Made the decision to tick off Angkor Wat from your bucket list and make that journey to Cambodia? Great news! Now it's time to start preparing for your trip and here's the place to start with loads of tips on everything from currency to cuisine, shopping to tipping.
What vaccinations do I need for Cambodia?
You should seek medical advice from your local health practitioner before travelling to Cambodia and ensure that you receive all of the appropriate vaccinations. As a guide Tetanus, Typhoid, Hep A, Diptheria and Polio are recommended.
Do I need anti-malaria tablets for Cambodia?
There is a risk of malaria in parts of Cambodia so it is very important to check with your doctor before you go, to see whether malarial medication is required for the areas you are visiting. There is also a risk of dengue in some parts of the country so avoiding mosquito bites is important. This can be achieved by wearing long sleeves and trousers, sleeping under a mosquito net and covering yourself in an insect repellent that contains at least 50% DEET. Yellow fever is not present in Cambodia but a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from those travelling from an infected region. For more information on the malaria risk in Cambodia visit the NHS Fit to Travel page or the CDC Traveler's Health page.
Is it safe to drink tap water in Cambodia?
Tap water in Cambodia is not considered safe to drink. It's recommended to only drink bottled mineral water, which is readily available in hotels, shops and restaurants, or purified water. Avoid having ice in your drink as it might have been made with tap water.
THE FLAVOURSOME FISH AMOK IS CAMBODIA'S MOST POPULAR CURRY
What's the food like in Cambodia?
Cambodian (Khmer) cuisine is similar to Thai cuisine though with fewer spices, but no less flavoursome! It also tends to be healthier than other Southeast Asian cuisine. The staple food is rice, which is served with almost every meal and noodles are also popular. A typical meal usually consists of a soup, a main dish (often curry, stir fry or salad) and dessert. Prahok (fermented fish paste) is used to flavour many dishes and coriander, mint leaves and lemongrass are popular herbs. Another popular dish is Amok, a curry made with fish, spices and coconut milk.
Cambodia’s climate ensures that colourful and tasty fruits are available in abundance, including locally grown jackfruit, longan fruit, lychee, rambutan fruit and the notorious durian. Like all other Buddhist countries, vegetarian food is readily available in most restaurants.
The two most popular domestic Cambodian beers are Anchor and Angkor - which is produced by an Australian joint venture in Sihanoukville. Grape wine of an export standard, called Prasat Phnom Banoen Grape Wine, is the country’s first ever locally produced wine, though for assured quality you’re best to stick with the many good imports from Australia and New Zealand. International-brand soft drinks can be found everywhere, as can fresh fruit smoothies and coffee served with generous dollops of condensed milk over ice. Chinese tea is popular and in many Khmer and Chinese restaurants - a pot of it will automatically appear as soon as you sit down.
Safe eating while travelling in Cambodia
As Cambodia has increased in popularity with travellers, so has its regard for food hygiene standards. Restaurants that look clean and aren’t abnormally empty will generally serve good, safe food and street food is also usually fine to eat provided the food hasn’t been sitting in the sun for ages, getting attacked by flies. Be wary of meat and fish that might not have been cooked properly and insist that it is served piping hot before you eat it. Travellers should also avoid consuming ice, which might have been made with unhygienic water, and salad, raw vegetables and fruit, which may have been washed in dirty tap water.
Is it standard to tip in Cambodia?
Tips are not expected in Cambodia but given that it is such a poor country, a little extra can go a long way for those in the service industry. Generally, adding 10% to bills in restaurants and rounding taxi fares up is a good way to show your appreciation. If you stay in a hotel with room service, it is a good idea to leave a dollar or two per day for the housekeeping staff and bell boys. It is also polite to leave a donation when you visit any of the wats (temples).
Our Tipping Made Easy policy takes the hassle out of tipping while on tour with a nominal pre-determined amount collected from all tour participants on the morning of day 2 in local currency. This tipping kitty is then divided among bellhops, luggage handlers, local guides and other support staff throughout the tour. The amounts collected for tips per person on our tours are as follows:
- Classic Cambodia - USD $15-25
- Highlights of Cambodia & Laos - USD $35-45
- Journey to Angkor Wat - USD $50-60
- Saigon to Siem Reap - USD $20-25
- Indochina Discovery - USD $65-75
Please note that our Tipping Made Easy amount does not include a tip to your group tour leader, where we suggest an amount of approximately USD $3-$6 per day of your tour. Naturally, though, the amount is up to you. If travelling on a group tour with less than 6 participants or on a tailor-made holiday, in place of Tipping Made Easy we recommend the following amounts per person per day be allocated to cover tips paid directly by you to bellhops, luggage handlers, your driver and local guides: USD $10 if the day includes a local guide & sightseeing; and USD $5 if the day does not include a local guide and sightseeing.
WOODEN HANDICRAFTS ARE SOLD IN MARKETS ALL OVER CAMBODIA
What is good to shop for in Cambodia?
Like neighbouring Vietnam, Cambodia sells a wonderful range of souvenirs including exquisite art, crafts, jewellery and textiles. Specialities include Buddhist artwork, statues and carvings, silverwork and traditional kramas (a unisex checked scarf made of silk or cotton). Jewellery is normally easy to come by and very fairly priced but beware of those touting fake gems or made from anything other than genuine silver.
Wood carvings are an excellent purchase and can be found in most Cambodian markets. These vary in size so be sure to bear your luggage weight limit in mind. If you really fall in love with a piece that won’t fit in your suitcase, there are services that will ship it home for you. Traditional Cambodian clothing made from silk is also a nice idea for a gift.
How to bargain in Cambodia
The markets of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh Central Market are the best places to barter for goods. In more remote areas the language barrier can restrict negotiations, so you would be better off taking a Khmer-speaking friend along with you (if you have one). As with anywhere in the world, remaining polite and courteous whilst haggling is a good way to encourage the vendor to lower the price. Don’t be aggressive and be prepared to walk away if they refuse to budge on a price that you find unreasonably high. Also bear in mind that if you are haggling over a matter of pennies, it is probably worth just paying the little extra to avoid the hassle – it goes without saying that they could do with the money more than you.
Is it safe for a single woman to travel in Cambodia?
Sexual harassment in Cambodia is low and thanks to the majority Buddhist population, locals tend to be laidback and peaceful. However, there have been cases of women feeling intimidated by over-zealous men so be sure not to put yourself in any situations that could end up becoming compromising.
Most crime that happens towards women is a product of the dire poverty in which the majority of the country lives. Women are generally seen as easier targets than men for theft and there have been many reports of solo females being robbed after being lulled into a false sense of security by seemingly friendly locals. Unfortunately, the police are often also out to make money off tourists and may well be in on the scam that has just cost you hundreds of dollars. Overall, as sad it is, solo women should be wary of any locals that seem a bit too friendly and decline any invites for dinner with their family (a common ploy to lure women away from their familiar surroundings) or for drinks.
What's the local etiquette when visiting temples in Cambodia?
When entering temples in Cambodia it is important to remember to take your shoes off beforehand. Women wearing trousers or a short skirt will usually be required to put a long skirt on over the top. These are available to borrow at most temples. It is never acceptable to touch somebody on the head in Cambodia as it is the highest point of the body and therefore considered the most important and holy. On the flipside, feet are the lowest part of the body and gesturing with them will often be considered both disrespectful and disgusting.
Fortunately, as Cambodians are used to seeing tourists in their temples and holy sites, the ignorance of foreigners is usually just dismissed without too much offence being caused.
ENJOYING THE VIEW OF THE INCREDIBLE ANGKOR WAT TEMPLE
Is Cambodia a suitable family holiday destination?
The majority of Cambodians are friendly, open and welcoming, meaning that the atmosphere is great for young children who have less experience with foreign cultures. Parents shouldn’t be surprised if Cambodians stop their children in the street or want to take photos of them. Aside from the people, the range of activities on offer throughout the country, from visiting the famous Angkor Wat temples to trekking through the jungle, means that there is always something to keep people of all ages busy.
As one of Asia’s poorest countries, and still bearing the scars of the brutal regime of previous decades, Cambodia presents a very heavy culture shock. Poverty is rampant throughout the country and can be distressing to see. However, exposing children to this kind of reality can be a good way of opening their eyes to how fortunate they are and, hopefully, increasing their future altruism. Parents travelling with children should also note that health services in Cambodia are far from western standards so falling ill whilst on holiday can be challenging.
We accept children of all ages on our private tours and tailor-made holidays so get in touch if you're thinking of taking the family to Cambodia.
What is the duty free allowance for Cambodia?
Travellers are permitted to bring the following into Cambodia:
- 400 cigarettes, 100 cigars or 400g of tobacco
- 350ml of perfume
- 2 litres of wine
The following are subject to licensing or banned from being imported into Cambodia: Arms and ammunition, pesticides and fertilisers, artificial sweeteners, cultural items above US$10,000, gold, silver and precious stones, pharmaceuticals and medical materials, vehicles, machinery for military purposes, and wood products.
What is the currency in Cambodia?
The official currency of Cambodia is the Cambodia Riel but USD is also widely accepted and sometimes preferred in larger stores and supermarkets. Check OANDA for the latest exchange rates.
Pound Sterling, US Dollars, Euro and other major currencies can be exchanged in Cambodia at various bureau de changes in major cities and towns. However foreign currency is also widely accepted and often desired more so it can give the shopper more buying power. ATMs can be found in all larger towns and cities and some five star hotels. We recommend you take a mixture of cash (preferably USD) and credit/ debit cards for ATM's. It's advisable to request bank notes in smaller denominations, as it can sometimes be hard to get change from large notes and smaller notes are handy for smaller purchases and gratuities.
Traveller's Cheques are not recommended as they're often difficult to exchange and incur high fees.
What do things cost in Cambodia?
Cambodia is generally very cheap, even in comparison with neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam. Accommodation can range from budget rooms for about USD $7-10 per night to top end hotels for around USD $30. Beer is usually less than a dollar per glass and water is in a similar region. Eating out is no problem in Cambodia with a decent meal in a restaurant coming to between USD $5-7 and street food sometimes barely even costing a dollar.
Bus travel throughout the country is pretty cheap with a seven hour journey costing around USD $15 in one of the more luxurious buses. Tuk tuks can be hired for the day to take you around Angkor Wat for about USD $25 and around the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng for a similar price.
What sort of plugs do I need for Cambodia and what is the voltage?
Standard voltage is 230 volts. Primary sockets require the European, 2 pronged variety and many of the new 4 and 5 star hotels use the British standard 3-pin plug. We recommend that you pack a universal travel adaptor. You will need a voltage converter and plug adaptor in order to use U.S. appliances.
Is WiFi widely available in Cambodia?
In the main tourist areas (Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville) WiFi is usually available in the majority of hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes. In more rural parts of the country, travellers are unlikely to find a connection and if they do it is sure to be very slow.
What time zone is Cambodia on?
Cambodia is 7 hours ahead of GMT and does not observe daylight saving.