know before you go: cambodia.

this is just a quick list of things you might find useful if you are planning a visit to cambodia. you can find much more in-depth information on various travel blogs and in guidebooks, but they were all things i collected before my trip, found interesting while i was there, or wish i had thought to find out.

exterior of cambodia’s royal palace. phnom penh, cambodia. may 2016.

the dollar is king. pretty much anywhere you go, prices will be given in us dollars, and all cash machines throughout the country will dispense dollars in addition to the local currency, the riel. cambodians do not use coins, however, so any change of $1 or less will be given in riel. when i visited, $1 was equivalent to 4,000 riel. yes, you read that correctly. oh, and you can only get riel inside cambodia, so money exchanges won’t give you any outside the country, and you’ll want to use it up or exchange it before leaving.

cambodia drives on the right side of the road. this was a surprise to me when i first arrived, because i just wasn’t expecting it. when i found out that cambodia had been colonized by france, i attributed it to that, but i could be wrong. whatever the reason, be prepared if you are coming from the uk or a former uk colony.

temple and tree existing together. siem reap, cambodia. may 2016.

there is a flat $30 visa fee for all tourists entering cambodia. the fee must be paid in us dollars, in cash, which you can withdraw in the immigration area if you don’t have any with you. you’ll also need a passport photo, but if you don’t have one you’ll simply have to pay an additional $3 fee. there are portals for applying before you go, but i did that – and paid – 2.5 weeks before i arrived, and the status still shows as pending today. i am trying to get my fee refunded, but i’m not holding my breath on that one. just do the application when you arrive; it takes under 10 minutes to fill out and get approved.

cambodia is 1.5 hours ahead of india, 7 hours ahead of gmt, and 11 hours ahead of eastern standard time. i don’t think they do dst, so this would change over the winter.

such tourists. siem reap, cambodia. may 2016.

tuk tuks are the way to get around. they are affordable and aplenty, with at least three at every street corner and even more camped out in the main tourist drags. you can generally negotiate down by $1 or $2, but usually if you walk a little away from the tourist hubs you’ll get better prices. and unlike in other se asian countries, cambodian tuk tuks are motorbikes with seats hitched to the back.

giant ibis is the bus company you want. if you are planning any inter-country bus travel while in cambodia, giant ibis is the company to go with. their website is very easy to use; the prices are reasonable; they will pick you up from your hotel or guesthouse; the drivers are professional; they have seatbelts, wifi, water, and snacks; and there is a conductor who will periodically announce stops and remaining travel time. they can also arrange a tuk tuk for you upon arrival if you do not already have transportation. in short, they’re pretty great.

sunrise over angkor wat. siem reap, cambodia. may 2016.

airline counters open late. for my flight from siem reap to phnom penh, the counter opened just over 1.5 hours before the flight, and my international flight to kuala lumpur opened only 2 hours before takeoff. i tell you this because there’s nothing to do in the airport near the check-in counters, so if you arrive too early, you’re left to simply sit and wait until the counters open.

don’t do the temples in one day. they’re spread pretty far apart, and with the distance and the heat you’ll wear yourself out. get the three-day pass and give yourself a break to rest or to explore other things.

time your outings. cambodia is hot and humid, so take care not to overdo yourself while you’re in the country. nearly every day i was there i was out of my hotel by 7am and back by 12pm. most hotels and guesthouses have pools, and they are the best place to spend the scorching afternoons before venturing out again around sunset. and remember to wear sunscreen and to stay hydrated.

have you ever been to cambodia? what did i leave out?


2 thoughts on “know before you go: cambodia.

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