Cambodia

Info on Cambodia

Basics

Currency:
Cambodian money is called the Riel (KHR). The exchange rate is around 4,000 to US$1. US cash is commonly used for purchases, though change may be given in Riel. Riel is a non-convertible currency, meaning once you have left Cambodia, it’s useful only as wallpaper — banks outside Cambodia will not accept or exchange it. International access ATM’s dispensing US dollars can be found in all tourist centers across the country.

 
Cambodian_Riel

 

Safety:
Cambodia’s wealth is distributed in a medieval manner, yet it remains a fairly safe place. Petty theft is a problem, particularly the snatch and grabs variety, but violent crime is rare. Always keep your wits about you. Drinking 15 beers and walking home at 3am probably isn’t safe in your home country either.

Police:
Don’t be surprised if the police ask for money for no particularly relevant reason. If you’re robbed and report it, don’t expect the standard of investigation. Most likely there will be no investigation. If you want one, you have to pay. The only reasonable thing left to do is to have them make a protocol – for your insurance.

Healthcare:
Hospitals are getting better and more numerous now. For serious issues do not undergo treatment in a Cambodian hospital if you can avoid it. Resort to your travel insurance. This is what it is for.

Transport:
Public transport is relatively comprehensive and inexpensive. Driving standards are different though. The big highways are in good condition. Tuk Tuk’s and motorcycle taxis (known as Motos) are the standard – and only – way to get around – on the local level. Always wear a helmet, when on motorcycles. Agree onn prices in advance. Do not expect the driver to know, where a particular street is. Usually they would ask: “Where you go, Sir/Lady?” …and wait for further instructions. It is helpful to refer to prominent landmarks, though.

 

Tuk Tuk Cambodia

a Tuk Tuk

 

Visas:
You will need a visa for Cambodia. Tourist visa are valid for 1 month and can be extended. A convenient deal is the E- visa, which can be obtained online. See theCambodia E-visa page for details.

 

Weather:
There are two seasons – the hot dry season and the wet season. Chances are if you’re from anywhere outside the tropics, you’ll find Cambodia to be very hot and sweaty. For detailed weather info, see the Cambodia weather page.

 

sun

 

Cambodia is a developing country: Don’t expect the bus to leave on time, nor for your poached eggs to be firmed just right. The tourist industry is developing and considerable resources are being poured into training and the quality of services. That said, you’ll have a better time if you have a relaxed approach — to just about everything. Try it!

Cambodia is a wonderful country: Don’t let the dirty streets, leaking toilets and dripping air-con put you off. There are reasons for all that. Still, Cambodia is a fascinating and interesting destination. Take it easy, get inspired by seeing and pondering the differences…there is much more than just Angkor Wat.

 

rumdul Cambodia’s national flower

The Rumdul – Cambodia’s national flower

 

Personal Requirements

Passport:
You’ll need a passport with a validity of at least six months beyond entry date to enter Cambodia. Visas: The vast majority of tourists enter Cambodia on a tourist visa. This visa can be organized online, via a Cambodian embassy or on arrival at the two international airports and most land crossings. The typical visa is valid for 30 days. Visa extensions are possible.

 

visa for Cambodia

visa for Cambodia

…that’s it.

 

Flights in

There are plans of building an airport on Koh Rong Island but so far those plans have not yet materialized. The closest airport is in Sihanoukville, although it is – August 2013 – literally – out of service. At the moment – August 2013 – Pochentong Airport is the closest major airport to the islands. A number of international carriers (both full service and budget) fly to Cambodia, including:

Air Asia
Asiana
Bangkok Airways
China Airlines
China Southern
Jetstar
Korean Air
Lao Airlines
Silk Air
Thai Air
Malaysia Airlines
Vietnam Airlines
Air France

Flights out

Right now, 27 airlines operate out of Pochentong Airport. Pochentong Airport offers nonstop flights to 13 cities. Every week, at least 21 domestic flights and 294 international flights depart from Pochentong Airport.

Koh Rong-Cheap Discount Airfares

Land border crossings

Cambodia has at least a dozen international overland border crossings. These allow overland travel to Thailand (via six crossings), Laos (via one crossing) and Vietnam (via five crossings). You can also arrive by air at either Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, both of which have international airports, or by sea at Sihanoukville.

 

border crossings Cambodia

border crossings to Cambodia

 

Popular crossings:
The most popular overland border crossing to Thailand by far is the Aranyprathet/Poipet border crossing. To Laos, you only have one option, the Veun Kham/Dom Kralor crossing (but note your Laos visa on arrival is NOT available at this crossing). To Vietnam, the most popular crossing is the Bavet/Moc Bai crossing. Cambodian visa on arrival is available at all these crossings and Cambodian e-Visas are also accepted at these entry points.

Technicalities:
Cambodian border crossings are generally open from 08:00 to 20:00 with the exception of Veun Kham/Dom Kralor, which closes earlier. On weekends and late hours, don’t be surprised if you’re asked to pay a dollar or so in “overtime” — and don’t expect a receipt.

Cambodia/Lao borders:
Veun Kham/ Dom Kralor
This is the only overland option between Cambodia and Laos, making it quite popular. Both Cambodian and Lao visa on arrival is available. For a comprehensive walk-through on this crossing, see feature story on the Lao Cambodia border crossing.

Cambodia/Thailand borders:
Aranyaprathet / Poipet
This is by far the most popular and the most dysfunctional border crossing between Cambodia and Thailand. Cambodian visas on arrival are available and eVisas are accepted. Crossing times can be in excess of three hours depending on the whims of the border officials, but they can also be mercifully fast. Poipet (the Cambodian side of the border) has a major tout problem and it can be difficult to organise onwards transport to Siem Reap at a reasonable price. The Tales of Asia website has an excellent section dedicated to this crossing.

Hat Lek / Ko Kong
A very straightforward crossing, Hat Lek/Ko Kong is most convenient for those planning on travelling between Thailand’s Koh Chang and the Sihanoukville beach area of Cambodia. There are numerous reports of Cambodian officials here being particularly troublesome and asking ridiculous amounts of money for visas on arrival. The easiest way around this is to arrive with a visa already in hand. If you need to get to an ATM, there is one in the Thai town of Hat Lek. Expect to pay 80B – 100B for a moto from Ko Kong town to the border — this should include the bridge toll.

Chong Jom / O Smach
This crossing is convenient to Surin in Thailand and Siem Reap in Cambodia. There are a half dozen buses a day from Surin to the border (and back) with the trip taking a couple of hours. On the Khmer side you can either grab a share taxi to Siem Reap or get to Samraong first, from where you can either continue onto Siem Reap by share taxi or head east for Anlong Veng.

Chong Sa Ngam / Anlong Veng
This crossing is very convenient to Anlong Veng but little else. If you are heading to Thailand via this crossing, there is no public transport from the border to any sizeable Thai towns, so you will need to hitch a ride from the border for around 20km to a sealed road, from where occasional public buses pass. You are better off hitching at least as far as Route 24, along which there are very frequent buses.

Ban Pakard / Phsa Prum
This little utilized border is a 30-minute motorbike ride from Pailin and from the Thai side there are frequent minibuses to Chanthaburi an hour or so away. Cambodian visas on arrival are available.

Ban Laem / Daun Lem
Close to the Ban Pakard, Chantaburi/Phsa Prum, Pailin crossing, this very little-used border is about 45 minutes from Pailin and on the Thai side there are songthaeaw services to Chanthaburi. The Ban Pakard/Phsa Prum crossing is your better bet.

Cambodia/Vietnam borders:
Bavet / Moc Bai
This was the first crossing between Cambodia and Vietnam to open to foreign travellers and it remains easily the most popular. Daily buses regularly ply the Saigon – Phnom Penh route and the service is both fast and affordable. Cambodian visa on arrival is available here, but Vietnamese visas must be arranged in advance.

Kaam Samnor / Ving Xuong
This very popular riverine crossing links Phnom Penh with the Vietnamese town of Chau Doc. Both slow and fast boat services are available. When you arrive at the border, a fixer will generally gather up all the passports and head into the immigration office to do all the paperwork. You’re welcome to accompany them, but it’s not essential.

Phnom Den / Tinh Bien
Midway between Ha Tien and Chau Doc, this crossing is open to foreign travellers and Cambodian visas on arrival are available. The closest town on the Khmer side is Kampot or Takeo — but both are a couple of hours away. There are buses from Ha Tien to the border, though a motorbike ride is far faster. On the Cambodian side, transport is a bit sparse and travellers have reported paying upto $55 for a taxi from the border town of Phnom Den to Kampot.

Prek Chak / Xa Xia
Yes, the Cambodia/Vietnam coastal border crossing is open and travellers with a valid Vietnamese visa can enter Vietnam at the Prek Chak/Xa Xia crossing, a 20-minute motorbike ride from Kep. A moto to the border from Kep costs around US$7 and onwards transport to Ha Tien in Cambodia is available. Cambodian visas on arrival are available.

Le Thanh / O Yadao crossing
This remote crossing links Ban Lung in northeast Cambodia to Pleiku in Vietnam, with a through trip between the two taking about six hours. From the Vietnamese side, buses run from Pleiku to Duc Co, from where you’ll need to grab a xe om for the last 20km to the border. From the border to Ban Lung is a trip of about 70km. Expect to pay US$15-20 to charter a car for the run, $10-15 by moto.

Getting around

For a country as hard-up on its luck as Cambodia, getting around is surprisingly straightforward. All the primary trunk routes are all-weather sealed roads, there is a reasonably developed bus network, a comprehensive “we can go anywhere if the price is right” taxi for hire system and, while most of the routes have faded away, it is still possible to get to some places by boat. Overall fares are very reasonable.

Bus:
In recent years, as Cambodia’s road network has improved, so has the bus system. There are a number of established bus companies running across the country. The hubs are Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. The main operators are Capitol Tours, Sorya, Raksmey Buntham, Mekong Express among others.

Key domestic routes include:
Phnom Penh – Siem Reap – Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh – Sihanoukville – Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh – Kampot – Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh – Ko Kong – Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh – Battambang – Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh – Kratie – Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh – Kompong Cham – Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh – Stung Treng – Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh – Ban Lung – Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh – Sisophon – Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh – Poipet – Phnom Penh
Siem Reap – Battambang – Siem Reap
Sihanoukville – Kampot – Sihanoukville

Here is a link to ALL domestic bus companies with stations and time tables

 

Key international routes include:
Phnom Penh – Ho Chi Minh City – Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh – Bangkok – Phnom Penh
Sihanoukville – Ho Chi Minh City – Sihanoukville (via Phnom Penh)
Siem Reap – Ho Chi Minh City – Siem Reap (via Phnom Penh)

Automobile:
Share taxis for long distance travel are a very popular way to get around and, if you’ve got a small group of three or four, this is a very cost-effective and fast way to move. Generally a taxi charter is priced at six passengers, so you have to pay six passengers’ worth to get the car for yourself. Hiring a car without a driver is far less common.

Motorbike:
Cambodia is awash in motodops — guys with a motorcycle and a baseball cap — who’ll take you anywhere on their bike for a few dollars. You can also rent bikes on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. This is the best and most common way to do short (local) distances. Longer distances, such as Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, are better dealt with on top of large enduro-style dirt bikes. These can also be hired from a number of dirt bike hire shops in Phnom Penh or any other tourist hub. Prices are reasonable, but be sure to carefully check the bike in advance and in the presence of the owner. Do not use the chain and padlock provided by the shop to lock up the bike at night – use your own.

Bicycle:
Long, with a scenic flat center and coastline, Cambodia can be a great destination for cyclists. Nearly every town in Cambodia will have some lodgings, so you shouldn’t struggle for a room. Make sure you pack a good supply of inner tubes and patch kits and of course, your bike — but you probably knew that already. There are rentals all over the place, these vehicles are great for local trips – and that’s all.

Plane:
The Kang Keng Airport of Sihnoukville is located in Ream town, 18 km north of Sihanoukville just off National Road No 4. Although repeatedly announced – Sihanoukville still doesn’t receive any regular domestic or international flights. August 2013

Boat:
Only two regular ferries remain in service in Cambodia — Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and Siem Reap to Battambang. Boats no longer run north up the Mekong to Kompong Cham and the Koh Kong to Sihanoukville boat now only goes as far as Ko Sdach – King’s Island, making it useless for travellers (other than those heading to Ko Sdach). The Phnom Penh to Siem Reap boat is worth doing once and once only. It is expensive (when compared to the bus), the middle of the trip is boring (you’re in the middle of a lake with no scenery) and, if you sit on the roof, chances are you’ll get sunburnt. Do it once then catch the bus back.
The Siem Reap to Battambang trip is much more of a lucky dip — the quality of the boats varies from one day to the next, overloading is the norm, boats run aground regularly and occasionally sink. That said, the Battambang portion of the trip is spectacular — very, very beautiful. So if you’re not too fussed about taking dodgy boat trips, give it a go. In windy, stormy weather though we’d go with the bus, as the shallow lake gets a big chop on it very quickly, making for a very uncomfortable trip.

map Phnom Penh to Koh Kong

map of Cambodia’s Highway No.4

Bus routes 

properly paved road with plenty of roadside restaurants. Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville takes around 3 hours by car(taxi) and 4.5 to 6 hours by bus. Phnom Penh to Koh Kong takes around 4 hours by car(taxi) and around 6 hours by bus.

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