Visiting Cambodia? Maybe you’re making plans too? We have a few Cambodia tips and things to know before you travel to Cambodia that you should check out below.
Cambodia is amazing and let us just say, you are in for a great adventure!
Cambodia Tips: Know Before You Go
Best Time To Visit Cambodia
Understand when planning your trip to Cambodia, there are two seasons in Cambodia, wet and dry.
The wet season is caused by the Southwest Monsoon bringing rain to the country from late-May to September.
The best time to visit Cambodia, in terms of no rain, is from October to early-May.
From October to early-May, cities like Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Battambang, Sihanoukville and the islands of Cambodia are rain free but oh, so hot! Also, these months are considered peak season meaning more people and higher prices.
If you are looking to save a few dollars, look into visiting Cambodia during its rainy season. Sure, it may be difficult to get around at times, but the scenery will be lush and the tourists will be less 🙂
You’ll Need A Cambodia Visa
Before entering the Kingdom of Cambodia, you’ll need to get a Cambodia visa. You have two options to get your visa for Cambodia:
- Get your visa at the time of your arrival
- Apply for your visa online, ahead of your arrival
Regardless of how you choose to obtain your visa for Cambodia, you’ll pay a fee of $30 USD per person for a Cambodia tourist Visa.
Vaccinations for Cambodia
While there are not legal requirements to get the below vaccinations for Cambodia, it would be a little silly of you not at least consider them.
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
For example, you can get typhoid through contaminated food and water and if you cut your self on a rusty patch, the potential ailments brought on by bacteria can be prevented with a tetanus shot.
Really and truly, these are just preventive measures you can control to add a little extra layer of safety for your trip.
Peace of mind is never a bad thing 🙂
Is Cambodia Safe?
Be Aware of Your Belongings
Out of all the countries we’ve been to in Southeast Asia, we were never reminded more to “watch out for our belongings” like we were in Cambodia.
The people that reminded us the most to watch our belongings were the locals themselves!
We were told handfuls of times to not record videos while we were riding in tuk-tuks as our drivers informed us, “thieves look for opportunities like these to drive by and grab your phone.”
We’d be lying if we said this didn’t make us nervous. However, we’re not here to scare you! We are happy to report that we ran into no issues whatsoever!
However, we were smart and listened to the folks who were trying to keep us safe.
Cambodia Tips for Safety:
- Keep your phones out of site when not in use.
- If you are traveling with a bag, make sure the bag goes across your body versus just casually strapped over one shoulder.
- Never put anything in your back pockets (i.e phone, wallet, etc.). Make sure they are zipped away or in your front pockets.
- Only carry what you need on you aka leave the passport locked up in the room with all your extra cash
- When purchasing something, open your wallet discretely. You don’t want to show people how much money you have on you.
Theft does not happen only in Cambodia. Theft can happen anywhere! Duh, right? Just be smart and aware and you’ll have nothing to worry about.
The Language of Cambodia
The official language of Cambodia is Khmer. However, to our surprise, a lot of people spoke English …. and they spoke it well!
To those of you who may be worried about a language barrier, don’t be in Cambodia. Everyone is so kind, helpful and they speak English like it’s their first language.
However, a little Khmer goes a long way with these people. Brush up on hello and thank you and you’re sure to be a hit!
- Hello – Sou sdey (pronounced like sou-saday)
- Thank you– Ah Kun (pronounced like ah-koon)
Cambodia’s currency is the Cambodian Riel. However, Cambodians use their own currency (Riel) and USD interchangeably.
For Americans, it’s easy to keep track of but for everyone else, you may have more difficulty.
For all you Americans, think of 1000 Riel as a quarter. So, for every 4,000 Riel you get, it’ll equal $1 USD.
For us (Americans), that was the easiest and quickest way to keep track of our money to make sure we weren’t over paying for something.
For everyone else (non-Americans), make sure you know how your countries currency exchanges with USD and Riel.
It’ll save you headaches down the road when you’re in the middle of negotiating a price on something.
Tipping in Cambodia
Cambodia tips for tipping in Cambodia is this, it is tips are not expected, but are appreciated.
The country of Cambodia is poor and with workers making low wages, a few extra Riel left behind go a long way for some workers.
For restaurants, spa’s and tour guides 10% is a good rule. Of course, if the service is exceptional, feel free to give more!
If a hotel employee, tuk-tuk driver or cab driver go out of their way in helping you with bags or recommendations for the area, feel free to tip but it is not expected.
Understand The Cambodian Genocide
Another set of Cambodia tips for you is to educate yourself on the country’s past. Seriously, do it.
During the 70’s the country went through one of the worst genocides in modern history. It is estimated that about 2 million Cambodians were killed during the 4-year reign of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.
If you plan to visit The Killing Fields or S21, we recommend learning more about those events prior to your visit. Be warned, it’s an intense place but something we firmly believe everyone should see and be educated on during their visit to Cambodia.
Volunteering in Cambodia
One of our biggest Cambodia tips for you is to research and vet any potential organization you want to volunteer at!
Orphanage tourism boomed in Cambodia after Angelina Jolie and family adopted their first child from here. Since then, fake orphanages have been popping up all over the country.
These “organizations” exploit children all in the hopes of shuffling westerns into their “orphanage.” These orphanages are FAKE but play the part of a real-life orphanage in the hopes of getting donations from tourists.
If you plan on volunteering, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do your research and donate your time and/or money to a legit organization that will help children.
We found an amazing organization in Battambang, Cambodia called BOVA.
You can learn more about volunteering, how to donate and the amazing man that runs it here: Volunteering at an Orphanage in Cambodia.
If you are unsure about your organization, please vet your volunteering organization and work through an organizations like ConCERT, and Environment and Responsible Tourism NGOs.
What’s consider rude or polite in Cambodia may differ widely then what is consider rude or polite in your home country.
Cambodia is a Buddhist country that appreciates modest behavior, action and dress. Along with this, a few other things
Cambodia Tips on Etiquette:
- Ease up on the public displays of affection and arguing in public
- Don’t take photos of locals without their permission
- Avoid using your left hand to hand someone something
- Show respect by giving and receiving objects with both of your hands versus just one
- Don’t point, use your open hand to direct
- Remove your shoes when entering homes or temples
- Dress appropriately when visiting temples aka shoulders and knees covered.
- Women, in particular, should not sit too close to Monks or touch them.
Tourist Scams in Cambodia
Don’t Buy Anything From Children
As much as you want to, don’t. It’s awful and hard with those cute little faces begging you, but please, don’t.
We know, we know you think you are doing a good deed, but you’re not. These kids are pulled out of school to come into the city and sell cheap trinkets.
It’s so important not to buy souvenirs from these kids as it devalues education for them.
Rather than going to school, families think using their kids to make money is more valuable than them getting an education.
If you want to contribute to the people, consider volunteering and/or donating to an orphanage (like we talked about above) or to a school.
There you are, walking down the street on the hunt for some tasty Khmer food when all of a sudden, you’re approached by a small, cute hungry child telling you how they don’t want any more, they just want a meal.
Seems 100% legit and something you can do to make the world a better place – feed a hungry child. The child points in the direction of a restaurant.
THIS IS WHERE YOU STOP. STOP RIGHT NOW.
The scam begins the moment you agree to this innocent request. The kid is in cahoots with the restaurant. You’ll go to the restaurant and be hit with a MASSIVE bill and be forced to pay it. The restaurant and the kid split the profit when you leave.
Baby Milk Scam
If you thought being approached by a hungry kid was hard, wait till your approached by a mom, a toddler and an infant. Woof, we get sad just thinking about it. Here’s how it goes…
Like we said, you’ll get approached by a mother holding a very tiny, not-fussy infant asking you to buy formula for her baby.
You may find it odd that a seemingly starving child isn’t making a peep or even moving that much but the humanitarian in you overrides and you agree.
She’ll point to a mini-mart where you’ll pay $20 – $30 USD for a can of baby formula.
After you leave, feeling like the good Samaritan of the year, the money you just paid is split between the store owner and the girl. In addition, that non-fussy baby is likely being drugged to keep it calm during the formula negotiations.
You can honestly google both of these scams and read about them as there are so many stories out there.
The big thing with both of these scams is to politely decline and keep walking.
The People of Cambodia
Regardless of the scams, the begging kids and fake orphanages, the Khmer people are some of THE kindest, MOST welcoming, SMILING faced people we met during our time in Southeast Asia.
Our Cambodia tip is to interact with them! Their friendly hellos still echo in our ears and their contagious smiles are something we won’t forget for decades to come.
These people will welcome you with opens arms. So be prepared to fall in love. The kingdom of Cambodia is a place unlike any other and same goes for its people 🙂
From Phnom Penh to Kampot to Siem Rap and all the other amazing cities, towns and islands there are to experience in Cambodia, check out the latest places and prices below to secure an unforgettable Cambodian accommodation.
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– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)