Cambodia Travel Tips
Even though Cambodia is considered to be safe everywhere, travelers are not recommended to travel in the jungle or to remote temples alone or in a group without guidance from licensed local tour operators. Guides know the geography and the history well. Travellers must be aware that in the jungle there are still some land mines. Make sure you are always informed by your local travel agency before touring to a site that is not mentioned in the itineraries.
When to go?
Most tourists visit Cambodia in the period from October to March as this is the dry season and considered to be High Season. The disadvantage is that during this season the hotels and tour package rates are higher than in low season. The temperatures in dry season are around 30 degrees C. Some tourists visit Cambodia in July, August and September, though the trip might be influenced by rain sometimes. The good thing is that there are not so many visitors at the temples and hotel rates are lower than dry season. Neither the beaches in Sihnukville nor Hill Tribe in Ratanakiri Province is recommended for a visit in the rainy season.
What to bring?
Visitors should bring sunglasses, mosquito repellent, and sport or closed-toed shoes. There's no need to bring an umbrella with you as we'll provide one if you are touring with TRUST.
Both men and women often wear cotton or silk sarongs, especially at home. Men who can afford it usually prefer to wear silk sarongs. Most urban Khmer men dress in trousers. Most urban Khmer women dress in Western-style clothing. On formal occasions such as religious festivals and family celebrations, women often wear a hol (type of shirt) during the day. At night they change to single-colour silk dresses called phamuong, which are decorated along the hems.
In the case of a wedding celebration , the colours of such garments are dictated by the day of the week on which the wedding falls. Cambodian women are generally modest in their dressing, although this is rapidly changing in the bigger towns and cities.Travellers crossing the border from liberal Thai Islands such as Ko Pha Ngan or Ko Chang may feel they have travelled back in time as far as traditions are concerned. Wandering around the temples of Angkor bare-chested (men) or scantily clad (women) is not appreciated by Khmers. Nude bathing is a definite no-no! Strong shoes should be worn for walking and climbing steep stairs. At Sihanoukville, shorts are allowed, but women should wear T-shirts or short jeans to swim.
We recommend that you are well-insured while traveling. Your travel insurance should provide cover against personal accident, medical expense, emergency repatriation and personal liability. We also recommend it cover cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. An insurance company in Cambodia called Caminco is a secured broker allowed to sell insurance to visitors.
Currency & Credit Cards
Don’t worry about changing money in Cambodia. The US Dollar is accepted everywhere in country. The local currency is “Riel”. It is used throughout the country. At the moment, 1US$ = 4000 Riel. At the border the exchange rate is 1 USD = 3500 Riel. In case you want to change some local currency, it can be done at the local markets and banks. Credit cards are also useful in Cambodia. Travellers can get US dollar currency from local ATM machines. ANZ Royal Bank ATM charges US$2 for taking US$ from a VISA card per transaction, while Canadia Bank ATM charges US$5.Traveller’s cheques are not widely accepted in Cambodia, but travellers can change these at the bank with a two or thee percent commission charge.
Post & Communications
Stamps are available at post offices or some hotels. The sending fee for one postcard is generally 2200 Riel, depending on the weight. Post offices are open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Telephone services work throughout the country. There are many mobile phone services in Cambodia such as Smart (015/016-), Mobitel (012/092/017-), Starcell (098-), Mphone (011-), but the most popular one is Mobitel. Fixed phone companies are Camintel and PTC.
Most hotels charge around US$2 per minute for calling oversea. Fixed net local calls are charged 400 Riel per minute. We recommend going to an internet Café for international calls, they take about US$0.5 per minute.
Cambodia’s time zone is the same as Thailand, Laos and Vietnam and is seven hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)/UTC.
Official business hours in Cambodia are from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Banks close at 3:00 p.m.
Public Holidays and Special Events
There are lots of traditional and international festivals. Whenever the festivals are being held, many people from rural areas flock to the capital and cities to join the celebrations and witness the organized fireworks displays accompanying the festivals. During that time the capital is very crowded. Because they live under hard conditions people try to make this time special. Money they save from a long, hard work, is spent happily during the celebrations. They travel hundreds of kilometers by buses, taxis, motorbikes or cars to get to the capital. All the traditional festivals are influenced by the concepts of Buddhism, Hinduism and royal cultures. The most important yearly celebrations are listed here.
Water festival (October or November)
This festival is probably the most extravagant festival in Cambodia. The celebration is held for three days starting from the last full moon day in October or the beginning of November. Millions of people from all over the country sit together on the banks of Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers in Phnom Penh to watch hundreds of brightly colored boats with over 50 paddlers battling for top honor. The boat racing dates back to ancient times marking the strengths of the powerful Khmer marine forces during the Khmer empire.
In the evening, brightly decorated floats cruise along the river prior to and complimenting the fireworks displays. The festival is also celebrated at Siem Reap Angkor, but it is smaller in scale. However, there are thousands of people joining the celebration. The festival is celebrated to thank the Mekong for providing the country with fertile land and lots of fish. Cambodia is an agricultural country. From the ancient time the ox plays very important role in agriculture. Cambodian people have a deep astrological belief that the ox plays an instrumental role in determining the fate of the yields of its agriculture each year
Pchum Ben (September)
This festival is the most cultural and religious event of the year. The festival is believed to be held to bless the souls of ancestors, relatives, and friends who died. All Buddhist temples are crowded – people go to the temples to make traditional offerings and pray. During this time, most people visit their homeland for a family meeting.
King Sihanouk's Birthday Celebration (October 31)
This celebration is held late October or early November. People from all over the country travel to the capital to join the festival, which is held in front of the Royal Palace and along the riverfront. Provincial villagers who normally would have no reason to visit Phnom Penh will save up and make this occasion their sole visit to the capital.
Khmer New Year's Day (Mid April)
This festival is very popular in all ranks of the Cambodian population and is the happiest time for the year. It is celebrated at the same time as the Thai New Year. This festival marks the turn of the year based on the ancient Khmer calendar and also marks the end of the harvest dtime. During the festival, all houses are colorfully decorated to welcome and please new heaven god. Many people can be seen on the streets and sites, with arms carrying small bags and bottles or water pistols to bless people passing by.
This festival is a showcase of performing arts with Angkor Wat as the decor. Performers from all over Asia attend this festival performing great epic stories from myths and legends, including the Ramayana, with their own national dance costumes and musical and rhythmic interpretations. King Sihanouk often attends it when being in his residence in Siem Reap and other dignitaries come to witness this wonderful spectacle.
Royal Ploughing Day (May)
The ceremony takes place in the large park next to the Royal Palace and in front of the National Museum. The King or his representative plays an important role in driving the ox and depicting real ploughing activities in the process of growing rice. The ox is given a selection of foods and beverages to consume and the royal soothsayers interpret what the ox has eaten. For this festival both men and women are required to wear brightly colored traditional Khmer costumes.
Independence Day (November 9)
This ceremony is held to remember Cambodia's independence from France in 1953. It is celebrated on November 9 at the site of the Independence Monument at the junction of Norodom and Sihanouk Boulevards. All over the city flags adorn the shop fronts and bunting is stretched over all the main thoroughfares as a sign of national pride.
Chinese New Year (January or February)
Due to the large number of Chinese people in Cambodia who run most of Cambodia's business enterprises and also Vietnamese immigrant communities, the Chinese New Year is widely celebrated, especially in Phnom Penh and other bigger towns. The festivals are always accompanied by fireworks and this event is no exception, with many wealthy families organizing their own private displays to light up the sky for all to see.
National Day (January 7)
The ceremony is celebrated in January 7 annually to mark the end of the Pol Pot Regime.
International Half Marathon (Late December)
This International Half Marathon is held at Angkor Wat. It attracts competitors from all over the world. Thousands of people come to see this international event, which is held in the spectacular setting of Angkor.
Other Holidays and Festivals
Cambodia also celebrates other special days including: International Women's Day (8 March), International Worker's Day (1 May), Genocide Day (9 May), Vesak Bucha Day - the anniversary of the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha (Late May), Ploughing the Holy Furrow (Late May), Chol Vassa - Buddhist Lent (July), and International Human Rights Day (10 December).