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Cambodia - The Internet Travel Guide (FAQ) (part 2/2)

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CAMBODIA - Peter M. Geiser's Hotel and Travel Guide

Cambodia still is a bit of a tourist backwater. However, the ruins of
Angkor Wat are definitely worth the effort and even Phnom Penh,
Cambodia's capital, offers many nice attractions. For the more
adventurous traveller, visiting small villages in Cambodias country
side full of friendly Cambodians may lead to wonderful experiences.

 Angkor Wat
 Angkor-Wat Tours
 Banteay Srei
 Killing Fields
 Kompong Saom (Sihanoukville)
 Phnom Chissor
 Phnom Penh
 Siem Reap
 Tonle Bati

General Information
 Geographical Information
 Border Crossing
 Internet Access

 (Moto) Taxi

Copyright (c) 1995 - 2005, Peter M. Geiser



New series by Peter M. Geiser and Sibylle Dussy, with many photos:

"Classics", FAQ of

Hotel guides



Area          181'040 km²
Capital       Phnom Penh
Borders       Vietnam (1228 km), Laos (541 km) and Thailand (803 km)
              coastline 443 km (without islands)
Highest point Mt. Aoral, 1771 m
Terrain       mostly low, flat plains, with mountains in the north and

Time          GMT plus seven hours

Measures      Metric
Electricity   220 V, 50 Hz

In the Web-version of the Internet Travel Guide at
there would be an interactive map right here.



Cambodia has three seasons, varying greatly over the year. The rainy,
monsoon season lasts from May to October. From November to April is
the dry season, which in turn is split into the cold season from
November to January and the hot season from February to April. In
spite of these differences the seasonal variations in temperature are
small, ranging between 21 to 35 degrees Celcius (70 to 95 F).

Phnom Penh

 Month       Jan  Feb  Mar  Apr  May  Jun  Jul  Aug  Sep  Oct  Nov  Dec

 Air    C     26   27   29   30   29   28   27   28   27   27   27   26
        F     79   81   84   83   84   82   81   82   81   81   81   79

 days rain     1    1    2    6   14   15   16   16   19   17    9    4



Population       11.626 mio (est. July 1999) (annual growth rate 2.49%)
                 90% Khmer, 5% Vietnamese, 1% Chinese, some Chams and Malay
Life expectancy  48.24 years (m: 46.8 y, f: 49.75 y)
Ethnic groups    Khmer (90%), Vietnamese (5%), Chinese (1%), other (4%)
Language         Khmer (official), English and French
Script           Modern variant of the old Khmer script, which in turn
                 originated 1700 years ago from the Bhrami script of India.
Literacy         35%
Religion         95% Theravada Buddhism, some Muslim and animist



April/May: Bonn Chroat Preah Nongkoal
The Royal Ploughing ceremony, or the opening of the Sacred Furrow, is the
first of the traditional agrarian festivals. In times past, on an
auspicious day determined by palace astrologists, the King traced the
first furrows in the Capital's sacred rice field, thus inaugurating the
ploughing season. Today, the ritual is performed by a man, King of Meakh,
who leads the yoke and plough, followed by a woman, Queen Me Hour, who
sows seeds. After thrice circling the rice field, the procession stops at
a chapel where Brahmins invoke the protection of the Gods. The sacred cows
are unharnessed and guided to seven silver trays containing rice, corn,
bean, and other edibles. Based on their choice, predictions are made for
the coming year. If they choose the cereals, harvest will be good. If they
eat herbs, cattle diseases are to be feared. If they drink water, rain
will be abundant and peace will reign; but if they drink alcohol, trouble
will break out in the Kingdom.

13 April: Bonn Chaul Chnam or Bonn Pimai
The New Year's Festival spans three days following the end of the harvest
season. Khmers clean and decorate their houses with an altar for offerings
to the Tevoda of the coming year. They also visit the temple with
offerings. Then they play traditional games such as Angkunh, Chaol
Chhoung, Leak Kansaeng, and tug of war. Since 1975, the New Year
festival has been fixed to 16 April.

September: Bonn Dak Ben and Bonn Phchum Ben
Spirits Commemoration Festival is held for the spirits of the dead. Bonn
Dak Ben - the offering of food to the monks - lasts for 15 days. The 15th
day of the ceremony - the full moon - is called Bonn Phchum Ben, the
collection of the bens (offerings). During this celebration, if departed
souls do not find their family making offerings at a wat, it is believed
that the soul is cursed and will bother the descendent throughout the

October: Bonn Kathen
This religious festival lasts for 29 days. The monks come out of their
retreat. Town and country folks march in a procession to the wat, where
the monks are waiting to change their old saffron robes for the new ones
offered during the festival. The ceremony brings spiritual merit to both
lay people and the monks.

9 November: Independence Day
The 9th of November 1953 is the date Cambodia achieved independence from
France. The occasion is marked each year by a gala parade in front of the
Royal Palace, which includes floats, marching bands and other spectacles
highlighting the nation's achievements.

November: Bonn Om Tuk
The three-day Water Festival celebrates the river's changing flow by
watching a festive cavalcade of competitive boat races. The finish line
symbolizes a gate that retains the water. Once the line is cut, water
flows down the Mekong, commencing the fishing season. Other traditional
ceremonies are the midnight meals of pounded rice and full moon
celebration, with lighted flotillas and fireworks in the evening. It
is held at full moon at the end of October or in November.



A valid passport is needed for all nationalities. The passport needs
to be valid for more than 6 months at the time of entry.

In addition, a visa is required. You can get the visa either at a
Cambodian embassy, or directly upon entering the country. The visa
will be valid for one month and costs about USD 20. Have a passport
photo ready.

For more details on visa, please have a look at the web site of the
Royal Embassy of Cambodia in Washington, USA

Extensions to a visa are issued in Cambodia by the Ministry of
National Security. This can be done at the Department of Foreigners
(Bureaus des Etrangers) at House 32, Street 200. Opening hours are
Mo-Fr 8:00-12:00. The form comes with attached stamps and costs
KHR 2000. Two passport photos are required. The processing time is
10 days!
Another place to extend visas is the Immigration Office at No. 5,
Street 200. Opening hours are Mo-Fr, 7:30-10:00 and 14:00-16:00.
Costs are: 1 week USD 20, 1 month USD 30, 6 months USD 100 (multiple
entry) and 1 year USD 150 (multiple entry).

If you fail to extend your visa, you will be charged USD 3 for each
day you overstay.

For details of how to get a visa in a certain country, have a look at
the Embassy section.



For technical reasons, this has not been converted into text format.



Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand have now an agreement about
border crossing for tourists.


The borders between Cambodia and Laos are open, although not the most
comfortable way to travel.


There are several points for crossing the border between Thailand and
Cambodia. Safety has improved a lot over the last few years.

The border at Poipet is open is open. On the Thai side of the border,
you can get taxis and motos to Aranya Prathet, about 4 km down the
road. There is a bus station and a train station. Bussses to Bangkok
take about 5 hours and cost about THB 130 for aircon busses and THB 75
for non-aircon busses. At least two trains leave each day, one at 6:40
am and the other at 1 pm.

Although the border city of Pai Lin, 80 km southwest of Battambang is
open to foreigners, it seems not possible to get a visa at this border

To cross between Had Lek and Koh Kong you'll need to travel by
'bathtub' boat, which is about USD 4 for foreigners.

The boat from Sihanoukville to Koh Kong costs USD 15 or THB 500. It
takes 3 to 3.5 hours. The boat is air-conditioned, so bring along a
pullover or a light jacket.


The usual point to cross between Cambodia and Vietnam is at Moc Bai.
There are daily bus services between Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City) and
Phnom Penh. The fare from Ho Chi Minh City is USD 10.

If you want to go from Phnom Penh, pick up a shared taxi from the far
side of the Japanese Bridge. After the border, you'll find plenty of
cars to hire to Ho Chi Minh City.

At the border at Moc Bai, the shared taxis have to park some two or
three kilometers forther along the road. If you do not want to walk,
take a moto taxi. Prices are about KHR 1000, although the drivers will
try to charge you USD 2 to 3.



The currency is the Cambodian Riel (KHR). 1 new Riel equals 100 sen.

The going exchange rate is around KHR 3676 to USD 1 (Jan 2003)
(Historical development: 3600 Jan 2000, 3790 May 1999, 3870 Nov
1998, 4000 Jun 1998, 3410 Dec 1997, 2700 in Oct 1996, 2500 in Mar
1996, 2300 in Jun 1995, 2800 in Sep 1994, 2390 in Dec 1993, 2800 in
Sep 1992, 500 in Dec 1991, 560 in 1990, 159 in 1988, and 100 in 1987)

To get a nice small conversion table that you can put in you pocket,
look at the Currency Cheat Sheet at

The USD is very widely used in Cambodia. It actually serves as a
second currency that is more readily accepted. Bring small
denomination and clean notes with you.

There is usually no need to change money into KHR, since you will
inevitably pay a lot of things in USD and receive change in KHR.

Traveller's Cheques are well accepted in Cambodia. There is a
commission of about 2% to change T/C into USD, less for T/C into KHR
and sometimes nothing for USD into KHR. Shop around!

You can get cash advances on your credit card at several banks. The
Siam Commercial Bank allows USD 1000 per day, and the Thai Farmers
Bank half of that, USD 500. In every case, commissions are very high;
they will have to phone Bangkok for confirmation. Shop around for the
cheapest rate.

It is possible to change travellers cheques and get credit card cash
advances in the casinos. Of course, their motivation is to get the
money "back" at the tables.


Banks are open during weekdays from 7:30 to 14:30. Some open also at

The Cambodia Commercial Bank, Corner of Pochentong and Monivong
Boulevards cashes travellers cheques and does cash advances on credit
cards for no cost (unlike Thai Farmers and others which charge up to
USD 20). They also get international transfers processed much faster
than many other banks. They have an excellent reputation with NGOs and

The Bangkok Bank, 26 Norodom Boulevard, Phnom Penh, Tel. (23) 26593,
accepts cheques and Visa credit card.

The Foreign Trade Bank of Cambodia, next to the Bangkok Bank on
Norodom Boulevard, Phnom Penh, changes USD travellers cheques into USD
cash for a commission of 1%.

The Foreign Trade Bank of Cambodia, 24 Norodom Boulevard, Phnom Penh,
Tel. (23) 22466, cashes cheques.



Cambodia's international telephone code is ++855.

Area codes

Phnom Penh   023
Siem Reap    063



The best choice if you are travelling is to get a provider that lets
you access the internet all over the world for the price of a local
phone call. Especially in a country like Cambodia where getting access
is not exactly hassle-free.

Due to this instability, the best choice is to get an independent
provider that lets you access the internet all over the world for the
price of a local phone call.



During the last couple of years, safety in Cambodia has improved a
lot. The main problem in rural area are still the landmines
(especially near the border to Thailand).

The Khmer Rouge have been dissolved in 1998. So the threat of being
hijacked has vanished. More of a problem nowadays is crime, which is
on the fast rise. Especially Phnom Penh is getting more and more
dangerous. After dark, robbery at gunpoint seems quite common. There
are several reports of tourists being dragged from their motorbikes.
Make sure that you don't stay out in the evening.

The following material is excerpted from VIETNAM, CAMBODIA & LAOS
HANDBOOK, by Michael Buckley, (c) copyright 1998, all rights
reserved, reprinted with permission.

Reprinted here with permission of Moon Travel Handbooks, California

by Michael Buckley

One of the greatest limitations to travel in remote areas of Cambodia
- surpassing even bandits and corrupt government troops - is land
mines. Many were planted by the former Khmer Rouge guerrillas. The
Cambodian government is a signatory to the international landmine
treaty, drafted in Canada in 1997, banning the use, stockpiling,
manufacture and export of landmines. The only known cases of
foreigners falling victim to Cambodian mines have been UNTAC staff who
ventured into known mined areas or handled unknown explosive devices.
Remaining a biped is easy if you're alert to potential dangers. Here
are some guidelines:

BE SENSIBLE: Bright red skull-and-crossbones signs in Khmer and
English mark suspect areas. Heed the signs. Stay alert. Do not become
complacent and think that because you've not seen any mines the area
is safe. Realize where you are and understand the consequences of a
wrong action. Don't be foolhardy and "brave" in front of your
companions; you might put them into danger as well.

USE A GUIDE: If you must travel outside the villages, make sure you
stay with a guide who knows the area and will lead the way. Do not
enter any region outside a known safe area without first asking local
people if there are mines about ("Mian min teh?"). Don't travel
outside the towns after 1600 or before 0800: mines may be laid during
the night for protection, and, in theory, retrieved in the morning.

STAY ON THE PATH: Stick to well-trodden trails at all times. Do not go
off a known safe path for any reason, and do not take a shortcut, even
if it looks safe. You must do all your business (which includes the
toilet) on the safe path, no matter what the circumstances. Don't go
off the safe path to explore ruins or derelict military equipment. Do
not walk in long grass; snakes could be a problem here as well.

DO NOT TOUCH: Never approach or touch any mines or unexploded
ordnance. The former Khmer Rouge guerrillas used to rig up live
ordnance as booby traps, often with trip wires. It's not uncommon for
someone to want to show you their collection of mines, or even pass
one to you for inspection. If this happens, make excuses to leave.

DRIVING: Make sure your driver knows where he's going. Ask the locals,
or take along a local guide. If you need to stop in a potentially
mined area, make sure the car is away from the edge of the road so you
don't have to venture off the road when you get out. Mines are
commonly laid on the edges of roads and paths. If your car breaks down
in a mined area, you must climb out onto the roof of the car, make
your way to the back of the vehicle, and then walk in the tire tracks.

IN A MINED AREA: If you find yourself in a mined area, warn everyone
else around you to stop walking. If you can see your footsteps, you
must stand completely within them and retrace all the way back to the
known safe area. If you cannot see your footsteps you must not move.
Call for help and wait until someone comes to rescue you. This may
take a long time, but it is better to wait one day in a minefield than
to be an amputee for life. If the worst happens, and someone is
injured, do not rush into the mined area to rescue them. Many people
have been killed or injured doing this. It's better to wait and find
someone who knows how to safely enter a mined area. The safest way to
enter a minefield is by prodding, which is an exact technique that
must be learned thoroughly before being used in the field.



For books, please have a look at the online version at



Many people worry about safety conditions on flights in Cambodia. This
may have been so in earlier times, but today it is quite ok. Air
France officers are training the local pilots, and safety regulations
have been risen to international standards. They are partially owned
by Malaysia Airlines.

Royal Air Cambodge (since end of 1994 incorporating Kampuchea
Airlines) has an office Phnom Penh at 206 A, Norodom Blvd.,
Tel (18) 202300, Fax (18) 427910. The head office at Kramuon Sar
Avenue 24 also sells and changes tickets. Tel 428830, Fax 202757.

International Flights

There is an airport tax of USD 20 for international flights, USD 4 for
domestic flights and USD 15 from Siem Reap.

There are direct flights to Phnom Penh from Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City,
Guangzhou (2/week), Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Airlines operating into Phnom Penh are Thai Airways International,
Royal Air Cambodge, Lao Aviation, Vietnam Airlines, Dragonair,
Malaysian Airlines and Silk Air.

The flight from Bangkok to Phnom Penh with Royal Air Cambodia is about
3000 Baht (5500 Baht return). Thai Airlines are more expensive.

Bangkok Airways has a daily flight from Bangkok to Siem Reap. Return
costs 14500 Baht. When originating the flight in Siem Reap, prices
are USD 155 and 310, respectively.
Flight 930: Bangkok 10:30 - Siem Reap 11:30.
Flight 931: Siem Reap 12:20 - Bangkok 13:20.

Since 16 February 2000 there is a direct flight between Siem Reap
(Angkor Wat) and Ho Chi Minh City. The flights will be every Monday,
Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. It is operated by Vietnam

Domestic Flights

Royal Air Cambodge serve the following destinations within Cambodia:
Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Stung Treng, Ratanakiri, Battambang, Koh Kong,
Sihanoukville and Senmonorom/ Mondulkiri Province (once a week). The
company is located at Villa 362 on Route 6 in Phnom Penh.

There are 7 flights daily between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap (USD 85
single or USD 170 return). The flight takes about one hour. Bangkok
Air charges USD 205 for a return.

Helicopters serve Koh Kong and Kampong Saom (Sihanoukville). The
military also offers helicopter rides from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh.
The flight takes one hour and costs USD 45, but it can be an
uncomfortable flight, since they use every available space (meaning
that more often than not you cannot sit down.)

Four days a week, on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, there
are flights from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville for USD 70 and to
Koh Kong for USD 50.

There are now about three or four flights per week between Phnom Penh
and Stung Treng.

The airport tax is USD 10, except for Siem Reap, which is USD 8.

Notice: There is a weight limit of 10 kg on luggage for inland
flights. When flying try to leave some of your luggage at a hotel in
Phnom Penh, or try to bluff your way with hand baggage. However, this
seems not always to be enforced very strictly (I have reports from
people with 17 kg luggage!) As long as there are not too many people
doing this, it is not really a problem.



There is only one train line in Cambodia. It goes from Kampong Saom
(Sihanoukville), south of Phnom Penh, via Phnom Penh and Batdambang to
Bangkok. They are quite comfortable, but rather slow.

Each day at 6 am two trains leave Phnom Penh in opposite directions to
Battamband and Sihanoukville. They often arrive late (if at all).

Foreigners are sometimes entitled to travel for free, means illegally,
because the train company will not have to cover any damage in case of



The bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh costs about USD 9.

There are several busses from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville. A normal
bus costs KHR 8'000 one way and leaves at 8:30. There is also a VIP
bus costing KHR 10'000 one way or KHR 18'000 return. The bus leaves
from Phsar Thmey at 7:30, 12:15, and 13:30. The trip takes about 4
hours with a short stop in the middle. They show an Asian movie and
play loud music, so it might be a good idea to bring along ear plugs.
A 500 ml bottle of water is included.

Most roads are in a very bad condition, though upgrading is under way.
Update of early 2000:
Vietnamese border - Phnom Penh: mostly bad road improving the
closer you come to Phnom Penh.
Phnom Penh - Siem Reap: good road for the first 50 kilometers,
then bad dirt road.
Siem Raep - Sisophon: Very bad road with so many potholes that
much of the driving is done away from the path. Many of the once blown
up now restored bridges are in a really scary condition
Sisophon - Thai border: relatively good tar road but still a lot
of potholes.



There are several companies offering boat rides between Phnom Penh and
Siem Reap. Fast Malaysian managed boats take 4-5 hours in a small,
uncomfortable boat for USD 20 to 25 and 6 hours in a large,
comfortable boat (compared to previously 12 or up to 24 hours.) Prices
are USD 12 to 20. The Cambodian government has assigned soldiers to
guard these boats. The soldiers use the time on the boat to take a
snooze, but you can make interesting contacts if you hand out
cigarettes to them. If you are lucky they will ask you to join them in
the evening in Siem Reap when they tour the bars and shoot the moon!
Other reports state that somtimes the soldiers are shooting on the
There are also slow boats. They should take 2 days during the wet
season, and 4 days during the dry. It is possible to get a ride in a
cargo boat for as little as USD 7.

These boats are quite dangerous. There have been many accidents, boats
capsizing, etc.

One trip is first a four hour truck ride to the Tonle Sap, then four
hours by boat and finally half an hour on a truck to Siem Reap. These
fast boats easily outrun the slow pirate boats the Khmer Rouge used
(actually, I have not heard of any tourist boat pirated.)

In Siem Reap, many boats have .5 calibre, belt-fed machine guns loaded
and ready on board! So, even the locals don't consider Tonle Sap to be

The boats seem to go only to about 15 km towards Siem Reap, the rest
has to be made by truck, motorbikes or whatever transportation can be
found. The motorbikes should cost about 1000 - 2000 KHR. The drivers
want to drop you at a guest house they know, because they get a
commission. You can also try to get the ride for free in exchange for
staying at 'their' guest house.

One traveller also reported that the tourists were asked for money to
leave the boat. The boats also frequently break down. There are
basically two ways for it breaking down, one in the middle of the
lake, an uncomfortable situation with no compass, no safety equipment
and no oars. The other is actually much worse, being near the shore
from where you get shot at.

There is a fast boat between Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham and Kratie. It
takes about 6 hours, including a stop in Kampong Cham. Per leg (PP-KC,
KC-K) it costs 20'000 Riel. Often there are too many people so that
you will have to sit on the roof (take care of the sun!)

The boat from Sihanoukville to Koh Kong costs USD 15 or THB 500. It
takes 3 to 3.5 hours. The boat is air-conditioned, so bring along a
pullover or a light jacket.



It is possible to rent a car with a driver for USD 20 - 30. Always
agree on the price in advance.

There are many cars in Cambodia that originated in Thailand, having
the steering wheel on the right ("wrong") side of the car. You may
need some time to get used to it, and the front seat passenger has to
be the look-out for oncoming traffic.



A good way to see sights in the near vicinity is to go by moto taxi.
It usually costs USD 1 (actually, ex-pats pay only about KHR 1000,
the USD 1 is the night fare). Locals would pay only about KHR 300 to
500 for the same ride.

Of course, the price depends on the distance. And if you venture out
farther, you usually have to pay lunch for the driver as well.

Taxi Cantha is a new taxi company with metered taxis. They charge
KHR 3500 for the flag and the first 2 km. After that, it is KHR 500
per km. After dark, they provide an armed guard next to the driver.
Tel. (018) 810 267 or (023) 982 452.


CAMBODIA - Peter M. Geiser's Hotel and Travel Guide

Copyright (c) 1995 - 2005, Peter M. Geiser



New series by Peter M. Geiser and Sibylle Dussy, with many photos:

"Classics", FAQ of

Hotel guides


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Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:

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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:12 PM