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The name Cambodia is derived from the word Kambuja, meaning the sons of Kambu. According to the legend, Kambu, an ascetic, married a celestial nymph named Mera and founded the Kingdom of Chenla. The neighboring Funan Kingdom, the first Hindu State in Southeast Asia gained the Kingdom of Chenla in the 6th century. This in effect was the precursor to the great Khmer Empire – the creators of the Angkor temple complex.
Angkor is comprised of many ceremonial structures built between the 9th and 13th centuries by the Khmer Empire that spanned a period of approximately 600 years. In 1431 it was abandoned and the capital moved to Phnom Penh. In the middle of the 19th century the French colonized the country and it was not until 1953 that Cambodia achieved independence when King Norodom Sihanouk proclaimed himself Head of State. The 1970's saw the country's darkest period. In 1970 General Lon Nol successfully staged a "coup d'etat" and ousted the King. Then in 1975, following a bitter civil war, the fanatical Khmer Rouge led by the infamous Pol Pot deposed Lol Nol. For 4 terrible years the country reverted back to "Year Zero" as thousands of the country's intellectuals and over one million Cambodians died. In 1979 the regime was deposed. Today thanks to the magnificent ruins at Angkor and the peoples' spirit, the country's future looks brighter than at any time before.

1.       Visas

2.       Arrival

3.       Money

4.       Clothing

5.       Climate

6.       Safety

7.       Cuisine

8.       People

9.       Language

10.     Public holidays and special events

11.     Post and Telecommunication

12.     Business hours

13.     Departure airport taxes

14.     Tips

1. Visas
A visa is required for most nationalities and is available upon arrival at both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap international airports as well as at most international border crossing checkpoints in Cambodia (in particular with Vietnam and Thailand).

A passport with at least six month validity is necessary. A tourist visa costs 20 US$, a business visa 25 US$. Two passport photographs should be submitted with the visa application form. A tourist visa can be extended for one month at a time for up to three months. A business visa can be extended indefinitely.

For further information, please contact the nearest Cambodian Embassy.

2. Arrival

By air:

You will receive the following 3 forms to fill out on the airplane: visa application form, arrival/departure card and customs declaration. On the form you must identify the purpose of your visit: tourist or business. After landing, you will walk into the terminal, apply for the visa and go through the immigration.

Overland:

You will receive the following 3 forms to fill out at the border: visa application form, arrival/departure card and customs declaration. On the form you must identify the purpose of your visit: tourist or business. Be aware that the Visa fee might be higher than usual. Please also note that the increasing amount of tourists also increased the number of scam busses and taxis; as such we recommend you to book a scheduled bus or private transfer through Buffalo Tours.

List of selected international checkpoints:

Vietnam:

Bavet International Border Checkpoint; Connection from / to Hoh Chi Minh City

Laos:

Dong Kralor International Border Checkpoint; Connection from / to Si Phan Don

Thailand:

Poi Pet International Border Checkpoint; Connection from / to Bangkok

Most travelers going from Bangkok to Siem Reap or Battambang cross the border at Poi Pet International checkpoint. At Aranyaprathe you cross the border to Poi Pet. Please be aware that the visa fee at the border is charged in Thai Baht and costs 1000 Baht, which is more expensive than at the airport. The procedure takes about 30 minutes as you must go through different offices. There is no need to arrange visa formalities before crossing the border.  

3. Money

The official Cambodian currency is known as the Riel. The Cambodian Riel has been relatively stable and the current exchange rate is approximately 4,100 Riel to US$ 1. American dollars are widely accepted in Cambodia and even preferred in larger stores and supermarkets. However, the Riel is more practical and economical for smaller everyday items such as buying fruits and vegetables or paying taxi drivers. Banks now change all major currencies with relatively little hassle. Tourists with traveler checks are advised to cash them at the bank. There are now ATMs with international access in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Kampot and Battambang. ANZ Royal Bank and Canadia Bank ATMs both accept Cirrus, Plus, Maestro, Visa and MasterCard systems. SBC Bank ATMs accept Visa and MasterCard. All ATMs dispenses US dollars. Please be informed that the national currency is non convertible abroad.

4. Clothing

Light thin layers of cotton clothing are the most appropriate for travelers. Long-sleeved shirts and pants are particularly appreciated for a number of reasons:
1) they provide good protection against mosquito bites
2) they keep yourself warm during chilly November to February evenings
3) they are necessary for temple and countryside village visits where the shoulders and legs should be covered to below the knee
4) depending on the season, your activities and the region you will be visiting, it may be advisable for you to bring a jacket with you

The Khmer are a tolerant population and may choose not to point out improper behavior to its foreign guests, but you should dress and act with the utmost respect when visiting Wats (pagodas) or other religious sites (including the temples of Angkor). This is all the more important given the vital role Buddhism has played in the lives of many Cambodians, especially in the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge holocaust. Proper etiquette in pagodas is mostly a matter of common sense. Unlike Thailand, a woman may accept something from a monk, but she should be careful not to touch him.
A few other tips include:
• Don’t wear shorts or tank tops
• Remove your hat when entering the ground of the Wats
• Remove your shoes before going into the vihara (sanctuary)
• If you sit down in front of the dais (the platform on which the Buddhas are placed), sit with your feet to the side rather than in the lotus position
• Never point your finger or the sole of your feet towards a person or a figure of the Buddha

5. Climate

The best time to visit Cambodia is between November and February. The two monsoons in the country greatly affect the travel calendar. From November to February the cool, dry northeastern monsoon carries relatively little rain whereas the southwestern monsoon carries up to 80% of the country’s rainfall between the months of May and October. Maximum daily temperatures range from the high 20º C in January to more than 40º C in April. Daily minimum temperatures are usually no more than 15º C.

WEATHER CHART

 

Month

Phnom Penh

Average
Temp

Rain
(mm)

JAN

21/31

7

FEB

22/32

10

MAR

23/34

40

APR

25/35

75

MAY

24/34

135

JUNE

24/33

155

JULY

24/32

175

AUG

25/33

160

SEPT

25/31

230

OCT

23/30

260

NOV

23/30

125

DEC

22/30

45

 

6. Safety

Traveling in Cambodia is generally very safe. Incidents of petty theft and bag snatching are more widespread in Phnom Penh. Elsewhere in the country these events are almost unheard of. Most hotels have either a safety deposit box at the reception desk or in the room, or both. Just to be on the safe side when traveling anywhere in the country you should exercise common sense. The other concern often voiced is that of unexploded landmines. It is advisable not to stray from paths in remote areas and have a local guide with you at such times. Please pay attention that tap water is mostly not drinkable.

7. Cuisine

Cambodian cuisine is closely related to that of its neighbors Thailand and Laos and, to a lesser extent, Vietnam. There are, however some local dishes too. The overall consensus is that Khmer cooking is similar to Thai cooking but with fewer spices.
A traditional Cambodian meal almost always includes a soup, or samla which is eaten at the same time as other courses. Samla machou banle is a popular fish soup with a sour flavor rather like the hot and sour dishes of neighboring Thailand. Other soups include samla chapek (ginger-flavoured pork soup), samla machou bangkang (prawn soup) and samla ktis (a fish soup with coconut and pineapple).
Cambodian ‘salad’ dishes are also popular and quite different from the western concept of a cold salad. Phlea sach ko is a beef and vegetable salad, flavored with coriander, mint leaves and lemon grass. These herbs find their ways into many Cambodian dishes. Like all other Buddhist countries, vegetarian food is readily available in most restaurants.

8 . People

The population of Cambodia is currently about 14 million inhabitants. About 90 to 95% of the people are Khmer ethnic. The remaining 5 to 10% include Chinese-Khmers, Khmer Islam or Chams, ethnic hill-tribe people, known as the Khmer Loeu, and Vietnamese. About 10% of the population lives in Phnom Penh, the capital, making Cambodia largely a country of rural dwellers, farmers and artisans.

9. Language

The vast majority of Cambodians speaks Khmer, a language of the Mon-Khmer group. Its only close relative is the language of the Mon, a Burmese minority. Khmer is only distantly related to Thai and to some Indonesian languages, with some borrowed words from Vietnamese, Chinese, Pali, French and English. The script is related to Devanagari and looks a bit like Thai script at first glance. An increasing number of urban Cambodians speak English, especially young people, and some (mostly older) Cambodians can speak French. Though its grammar is quite straightforward, Khmer is a fairly difficult language for most English speakers to learn because of its pronunciation.

10. Public holidays and special events

During public holidays and festivals, banks, ministries and embassies close down, so plan ahead if visiting Cambodia during these times. These institutions also take holidays on Christmas Day, New Year's Day, the Day for Remembering the Victory over the Genocidal Regime on 7 January and Chinese New Year; so all in all they spend a fair number of days on holiday each year. Most Cambodian festivals take place according to the lunar calendar so the dates vary from year to year.

Chaul Chnam
Held in mid April, Chaul Chnam is a three-day celebration of the Khmer New Year: Khmers make offerings at Wats, clean out their homes and exchange gifts of new clothes. It is a lively time to visit as, like the Thais, Khmers go wild with water and talcum powder leaving a lot of bemused tourists looking like plaster cast figures! It is not the best time to visit the temples of Angkor as half of the population of the country turns up there and you will find yourself with no peace to explore the temples.

Chat Preah Nengkal
Held in early May this is the Royal Ploughing ceremony, a ritual agricultural festival led by the royal family. It takes place near the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.

International Workers' Day – 1 May

P'chum Ben
Held in late September, it is a kind of all soul's day, when respects are paid to the dead through offerings made at the waters' edge.

His Majesty the King's Birthday – 30 October to 01 November

Bon Om Tuk
Usually held in late October or early November, this celebrates the reversal of the Tonle Sap River (with the onset of the dry season, water backed up in the Tonle Sap lake begins to empty into the Mekong, in the wet season the waters reverse). This is one of the most important festivals in the Khmer calendar and a wonderful time to be in Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, as boat races are held on the Tonle Sap River and the moat around Angkor Wat.

Independence Day – 9 November

Chinese Lunar New Year
The Chinese and Vietnamese inhabitants of Cambodia celebrate their New Year in late January or early to mid February for the Vietnamese (this is Tet). Because Chinese and Vietnamese run many businesses in Phnom Penh, commerce grinds to a halt around this time.

11. Post and Telecommunication

Post is now routed by air through Bangkok, which makes Cambodia a much more reliable place from which to send mail and parcels. Telephone connections with the outside world have also improved immensely, though they are not cheap.
• Number starting with 011, 012, 015, 017 or 018 are mobile phone numbers.
• There is a directory inquiries service in Cambodia called The Yellow Pages:
www.yellowpages-cambodia.com
• International phone calls are easy to make with a phone card or from your hotel.
• Internet access is available in all major tourist places.

12. Business hours

Government offices, which are open from Monday to Saturday, theoretically begin the working day at 7 or 7:30 AM, breaking for a siesta from 11 or 11:30 AM to 2 or 2:30 PM and ending the day at 5:30 PM. It is safe to assume that few people will be around early in the morning or after 4 PM.

Banking hours tend to vary according to the bank, core hours are 8:30 AM to 4 PM.
There are an incredible number of public holidays and festivals that close down offices.

13. Airport Taxes

There is an airport departure tax to pay for each international flight (25 US$/pax). This tax is not included into the price of the flight ticket.

14. Tips

Tipping is a personal matter and therefore the amount depends on personal appreciation. For your convenience we’ve included a tipping guide below; please however note that these amounts are only suggestions; we encourage our passengers to reward guides based on their performance:
• Meals (restaurants): the average amount is $1
• Tips for guides and drivers are completely at your discretion, but here are some guidelines: $1,5 to $3 per day per person for guides (depending on group size), $1 per day per person for drivers
• Bellboy: the average amount is $1
• Chambermaid: the average amount is $1 per day