Peace and stability has slowly started to return to Cambodia and the steady influx of aid has been building up the infrastructure and clearing away land mines and other remnants of fighting. This means the Cambodia is gradually becoming a viable mainstream tourist destination. For now it is best to stick to the well travelled tourist trails to avoid the banditry and land mines that are present in some of the more rural areas. That being said, sticking within these areas still offers enough to make Cambodia a good stop off point on any tour of South East Asia.
- Currency: Riel (CRI) = 100 sen
- Time Zone: GMT + 7
- Language: Khmer, Chinese and Vietnamese, English is spoken by younger generations
- Telephone Services: Country Code +855, International calls must go through an operator
- Emergency Numbers: In Phnom Penh only: 722-353 Police, 723-555 Ambulance
Cambodia’s weather is governed by its typical tropical monsoon climate. Temperatures are hot with the monsoon season running from May to November and the more pleasant dry season running from November to April. The northern part of the country experiences slightly colder winters but you won’t need any special clothing with temperatures rarely dropping below 15 degrees Celsius except in the highest altitude regions.
Things to see and do
The country’s capital is the city of Phnom Penh, much of this city was built during French colonial occupation and despite being somewhat dilapidated in places, the city retains a lively and busy atmosphere. By far the most magnificent sight is the Silver Pagoda, its floor is tiled with over 500 silver slabs, each weighing about a kilogram. The impressive temple is also home to a 90kg solid gold Buddha and a baccarant crystal Buddha as well as many other smaller artefacts. Many tourists also make a pilgrimage to the Choeung Ek killing fields just 20 minutes south of the city. This somewhat grisly memorial is the site where the Khmer Rouge killed over 17,000 people. The Memorial Stupa is a display of about 8000 skulls catalogued by sex and age serving as a reminder of the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge. The onsite Tuol Sleng Museum is dedicated to educating the world about the crimes committed by the oppressive Khmer Rouge.
Most travellers come to Cambodia solely to visit the much celebrated temples of Angkor. The nearest town is Siem Reap which is only a few km from the temples and is primely situated to offer tourists food and accommodation. Angkor itself was a former religious centre with most of the temples having been built between the 9th and 13th centuries and was subsequently abandoned around the 1400s and the site was gradually lost ot the encroaching forest. Today restoration work still continues and many of the temples have been beautifully restored. The highlights are undoubtedly the Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm temples.
Battambang is Cambodia’s second largest city and is situated right on the banks of the river and boasts and airport of its own. The town boasts the best-preserved French Colonial architecture in the country and recent improvements in facilities makes this town an ideal base for visiting the surrounding temple sites. As well as the numerous Wats the town also boasts a nearby lake and a museum of 9th century artefacts.
There are some rail services operating in the country, which although cheap tend to be much slower than buses due to the state of disrepair plaguing the rail network. There are plans to re-establish the international link to Bangkok but there is still a lot of work to be done before this can become a reality.
The best way to travel is by bus or share-taxi, these are normally run by enterprising locals and are incredibly cheap. It is worth noting however that despite being faster than the trains you will still not have a comfortable ride in store. The countries roads are in an absolutely appalling state making for very bumpy trips indeed. It is also worth reiterating that travel outside of the main tourist routes is not advised as there are still areas of minefields and isolated reports of banditry in more rural areas.
Phnom Penh and Siem Reap now boast numerous international standard hotels including everything from cheap backpacker style accommodation right up to luxury 5-star hotels. Throughout the rest of the country small hostels and guest-houses are available but the standards tend to be quite basic. For more information you should contact the Ministry of Tourism, you can find the address in our “Useful Addresses” Section.
All visitors must hold a valid passport with at least 3 months validity from time of entering Cambodia. All visitors require a visa, tourist visas are available from your local Cambodian Embassy or Consulate. A tourist visa which allows 1 months stay normally costs about �15.
The standard of emergency healthcare is quite basic and doctors will require cash payments before treatment. This coupled with the fact that airbourne evacuation may be required means that you should have a fully comprehensive travel insurance policy before embarking for Cambodia.
There is a risk of Cholera in Cambodia and you should consult your GP for up to date information, particularly on if a vaccination is required. Vaccinations for polio and typhoid are recommended and can be obtained from your GP for around �40. Malaria is present all year round outside the capital including strains resistant to chloroquine, you should consult your GP for the most appropriate anti-malaria treatment to carry with you.
Water is not safe to drink and water used for washing or consumption should have been boiled or sterilised first. Where possible it is best to stick to bottled water. Dairy products are un-pasteurised and should be avoided in all parts of Cambodia. Vegetables should be peeled and washed before consumption and meat should be thoroughly cooked and eaten hot.
There isn’t any Cambodian representation in the UK so visa/immigration related enquiries should be directed towards;
Royal Embassy of Cambodia 4 rue Adolphe Yvon 75116 Paris France Tel: (1) 4503 4720 Fax: (1) 4503 4740.
If you require UK representation whilst in Cambodia you should contact the British Embassy;
British Embassy 29 Street 75 Phnom Penh Cambodia Tel: (23) 427124 Fax: (23) 427125
Local tourist information is available from the Ministry of Tourism;
Ministry of Tourism Boulevard Preah Monivong Corner Rue 232 Phnom Penh Cambodia Tel: (23) 26107 Fax: (23) 24607.
The Ministry of Tourism provides travel advice for visitors to Cambodia.
Amazon.co.uk carries a variety of guides to Cambodia including the excellent rough guides series.