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  • Horse and cart ride, Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Royal Palace, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
  • Floating house, Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia
  • Sunrise in the countryside, Cambodia
  • Village children, Cambodia
  • Paddy fields, Kampot, Cambodia
  • Ta Prohm overgrown temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Cambodia - Info & Facts

Suggested length of stay

For a good overview Cambodia is best visited over a minimum of 6 days. This will allow time to take in the highlights of the capital city Phnom Penh and the magnificent temples of Angkor. Tours can be extended to include the remote North-eastern region of Ratanakiri, the hill tribes in the Mondulkiri or the eerily deserted Bokor hill station en route to the fledgling beach town of Sihanoukville.

Phnom Penh 2 nights, Siem Reap (gateway town to the temples of Angkor) 3 or 4 nights, northeast Cambodia 3 or 4 nights, Sihanoukville 4 nights.

Modes of transport

Road
Travelling by road in Cambodia can be quite an adventure in itself. To reach anywhere outside of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap it is quite often the only option. Traveling by road allows you to see Cambodian life in all its glory (and chaos). Roads often look impassable at first glance but the mixture of motorbikes, tuk tuks, buffalo carts and trucks prove where there’s a will there’s a way. All of the above makes for an unforgettable but at times a little uncomfortable experience. We recommend you limit your road travel to shorter journeys (no more than four hours). Any more tends to become quite uncomfortable.

Air
There are only a few daily "virtually guaranteed" flights between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh on Siem Reap Airways. There are a number of airlines operating the route but most are at present unreliable. If your itinerary necessitates an internal airline please be mindful that last minute itinerary changes may happen, but don’t worry your guide will always be available to help you out if needed!

Rail
There are no passenger rail links in Cambodia. The only two lines run between Phnom Penh to Batambang and Phnom Penh to Kampot and these are used to carry freight.

Bicycle
Various cycling tours can be arranged around the temples of Angkor or for the more serious cyclists tours can be individually put together to take in the delights Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Bokor and Kampot to name but a few.

Boat
There are various options to include river travel in to your itinerary in Cambodia. These include longer trips between Phnom Penh or Siem Reap to Saigon or the Mekong Delta

Half day boat trips can be arranged to visit the floating villages on Tonle Sap from Siem Reap when lake conditions allow. Other shorter journeys are sometimes included in itineraries where appropriate but depend on the water levels at the particular time of year.

The Izabella, is a new boat service, offering a great alternative to flying between the cities of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. The boat runs along the Tonle Sap Lake but also stop en route to take in some very interesting sightseeing along the way such as stopping off at the little visited largest floating village on the lake. Here you can visit the church, karaoke bar, factories or school!

Climate

Cambodia is hot all year round, with very little rainfall between November and April. The rains generally start in May and continue through to October, although visits are still possible, as these usually consist of only short, but heavy, downpours. This can be a good time to visit Angkor as it is when the temples are at their least busy and most atmospheric.

Geography

Cambodia lies completely within the tropics and its southernmost point is just slightly more than 10° above the equator. Roughly square in shape, the country is bounded on the north by Laos and Thailand, on the east and southeast by Vietnam, and on the west by the Gulf of Thailand. Much of the country's area consists of rolling plains. Dominant features are the large, almost centrally located, Tonle Sap, the largest fresh water lake in Southeast Asia and the mighty Mekong River, which traverses the country from north to south. There are mountains in southwest and north the highest of which, called Phnom Aural, stands at 1770 meters.

Food

Rice is the principal staple food in Cambodia and included in most meals. Khmer cuisine is closely related to the neighbouring countries, namely Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, although it is not as spicy. Curries, stir tried vegetable, rice, noodles and soups are common in the Khmer diet. The national dish is Amok curry (usually fish) served in either a coconut shell or banana leaf wrap. Cambodia is well known in the region for its Prahok, a strong, fermented fish paste used in a variety of traditional dishes. For those with a strong stomach and adventurous palate a strange local delicacy, possible born from the lack of food in the Khmer Rouge years, is the fried tarantula! This “delicacy” is said to originate from the small town of Sukon, 90 km’s north of Phnom Penh but also available in Phnom Penh….don’t worry though as generally speaking Cambodia food served to westerners is excellent.

Drinking water

It is not advisable to drink tap water in Cambodia. Bottled water is very cheap and widely available in all areas of the country.

A brief history

The Majority Cambodians regard themselves to be Khmers, whose Angkor Empire extended over much of Southeast Asia and reached its pinnacle between the 10th and 13th centuries. Subsequently, attacks by the Thai and Cham (from present-day central Vietnam) destabilised the empire ushering in a long period of decline. In 1863, the king of Cambodia placed the country under French protection and it became part of French Indochina in 1887. Following Japanese occupation in World War II, Cambodia became independent within the French Union in 1949 and fully independent in 1953.

Following a five-year struggle, Communist Khmer Rouge forces captured Phnom Penh in April 1975 and ordered a mass evacuation of all cities and towns; at least 1.5 million Cambodians died from execution, enforced hardships, or starvation during the Khmer Rouge regime under the dictator Pol Pot. In December 1978 a Vietnamese invasion drove the Khmer Rouge into the countryside which in turn led to a 10-year Vietnamese occupation almost 13 years of civil war.

The 1991 Paris Peace Accords mandated democratic elections and a ceasefire, which was not fully respected by the Khmer Rouge. UN-sponsored elections in 1993 helped restore some semblance of normalcy and the final elements of the Khmer Rouge surrendered in early 1999. The July 2003 elections were relatively peaceful, but it took one year of negotiations between contending political parties before a coalition government was formed. Cambodia has remained politically stable and peaceful since then.

The temples of Angkor, although building began in the 9th century, were only re-discovered following the posthumous notes published in 1863 of the French botanist Henri Mahout. His tales of this splendid temple complex of a magnitude and majesty rivalled by only a couple of other places on earth lead to the arousal of interest in the west. A flood of explorers and pioneers were soon replaced by researchers and the conservation and restoration of the remarkable monuments began. Today the monuments of this once great city are in various states of repair, some have been restored to their full glory whilst others have been left almost as they were discovered: draped by the overgrown jungle.

Visas

Visas are issued on arrival at international airports. Payment must be made in US$ cash. A passport photograph is also required. Please ask your consultant if you are entering Cambodia via an overland route as at some border crossings it is necessary to have a pre obtained visa. If you wish to use a visa service to pre-arrange your Cambodian visa then we recommend visalink. Oasis accepts no responsibility regarding the issue of visas.

Money

The most widely accepted currency in Cambodia is the US dollar followed closely by the local currency of the Riel. Thai baht are also generally accepted. Most prices in tourist facilities are set in US dollars but small transactions, for example buying a bottle of water from a local vendor, will be in Riel. Often if purchasing small items with US dollars change will be given in Riel. This is useful to have to give to beggars or motorbike taxis etc. There are banks (ask your guide) in the larger cities that can usually cash travellers cheques (US dollar cheques are best) and exchange cash, however, credit cards are not accepted outside of larger international hotels and there are currently no international ATM’s in Cambodia although this is allegedly due to change in the near future. Only pristine condition, new edition US dollar notes are accepted.

Tipping is not wide spread in Cambodia other than loose change in hotels and western restaurants. If you feel your guide has gone the extra mile for you (and we certainly hope they would do so) a cash tip would be very much appreciated. No more than US$10 per day between your guide (the guide will share this with your driver if applicable)

Inoculations & health precautions

Please consult with your doctor at least 6 week before travel to Cambodia.

Health care in Cambodia is not at a very advanced stage. Any essential medicines should be taken with you as they may not be available locally. Doctors and hospitals expect cash payment prior to providing medical services, including for emergency care.

Ensure you have good medical insurance before you travel.

Australian Embassy contact

Australian Embassy, Cambodia
Villa11, R V Senei Vannavaut Oum (St. 254)
Daun Penh District
Phnom Penh
Cambodia

Telephone +855 23 213 470
Fax +855 23 213 413

E-mail address australian.embassy.cambodia@dfat.gov.au

Electricity

230-240 volt 50 HZ is the norm but hotels have a variety of plug styles, so take a full adaptor kit if you need to charge anything. In some of the more budget oriented hotels you may well see exposed wiring and whilst not ideal, is completely normal. Blackouts are common place outside the bigger cities, it is recommended you bring along a small torch.

Getting there

Siem Reap is well serviced, with many flights from Bangkok and multi-daily flights from Ho Chi Minh City. There are also options to get there via Singapore or KL. Phnom Penh is well serviced from most of the Asian hubs such as Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Non-stop flight time Sydney – Phnom Penh. There are currently no non-stop flights between Australia to Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. Cambodia is approximately 2 hours from Singapore and one hour from Bangkok and Saigon.

Keep some local currency on departure for airport tax

Time difference GMT + 7 hours