Cambodia : Travel Information before you go!
There are no direct flights between the United Kingdom and Cambodia. Therefore anticipate approximately 13 hours to get to Bangkok, in Thailand, the most widely used access point. Then, from there, take a 1hr 30 min flight to Phnom Penh.
The airport of Pochentong, which is being renovated, is some eight miles from the centre of Phnom Penh. You do not drive fast in the capital, due to the "traditional" driving by most vehicles and the density of the traffic (particularly two-wheeled vehicles). You should thus allow for half to three-quarters of an hour to make this trip. No shuttles. In a taxi, it will cost you between 2 dollars when bargaining hard, and five dollars. Be careful about your return flight; you should keep some cash aside to pay the airport tax (US$20 for international and US$10 for internal flights, in 2000).
Security is a point that undermined Cambodia's image and its tourist attraction for a long time. Since the country was "re-opened" at the beginning of the 90s, the situation has considerably improved. Public lighting has partly returned to the major roads of Phnom Penh, the army and police control the possession of arms more strictly, and today the capital is considered overall as a safe place. Nevertheless, you should avoid: taxi-bikes and frequenting remote areas in the outskirts at night. In the countryside, the whole of the north-western area of the country bordering Thailand, under the control of the old Khmer Rouge, remains unsafe, and is therefore not recommended. However, the rest of the country is freely accessible today. There is a real problem with landmines, as many of these artefacts still infest the Cambodian countryside. You should therefore never leave the roads or tracks that have been identified as safe by the inhabitants when visiting the villages. On the other hand, today, the whole of the area of Angkor has definitely been de-mined. Elsewhere, some regions, such as the eastern provinces (Rattanakiri), pose no problem, as they have never been mined. Finally, for this chapter on precautions, avoid going on the train: they are often held up and travellers robbed.
Useful knowledge: between July and December, heavy rainfall that has been earlier than usual in the Mekong Basin has provoked considerable and long flooding in Cambodia. The decrease in the water level has been practically completed, however, several infrastructures (roads, bridges, dikes) have been destroyed or damaged.
The traditional tourist areas (Siem Reap, Angkor, Phnom Penh, Oudong, Sihanoukville) have not been affected. The roads around Lake Tonle Sap are very difficult. You are formally advised against taking the rivers.
Essentially Khmer, but also Chinese, Vietnamese, English, and French.
Required travel documents for
A visa is required to enter Cambodia. It can be issued once in the country, upon arrival at the airport (in this case bring two ID photos), but since the office that issues it is always crowded, it is preferable to get it in your country of departure. It will be valid for 30 days. Your passport must valid for at least six months. Do not forget to bring an ID photo to the embassy.
Theravada Buddhism (known as a "Lesser Vehicle") almost monopolises religious practice in Cambodia. There is nevertheless a handful of Christians (from its time as a French Protectorate) and Muslims (the Chams from Vietnam). Animistic practices also continue in the rural areas, amongst the ethnic minorities. Hinduism, which was the dominant religion at the Angkorian time, has disappeared.
The Cambodian currency is the Riel (KHR), but for the past few years the country's economy has largely relied on the US Dollar, which is now used as an everyday currency alongside the national currency. Generally speaking, Riels are used for small expenses (cigarettes, newspapers, moto-taxi rides, fruit or drinks bought on a market stand, for example), whereas Dollars are used for paying restaurant bills, in hotels and for transport, meaning that the cost of visiting is not as low here as you might expect. In the most remote provinces, however, and in isolated rural areas, the use of the Riel predominates, even though the Dollar is still accepted. There are no ATM machines in Cambodia and the use of credit cards is still very rare, except in larger hotels and certain restaurants run by Westerners. Travellers cheques are accepted without any problem in banks, which are generally open from Monday to Friday from 8.00am to 4.00pm (although they sometimes close at 2.00pm, and even at noon on Friday). In Phnom Penh there are several Visa cash dispenser counters where you can withdraw money on presentation of your credit card.
The internal Cambodian airlines (often ATR with pilots trained in Toulouse, France, at the controls) are a fast and efficient way of travelling around the furthermost provinces, which are badly served by a road network that is still in poor condition. One exception is the excellent national road that connects Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville (ex-Kompong Som) in the south by the sea, which has recently been renovated. From Phnom Penh, in order to reach the town of Siem Reap, where you visit the Angkor temples from, you are advised against taking the boat that goes up the river Tonlé Sap and crosses the huge lake of the same name. It takes rather a long time (6 hours), but the boats are picturesque, and the trip magnificent. For short trips in town, choose the very popular taxi-bikes that can be found absolutely everywhere. Always negotiate the price of the ride, around 1,000 riels on average, before getting on. Do not take the train, which is still insufficiently secure. Finally, you are advised against driving a car yourself as children, who are numerous in the towns and villages, run in every direction. If there is an accident, it is much easier for a Cambodian driver to untangle any possible consequences than a western driver.
No mandatory vaccine to enter Cambodia. However, it is highly recommended to be vaccinated against tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis A and B. Since the malaria strains living in Cambodia have developed a resistance to classical treatments (Nivaquin), you must therefore follow another anti-malaria treatment, for instance Lariam, which is a litte stronger. No yellow fever; it does not exist in Asia. In case of sexual relations in the country (prostitution is a very active industry in Phnom Penh), it is essential to use a condom, as Cambodia is one of the most active AIDS centres in Asia. Never drink tap water (only bottled water with a cap on, sold everyhere, or sterilised water). Food is generally not a problem. In case of a doubt, for example in small restaurants on the side of the pavement, avoid raw vegetables and try soups, noodles or cooked food.
Voltage of 220 V. As a precaution, bring an adaptor.
1,055,202 tourists visited Cambodia in 2004.
Taxes and tips
Tips are never mandatory, but always appreciated.
To call Cambodia from the UK, dial the international code (00), followed by the country code for Cambodia (855), followed by the code of the town or province (Phnom Penh: 23), followed by the number of the other party. If the other party has a mobile phone, whose numbers always begin with 0, you do not need to dial this initial 0.<BR>To call the UK from Cambodia: 00 44 + n° of other party.
Cambodia : Useful addresses in the country
Royal Embassy of Cambodia
Wellington, Building, 28-32 Wellington Road St John's Wood, London NW8 9SP
Tel: (0207) 483 9063.
Fax: (0207) 483 9061.
At the destination
No. 27-29, Street 75, Srah Chak, Duan Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Tel: (655-23) 427 124.
Fax: (655-23) 427 125.