Essentials A-Z

Customs and duty free

A reasonable amount of tobacco products and spirits can be taken in without incurring customs duty - roughly 200 cigarettes or the equivalent quantity of tobacco, 1 bottle of liquor and perfume for personal use. Taking any Angkorian era images out of the country is strictly forbidden.

Electricity

Voltage 220. Sockets are usually round 2-pin.

Internet

Cambodia is surprisingly well-connected and most medium-sized to large towns have internet access. Not surprisingly, internet is a lot more expensive in smaller towns, up to a whopping US$5 per hr. In Phnom Penh internet rates are US$1-2 per hr and in Siem Reap should be US$1 per hr or under.

Language

In Cambodia the national language is
Khmer
. It is not tonal and the script is derived from the southern Indian alphabet. French is spoken by the older generation who survived the Khmer Rouge era. English is the language of the younger generations. Away from Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville it can be difficult to communicate with the local population unless your speak Khmer.

Media

Cambodia has a vigorous English-language press that fights bravely for editorial independence and freedom to criticize politicians. The principal English-language newspapers are the fortnightly
Phnom Penh Post
, which many regard as the best and the
Cambodia Daily
, published 5 times a week. There are also tourist magazine guides.

Money

The
riel
is the official currency though US dollars are widely accepted and easily exchanged. In Phnom Penh and other towns most goods and services are priced in dollars and there is little need to buy riel. In remote rural areas prices are quoted in riel (except accommodation). Money can be exchanged in banks and hotels. US$ traveller's cheques are easiest to exchange - commission ranges from 1% to 3%. Cash advances on credit cards are available. Credit card facilities are limited but some banks, hotels and restaurants do accept them, mostly in the tourist centres.

ANZ Royal Bank
has opened a number of ATMs throughout Phnom Penh. Machines are also now appearing in other towns and a full ATM network should be established in the next couple of years. Most machines give US$ only.

Cost of travelling

The budget traveller will find that a little goes a long way. Numerous guesthouses offer accommodation at around US$3-7 a night. Food-wise, the seriously strapped can easily manage to survive healthily on US$4-5 per day, so an overall daily budget (not allowing for excursions) of US$7-9 should be enough for the really cost-conscious. For the less frugally minded, a daily allowance of US$30 should see you relatively well-housed and fed, while at the upper end of the scale, there are, in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, plenty of restaurants and hotels for those looking for Cambodian levels of luxury. A mid-range hotel (attached bathroom, hot water and a/c) will normally cost around US$25 per night and a good meal at a restaurant around US$5-10.

Police and the law

A vast array of offences are punishable in Cambodia, from minor traffic violations through to possession of drugs. If you are arrested or are having difficulty with the police contact your embassy immediately. As the police only earn approximately US$20 a month, corruption is a problem and contact should be avoided, unless absolutely necessary. Most services, including the provision of police reports, will require paying bribes. Law enforcement is very haphazard, at times completely subjective and justice can be hard to find. Some smaller crimes receive large penalties while perpetrators of greater crimes often get off scot-free.

Post

International service is unpredictable but it is reasonably priced and fairly reliable (at least from Phnom Penh). Only send mail from the GPO in any given town rather than sub POs or mail boxes.
Fedex
and
DHL
also offer services.

Safety

Cambodia is not as dangerous as some would have us believe. The country has really moved forward in protecting tourists and violent crime towards visitors is comparatively low. Safety on the night-time streets of Phnom Penh is a problem. Robberies and hold-ups are common. Many robbers are armed, so do not resist. As Phnom Penh has a limited taxi service, travel after dark poses a problem. Stick to moto drivers you know. Women are particularly targeted by bag snatchers. Khmer New Year is known locally as the 'robbery season'. Theft is endemic at this time of year so be on red alert. A common trick around New Year is for robbers to throw water and talcum powder in the eyes of their victim and rob them. Leave your valuables in the hotel safe or hidden in your room.

Outside Phnom Penh safety is not as much of a problem. Visitors should be very cautious when walking in the countryside, however, as landmines and other unexploded ordnance is a ubiquitous hazard. Stick to well worn paths, especially around Siem Reap and when visiting remote temples. There is currently unrest on the border with Thailand around the Preah Vihear temple, check the situation before travelling.

Tax

In Cambodia the international departure tax is US$25, domestic tax is US$6.

Telephone

Landline linkages are so poor in Cambodia that many people and businesses prefer to use mobile phones instead. Foreign tourists are not supposed to be able to own a Sim card but you should be able to find a local who will sell you one for between $15-$20. If you have an unlocked phone and intend to be in the country for a while this can save you money if you wish to regularly use your phone. International and domestic Cambodian call and SMS charges are relatively cheap. Most mobile phones begin with 01 or 09. The 3-digit prefix included in a 9-digit landline telephone number is the area (province) code. If dialling within a province, dial only the 6-digit number. International calls can be made from most guesthouses, hotels and phone booths but don't anticipate being able to make them outside Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. Use public
MPTC
or
Camintel
card phone boxes dotted around Phnom Penh to make international calls (cards are usually sold at shops near the booth). International calls are expensive. To make an overseas call from Cambodia, dial 007 or 001 + IDD country code + area code minus first 0 + subscriber number. Internet calls are without a doubt the cheapest way to call overseas.

Time

7 hrs ahead of GMT.

Tourist information

Government tourism services are minimal at best. The
Ministry of Tourism
 is not able to provide any useful information or services. The tourism office in Siem Reap is marginally better but will only provide services, such as guides, maps, etc, for a nominal fee. In all cases in Cambodia you are better off going through a private operator for information and price.

Useful websites

www.cambodia.org

The Cambodian Information Centre. Wealth of information.

www.embassyofcambodia.org

Remarkably good website set up by the Royal Cambodian Embassy in Washington DC. Informative and reasonably up to date.

www.tourismcambodia.com
Cambodia's National Tourism Authority. Good source of general and practical information on travel, visas, accommodation and so on.

Visas and immigration

Visas for a 30-day stay are available on arrival at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airport. Tourist visas cost US$20 and your passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry. You will need a passport photo.

Officially, visas are not available on the Lao border. Many people have reported successfully obtaining visas here but don't rely on it. Travellers using the Lao border should try to arrange visa paperwork in advance in either Phnom Penh, Bangkok or Vientiane. 

Travellers leaving by land must ensure that their Vietnam visa specifies Moc Bai or Chau Doc as points of entry otherwise they could be turned back. You can apply for a Cambodian visa in HCMC and collect in Hanoi and vice versa.

Visa extensions

Extensions can be obtained at the
Department for Foreigners
on the road to the airport. Most travel agents arrange visa extensions for around US$40 for 30 days. Those overstaying their visas are fined US$5 per day, officials at land crossings often try to squeeze out more.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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