Cambodia Travel Essentials


Often referred to as the 'Kingdom of Wonder,' this beguiling country is located in South East Asia, bordered by Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Cambodians are known for their warm hospitality and their natural friendliness. The national language is Khmer, though English is spoken fairly widely throughout.

Getting There

Getting to Cambodia is simple, as a host of daily flights from nearby hubs arrive into both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Most flights from Europe and North America connect first in Bangkok, Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore or Taipei.


Riel is the currency of Cambodia but US dollars are widely used and most prices will be in US$. When receiving change from a dollar, the cents will be returned to you in Riel. Note that even slightly torn US dollar bills will not be accepted. Visa & MasterCard are accepted in most hotels, and some restaurants. ATMs are very common in every city and town.
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Public holidays in Cambodia center around four main themes; traditional farming celebrations, Buddhist festivals, the Royal Family and those recognizing independence from France and the Khmer Rouge. Arguably the most important festival is the Khmer New Year (April 14-16), which sees Cambodian families returning to their hometowns around the country. It marks the end of the harvest, and food features heavily in the festivities. Families will often place small shrines outside their houses, with candles and incense burning all day. The ritual washing of Buddha statues, the elderly and oneself is also important, intended to bring luck for the rest of the year. The most visually impressive festival is the Water Festival (October or November), celebrating the ancient Cambodian navy of King Jayavarman VII (builder of Ta Prohm, Angkor Thom and Bayon), as well as the change in flow of the Tonle River. Boat races are held throughout the country, with the largest being in Phnom Penh, but Siem Reap´s, passing through the centre of town is a fantastic spectacle and highly recommended.

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Citizens of most countries can apply for a visa online or get one on arrival in Cambodia. Citizens of the following countries should arrange a visa before travel, from their nearest Cambodian Embassy: Afghanistan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Nigeria.
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Beach Break


The Cambodian government has a simple online application for an e-visa. It is a straightforward procedure and your visa is delivered electronically to you after around three days and costs $30 plus a $7 administration fee (total $37).

You will not have to wait at the immigration desk and can proceed directly to passport control on arrival. This is the fastest and most efficient method, and what we recommend.

The e-visa is currently valid at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap Airports, as well as Poipet, Bavet (Sveireang) and Koh Kong (Chenyien) border crossings.


Visa On Arrival

You can obtain a Visa on arrival at your port of entry. Fill in the arrival documents which you will receive in on the plane or at the border and provide one passport-size photograph. The fee is currently US$30 paid in cash and is valid for 30 days. You can extend the visa once you are here if necessary.

Please note that you will need a blank page in your passport for the visa as well as at least 6 months validity on your passport. At peak arrival times there may be waiting time for the visa on arrival to be processed. Please ask your ABOUTAsia travel advisor for help with VIP arrangements.

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Cambodian food may not have garnered the same fame as neighbouring Vietnam or Thailand, but there are subtleties to the dishes that set it apart. South East Asian cuisine is famous for the intense flavours and liberal use of chilli, while Cambodian classics such as lok-lak and amok have caught the attention of chefs due to their reputation for wonderfully subtle and aromatic attributes. The fried spiders and bugs for which Cambodian cuisine is also famous offer another dynamic not found in Thai or Viet dishes.

Cambodia Pancake

Fish amok, making use of two of the most popular ingredients - fish and coconut - is a tourist favourite (often available with chicken or tofu to suit all tastes). Lok-lak, traditionally made with beef, features pepper as its main spice. Cambodia's Kampot pepper is world famous, and is integralto Kep's premier dish of crab and fresh green pepper corns.


Fertile plains, aided by the rains of the green season allows the country's farmers to grow a wide variety of foodstuffs, most notably rice, corn and beans.

Maju Krueng

As a still developing country, being careful about what one eats and drinks here is important. While tap water in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is treated and safe, aging pipes ensures that bottled water is the safest option, and the only one in rural settings. In restaurants catering to tourists all food preparation is undertaken using bottled or treated water, and hygiene is of a high standard.Ice throughout the country is produced using treated water and should be safe. Drinks other than water are widely available - from freshly made sugar cane juice, to coconuts and fruit shakes to the ubiquitous Angkor Beer.

Cambodian Produce

Tweak your itinerary to take in some of the best produce that Cambodia has to offer, from the eclectic to the mainstream. Learn how rice paper rolls or the fragrant prahokfishpaste is made in Battambang, visit the famous Kampot pepper farms on the south coast (and the local salt farms as well as the not-so-famous Durian farms nearby), go fishing yourself or see how a variety of snakes, fish and shellfish are captured for the plate. More important is to sample some of the local produce: while the fried tarantulas of Skuon are not to everybody's taste, seafood lovers will adore the crab of Kep (perhaps cooked with fresh Kampot peppercorns), and numerous roadside snacks and treats cater to all possible tastes.

Owing to a rich agricultural heritage and a climate perfect for growing the produce the tropics are famous for, it's unsurprising that the best of Cambodian cuisine rivals that of its Southeast Asian neighbours, and even its contemporaries across the world, albeit with a very different culinary focus.

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Cambodia History

The earliest evidence of human existence in Cambodia are stone tools dating back to 7000BC. Numerous archaeological sites throughout northern Cambodia have provided examples of pottery and tools as proof of continuous habitation of the region.

By the first century AD, trade routes between China and India had developed encouraginggroups of settlers to migrate into the Mekong Delta in search of resources. Chinese records mention the Funan Kingdom as one of the earliest trading settlements and the discovery of Roman coins confirm it as a staging post on trade routes between the east and the west. Funan was strongly influenced by trade ties with India, most notably in the adoption of Hinduism and Sanskrit, andit was the first precursor of the Khmer empire.At its height in the third century, the kingdom extended south into Malaysia and as far west as Myanmar.

The Khmer people, vassals under the Funan, developed into the Chenla Kingdom in the sixth century, culminating in King Ishavarman'sconquering of the Funan Kingdom between 612-627AD.

By the eighth century, the Kingdom had fractured into "land Chenla" to the north, (modern Laos), and "water Chenla" (Cambodia and the Mekong delta). Subject to continual invasion from Java, it wasn't until the king of a small Khmer state, Jayavarman II, came to power in 790AD that the golden age of Cambodia began. Proclaiming himself the first God king at a ceremony on the Kulen Hills, , Jayavarman II ruled for 60 years.

The Angkor Empire ruled vastterritories, and helda cultural and architectural supremacy over neighbouring states that reached its zenith during Suryavarman's construction of Angkor Wat. After the death of King Jayavarman VII in 1219AD,the empire started to decline, and resulted in the sacking of Angkor Wat by Siam in 1351 and 1431. The latter caused therelocation of the Khmer capital to Phnom Penh.

Post Angkor history is known as the "dark ages", with Vietnam and Thailand fighting over the remnants of the Khmer Kingdom. The temples however, were never completely abandoned, with some being maintained by Buddhist monks, and in the 16th century a Cambodian royal court briefly returned.

With Thailand and Vietnam controlling Cambodia's land borders, King Ang Chan encouraged sea trade, which led to the arrival of Spanish and Portuguese missionaries from Malacca. They left the first written accounts of Angkor Wat by Europeans, and helped to restart the written record of the temples and Cambodian history.

Attacks from Vietnam and Thailand continued and by the 17th century even sea access was controlled by Vietnam, rendering Cambodia a vassal state to both countries. This led to King Norodom's 1863 treaty with the French, who promised protection in exchange for Cambodia's natural resources. The 1887 creation of French Indochina, incorporating the Vietnamese regions of Tonkin, Annam and Cochinchina, as well as Cambodia and later Laos, saw Cambodia officially fall under French colonial rule.

Cambodia HistoryUnder French control, Cambodia, was largely neglected, with the French focused on collecting taxes,and bringing few educational or infrastructure improvements to the country.

During WWII, the invading Japanese worked with the Vichy French colonial administration to govern French Indochina. In 1945 the Japanese, in an attempt to use rising nationalist sentiment to defend against Allied military gains, dissolved the French colonial government and installed King Sihanouk as leader of an independent Cambodia.

The tactic failed, and with the Allied victory, France under Charles de Gaulle arrested Prime Minister Son Ngoc Thanh, and attempted to re-assert its control, albeit with a level of self-governance. Successive governments came and went before King Sihanouk suspended the government and named himself as prime minister. After military defeat in Vietnam in 1953, the French officially dissolved the Indochinese colonies, and on 9th November, Cambodia celebrated its independence.

For the next twenty years, Cambodia's history largely revolved around Sihanouk, who in 1955 abdicated, placed his father on the throne, and fully engaged in politics. Uniting most right-wing and conservative groups under the Sangkum party, he won the 1955 elections and continued to rule until 1970, when he was deposed by General Lon Nol.

Cambodia History Sihanouk's rule had grown increasingly repressive, and in 1965 he allowed North Vietnamese troops to use the eastern part of the country as part of the Ho Chi Minh trail. By 1967 this had had a destabilizing effect on the region, and American and South Vietnamese troops were invited to enter Cambodia to engage the North Vietnamese. This was accompanied by U.S. aerial bombing in the east, killing untold thousands of Cambodians and fuelling hatred of the USA and those in government supported by them. Lon Nol, who supported the American actions faced growing resistance from Cambodia's communist guerrilla movement, the Khmer Rouge.

This culminated in the Khmer Rouge'soccupation of Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, in 1975, with the rest of the country falling under their control soon after.

Cambodia History Renaming the country Democratic Kampuchea, the Khmer Rouge embarked on an extreme Maoist version of communist theory, seekingto return the country to an agrarian utopia free from foreign interference - year zero. This began with the "evacuation" of Phnom Penh, two days after its capture. The entire population of Phnom Penh was forced to return to their ancestral villages, and the destruction of the trappings of modernity ensued - cars, refrigerators, etc., were piled in the streets by the largely illiterate Khmer Rouge cadres.

For the next four years Cambodia entered its darkest phase as the country suffered under the destructive regime. By 1979 it's estimated that between one and three million people perished, either directly in the purges of intellectuals, the middle and upper classes and those associated with the Lon Nolregime or indirectly from overwork, starvation and lack of medical care.

After an increasing number of incursions by the Khmer Rouge into Vietnam, the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia in 1979, and after instilling a government of Khmer Rouge defectors, remained until 1989. Pol Pot and the remnants of the Khmer Rouge fled to Thailand, where alongside groups allied with Prince Sihanouk and Son Sann, they received training and money from China and the USA who aided their insurgency against the Soviet supported Vietnamese.

The People's Republic of Cambodia, headed by Hen Samrin, struggled with famine, and went largely unrecognized by the international community. A Cold War proxy war enveloped Cambodia during the 1980's, and it was not until Vietnam's withdrawal in 1989, that the war ravaged and heavily landmined country began on a path to peace.

Between 1989 and 1993, the country, renamed the State of Cambodia, but with largely the same leadership, began the transition to modern Cambodia. Buddhism was reinstated as the state religion, and Prince Sihanouk returned as the head of state.

sihanouk-hun-senIn 1991, the United Nations was given a mandate to implement and enforce a ceasefire between the warring parties. The United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), and its peacekeeping operations in 1992-1993 marked the first time the UN administered a sovereign state. Its primary success was the 1993 election, which saw 90% of eligible voters elect Prince Ranariddh's FUNCINPEC Party to head a coalition government, and write a new constitution, making Cambodia a multiparty liberal democracy with a constitutional monarchy.

Cambodia today has been greatly shaped by the adverse events of its recent history. Since the 1993 elections, Cambodia's constitution has ensured the country is a multiparty democracy with a constitutional monarchy. Following the abdication of King Sihanouk in 2005, his son Norodom Sihamoni became Cambodia's monarch, while Hun Sen has been the Prime Ministersince 1998.

Cambodia Nowaday
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