So you've booked your flights to Cambodia and have started preparing for your trip. Here are some things you should know about this friendly country before you go!
Most visitors to Cambodia will need to get a visa, unless you are from a visa-exempt country. The tourist visa allows you to stay in the country for 30 days and will cost you $30 USD if you get it when you land. If you want to prepare in advance, you can apply for the visa online for $36 USD. I personally don't think it's necessary to get it in advance though since it's pretty straightforward to get it when you arrive. You'll be asked for a passport photo so you should bring that with you if you are planning to get the visa in person. That said, when my travel buddy forgot her photo, all they made her do was pay an extra $2 USD and never made her take a photo (this was at the Siem Reap airport), which seemed a little odd to me!
The national language of Cambodia is Khmer. But if you're wondering if you'll be able to get around speaking English, yes you can, if you're visiting Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Before I go anywhere, I always try to learn a few simple phrases in their language just in case (like thank you, toilet, hospital, etc.) and did the same before I went to Cambodia, but I was able to communicate with most of the locals I came across with basic English.
Cambodia has its own currency - the Cambodian riel - but USD is used everywhere. I would try to bring more $1 USD bills as many things are quite affordable in Cambodia. You'll find that if you pay using USD, you'll get USD in change unless it's for anything less than $1 USD, in which case you will get riel back in change.
Crime and Safety in Cambodia
I like to do thorough research before I go traveling, and one thing that caught my attention on my pre-trip googling adventures was safety and crime in Cambodia. I read many stories of travellers getting their phones or bags snatched while visiting the country so I was on high alert throughout my time there. I'm happy to report that I didn't come across any of that while I was there, but I did take extra precautions to try to prevent it. I carried a money belt, carried my bag in the front even though it may have looked silly, and even switched to using an older phone while I was there. I held onto my bags tightly even while riding on tuk-tuks because I had read of cases where people would drive by on motorbikes and snatch bags off tuk-tuks. Because I was afraid of my camera getting stolen, I also made a conscious effort to use it less, which unfortunately means I have fewer good quality photos, but at least I kept it safe!
I don't know if I avoided being a victim of these crimes because I was plain lucky, or if the steps I took to prevent it worked. Either way, it doesn't hurt to be cautious so that you make sure that you aren't an easy target! And other than being on high alert, I felt quite safe while I was in Cambodia.
A few months before your planned trip to Cambodia, you may want to visit your doctor or local travel clinic to see if there are any vaccinations you should get before you visit. For me, it was highly recommended that I get the Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccinations, but I'm not qualified to give any medical advice so please talk to a professional!
Weather in Cambodia
Cambodia is pretty warm all year round. Almost too warm by this Canadian's standards! Temperatures rarely dip below 20°C, with maximum temperatures hovering at or above 30°C. Cambodia does have a rainy season starting from May and lasting until October, but November can also see a bit of rain.
Best time to visit Cambodia
It's probably best to visit Cambodia during its dry season which is from December to April. That said, that also happens to be the peak tourist season in Cambodia, so you'll have to pick between the lesser of the two evils - crowded with tourists, or rainy weather? I went in mid-November and thought it was quite a good time to go. It still rained occasionally, but the sun came out when we were exploring the temples for the most part. It was still pretty hot and humid by my standards, but some of the locals were in long sleeved shirts!
What to Pack for Cambodia
Here are some things that I recommend that you bring to Cambodia:
- A hat
- Mosquito repellent
- A light umbrella/rain jacket in case it rains
- I would recommend using a money belt just in case!
- A small flashlight if you want to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat
- If you're visiting the temples, bottoms that cover your knees, and maybe a light sweater to wear over your top to cover your arms. Because Cambodia is so hot and humid, light, breathable clothing is a must!
Anything I missed that you want to know before you visit Cambodia? Leave me a comment and I will update this post!
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