Cambodia is a must-see and perfect for a long weekend! Popular destinations include Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Kep, Tonle Sap Lake, Kratie and Banlung. Before you head off do a bit of research and learn the do’s and don’ts from various sources, read this to help you plan your trip!
Population: 16 million
Capital: Phnom Penh
Religion: Theravada Buddhism
Emergency number: 117
• The Cambodian flag is the only flag in the world to feature a building.
• Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world.
• The flow of the Tonlé Sap river changes direction twice a year.
• Tarantula kebabs are a popular delicacy in Cambodia.
The key dates
- April: Chaul Chnam, the Cambodian New Year celebration, lasts for around three days from mid-April.
- September to October: Pchum Ben or Soul Day. Running for 15 days, this festival is dedicated to blessing the spirits of the dead.
- 9 November: Independence Day. A national holiday celebrating Cambodia’s independence from France in 1953.
The hot spots
Among the World Heritage Sites are the incredible Angkor temple complex, and the Temple of Preah Vihear.
How to stay healthy
• Malaria is present throughout the country, so see your health practitioner about antimalarial drugs. Also, wear long sleeves and trousers, and plenty of repellent.
• Cambodia is still affected by unmarked landmines. Don’t stray off main routes, including those around temples.
While you’re there, please don’t…
Point with your index finger; instead gesture with your right-hand palm up.
Before you go, read …
- A Dragon Apparent: Travels in Cambodia, Laos & Vietnam by Norman Lewis – the British travel writer’s memoir includes a meeting with the King of Cambodia.
- The Gate by Francois Bizot – an account of the fall of Phnom Penh and the early days of the Pol Pot era.
- Notes from My Travels by Angelina Jolie – an honest account of the actress’s work with refugees, including in Cambodia
Before you go, watch …
The Killing Fields – depicting the events under the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot’s regime in the 1970s, which resulted in mass genocide, as seen through a local and US journalist’s eyes. Harrowing history.
They said it
“The humble people of Cambodia are the most wonderful in the world. Their misfortune is that they always have terrible leaders who make them suffer.” – Prince Sihanouk
“Don’t take the straight path or the winding path. Take the path your ancestors have taken.” – Khmer proverb
Do I need a visa?
All visitors to Cambodia require a visa except passport holders of Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei and Myanmar. All other passport holders (except those from Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Nigeria) can apply for an e-visa at evisa.gov.kh. You can get also a visa on arrival at most ports of entry at a cost of US$20 (bring two passport photos).
How long will it take me to get there?
It’s 2 hours to Phnom Penh from Singapore. Cambodia is 7 hours ahead of GMT and one hour behind Singapore.
What’s the money situation?
Cambodian currency is the Cambodian riel (KHR). US dollars are widely used in Cambodia, though it’s useful to have some Cambodian currency for small purchases. Small change is also returned in riel. ATM withdrawals using Visa or MasterCard are available in the major cities. Credit cards are accepted in many upmarket hotels, boutiques and restaurants.
When’s the best time to visit?
You can visit Cambodia any time of the year; the average temperature is around 27 to 28 degrees Celsius.
Cambodia has four seasons:
• November to February, cool and dry
• March to May, hot and dry
• June to August, hot and wet
• September to October, cool and wet
What’s the lingo?
The official language of Cambodia is Khmer. English and French are also spoken.
Here are some phrases to get you started:
Hello Chum reap sour
What is your name? Naek chmuah ey?
My name is __ Knyom chmuah __
How much? Nih th’lay pohnmaan?
Thank you Aw kohn
Yes Baht (for males) / jaah (for females)
I don’t understand Khnom men yol teh
Is there anything I should know about meeting the locals?
For a formal greeting, place your hands together close to your chest and face; dip your head at the same time in a slight bow.
What’s a must-try dish?
Fish amok, a fish mousse with fresh coconut milk, and kroeung, a type of Khmer curry paste. Try their fried insects too, if you dare – grasshoppers, bamboo worms and more.
What should I buy as a souvenir?
Khmer silk, woven mats, candles and soaps, rice paper and Mekong quilts.
Where to stay
Raffles Hotel Le Royal is highly recommended not just for its luxury rooms but for its happy hour cocktails.
There are plenty of mid-range (and cheaper) options in Phnom Penh. One excellent choice is The Kabiki (thekabiki.com).