We traveled to Cambodia, saying that we do not know much about the country. We imagined it as a poorer Thailand, but the reality was completely different. Read our article and you will find what we were surprised about, what you need to prepare before the trip and why you should bring here a lot of dollars.
1. Visa policy of Cambodia
Cambodia visas do not need to be processed in advance. You can get a monthly visa on arrival for a fee of 30 USD at any international airport or major border crossing point. On the internet it is said that you have to have 2 passport photos for you visa processing, but nobody wanted them from us (luckily because Anet forgot them in the checked backpack). But always check if the visa requirements have not changed before traveling!
2. Official currency – Cambodian Riel (KHR) a American Dollar (USD)
We recommend to come to Cambodia with US dollars that you don’t need to exchange for Riel. All prices (especially at tourist sites) are shown in dollars. In addition, never happened to us that a trader would refuse a dollar, and we were buying food at a remote local market or small restaurant. Accepted are only notes without sketches, not torn and flawless banknotes. Fake banknotes are circulating in Cambodia, so always check their authenticity.
3. ATM withdrawal and payments with credit cards
We recommend you to bring dollars to Cambodia because you have to pay fee for ATM withdrawal. The fee is usually 5% (Maybank) – 6% and the withdrawal limit is usually $ 500. Card payment is difficult in Cambodia as it is not possible in most locations or merchants charge up to 2%. Therefore, we recommend payment in cash, it is a security.
4. Best SIM card in Cambodia
It is worth to buy a local SIM card in Cambodia as it is cheap and wifi did not work reliably on most of accommodations. The two main mobile operators are Metfone and Smart. We bought a SIM card from Metfone, which cost 4 USD (City center in Sihanoukville), was valid for one month and contained a package of 4 GB of data. We recommend you purchasing the SIM card from carrier’s brand store and preferably outside the airport. They usually offers the best prices. Good overview of operators and prices can be found here. Mobile data works in most parts of Cambodia, but the best coverage is in larger cities.
5. Taxi in Cambodia
You cannot leave Cambodia without trying ride in tuk tuk, the most popular taxi transport in Cambodia :D. In addition to the experience of the trip you will be pleased by the cheap price. If you don’t like price bergaining download mobile app PassApp that works just like Uber and very reliably in Cambodia. You don’t have to put your credit card information, payment in cash is also possible.
6. Electrical outlets in Cambodia
Most of the accommodation has sockets suitable for Czech (European) plugs. We did not have to use the plug adapter anywhere (we visited Koh Rong, Sihanoukville, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham). But if you own an adapter, take it for just to be sure, because you never know.
7. Language in Cambodia
The official language in the Khmer kingdom is Khmer language. But you will find there also Chinese characters in restaurant and shops as a result of Chinese investors (mainly in Sihanoukville because it became chinese city. Usually people speak English in tourist areas so we didn’t have any problem with communication. Sometimes we used online translator and mobile calculator for prices 🙂
8. Is Cambodia safe country?
Cambodia is a relatively safe country in our opinion, but watch out for personal things and keep them out of sight. Generally, the Cambodians are a very nice, helpful and friendly nation. Beware of corrupt police so-called Tourist police. In the area of Kampong Cham and the temples there, we have been asked for unauthorized money to enter a temple or other monument where is not officially entrance fee. If this happens to you, tell them you won’t pay until you get an official ticket for your money. You may also be asked where you parked your bike or motorcycle. Don’t tell them! We got stories of theft of these vehicles by police, who then hold ransom for them!
9. Rent a motorbike in Cambodia
Renting motorbikes in Cambodia is very easy and also cheap in the larger cities. While in Koh Rong the price for motorbike was around $ 30/day, in Kampong Cham they rented a motorbike for $ 5/day. A big difference right? : D Rental companies in Siem Reap rents ranged from 8-15 USD. Motorbikes can be rented either directly from the accommodation (if available). We did not have to show a driving license or an international driver’s license anywhere. We had no problem with the police, but be sure to ask for helmets at the rental office (if they don’t give them to you automatically). European drivers without helmets will be fined.
10. Food and Cambodian cuisine
Khmer cuisine carries elements of neighboring states, especially from Thai, Vietnamese or Chinese cuisine. You will find here also very good French baguettes and various spices as a estate of French colonial rule.
Typical Cambodian dishes are Fish Amok (fish in curry sauce with coconut milk wrapped in banana leaf and served with rice), Num Pang (baguette filled with vegetables, meats and various sauces), rice with different kinds of meat. The most popular drinks are certainly Cambodian coffee (black coffee with condensed milk) and beer (our favorite one was Angor).
11. Traveling by bus around Cambodia
There operate relatively enough bus companies among the main tourist destinations. Bus ticket are more expensive compared to Thailand, Vietnam or Malaysia and their buses are also much more older. When we took the Sorya bus, we always felt like it was going to fall apart, and one day something really hapenned. The condition of the Cambodian roads is also wild, so you can travel 120 km for 5 hours. Always buy bus tickets on the main routes at least a day in advance. The easiest way is to book tickets through the hotel, bus stops or online via bookmebus.
If you plan to take a bus from Cambodia to Vietnam, we recommend company Mekong express. Their buses are in good condition, we didn’t have any problem along the way, we got water and snack and passport control was very smooth and quickly thank to our stewardess.