Riel is Cambodia's official currency (US $1 = 4000 riel), but US dollars are widely accepted. Most hotels accept international credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard and travellers cheques can be easily cashed. It is advisable for guests to use a combination of cash and travellers cheques for convenience. There are now international debit card and credit card-compatible ATMs in most major towns and cities. Small charges are sometimes levied on withdrawals. Larger sums can be withdrawn over the counter with some identification such as a passport.
Festivals & Public Holidays in Cambodia
|International New Years Day:||January 1|
|Victory over Genocide Day:||January 7|
|International Women’s Day:||March 8|
|Khmer New Year:||April 13-16|
|International Labor Day:||May 1|
|King Sihamoni’s Birthday:||May 13-15|
|Royal Ploughing Ceremony:||May|
|Pchum Ben [3 days]:||September/October|
|King's Coronation Anniversary:||October 29|
|King Father’s Birthday:||October 31|
|Water Festival [3 days]:||October/November|
|Independence Day:||November 9|