Home to the eighth wonder of the world, a turbulent Khmer history and beautiful countryside, Cambodia boasts more than just a heck of a lot of rice. This third world country has a lot to offer and subsequently is my favourite country that I have visited thus far. I went in the summer of 2012 with my sister during our Indochina travels and fell in love with Cambodia. I left having learnt a lot about myself and the differences between the Western and Eastern cultures. I definitely recommend visiting Cambodia, but you need to know a few things before you go.
When to go?
The weather in Cambodia can be split into three categories; high season, low season and shoulder. The high season between November and March is the best all round time to visit as it is mostly cool with Mediterranean temperatures. Low season has two parts; from April to June is the hot season where temperatures can reach 40 degrees. From September and October it begins to get wet with common wild storms. Shoulder lasts between July and August and is Cambodia’s rainy season with high humidity and heavy showers.
So when is the best time to go weather wise? Well high season is the most popular time amongst tourists because of its gentle weather, so if you don’t mind the possible crowds then this could be the best time for you. Alternatively if you’re looking for some strong sun the low season between April and June is a better suit.
If you’re looking to fly into Cambodia flights into its regional capitals are expanding. Phnom Penh International Airport is the stop for you if you’re heading south or to the capital. Those in search of Angkor Wat and its’ temples can fly into Siem Reap International Airport. Both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap offer domestic links with western Sihanoukville International Airport. For those who don’t wish to fly and are in neighbouring countries why not walk?
From Thailand’s immigration border-exit checkpoint you can walk into the Cambodian boarder town of Poipet, where the Cambodian immigration border-entry checkpoint is located. Alternatively if you are coming from Vietnam you can cross into Cambodia via the boarder cities of Moc Bai and Chau Doc in southern Vietnam.
Time, money, and visas
So you’ve planned your journey halfway around the world to beautiful Cambodia but how are you going to know what time it is? or buy commodities? or better yet – get into the country? Well first thing to know is that Cambodia follows the Indochina Time Zone (GMT/UTC plus seven hours) so don’t forget to set your watches/mobile phones. Secondly the local currency is Riel (r) but their preferred currency is the US dollar (although of course they accept their own currency.) ATMs and credit cards are accessible but it may be a good idea to carry money on you incase you loose your credit card or want to avoid credit charges.
When it comes to getting into Cambodia it’s fairly simple. To get a tourist visa lasting one month, you need a valid passport and two passport photos. The visa costs $30 (only USD are excepted.) Cambodia is not as cheap as its surrounding countries such as Thailand and Vietnam, so get exchanging before your trip.
For more information on entry requirements click here.
Sadly malaria is a serious and potentially dangerous disease that has not been eradicated from Cambodia. Areas such as its capital, Phnom Penh and Tonle Sap are thought to be risk free, but forested, rural and costal areas are still at risk – prepare to get bitten by mosquitos A LOT. Although you cannot be vaccinated against malaria there are tablets you can take to prevent it. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist before you go as they will likely give you Atovaquone/proguanil or doxycycline tablets against malaria. Recommended vaccines against other health threats include; rabies, typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A & B and cholera. Make sure all your other vaccines and boosters are up to date before you go and pack a lot of mosquito repellant!
Health care in Cambodia isn’t the greatest so try and avoiding getting ill where you can. For more information on healthcare click here.
So you’ve noted all the tourist attractions and beautiful places you want to visit- but how do you get there? Don’t worry you will as Cambodia has various forms of transportation. It’s quickest to get around via motos – also known to us as a motorbike/cyle. This is a handy way of hopping throughout Cambodia’s cities for a cheap fair depending on the distance (prices normally start at $1.50.) With an increase in tourists prices have become a lot more sporadic- always try and negotiate a price upfront before you go anywhere if you can. Another popular form of transportation is the cyclo, also known as a pedicab. With a cheap price of $1 – $3 dollars a ride and their traditional cultural value, cyclos are preferred amongst tourists.
Taxi’s and tuk tuks are also available since Cambodia’s road improvements, as well as buses – although they’re not as common. Don’t forget most forms of transportation in Cambodia do not have fixed prices on each route and so negotiating a price is often important if you don’t want to use up your travel budget.
Have you ever experienced a problem when in Cambodia or trying to get in? Or do you have any questions for me to answer? Ask me in the comments below.