Before you go:
- Get your Visa for Cambodia online before you travel. You’ll save yourself time, more form filling in and another queue when you arrive at the airport.
- Go to a travel doctor with your itinerary and get the appropriate jabs. We started going to a specialist travel doctor when we went to South America and it is well worth it. Don’t forget to get a flu vaccination, as this is the most likely thing you will catch travelling. And do take a mini first Aid kit with you, just incase, travel doctors sell these.
- Get travel insurance! Really, don’t think of leaving home without it.
- Take some good tropical strength inspect repellent with you. We don’t like Deet and have discovered those with the active ingredient Picaridin are a brilliant alternative (in Australia tropical strength “Off” is the one we recommend)
Money in Cambodia:
- US dollars are accepted everywhere and I mean everywhere. Even a little lady in a market in the middle of nowhere asked me for $1 for a packet of locally grown cashews.
- ATMs are readily available in the big towns like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. But I would not bank on (excuse the pun) finding one in rural Cambodia.
- The exchange rate is 4,000 Cambodian Riels to the US dollar. When the bill comes to an amount with cents you will be given the “cents” in Riels. So if the bill was $3.50 and you handed over $5 you would get $1 and 2,000 in Riel notes back. This is because they don’t have anything US smaller than the $1 bill here. After a while we got the hang of it, so when a bill was $5.25 I would hand over a $5 note and 1,000 Riels. Trust me you do get used to it.
Getting around in Cambodia:
- We found travelling by local buses, safe, cheap, convenient and great fun! We bought our big bus ticket from Phnom Penh to Sen Monorom (6hrs) for US$11 each easily online before we left. All the other bus tickets our hotels and B&Bs arranged for us along the way, we never paid more than US$7 each. All the buses were air conditioned, some gave us bottled water, some didn’t, some showed us terrible Cambodian movies, one even showed us a James Bond movie!
- We love travelling by tuk tuk. To enjoy your tuk tuk experience: ask the hotel how much the fare to your destination will be so you’ll have the ballpark price. Next agree to a price with the tuk tuk driver before you get in. We caught a lot of tuk tuks in Siem Reap and it was always $2 to get into town. Except on the Saturday night of the River Festival when they tried to charge us $10, always pays to ask the price before you get in. Try to have the right money, quite often they will claim they don’t have change for $5 for a $2 fare….
Food and Drink:
- Don’t drink the water in Cambodia! Always drink bottled water. We did brush our teeth in it but spat it out very well! and be careful with ice in drinks, we tend to drink beer and wine over cocktails so this wasn’t an issue for us, but just be careful.
- We loved Khmer food. It is nothing like Vietnamese, there is not a hint of fish sauce used here. Nor is it chilli hot like Thai, it is just right. We loved their Amoks, Beef Lok Laks and Cha Kroeung. They also do exceptional salads, but check before you order a salad that the ingredients are washed in purified water…
- There is no tax on alcohol in Cambodia, happy days! So we didn’t have to buy our whiskey duty free, we could pop into a supermarket in Phnom Penh and buy it just as cheaply. They do make their own Whiskey but I was just not game enough to try it! Aussie wine was only a little more expensive than at home.
- Angkor, Anchor or Cambodian are the local beers (like Aussie beer, UK lager) they are cheap and very good. In Pub Street, Siem Reap you can get an icy tankard of draught beer for 50c with your meals.
- Laundry is wonderfully cheap. 1 kilo = US$1 for 24 hours service, and same day was $1.50 per kilo. So no need to wash your knickers in the shower, deep joy! Big hotels will charge you per item, so just have a wander down the side streets near your hotel and you will find little laundries offering these prices. Your clothes will all come back clean and beautifully folded.
- Loos, Toilets, WCs, have to get a mention because I am a girl. There are more western style loos here than I found in China I am pleased to report ladies, but you will still come across the odd squatter. Always have some tissues in your pocket because very often there is no loo paper. And of course like Vietnam and Thailand, the paper goes in the bin beside the loo, not in the loo (yuck, I know but I don’t want to be responsible for a blocked loo!)
- Do barter in markets it is expected. I am not good at this but James is excellent. He always halves the price they ask and when they don’t agree he wanders off. 9/10 they come down to his price!
- They don’t like you to buy from children because this encourages children not to go to school. This is very hard and I broke this rule a couple of times (slap on wrist) and I was rewarded by all their little mates trying to sell me exactly the same thing!!! So just smile and be firm and say “no thank you”.
Visiting Temples in Cambodia:
- Dress modestly. When we visited the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh we were both wearing shorts, they let us buy our tickets then stopped me and frowned at my knees. I got away with letting down my cuffs but after that I either wore long pants or carried my sarong. Likewise don’t have bare midriffs or revealing tops girls.
- The ticket for the temples at Angkor are US$20 a day or US$40 for 3 days (not consecutive days any 3 days in a week). There are numerous tours you can do of the temples but James and I loath tours, so we got our B&B’s tame tuk tuk driver to take us. On day one he took us round the smaller circuit where all the big name temples are for $15 for all day. Day two we did the bigger circuit which cost us $20. Then we had a couple of days off and on our final day just popped out to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat for $10. This is the way I would recommend seeing the temples because some we wanted to spend quite a while exploring others we were in and out quickly. When we wanted lunch we just told him and he would take us to a little restaurant in the park, it was like having our own chauffeur!
- The best shot of dawn at Angkor Wat is to the left of the lake, see our shot below. We left our hotel at 4.30am, were waiting for the gates to open at 5am and went straight there. The guide on our private tour of Angkor Wat had previously shown us this spot. The following shot shows what happened to those who were late…
This is where you end up if you are late!
I hope you find this list helpful. Cambodia is a wonderful country and we loved our time there. No doubt I have left something off this list. So if you want to add any other points please do leave me a message below with your tip!