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Frequently Asked Questions

Cambodia Information

First-time visitors to Cambodia are likely to have a lot of questions about the country's customs, food, culture and currency as well as how to get around.

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1. What is new? What is not?

Besides the unmissable classic sites already visited, these are some new places to rediscover!

The secluded Bantey Chmar temple is located 70km north of Sisophon, a town close to the Thai border, dating back to the 12th century. The rarely visited temple was built by Jayavarman VII and dedicated to his sons killed in a battle repelling a Cham invasion in 1177. These Angkor-era temple ruins beyond Sisophon are the only ones in Cambodia, outside of the Bayon at Angkor Thom and the Preah Khan in Preah Vihar, that have the large four-faced monument that Bayon is famous for.

Sambor Prei Kuk, a pre-Angkorian temple site dating back to the 7th century, was known as Ishanapura, the capital of the Chenla kingdom. Probably the most interesting temples predating Angkor, the complex is composed of four groups of temples. These are among the most ancient surviving examples of Khmer architecture. The site is located only 30 minutes by car north of Kompong Thom.

Preah Vihear, a temple complex built on a crest of the Dangkrek Mountains at an altitude of 730 metres at the Thai-Cambodian border. The excursion from Siem Reap will take two days via Along Veng as it takes more than six hours to reach Preah Vihear. This amazing site is only accessible by four-wheel drive and the view from the top of the mountain is simply beautiful.

 

The complex of Koh Ker in Preah Vihear Province in northern Cambodia is probably the most remote temple site in the kingdom. Built in the 10th century by Jayavarman IV, Koh Ker was the capital of the Khmer Empire for less then 15 years, before Harshavarman I moved it back to Angkor. It is now possible to reach Koh Ker within three hours by car from Siem Reap. A recently renewed red soil road connects the two former capitals. The temple site is nestled in lush tropical forest.

The south coast of Cambodia offers pristine and unspoiled beaches and many small islands scattered in the Gulf of Siam. The most famous coastal towns of Kep and Kompong Som (Sihanoukville) are the perfect places for travelers who wish to finish their visit to Cambodia by a relaxing stay. White sand, blue water, tropical climate, and fresh seafood will welcome those who can either choose to relax on the beach, take a boat trip to the nearby islands or experience snorkeling and scuba-diving. The new Sokha Beach Resort opened its doors and a golf resort project on Occheuteal beach is under development.

 

Our program to Battambang starting by boat from/or to Siem Reap, is also interesting by road from Phnom Penh via Pursat, a charming and ex-colonial town along the Stueng Pousat River.

The boat trip between Siem Reap and Battambang takes about 5-6 hours from August to March (during the period from April to July the boat journey is not possible due to the low water level). It is an excellent way to discover the countryside and to observe the daily life along the river, the floating villages and the wild birds of the Tonle Sap Lake.

NEW ! Asian Trails has decided to support and to became the partner of Phare Ponleu Selpak, a non profitable association with the aim to give the opportunity to young khmer children from poor or disabled families to have access to the culture via different artistic activities. The association located in Battambang welcomes daily the children to the centre to draw, play music, practise circus acts and partake in various extracurricular activities. The organization performs for visitors an unforgettable circus performance.

Asian Trails is working in partnership with Osmose with the aim of protecting the biosphere and developing ecotourism in the area. Osmose is a non-profit organisation working for sustainable development in Prek Toal village, Tonle Sap through an approach linking conservation, education and ecotourism. Our guides have been trained by Osmose and are certified.

Not new but still original: The inundated forest of the Tonle Sap - a fascinating excursion from Siem Reap only accessible by boat - the forest is flooded from the month of June to March and is the natural habitat of numerous wild birds.

Temple Passes:
The company handling the entrance fees to Angkor Complex, Sokha Hotel, has implemented a new control in terms of visitor-passes to the temples. All visitors must present one I.D.-size picture, the first time they enter the temple checkpoint, and then receive a personal pass with their picture. There is no extra charge for pictures taken on the spot, if visitors do not carry any and the whole process should not takes more than five minutes. Visitors buying a one-day Temple-pass do not need to bring along pictures.

The journey from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap takes about five hours and to Battambang four hours by car.

 

2. When is the best time to travel?

From November to March, the temperature is cool with an average of 25 degrees C and the humidity is low. 

 

3. Is it safe to travel? Are there places to be avoided?

Since the last national election, a new era of peace and political stability is taking roots in the country, giving the chance to travelers to discover the deepest heart of the Kingdom.

However, there are still some places where travelers should not go without an experienced local guide, as the problem of mines is still present in the countryside.

Moreover, soldiers who do not like to be disturbed during their transactions with their neighbors, are controlling some regions sharing the border with Thailand and Laos as well as the Cardamons. We advise you to avoid these areas during your visit to Cambodia. 

 

4. Do's and don't's

- Never drink tap water however, purified bottled water is available everywhere.
- Use an insect repellent against mosquitos and be careful to protect yourself against dehydration, heat exhaustion and sunburn.
- Eating in hotels and local restaurants booked by Asian Trails is safe. Food served in the streets, at the markets and other small local restaurants is best avoided especially for raw food, peeled or cut fruits and ice cubes.
- Wearing shorts and T-shirts is accepted even in the complex of Angkor. Note however that, for the visit of the Silver Pagoda in the Royal Palace (Phnom Penh), visitors are demanded to dress more formally (long clothes). Shoes are always removed at the entrance to pagodas. 

 

5. What money should I take?

The Riel is the local currency but the US Dollar is widely accepted and used in most transactions. Credit cards, Traveller's cheques, foreign currencies are accepted in hotels and major banks. It is recommended to carry U.S. Dollars in small denomination notes. ATM machines are now available in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. 

 

6. What are the visa requirements and custom formalities?

It is easy to obtain a tourist visa (validity 30 days) upon arrival at the airports of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap (with a valid passport of six months beyond your visit and one ID-sized photo).

Visas for Cambodia are available upon arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap International Airport, Poi Pet (border with Aranyaprathet, Thailand), Koh Kong (border with Haat Lek, Thailand) Kham Samnor (border to Chau Doc, Vietnam) and Bavet (Border to Moc Bai, Vietnam). The visa fee at the Thai border can only be payed in Thai baht.
Visas are required prior to arrival at the border at Voeun Kam (border with Laos).

Each traveler has to complete immigration and customs declaration forms during the flight or at border checkpoints entering Cambodia to submit upon arrival. Tourists and non-residents, carrying over USD 10.000 in cash or its equivalent, must declare it.

Immigration formalities are quicker when travelers already hold a visa. Leaving the country, luggage will be X-rayed in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports and registered to the final destination.

 

7. What language will they understand?

Khmer is the official language but English is widely spoken in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, followed by French. In the countryside, people speak Khmer. 

 

8. How about my health?

No vaccinations are required for the entry to Cambodia. Visitors are advised to check in their own country regarding protection against malaria, typhoid, hepatitis A and B.
There is no problem to find a foreign doctor or dentist in Phnom Penh. Siem Reap has a private clinic with international standards.
Foreign medicaments can be easily found in major towns. 

 

9. What food will they serve me?

Khmer cuisine is closely related to its neighboring countries, although it is not as spicy. The Amok (fish prepared with coconut milk and spices) is probably the most famous Cambodian dish. There is a wide variety of dishes such as curries; stir-fried vegetables, noodles and soups. All meals are served with steamed rice. Western food is available only in the major cities although other Asian dishes are widely available. 

 

10. How is the shopping and what do I tip?

Shopping :
Markets are the best place for shopping and all prices can be negotiated through bargaining. Cambodia produces excellent quality silk as well as cotton sarongs. The Krama is the traditional checked cotton (or silk) scarf used by local people.

It is also easy to find stone and wood copies of ancient Khmer art, metalwork, etc. When buying jewelry, visitors should be careful, as gems are often fake...

The export of antiques is subject to approval by the Ministry of Culture.

Tipping :
Major hotels and restaurants add a 10% service charge & tax on bills. If not included in the bill, a 5% tip would be apppropriate if service was satisfactory.

Important Bewares :
Phnom Penh is a nice place to go out in the evening but remember that foreigners are known for carrying more dollars than local people. If you decide to go out on your own at night, it is recommended to ask for a taxi at disposal at your hotel and discuss the price before leaving. Mind out for dark alleys at night time.

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