Travelling in a foreign country requires one to plan ahead and be aware of potential pitfalls and differences in lifestyle in the country or countries you are visiting. Cambodia is no different.
You will currently have to stop over at least once to get from South Africa to Cambodia. You can fly directly into either Phnom Penh or Siem Reap – both of which have very modern, efficient airports.
The quickest and easiest way to get there is via Singapore – 10,5 hours to Singapore and then an hour and fifty minutes from Singapore to Phnom Penh on their regional airline, Silk Air.
The cheapest way is usually through Hong Kong on either South African Airways or Cathay Pacific and then a regional airline directly to Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. There are also flights through Doha on Qatar Airwaysand Emirates via Dubai.
Cambodia is five hours ahead of South Africa and seven hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) .
Visas are required but are dead easy to obtain and we recommend that you make use of the e-visa link on our website. This will link you directly to the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism where you will be required to upload a passport photograph (it can be taken with a cell phone camera); a copy of your passport details and transfer (EFT) US$37 in payment. Your visa should be emailed back to you within three days.
Alternatively you can stand in a line at Arrivals in Cambodia with a couple of passport photos and buy it there. This will cost you US$30. Your passport must have blank pages and have at least six months before expiry and your visa will be valid for 30 days.
All prices in Cambodia are generally quoted in US$ as this currency is accepted everywhere. The local currency is the Riel and there are 4 000 Riels to US$1. You are only likely to encounter Riels when getting change for less than a dollar. This is useful tip money.
It is advisable to have a lot of small denomination money (US$) on you when you arrive, if possible, as you will be using this money for tips in hotels and for transport in taxis and tuk-tuks. Expecting a tuk-tuk driver to make change for a hundred dollar bill is totally unrealistic!
Tipping is not obligatory but, like anywhere else, rewarding good service is welcomed. Below are rough guidelines when it come to how much to tip:
|FIT < 6 pax||US$ 10 – US$12 /group/day|
|Group 7-15 pax||US$ 15 – US$ 18 /group/day|
|Group 15 pax up||US$ 20 /group/day|
|MICE||US$ 30 /group/day|
|Guide- Adventure Trip|
|FIT < 6 pax||US$ 15 /group/day|
|Group 7-15 pax||US$ 18 – US$20 /group/day|
|Group 15 pax up||US$ 25 /group/day|
|Driver||US$ 8 – US$10 /group/day|
|Bus boy (helper)||US$ 4 /day|
|Cyclo, Tuk-Tuks||US$ 1 /pax|
|Short tour (1-2 hour)||US$ 1 /pax|
|Long tour (half day)||US$ 1 /pax|
|Cruise with O/N||US$ 2 /pax|
|Reception staff||No tip|
|Pre-arranged meals||US$ 1 /pax|
|Meal on client’s own||1-2 USD/pax|
As mentioned in the weather section, it is always hot or at least warm in Cambodia. Light, loose-fitting clothing is recommended and natural fibres like cotton will make you feel most comfortable. It is advisable to have something warm to put on if you do feel a little chilly – this is most likely to occur in heavily air-conditioned environments.
Remember that you will need to be clothed respectfully if you are going to be in temples and religious sites. Both men and women should cover their shoulders and legs, and shoes and hats should be removed. The latter also applies when entering houses and some shops.
Nude sunbathing or swimming is not acceptable in Cambodia and it is a good idea to ensure that you have loads of sunscreen with you.
Getting around Cambodia is relatively easy. There are buses that operate between cities and towns and private taxis that do the same thing.
Within a city or town you will always find a tuk-tuk available – there is even an Uber-type app for tuk-tuks now. You can also choose to hop on a “scooter taxi” which is simply sitting pillion on the back of a scooter.
Scooter taxis and mopeds are easily hired and are inexpensive. it should cost about US$1 for a short ride on the back of a scooter and tuk-tuks should not generally charge you much more than US$5 for any trip unless you are heading out of town. US$2-3 is a standard fare for a tuk-tuk ride.
It is always a good idea to negotiate the fare up front once you have told the driver where you want to go to avoid an argument later. Remember bargaining with a driver is as acceptable as bargaining with a store owner in a market. Expect to pay a little more if you are travelling late at night.
Contact with Monks
- Show respect to monks, novices and nuns, don’t offer to shake hands, avoid stepping on a monk’s shadow.
- Ladies, do not sit next to, or hand anything directly to Buddhist monks.
- Show respect by not taking photos or disturbing monks during prayer times.
- Don’t sit with your back or feet towards Buddha’s image.
- Handle Buddha images or sacred objects with respect and avoid placing them in inappropriate places (on the floor for example).
Respect should be shown to all people you come into contact with. Remember that their customs and etiquette may be different from your own. If you deal respectfully with the locals your own lack of understanding of their culture will more easily overlooked.
Travelling through developing countries can be unpredictable and frustrating at times, but losing your temper will not help. Whatever the situation, try to stay calm, firm and courteous and speak without raising your voice. Personal dignity is extremely important here. Becoming angry is considered a major weakness and local people will be embarrassed for you. If you do get into a stressful situation it is always better to ask for help than to finger blame.
“Saving face” is a subtle but important aspect of personal dignity and smiles open doors. Criticism is not as easily accepted as it is in western countries and should only be made when also giving praise.
Asia is a photographer’s paradise and you will find endless wonderful images to capture on camera. However monks, farmers, children, hill tribe people, etc. are not exotic ‘photo opportunities’, but real people. Ethnic groups in particular are often unhappy about having their photo taken. Some may think they do not look their best (e.g. by not wearing their festival clothes), while others believe that part of their spirit or soul is being taken away.
In any case it is polite to always ask permission before taking photographs of people or filming them and, in the rare case they refuse, please respect their wishes. Refuse to pay for photographs as this encourages begging.
Do not expect to find toilets as readily accessible as back home and you may, on occasion, find them a little different to what you are used to. When on the move (between towns, for example,) it might be a good idea to plan your toilet breaks with the help of your guide or driver. It is also a good idea to have toilet paper or tissues in your luggage in case there is none available.
It is generally not advised to drink the local water although brushing your teeth in it should not be a problem. Bottled water is available everywhere and is not expensive. (Please dispose of your bottles/refuse responsibly as there is a big environmental challenge with litter and refuse!)
Most hotels will provide a bottle or two of complimentary water (in addition to whatever is in the mini bar in your room). It is suggested that you pop these complimentary bottles into the mini-bar fridge so they are cold for when you need them.
Alcohol is readily available all over Cambodia and their local brews are all very palatable. The bigger local brands are Angkor, Cambodia, Anchor (pronounced “An chore”), Klang and Beerlao from Laos is also popular. Imported brands you may encounter include Carlsberg, Singha, Tiger and Heineken. On average, you can expect to pay between 75US cents and US$1.50 for a local beer and a bit more for an imported one.
There are also craft breweries in Siem Reap and in Phnom Penh who produce some excellent alternatives to the commercial brands available.
Alcohol is readily available in supermarkets and convenience-type stores at prices that will surprise you and there is generally quite a good range of recognisable imported spirits available. If you plan on bringing home some duty free alcohol, you may want to buy it at a store inside the country rather than at the airport where it will probably cost you more. Just remember to pack it into your checked-in luggage!
Cigarettes are also readily available and besides local brands, you will also find recognisable international brands in most shops. A pack of imported cigarettes (e.g. Marlboro or Camel) will cost you around US$1.50 for a pack of twenty and local brands should be a little cheaper.
The costs of cellular services in Cambodia is extremely cheap. The best way to take advantage of this is to get a local sim card at the airport when you arrive and replace your own card with this one for the duration of your stay in the country.
US$10 (for the sim card and airtime) is likely to be all that you will need for ten days in Cambodia, but it can be easily topped up if necessary at a later date. Be sure to discuss whether you will need telephone time or simply data when you purchase this card. If you are only going to be using Whatsapp to make calls to people back home and using social media to document your trip then you will essentially only need data so make sure that it is loaded correctly.
Most of the time the service is 4G and most hotels, restaurants and the like will have free wifi. Just ask for their password.
Cambodia has the same plug sockets as that of the USA, so make sure that you have the correct adapters in order to charge cell phones and the like.
Travelling to the Islands
A couple of points to remember when travelling to the islands:
Take cash money with you as there are no auto telling machines from which to draw cash on the islands. Try also to have smaller denominations which makes change easier.
Take insect repellent – there are all types of bugs on the islands. It is also a good idea to take a topical antiseptic in case a bite turns septic. Don’t forget your sunscreen – you will experience lots of sun! Packing a small torch/flashlight (LED ones are the best) is always a good idea because you are sure to be walking along the beaches at night.
The ferry’s timings are often very inconsistent so be as flexible as possible when travelling by ferry. This is especially important when leaving the island. Don’t leave your ferry departure until the last minute as you could land up missing your connection on the mainland due to a delayed ferry. Rather get to the mainland with time in hand.
If you know when you will be returning to the mainland it is a very good idea to confirm your return seat on the ferry when you land at the pier or jetty. This minimises any problems with seats when you are pushed for time later.