We’ve got answers to the basics, and everything else you need to know, if you’re planning a trip to Cambodia.
Cambodia is home to a tumultuous history, that is both beautiful and heartbreaking. It’s adorned with temples and meditative enlightenment, as well as opportunities to explore the culture and experience the nature and wildlife. It’s easy to understand why so many Aussies are planning a trip to this beautiful kingdom of wonder.
Here are the answers to all the vital questions you need to ask, before embarking on a life-changing holiday to Cambodia.
What to know before you go
Is Cambodia a country?
Yes, Cambodia is an independent country and became a member of the United Nations in 1955.
Is Cambodia in Asia?
Yes, Cambodia is a country located in the south of the Indochina Peninsula in South-East Asia. It borders Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.
How did Cambodia get it’s name?
Cambodia is the traditional English transliteration, taken from the French Cambodge. Kampuchea is the direct transliteration, and truer to the Khmer pronunciation. The Khmer Kampuchea is derived from the ancient Khmer kingdom of Kambuja. Kambuja is the ancient Sanskrit name of the Kambojas, an early tribe of north India, named after their founder Kambu Svayambhuva.
Since independence, the official name of Cambodia has changed several times, following the tumultuous history of the country. The following names have been used since 1954:
- Kingdom of Cambodia – under the rule of the monarchy from 1953 through 1970;
- Khmer Republic – under the Lon Nol led government from 1970 to 1975;
- Democratic Kampuchea – under the rule of the communist Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979;
- People's Republic of Kampuchea – under the rule of the Vietnamese-sponsored government from 1979 to 1989;
- State of Cambodia – under the rule of the United Nations transitional authority from 1989 to 1993;
- Kingdom of Cambodia – reused after the monarchy was restored in 1994.
What is the Cambodian language?
The official language of Cambodia is Khmer.
Is Cambodia cheap?
Compared with the average Aussie price of a beer, coffee, or mid-range three-course meal for two Cambodia is much cheaper.
In Australia we’d usually pay about $80 for a three-course meal for two people, whereas in Cambodia, you’d be looking at something like $19.64 for the equivalent.
Draught beer would usually be in the region of $7, whereas Cambodia’s prices are closer to $1.27 (averaged out).
Even taxi transportation is at least half the price we pay at home.
Can I get visa on arrival in Cambodia?
Yes, you can obtain your visa upon arrival at the two airports in Cambodia: Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, or at any of the other border checkpoints.
Application for a tourist visa requires:
- A completed visa application form
- A passport with at least six months validity
- One recent photograph (2 inches x 2 inches)
- Appropriate visa fee of US$35 (or $43.33 approximately)
- Any supporting documents
In order to be admitted into the country, tourists may also need to demonstrate that they have sufficient funds for their stay, and a return ticket.
Health and safety
Is Cambodia safe?
Cambodia is considered to be pretty safe for travellers now, despite it’s past reputation. There are a few things you’ll need to be aware of, however, if you’re planning to get out and about whilst there.
- Landmines. There are still unexploded landmines present in Cambodia, so stick to the marked roads and paths and do not deviate.
- Violence and crime. Despite the number of guns present in Cambodia, armed theft is relatively rare. There have been incidents of bag snatching, but these are rare in comparison to the number of travellers that pass through Cambodia. Phnom Penh is where the most due diligence needs to be exerted. Violence against foreigners is extremely rare, but take care, especially when out alone at night. Guard your Smartphone.
- Festival times. Major festivals such as Pchum Ben or Chaul Chnam Khmer, see an increase in the number of robberies, as Cambodians need money to buy gifts for family and some see theft as the quickest way to obtain the funds they need. Take steps to keep your personal possessions safe, and don’t take valuables out with you unless essential.
- Scams. Fake medication is readily available. To avoid this, only buy prescription drugs from reliable pharmacies or clinics. Beggars may ask you for milk powder with an infant in their arms. If you give in to the urge to help, the beggars usually want the most expensive milk formula available, before returning it to the shop to split the proceeds afterwards.
- Drugs. Watch out for yaba, “the crazy drug” from Thailand, known in Cambodia as yama (the Hindu god of death). This is not just an ordinary diet pill from the pharmacist. It’s a homemade methamphetamine laced with toxic substances, such as mercury, or lithium. Yama induces powerful hallucinations, sleep deprivation and psychosis.
Is Cambodia dangerous?
Cambodia is currently rated the 75th most dangerous country in the world, which comes in after the United States of America at 50th.
There are areas which are reported to be more dangerous than others within Cambodia, and so we would recommend avoiding Phnom Penh as it can be dangerous at night. That said, it is a vibrant city well worth exploring during the daytime, but do exert cautiousness over your personal safety and possessions.
Getting around and things to do
Where is Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple?
Angkor Wat is Cambodia’s temple complex and the largest religious monument in the world. It is situated approximately 5.5 kilometres from Siem Reap.
Does Cambodia have mountains?
Cambodia is home to the Cardamom and Elephant Mountains. They are among the least developed regions of the country and the areas suffer from poor infrastructure and remain heavily mined. There is some active development ongoing in coastal areas around Sihanoukville for tourism, but as yet the areas remain for the most part unspoilt still offering blissful beaches to visitors.
Does Cambodia have beaches?
Yes. Cambodia is home to some amazing beaches along the Gulf of Thailand, with one of the main coastal tourist areas being in and around Sihanoukville. It offers lazy beaches with beautiful white sands that span the coast for kilometres, and even beaches constructed entirely of shells.
Does Cambodia have Uber?
Uber are not currently in operation in Cambodia yet. It is rumoured that Uber trials have begun in Phnom Penh, however they are yet to officially launch services at present.
Culture, customs and lifestyle
What should I wear in Cambodia?
The climate in Cambodia is hot. Cotton shorts or a skirt, vest tops and T-shirts are popular with tourists, but offer little UV protection.
If you’re planning a visit to sacred sites, you will need to cover up.During your visit to any place of worship your legs and shoulders must be covered. Long, loose-fitting trousers paired with a long-sleeved cotton shirt would be a good option here.
A pashmina or sarong is another option that can be used for protection from the sun or as a respectful cover-up.