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PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Useful, practical information regarding money, credit cards, ATMs, health & safety, food & drink, transportation, communication, and much more…

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MONEY

Currency

Riel (KHR; symbol CR). Notes are in denominations of CR100,000, 50,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5000, 2000, 1000, 500, 200 and 100.

Currency Exchange

The US dollar is the most favoured foreign currency and is widely accepted and exchanged as are Thai baht close to the Thai border. Other currencies are generally only recognized at banks. There is no need to change dollars into Riel as they are accepted almost everywhere.

Credit / Debit Cards and ATMs: 

Credit cards are now more widely accepted in up-market hotels, shops and restaurants catering to visitors. There are ATMs in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. It is always best to carry cash in small denominations. Locate ATMs accepting VISA cards here (Place link – http://visa.via.infonow.net/locator/global/jsp/searchpage.jsp). Locate ATMs accepting MasterCard here (Place link –http://www.mastercard.com/us/personal/en/cardholderservices/atmlocations/index.html).

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Traveller’s Cheques

Traveller’s cheques in US Dollars can be changed at banks and some hotels, but can be difficult to change outside major cities.

Banking Hours

Mon-Fri 0800-1500. Some banks are open on Saturdays until 1200.

Exchange Rate Indicators (Feb 2014)
$1.00 = 3,983 Riel
€1.00 = 5,528 Riel
£1.00 = 6,625 Riel

For up-to-date exchange rates, please visit e.g. www.oanda.com

Health & Safety

Health care

Health insurance, including emergency evacuation, is absolutely essential. Doctors and hospitals expect cash payments for any medical treatment. The cost of medical evacuation is high. It is suggested that any visitors bring adequate supplies of any essential personal medication, since that medication may not be available in Cambodia.

Vaccinations

A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required by travellers arriving from infected areas. A cholera vaccination certificate is no longer a condition of entry to Cambodia. However, cholera is a serious risk in this country and precautions are essential. Immunization against typhoid is recommended. Polio vaccination should be up-to-date. Malaria risk exists all year outside the capital and close around Tonle Sap. Malaria does occur in the tourist areas of Angkor Wat. The malignant falciparum strain predominates and is reported to be highly resistant to chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine. Resistance to mefloquine has been reported from the western provinces. The recommended prophylaxis is mefloquine (including within the Angkor Wat area) but doxycycline in the western provinces.

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Food and drink

All water should be regarded as being potentially contaminated. Water used for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should have first been boiled or otherwise sterilized. Milk is not pasteurized and should be boiled. Avoid dairy products that are likely to have been made from un-boiled milk. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.

Other Risks

Bilharzia (schistosomiasis) is present. Giardiasis, dysentery, typhoid fever and dengue fever are common throughout Cambodia. Hepatitis A occurs, hepatitis B is hyper endemic. Japanese encephalitis occurs in rural areas from May to October and is relatively common in the highlands. Rabies is present. For those at high risk, vaccination before arrival should be considered. If you are bitten, seek medical advice without delay. HIV/AIDS is endemic and safe sex practices are essential.

SAFETY

Cambodia is a relatively safe country to visit. As a global rule, we recommend you never leave your belongings unattended and always maintain eye contact or a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags. Valuables should be stored in the safety box in your room, if available, or at the reception. Avoid mopeds late at night. With regard to landmines, there are still many thousands of land-mines and unexploded ordnance in more remote areas of Cambodia. The chances of approaching these areas unknown to you are very small. In rural areas, always seek local advice and don’t stray from that.

Transportation

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Getting around by air

Internal flights operate between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap (45 minutes flight). The main domestic carriers are Siem Reap Airways International and PMT Air. Battambang, Sihanoukville, Banlung, Sen Monorom and Stung Treng all have airports, but at the time of writing there are only flights to Banlung from Phnom Penh.

Domestic airports

Phnom Penh International Airport (PNH) is 10km (6 miles) from Phnom Penh. Taxis and motorbike taxis to the city are available (journey time – 10 minutes). Facilities: Left luggage, bureau de change, shops, duty-free, post office and light refreshments. Siem Reap International Airport (REP) is 8 km (5 miles) from Siem Reap. Taxis and motorbike taxis to Siem Reap are available (journey time – 7 to 10 minutes). Facilities: Left luggage, bureau de change, shops and light refreshments.

Getting around by road

Indonesia’s transport system has been shaped over time by the economic resource base of an archipelago with thousands of islands, and the distribution of its more than 200 million people highly concentrated on a single island which is Java.

Getting around by water

From Phnom Penh there are public ferries going to Siem Reap. Travel can be difficult in the dry season when the water level is very low and often boat services are suspended.

Getting around by train

There are only two lines from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville and to Battambang. Visitors are not encouraged to use the trains, they take much longer than the buses. Currently, there is only a weekly train from Phnom Penh to Battambang on Saturdays (journey time – 12 hours) and none to Sihanoukville. Tickets can only be bought in person on the day of travel.

Getting around by Road

Traffic drives on the right side and road quality can vary from excellent to very poor. There are numbered routes from Phnom Penh with Route 1 leading to the Vietnamese border. Care should be taken while driving as accidents are relatively frequent. Other vehicles cannot always be relied on to use headlights at night. Given the predominant use of motorcycles for urban public transportation, travellers should ensure that any insurance policies provide coverage for riding as a driver or passenger.

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Cattle often stray onto the roads. In Siem Reap, the local police have banned rental outlets from hiring (renting) motorcycles to tourists because of the high number of accidents.

Coach/bus: Long-distance buses travel to destinations such as Kampot, Sihanoukville, Battambang and Siem Reap.

Car hire: It is really only possible to hire a car with a driver. Car hire can be arranged by private negotiation with a taxi waiting outside the hotels or through tour operators.

Taxi: They can be hired in main cities, although they are not metered so the price has to be fixed in advance. Tips are appreciated.

Regulations: The wearing of seat belts is not compulsory.

Documentation: An International Driving Permit is not recognized in Cambodia, and as car hire does not exist, visitors are advised to hire a car with a driver.

Getting around in the City

There are no public buses in Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. Taxis wait outside hotels and restaurants, the fare should be fixed before leaving. Cyclos (tricycles) or motodops (motorcycle taxis) are an efficient and inexpensive way to get around and some of the drivers, especially those found outside main hotels, speak a little French or English. Siem Reap also has motorized tuk tuks.

FOOD & DRINK

In major cities a wide range of culinary fare is on offer including Chinese, Thai, French, Korean, Japanese, Indian, Vietnamese and Middle Eastern. Food stalls are also common in Phnom Penh and can usually be found in and around the Central Market.

Khmer cuisine is very similar to Thai food, but with fewer spices involved. Popular dishes include fish, soup and salad, almost always incorporating Cambodia’s favourite flavours of coriander, lemongrass and mint. There is also a plethora of sweet dishes. Common ingredients used in Cambodian cuisine include nuts, bananas, coconut, the durian fruit (known for its distinctive odour), jackfruit, longan fruit, lychee, pineapple and rambutan fruit, to name just a few.

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Drinks

HINTS

  1. Rice and fish are the basic foods enjoyed by Cambodians
  2. Fresh seafood is plentiful in Sihanoukville
  3. Khmer cuisine is very similar to Thai food, but with fewer spices involved
  4. Popular dishes include fish, soup and salad, almost always incorporating Cambodia’s favourite flavours of coriander, lemongrass and mint.
  5. Tea is one of the most refreshing drinks in the tropics as is fresh lemon/lime juice mixed with water.

Tea is one of the most refreshing drinks in the tropics as is fresh lemon/lime juice mixed with water. Tea and coffee are found everywhere and sugar-cane juice or coconut water are popular street-side drinks.

 

EVENTS

February

The Meak Bochea is a Buddhist Ceremony held during the full moon of the month of Meak Bochea in commemoration of the spontaneous gathering of the monks to listen to the Buddha’s preaching.

April

The New Year festival takes place in the fifth solar month, known as Khè Chèt.

April 13th or 14th, The auspicious occasion of the Khmer New Year is detailed in the astrological almanac and extends over three days. During the Khmer New Year Festival, youths gather to play popular traditional games such as Chaol Chhoung (throwing a ball) and Bas Angkunh (throwing brown seeds). The youths are normally divided into female and male teams to play these games. The Khmer people will gather together and visit pagodas and temples on the occasion of the Khmer New Year. Each year many residents from other provinces visit Angkor Wat to worship the powerful gods and trace their ancestors’ heritage.

March

Balinese New Year (Hari Raya Nyepi): known as the ‘Day of Silence’ in English, this is a day for quiet meditation and reflection. Lasting 24 hours, observers of Hari Raya Nyepi must abstain from all pleasure-giving activities including talking and eating. Travelling is not permitted on this day, even by visitors, who are restricted to their hotels.

April

Ibu Kartini Day: this day marks the birthday of Raden Ajeng Kartini, a Javanese leader in the women’s rights movement in Indonesia. On this day, activities created by women’s groups are enjoyed and schools host national dress competitions.

May

The Royal Ploughing Ceremony is used by Cambodians to foretell the future. Cambodians believe that it helps to predict a range of events including epidemics, floods, good harvests and excessive rainfall. This year, the Royal Ploughing Ceremony was held at the Veal Preahmein Square, situated across the road from the northern perimeter of the Royal Palace. Every year, Cambodian farmers anxiously await the predictions at the end of this ritualistic ceremony, which they observe with strong faith and belief. The Royal Ploughing Ceremony has been observed for many centuries at the initiative of an earlier Khmer king who had paid great attention to farming conditions of the people.

October

The Bonn Pchum Ben Festival is held to commemorate the spirits of the dead. The highlight is on the 15th day of the waxing moon during the tenth month of the Khmer calendar, called Pheaktrobotr. The festival lasts 15 days, each of which is called a day of Kan Ben. A Ben is an offering. The word of Ben is derived from Sanskrit pinda, or balls of rice to be offered to the souls of the dead. During the first 14 days, people take turns offering food to the monks of their local pagoda in the hope that their offering will reach the souls of their ancestors and friends by virtue of the monks’ sermons.

November

The Water Festival or the Regatta Festival has been chronicled by the Cambodian people as well as by foreigners for a very long time. In fact, the festival is depicted in stones of the Angkorian period. It is said to be one of the most spectacular traditional events. The festival is held on the full moon in November coinciding with the rainy season and when the Tonle Sap Lake changes direction, leaving behind an abundance of fish. Multitudes mingle on the river banks in Phnom Penh to watch hundreds of brightly coloured boats and their paddlers battle in a competition for top honours. The festival is usually held for three days and festivities take place in front of the Royal Palace.

The Festival of Illuminated Floats consecrates Preah Changkaum Keo (the main parts of Buddha) in the Naga World and the Buddha’s footprints in the fire. The Khmer people conduct this festival during the November full moon. It is believed that great merit and prosperity will be provided to the country.

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PUBLIC HOLIDAYS

  1. January 1
    International New Year Day
  2. January 7
    Victory over Genocide Day
  3. February 14
    Meak Bochea Day
  4. March 8
    International Women Day
  5. April 14, 15, 16
    Khmer New Year Day
  6. May 1
    International Labor Day
  7. May 13
    Visak Bochea Day
  8. May 13, 14, 15
    King’s Birthday, Norodom Sihamoni
  9. May 17
    Royal Plowing Ceremony
  10. June 1
    International Children Day
  11. June 18
    King’s Mother Birthday, Norodom Monineath Sihanouk
  12. September 22, 23, 24
    Pchum Ben Day
  13. September 24
    Constitutional Day
  14. October 15
    Commemoration Day of King’s Father, Norodom Sihanouk
  15. October 23
    Paris Peace Agreements Day
  16. October 29
    King’s Coronation Day, Norodom Sihamoni
  17. November 05, 06, 07
    Water Festival Ceremony
  18. November 09
    Independence Day
  19. December 10
    International Human Rights Day

 

SHOPPING

Excellent quality replicas are available in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Intricate wooden boxes and other carvings are also used for ornamentation and furniture in Cambodia and are readily available in souvenir shops.

myanmar_shopping_itemCambodia has excellent silverware of both classical Khmer and Chinese design which can be bought in the main markets of the capital and hotel shops. Khmer silversmiths craft intricate silver bowls in the shapes of fruits, elephants, deer, wild pigs, fish and goats. Dancer’s anklets, decorated with tiny silver bells, are also popular buys.

Precious and semi-precious gemstones are for sale in the markets and shops. Experts might make some good buys, but it is better to be a little careful since guarantees of authenticity are not so readily available and the cutting of the stones usually is less precise compared to western standards. Beautiful textiles, made from silk and cotton, woven in traditional designs and tie-dyed, are also available. A traditional and popular item, mostly made from cotton, is a krama – a checked scarf.

Silk may be embroidered with gold and silver threads, woven with bold vertical stripes, shimmering contrasting colors, or in ancient patterns of elephant, fish and jasmine flowers. It is made into items like dresses and purses. Other crafts include basketwork and pottery, which comes in traditional designs.

TIPS TO SAVVY SHOPPING

  1. Check everything you can check before handing over your money
  2. Always ask around to get an idea of basic prices for common necessities. For more important purchases, try and get a local friend to go along with you, or better still, let them do the buying without you
  3. Don’t feel awkward or rude about bargaining, everyone bargains in Cambodia and you’ll look like a green tourist if you don’t
  4. Don’t look happy or resigned about paying what you’re asked; always begin by showing your gentle disapproval
  5. Walk away if you cannot agree on a price: either they’ll come after you or you’ll find the same thing on sale somewhere else

 

TRAVEL TO AND FROM CAMBODIA

Getting there or out by Air

Most tourists choose to fly in and out from Siem Reap’s airport. Among the airlines that serve Siem Reap (REP) are Royal Cambodge, Bangkok Airways and Thai Airways International that serve Bangkok, Malaysia Airlines that flies from Kuala Lumpur, Vietnam Airlines from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Silkair from Singapore, and Lao Airlines from Vientiane.

Departure tax

US$25 levied on international departures at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Children less than two years of age are exempt.

COMMUNICATION

Telephones

Most hotels now have IDD phones in rooms and it is possible to send faxes from hotels and post offices. Be aware that most hotels charge considerable amounts for these services. Please check with the hotel prior to arrival. It may not always be possible to make international calls in remote areas. If you have worldwide coverage, you can bring your own mobile phone and use it to make domestic or international calls. Check with your mobile phone provider for the costs before using it abroad; it may be expensive.

Internet

Major hotels have Business Centers with PCs connected to the internet. Some of them have wireless broadband access in rooms or public areas. Cyber cafes are becoming popular and are easily found in major towns and cities. Prices are reasonable, usually below US$1 per hour. In many Internet cafes, you can buy pre-paid phone cards to dial from a computer to a landline or mobile phone worldwide.

If Internet connections at hotels are vital for you during your visit to Cambodia, please advise your Focus Asia travel consultant.

Mail

Airmail to Europe takes at least a week and longer to the USA. The main post office is in Phnom Penh.

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