11 Frequently Asked Questions About Travel to Cambodia

Dennis Jarvis

Situated between Vietnam and Thailand, Cambodia also shares a border with Laos in the north. It covers 181,035 square kilometers of land and has a population of 15 million (with a density of 82 people per square kilometer). Many people may have heard of its most famous attraction, the ancient complex of Angkor Wat (top), but there are also a lot of misconceptions out there about travel in the Land of the Khmer.

Is Cambodia Safe?

Absolutely. There are occasional reports of petty theft and the occasional bar fight, but these can easily be avoided (especially the latter) if you exercise common sense. Do not leave your bag sitting at your feet while riding around in a tuk tuk (three-wheel motorized rickshaw) or leave expensive jewelry, cash,  or any valuable objectsunattended in a hotel’s room (better to keep it in a safety box). You will be warned not to carry much cash with you whenever you are on a trip. You also don’t have to worry about landmines left over from the war of the 1960s and 70s when you travel with local tour guide; 90 percent  have been disarmed since the war ende (hyou are not, however, allowed to enter zones where you can see warning landmine boards especially jungle areas near the borders).

How to Get to Cambodia?

  • By Air

    The country has two major international airports, in capital Phnom Penh and the northern city of Siem Reap, near Angkor Wat. If you travel from Europe, you always transit in Thailand or Vietnam, and there are also direct flights to Cambodia if you travel from Asia countries including Philippine, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.
  • By Road

    Border crossings from Thailand: Poi Pet (Aranyaprathet) in Banteay Meanchhey, Cham Yeam (Had Lek) and Daun Lem (Ban Laem) in Koh Kong, O’Smach (Chong Jom) and Anlong Veng (Chong Sa Ngam) in Preah Vihear.

    From Vietnam: Ba Vet (Moc Bai) and Kaam Samnor (Ving Xuong) in Svay Rieng, Phnom Den (Tinh Bien) in Ta Keo and Prek Chak (Ha Tien) in Kampot.

    From Laos: Dom Kralor (Veun Kham) in Stung Treng.
  • By Water

    From Vietnam: If you visit the Mekong Delta River and Can Tho in Vietnam, you can catch speed boats from Chau Doc border (Cambodia’s site: Kao Orm Samnor) to Phnom Penh. The trip takes approximately six hours, depending on the water level.

Who Needs a Visa & How to Get It

Most Asian and European passport holders are officially allowed to enter Cambodia without a visa and can stay in the country at least 15 days up to 30 days depending on ASEAN member countries (Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, etc.) except Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan and Sri Lanka. Tourist visas for most nationalities are available for 30 days either in advance (e-visa $36) or on arrival ($30) at international airports in Phnom Penh & Siem Reap, as well as at border crossing including Poi Pet (Aranyaprathet), Ba Vet (Moc Bai) and Koh Kong (Had Lek). Apply for the e-visa at EVvisa.gov.kh. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months, has at least one blank page, and provide a passport-size photo. If you don’t have this, you can pay a $2 fee and they will scan the photo from your passport.
What’s the Weather Like?

Thanks to its geography, Cambodia experience tropical monsoon weather patterns - dry (mid-October through May) and wet (June till mid-October); there's also a bit of a cool period at the end of December and early January. Average temperatures range from 34 o 37 degrees Celsius in dry season while in April through May they can sometimes reach 40 degrees. The rains begins in June and lasts through October, but they're not constant and may be characterized by afternoon or evening downpours. Some roads in the countryside will be impassable at this time as they get flooded or washed out.

When Is the Best Time to Visit?

Peak season (November through February) is the best period for your visit, but if you want to avoid crowds, the "green season" (June through October) would be an ideal as the best time to come, when it's cool, moist, anda lot less touristy.

What's the Story With Local Currency?

The local currency is the riel - but the U.S. dollar (pegged at 4,000 riel) is widely accepted. If you do exchange money, watch for scams, especially at the border and most especially the crossing at Poi Pet.And if you use dollars, you'll get small change in riel for purchases of less than $1.

What Kinds of Clothing Are Suitable?

People should wear whatever they are most comfortable in but a fair amount of modesty should be exercised. Importantly, when visiting temples and other important monuments, women should cover their shoulders and properly dress below knees especially, when visiting the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh and at Agkor Wat in Siem Reap. To show your respect to the locals when visiting their villages or you are invited to visit their home, you are highly advised to address appropriately (not too revealing). Swimwear is acceptable on the beaches and at hotel poolsides.

What Else to Bring Along?

A hat is recommended to keep the hot sun off your face and sunscreen when going to the beaches as well as visiting Angkor temples, as most of them are exposed in the open. Insect repellent is recommended for trips through the jungle, mangroves or in the countryside overnight. Walking shoes, sneakers, and sandals are good for sightseeing tours while sturdier footwear is highly recommended for hiking and remote adventures. In this tropical climate, bring bottles of water to stayy hydrated, and finally, don't forget a compact first-aid kit.

Can I Drink the Water?

It is not recommended to drink tap water in Cambodia. Filtered water is a better option, and try to use a refillable canteen or water bottle rather than buying bottled water. Remember to avoid ice in drinks. Bottled water can be found and purchased at local stores, including mini marts.

What Is an Ideal Budget for Accommodation?

That entirely depends on your style of travel and the level of comfort that you are accustomed to. You can easily find guesthouses from $9 to $15 (including fans or air conditioning), while hostels range from $5 to $8. Standard accommodation start from $20 to $30; mid-range $35-$55; comfort level 60-$120,  luxury $130-$360, and top luxury $400-$1,200.

What’s the Best Way to Get Around?

The romork (or tuk tuk) is affordable, fun, and very popular in Cambodia. You'll come across them from the moment you come out of the airport. For short distances the charge is about $2-3 bucks, and a full day of service $15-$25, depending on places you go. For long distance (over 45 kilometers up), air conditioned cars are a better option, costing $30-$45 to tourist attractions. Electric-bike or bicycles are available for rent in central areas of cities and towns. Mountain bikes rent for $5-$7 and electric bikes 48-$12 per day. Note that tourists are not allowed to rent motorcycles.

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