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Frequently Asking Questions
1. Is Cambodia safe?
Yes, Cambodia is a relatively safe country. There are occasional reports of petty theft, and the occasional bar fight, but these can easily be avoided (especially the latter) if you exercise common sense. Do not leave your bag sitting at your feet while riding around in a tuk-tuk (hold onto it!), and leave your expensive jewelry and watches at home. And never, ever leave cash or valuables unattended in your hotel room. Some travelers opt for money belts that can be worn inside the clothing, or hanging around the neck under the shirt.
2. How to get a Visa?
A passport with at least four-month validity is required. Don’t forget to take one passport photo with you. A visa is required for most nationalities. One-month visas are available on arrival at the international airports in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and at border crossings with Thailand and Vietnam (not Laos). Tourist visas are currently US$30 and business visas are US$35; this is subject to change so check this out before you arrive. Or you can apply e-Visa before your arrival: www.evisa.gov.kh
3. Do I have to use local currency in Cambodia?
You don’t have to do exchange money after your arrival in Cambodia. Especially at the border (Poipet), the exchange money is always behind a scam. USD currency is widely accepted in Cambodia. 1 USD is equal 4000 Riel in the local currency.
4. What’s the weather like?
The cool, dry season is from December to February. The temperatures still get up to 30 degrees C during the daytime, but the evenings and early mornings can be quite chilly. A thin layer of fleece is recommended. The real heat & humidity really starts to set in around March, and May is by far the hottest month, with temperatures reaching 40 degrees C. The rain begins in June and lasts through October, but the real “monsoon” months are September and October. The rain is not constant, however, and may be characterized by afternoon or evening downpours. Some roads in the countryside may be impassable at this time as they get flooded or washed out.
5. Drinking water in Cambodia
It’s not recommended to drink the tap water in Cambodia. Filtered water is a better option; try to use a refillable canteen or water bottle rather than buying bottled water. Remember to avoid ice in drinks and peel fruit before eating. Bottled water can be found and purchased at local stores and many at the street sides.
6. What kinds of clothing is suitable?
People should wear whatever they are most comfortable in, but a fair amount of modesty should be exercised. It can be extremely hot and humid and while some are comfortable in loose-fitting cotton, others feel better in quick-drying synthetics. Garments made from “wicking” materials are available at outdoor/ adventure wear stores. This special fabric absorbs perspiration and dries while it is on your body. These items also launder easily, dry very quickly and do not wrinkle. White or clear colored clothes are a good idea. Having a dry shirt at hand to change during the day is also a good idea. A hat is also recommended to keep the hot sun off your face, as is a good sunscreen (mosquito repellent goes over the sunscreen). While hiking boots would be too hot in the tropical climes, walking shoes/sneakers are good but sturdy hiking sandals (those made by Teva, Keens, Chaco, Merril, etc) are ideal. Opt for a thin cargo pant or capri-length pant instead of jeans, which are too hot for the tropics. A definite no-no in Asia is showing too much skin. Women, keep it modest with the cleavage, showing a bare midriff or wearing short shorts. Swimwear is acceptable on the beach (you will notice the locals swimming in shorts and T-shirts!) but cover up when heading into town. Cambodia can get quite chilly late at night or in the early morning in the cool months (December, January) and it is a good idea to bring a fleece jacket. It’s also good to have this for bus travel as sometimes the A/C can get downright cold.
Importantly, when visiting active temples in Phnom Penh & Siem Reap etc women should cover their shoulders. It is required for women to wear a long-sleeved blouse in order to enter the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh and at Agkor Wat in Siem Reap. Those who are not dressed respectably will be turned away. To show your respect to the locals when visiting their villages, you’re better to address appropriately (not too revealed).
7. What’s an ideal budget?
That depends entirely on your style of travel and level of comfort that you are accustomed to. Here are some examples of basic costs (Costs are quoted in US dollars, or USD). You can find guesthouses from as low as USD 7 to suites at 5-star western chain hotels for USD 2000. Dinner at a street stand for USD 2 – USD3, at a cheapie local place for USD 4 or USD 5 (including beer), on pub street (Siem Reap) for $8 or at a hotel restaurant for USD 20 (and up). In Phnom Penh most tourists prefer to stay by the riverside, and hotels can range from USD 10 to USD 400 (or more). A massage can be had for USD 5 at a little place near the old market or for USD 15 at a fancier “spa”. Generally speaking, you can consider this for a daily budget per person- accommodation, food & a beer or two (excluding the Angkor Wat pass, guide & driver).
– Budget traveler- USD 18-25
– Flash-packer- USD 30-45
– Mid-range- USD 60 -80
– Deluxe- USD 100 and up
8. What’s the best way to get around?
The tuk-tuk is the cheapest and most comfortable (and most fun!) and you can take a short ride for a couple of dollars or hire a guy for the day for $10 or more (depending on distance). Guys on motos (motorcycles) are also for hire but use these at your discretion, especially on the crowded streets of Phnom Penh. For longer journeys, ask your driver if he has a spare helmet to lend you. Air-conditioned cars are also available and start at $30 per day for trips around the Angkor area, but for longer journeys (Phnom Penh-Siem Reap/ Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville) expect to pay upwards of $70. For long journeys, buses are super-cheap and quite comfortable. Bicycles can also be rented, but after a day or so experiencing the tropical humidity, you may decide against it. Some guesthouses rent out battery-powered bicycles, if you feel you need the extra boost. You can rent motorcycles In Battambang and Phnom Penh, but tourists are no longer allowed to rent them (or cars) in Siem Reap. If you do decide to rent a motorcycle it is highly recommended to get insurance that covers motorcycle accidents before you leave your country. It is a good idea to decide the fare with your tuk-tuk driver before heading off in order to prevent confusion at the end of the ride.
9. Is a visitor required to have a guide?
No, a guide for the Angkor Area is not required, and it is an entirely up to the visitor to decide if he/she needs one or not. A guide will definitely enrich your experience and can offer you detailed cultural and historical information, but many prefer to go without a guide. An English-speaking guide will generally charge $35 per day (more for other languages). They can arrange drivers as well, from tuk-tuks to cars to mini-vans. Prices will range from an additional $15-$70 for transportation.
10. How much is Angkor pass, how does one get it and how is it used?
The Angkor Wat pass can be purchased at the toll booth en route to Angkor Wat. A passport photo will be required but if you don’t have, you will have a photo taken for free at the booth.
Angkor entrance fee is officially charged at the booth as following:
* A 1-day pass is USD 37
* A 3-day pass is USD 62 (Valid within 10 days)
* A 7-day pass is USD 72 (Valid within 30 days)
You must specify that you want to use the pass for this time period upon purchase, or you will only be able to use it for the consecutive days after purchase. If you purchase your pass at 5:00pm, your pass will not be activated until the next day, allowing you into the complex to get a free sunset. You must have your pass on you at all times, as they will check them at the entrance to the temples. It is also a good idea to bring a plastic carrying case in case it rains. Temple hours: The Angkor Wat complex opens at 5:00am and closes at 6:00pm. Banteay Srei closes at 5:00pm, and Kbal Spean closes at 3:00pm, so plan your itinerary carefully. Passes are not required for the following, however there is a toll levied Phnom Kulen ($15), Koh Ker ($10), Beng Melea ($5).
11. What should one bring to give to the kids?
Bringing things to hand out at random is never a good idea, as it just encourages begging. Purchasing items from street children just encourages them to stay on the streets, missing school and missing out on an education. If you wish to help out children in Cambodia, arrange to visit a school or an orphanage, and bring supplies directly to them. You can buy school supplies and toys at the local market. Not only will this benefit the local business but you will be able to purchase the items cheaply and won’t have to fill your suitcase with items from home. If you will be visiting the home of a local person, bring them some household items (soap, shampoo, cooking oil, salt, soup base, etc) which will be more useful than a decorative object.
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