Cambodia remains one of the most splendid and exotic countries in Southeast Asia, with 443 kilometers of beach, Cambodia has become a wonderful site to rest. The Kingdom of Wonder was once the seat of one of Asia’s most magnificent early civilizations, the mighty Khmer empire of Angkor, whose legendary temples continue to provide a touchstone of national identity which makes millions of visitors want to come back every year. Cambodia is famous for their faded colonial architecture and old-fashioned charm while Cambodians remain among Asia’s most friendly and hospitable people which most impresses many visitors to Cambodia.
Khmer – or Cambodian – is the main language in the Kingdom of Wonder. It is spoken by residents in northeastern Thailand and southern Vietnam as well. Khmer is said to be pretty easy to learn thanks to the lack of tones and phonetic pronunciation in comparison with Thai and Vietnamese. In major cities like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, English is becoming more and more popular but picking up these basic phrases will help you get confidence during your trip and gain warm smiles from the Cambodians.
Basic Khmer Phrases
Yes – Baat (men)/ Chaas (Women)
No – Dteh
Please – Suom mehta
Thank you – Or-koon
Sorry/excuse me – Sohm dtoh
Where is the restroom? – Bang-kon noun aina?
I need a doctor – K`nyom trouv krouh peit
I’m lost – K’nyom vung vehng plouv
Basic Greetings in Khmer
Hello – Jum-reap soo-a
Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night – Arun/tiveah/sayoanh/reah-trey sour sdei
How are you? – Tau neak sok sapbaiy jea teh?
Goodbye! – Joom-reap leah
Basic Khmer for Eating and Ordering Food
I would like ___ – Khnyom sohm___
Not too spicy please – Sohm kohm toe hal pek
This is delicious – A nih ch’ngun nah
The check, please – Sohm ket luy
Basic Khmer for Shopping
How much does this cost? – T’lay pohnmaan?
That’s expensive! – T’lay!
Can you give me a discount please? – Som jous thlai bahn teh?
Basic Khmer to Impress and Gain Street Cred
Moo ay, Bpee, Bay, Boun, Bpram, Bram moo ay, Bpram bpee, Bpram bay, Bpram buon, Dahp (one to ten)
How do you say ___ in Khmer? – ___ khmer tha mat?
Where is the ___? – Noev eah nah___?
Have a nice day! – Mien tingay la-aw!
Cheers! – Leuk dach!
When is the best time of year to visit Cambodia?
Cambodia is a nature-blessed country with the tropical climate which has warm temperatures throughout the year. Dry and wet are two distinct seasons in Cambodia. While the dry season in Cambodia runs from October to April with average temperatures range from 24°C in the cooler months of October, November & December, the wet season starts from May until September, with the heaviest rainfall generally in August & September. There may certainly be some rainfall in October but it usually comes in short showers. The highest temperature can reach up to 40 degrees Celsius during midday.
Due to lack of rainfall, the timing is perfect for escaping to the beaches of Sihanoukville unless you’re in remote areas with bad roads traveling. The wonderful months to visit Cambodia are December and January, with dry weather and lower humidity levels, temperatures reach a comfortable mid-20 degrees Celsius, skies are clear and evenings are cool, it’s nice to see the rice paddies and tropical foliage at their most green and lush during these months. However, this is also the busiest time of year so expect some crowds and higher prices.
In addition, you can plan your trip when national holidays happen to immerse in Cambodia’s culture. Khmer New Year – the biggest holiday in Cambodia is held between April 14th and 16th based on the Buddhist calendar, marking the end of the harvest and the welcoming of the rainy season. Pchum Ben holiday is a 15-day religious festival in veneration of the dead which is celebrated in September or October. You might find that ancestral altars and temples are especially vibrant and lively during this holiday.
You will need a valid passport and a Cambodian visa to enter Cambodia. Tourist and business visas are valid for one month from the date of entry into Cambodia. Cambodia offers online visa processing.
The Cambodian visa now may also obtain at the airports in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and at all major border crossings. Cambodian immigration officials at airports now collect fingerprints upon entry using an inkless, electronic process. The visa on arrival is valid for a 30-day stay and issued at a cost of US $30 per tourist and US$35 per business traveler.
You must prepare:
+ A passport valid for at least 6 months from the expiry date
+ 02 recent passport-sized (4cm x 6cm) photographs
Some nationalities are required to get a visa in advance at Royal Embassy of Kingdom of Cambodia in their country: Afghanistan, Algeria, Arab Saudi, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Nigeria.
On the other hand, the nationals of the Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia do not need a tourist visa and may stay in Cambodia for 21 and 30 days respectively.
U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh
The Cambodian Riel (KHR) is the official currency in Cambodia. Banknotes are available from 50 to 100,000 riels but the 100,000 bill is rarely used. Coins are issued in denominations of 50, 100, 200, and 500 riels.
The US Dollar is widely accepted in Cambodia and it is considered as an unofficial second currency here. Most of the stores quote prices both in riels and US dollars. Small stores may quote prices in riel, but they will all accept dollars as payment. If you pay for your purchases in US dollars, the exchange rate you will get is pretty fair but you may expect to get change in riels since stores do no not give out US coins. One dollar is equivalent to around 4,000 riels.
Most tourist-oriented businesses quote prices in dollars, as do most grocery stores in the larger cities. Small stores may quote prices in riel, but they will all accept dollars as payment. Unlike in many countries, if you pay in US dollars the exchange rate you will get is quite fair.
The riel is the official currency of Cambodia, but you don’t need to rush out and change money before you arrive. The US dollar is an unofficial second currency. Most prices in stores are quoted in dollars and it’s only at local markets and for small transactions that you’ll be asked for riel. Even so, you can pay with dollars — the “street” exchange rate that you’ll get from small shops, motodops and local cafes is 4,000 riel to the dollar. With the actual exchange rate today at 4,050, there’s no advantage to changing money into riel to make these purchases (the 50 riel difference is equal to $0.01).
Banks & hotels
A bank is a trustable choice for money exchanging in Cambodia, however their rates are always lower than the rates from forex shops. Bank branches can easily find along major thoroughfares and near tourist places around the city. In case you are planning to stay for more than a month or two, you’re highly recommended to open a bank account with a local bank branch to save up on bank fees.
Suggested Bank Branches:
Hotels might also charge you a service fee when exchanging, it is advisable to exchange a small amount if you’re really in need.
Forex shops are the great places to exchange money in Cambodia, considering the competitive exchange rates, though there are not many money changers available in the city. You can find several of them clustered near tourist attractions. Ly Hour Exchange – the leading currency exchange company with numerous branches in operation – often offers the best rates in the market.
Suggested Money Changers:
GSM mobile system is used in Cambodia. You can buy a pre-paid SIM cards easily from $1, but it requires a passport to buy. And you can ask a guest house or tuk-tuk driver for buying a SIM card for you.
Cambodia has become one of the most competitive mobile markets in the world with the telecoms infrastructure is expanding rapidly and the use of mobile phones is becoming increasingly popular. Seven big phone carriers here are Cellcard/Mobitel, Metfone, Smart, QB, Beeline, CooTel and Excell. A pre-paid Cellcard SIM card is recommended due to the company’s English-speaking staff and cheap data packages.
In tourist areas, you can access to Wifi in cafes, restaurants, and bars as its price is around $1/hour.
+ Shared-taxi: Shared taxi transport is the quickest and most comfortable way to travel between destinations. The shared taxis are nearly all Toyota Camrys. Shared taxi leave when full, meaning at least five to six passengers, though once you leave the driver may pick up more people. The fares can be slightly higher but somewhat faster than buses, despite the driving can make you hair-standing. To have the whole front seat for yourself, you can pay double the standard fare and you can hire the entire taxi for around five or six times the original fare. Shared taxis usually leave from the local transport stop and there are no fixed schedules but most of them run in the morning.
+ Bus: There are no bus stations or a center for you in Cambodia to check general information about schedules and fares because buses generally arrive and depart from their respective company offices. The prices are pretty affordable, starting from just $4 from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville and $6 to Siem Reap, and are generally much of a muchness on all but the most-traveled routes. Deluxe coaches can be found on popular routes with free snacks and even onboard wi-fi.
+ Train: Trains in Cambodia are quite slow but they’re budget-friendly. A train will be the good choice for who has the time to spend on them. There are two kinds of trains – the Yellow Train and the Blue one. Both of them have the air conditioner and same price tickets and tend to leave on time, there is a slightly different in the way seating is set up between the two. Instant noodles and bottles of water are offered to your seat on request. Moreover, passengers can easily stock up on boiled eggs, cut fruits, dried fish, and drinks at the station stops, which are usually about 10 minutes each.
+ Boat: Boat is an outstanding vehicle in Cambodia which is available in some particular routes. The most popular route is Phnom Penh to Siem Reap trip. Boats run every day south along the Mekong between Phnom Penh and the Vietnamese border at Chau Doc – this can be arranged via local guesthouses. Don’t be surprised if you see plenty of overloading boats. Trips to and from Phnom Penh aren’t particularly picturesque while ones to or from Battambang are more interesting. You also should be aware that in rough weather the Tonle Sap can whip up some fierce waves.
In major cities like Phnom Penh, there may be bag snatching, especially when tourists are riding in a crowded street. Make sure to keep your belongings close to yourselves. Don’t forget to apply the same caution in any busy city. Violence cases related to foreigners is pretty rare, taking care in crowded bars or nightclubs in Phnom Penh is still necessary.
Touch any rockets, artillery shells, mortars, mines, bombs or other war material you see may put you in danger. Mines are big problems in Cambodia, especially in the Thai border area.
Cambodia culture is dominated by the Khmer that can be easily recognized by the warmth of Cambodian people. Buddhism also strongly influence on this kingdom’s culture, customs, traditions and etiquette.
Generally, Cambodians are very friendly. They will be very patient with cultural faux pas because they understand you are from a different culture. However, the effort to understand Cambodian culture is much more appreciated as it makes you closer to Cambodian people.
Under a kingdom regime, social status of people is much more concerned than others. Cambodians usually ask your personal questions. It is when they want to establish your rank and the most appropriate way to talk to you.
Like other Indochina countries, the collective needs are far more important than individual needs. And public image is essential as well. It is always better to avoid making Cambodian publicly lose their face.
The traditional way to greet other people is palms together as praying with hands in front of the chest and head inclined slightly in a bow. This way of greeting is showing your respect to other people, especially people with higher rank in society, and is called Som Peah. And, it is not unusual for shaking hand, remember that Cambodians used to live under French system.
When greeting, “lok” and “lok srey” are honorific titles for men and women respectively, and are followed by their first name. Cambodians traditionally Som Peah while saying Choum Reap Sur (Hello) and Som Peah again when leaving and saying Choum Reap Lir (Goodbye).
Public displays of romantic couples are quite offensive and inappropriate. However, it is usual for same sex people hugging, hand in hand walking together. These actions indicate a very close friendship.
Cambodian cuisine is has much in common with that of its neighbors, particularly the cooking of Vietnam and Thailand. Food and drink in Cambodia is tasty, unique and, perhaps most importantly of all, cheap. You can expect lots of rice and noodles, although unlike some of its South East Asian neighbours, many dishes are not overly spicy. Cambodians instead favouring sour flavours.
+ Bai sach chrouk (Pork and rice): Bai sach chrouk is a dish of broken rice usually served with sliced grilled pork or sometimes chicken, with a side of pickled, carrot, ginger, daikon and a bowl of chicken broth. You can drink the soup on its own, or locals like to dip their spoon into the broth before each bite of rice. Some places will also sell fried eggs that you can add to your plate. You’ll find bai sach chrouk being sold on small sidewalk. The price varies from 3,000 to 5,000 riel.
+ Fish Amok: Fish amok is is a type of steamed curried fish infused with flavour and leave. The rich and creamy curry sauce that is the perfect harmony of ginger, lemongrass, turmeric and coconut milk. The fish is silky smooth usually served wrapped in a banana leaf, almost melting in your mouth with each bite. In standard style, it is served with a healthy portion of rice, and is eaten with a fork and spoon.
+ Khmer Red Curry: Khmer curry is generally mild and mellow, with an almost sweet aftertaste although the recipes can be varied from one place to another. Normally, the dish contains chicken, coconut cream and milk, fish sauce, herbs, diced sweet potatoes, garlic, shallots, turmeric, ginger and lots of chilies. This aromatic and flavourful broth often is served with either rice or a baguette.
+ Lap Khmer: Lap Khmer is a special Khmer beef salad. Cambodian take thin slices of beef which is marinated in lime juice and fish sauce with lots of garlic, shallots, basil, mint, and bell peppers. The whole thing is then topped with lots of chilies.
+ Lok Lak: Lok Lak is a traditional Khmer stir fry dish using thin slices of beef or pork in a brown sauce. This dish is typically served with rice and some green salad. The dish is normally served with a dipping sauce consisting of lime, salt, and pepper.
Foods, drinks & other items
|Budget breakfast||1 – 3|
|Budget lunch||2 – 4|
|Budget dinner||3 – 6|
|Meal for 2, Mid-range restaurant, three-course||16.5|
|Domestic beer (0.5 liter draught)||1|
|Imported beer (0.33 liter bottle)||2|
|Water (0.33 liter bottle)||0.43|
|One-way Ticket (local transport||1.36|
|Monthly Pass (regular Price)||40|
|Taxi Start (normal Tariff)||2|
|Taxi 1km (normal tariff)||0.72|
|Tuk-tuk (3 km ride in Phnom Penh)||3 – 5|
|Tuk-tuk (all day)||20 – 25|
|Dorm beds (guesthouses) per night||3 – 10|
|Private room per night||3 – 13|
|Comfortable hotels (air con, TV, and amenities) per|
|12 – 22|
Tipping is normal in Cambodia, especially in service industry. However, it is personal matter and travelers can do it if they feel comfortable. We suggest you a tipping guide below:
List of items
Health issue in general and food poisoning in particular is extremely concerned by travelers to Cambodia. Here is 5 tips which help you avoid unexpected food poisoning in this country.
Tip 1: Conservation is necessary for eating street food in Cambodia than other countries. Hygiene issue is not the priority and street food stalls are not as scrupulously clean as they are in Vietnam or Thailand.
Tip 2: Be really careful with fresh, uncooked food. Some slices of spicy and sour mango could be a great treat on a summer day but you should make sure the vendors wear gloves or wash their hands when cutting it.
Tip 3: Apply Asian street food rules. Stalls full of locals with a clean kitchen and food preparation area will absolutely be better choices for you.
Tip 4: Stick to eating schedules. Breakfast starts roughly from early morning and continues no later than 8:30 am while lunch begins at exactly 12:00 pm and runs until 2 pm. Breakfast foods, especially the ubiquitous pork and rice, are best consumed early. Hitting a roadside food spot out of eating time may mean that you’ll get the dregs of the soup and the fried fish that the rest of the locals rejected.
Tip 5: Keep your own hands clean. Wash your hands throughly with soap for at least twenty seconds or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol before you eat, but especially after shaking hands with people and perhaps cuddling with pets.
|• Off the beach and outside the big city nightclubs, avoid short shorts and tops that reveal cleavage.||• Don’t point at someone with your feet or finger.|
|• Dress well when visiting pagodas. Knees and shoulders should be covered and shoes, hats should be removed.||• Don’t touch on a head of Cambodian people.|
|• Do ask for permissions before taking photos of people or monks.||• Don’t litter and plastic bags should be disposed properly.|
|• Do respectfully greet others by slightly bowing the head with hand pressing together at the chest (known as “Sampeah”)||• Women should never touch male monks or hand something directly to them.|
|• Do bow when walking in front of or passing an elder.||• Never stand when talking to seated monks. It shows grave disrespect.|
|• Do bring a small gift to the host that you are invited to dine in a Cambodian family.||• Don’t touch a Buddha statue or stand on the altar.|
|• Do cover your mouth if you use toothpick.||• Never put hand on an elder’s shoulder. It is considered very rude.|
|• Do remove shoes before entering a Cambodian home.||• Don’t put hands in pockets while talking.|
|• Do present and accept business cards with both|
|• Don’t start before the elder when eating.|
|• Do try local specialty such as Amok and Num Bachok.||• Don’t give money to beggars, especially children. Give donation on established fund of local people instead.|
|• Do bargain when buying things. Bargaining is normal and enjoyable experience.||• Don’t give sweets to children in villages.|
|• Do avoid hugging and kissing in public||• Don’t purchase historical artifacts.|
|• Don’t take home pieces of stone from the temples and tourist|
|• Don’t involve in narcotic drug consumption and sexual exploitation of children.|