Indochina Map
Flag :
Population : 14 million
Capital : Phnom Penh
Religion : buddhism
Political regime : constitutional monarchy
Official Language : khmer
Currency : riel

There’s a magic about Cambodia that casts a spell on many who visit this charming yet confounding kingdom. Ascend to the realm of the gods at the mother of all temples, Angkor Wat, a spectacular fusion of symbolism, symmetry and spirituality. Descend into the hell of Tuol Sleng and come face to face with the Khmer Rouge and its killing machine. Welcome to the conundrum that is Cambodia: a country with a history both inspiring and depressing, an intoxicating place where the future is waiting to be shaped.

Just as Angkor is more than its wat, so too is Cambodia more than its temples. The chaotic yet charismatic capital of Phnom Penh is a hub of political intrigue, economic vitality and intellectual debate. All too often overlooked by hit-and-run tourists ticking off Angkor on a regional tour, the revitalised city of Siem Reap is finally earning plaudits in its own right thanks to a gorgeous riverside location, a cultural renaissance, and a dining and drinking scene to rival the best in the region. And don’t forget the rest of the country: relax in the sleepy seaside town of Kampot and trek the nearby Bokor National Park; take an elephant ride in the jungles of Mondulkiri Province; ogle the Mekong dolphins at Kratie or simply choose a beach near Sihanoukville.
The years of fear and loathing are finally over and Angkor is once more the symbol of the nation, drawing pilgrims from across the globe. Peace has come to this beautiful yet blighted land after three decades of war, and the Cambodian people have opened their arms to the world. Tourism has well and truly taken off, yet a journey here remains an adventure as much as a holiday.


The cost of travelling in Cambodia covers the whole spectrum, from almost free to outrageously expensive, depending on taste and comfort. Penny- pinchers can survive on as little as US$10 per day, while budget travellers with an eye on enjoyment can live it up on US$25 a day. Midrange travellers can turn on the style with US$75 to US$100 a day, staying in smart places, dining well and travelling in comfort. At the top end, flash US$200 a day or more to live a life of luxury.
Accommodation starts from as little as US$2 to US$5 in popular destinations. Spending US$10 to US$20 will add to the amenities, such as air conditioning, satellite TV, fridge and hot water. Stepping up to US$50, you enter the world of three-star standards and charming boutique resorts. Forking out US$100 or more brings a five-star fling. Don’t be afraid to negotiate for a discount if it is low season or traffic is down.
While Cambodian cuisine may not be as well known as that of its neighbours Thailand and Vietnam, it can certainly compete with the best of them. Snack on the street or chow down in the market, with meals starting at just 1000r or so, or indulge in a banquet for a couple of bucks. Khmer restaurants are a step up in comfort, and a local meal will cost US$1 to US$2. Next are the sophisticated Khmer, Asian and international restaurants. Meals start from about US$3 at the cheaper places, rising to more like US$10 at the smarter ones, and US$50 or more is possible if you go wild with the wine list.

Tipping is not traditionally expected here, but in a country as poor as Cambodia, tips can go a long way. Salaries remain extremely low and service is often superb thanks to a Khmer commitment to hospitality. Hence a tip of just US$1 might be half a day’s wages for some. Many of the upmarket hotels levy a 10% service charge, but this doesn’t always make it to the staff. If you stay a couple of nights in the same hotel, try to remember to tip the staff that clean your room. Consider tipping drivers and guides, as the time they spend on the road means time away from home and family.
It is considered proper to make a small monetary donation at the end of a visit to a wat, especially if a monk has shown you around; most wats have contribution boxes for this purpose.


Plan ahead for getting your vaccinations: some of them require more than one injection over a period of time, while others should not be given together. Note that some vaccinations should not be given during pregnancy or to people with allergies.
It is recommended that you seek medical advice at least six weeks before travel. Be aware that there is often a greater risk of disease during pregnancy and among children.
Record all vaccinations on an International Certificate of Vaccination, available from your doctor. It is a good idea to carry this as proof of your vaccinations when travelling in Cambodia.


There are fewer scams in Cambodia than neighbouring countries, but now that tourism is really taking off this might change. Most current scams are fairly harmless, involving a bit of commission here and there for taxi or moto drivers, particularly in Siem Reap. More annoying are the ‘cheap’ buses from Bangkok to Siem Reap, deservedly nicknamed the ‘The Scam Buses’ for using the wrong border crossings, driving slowly and selling passengers to guesthouses, but thankfully these are a dying breed.
There have been one or two reports of police set-ups in Phnom Penh, involving planted drugs. This seems to be very rare, but if you fall victim to the ploy, it will require patience and persistence to sort out, inevitably involving embassies and the like. It may be best to pay them off before more police get involved at the local station, as the price will only rise when there are more people to pay off.
Cambodia is renowned for its precious stones, particularly the rubies and sapphires that are mined around the Pailin area in western Cambodia. However, there are lots of chemically treated copies around, as much of the high-quality stuff is snapped up by international buyers. The long and the short of it is: don’t buy unless you really know your stones.

Cambodia can be visited at any time of year. The ideal months are December and January, when humidity levels are relatively low, there is little rainfall and a cooling breeze whips across the land, but this is also peak season when the majority of visitors descend on the country.

From early February temperatures keep rising until the killer month, April, when the mercury often exceeds 40°C. Some time in May or June, the southwestern monsoon brings rain and high humidity, cooking up a sweat for all but the hardiest of visitors. The wet season, which lasts until October, isn’t such a bad time to visit, as the rain tends to come in short, sharp downpours. Angkor is surrounded by lush foliage and the moats are full of water at this time of year. If you are planning to visit isolated areas, however, the wet season makes for tough travel.

Some visitors like to coordinate their trip with one of the annual festivals, such as Bon Om Tuk or Khmer New Year.

Visiting Cambodia is an experience that will live inside of you forever. Having endured colonization, brutal wars, and everyday hardships, the Cambodian people have somehow still emerged as warm and welcoming to visitors of their country.

As tourists to this special place, it is paramount that we represent ourselves well to ensure a warm welcome for others that follow.

The people in Cambodia understand that visitors may not be familiar with all of their customs, but by showing a respectful effort you will gain trust, friendship, and have a better overall experience in this exciting part of Southeast Asia.

Buddhist Etiquette in Cambodia

Theravada Buddhismis practiced by 95% of the population in Cambodia. The followers adhere to the concepts of karma, collectivism, and "saving face" to guide them in daily transactions.

  • Collectivism: The idea that the family, neighborhood, or society is more important than the wishes of the individual.
  • Karma: Known in the West as "you reap what you sow".
  • Saving Face: The concept of retaining your honor and reputation in front of others.

Tips for Saving Face

As with most of Asia, to "loose one's cool" in public is completely unacceptable; never shout at someone or criticize them in front of others.

No matter how inconvenient or uncomfortable a situation is, never make it worse by loosing your temper!

  • When negotiating, allow the other party to "save face" by giving just a little on the final price.
  • Be sure to give genuine complements to people when merited.
  • When offered a gift, politely refuse at first, but in the end always accept it very graciously with both hands.

Showing Respect in Cambodia

As with the rest of Southeast Asia, the head is considered the highest and most spiritual part of a person's body. The feet are considered the dirtiest and least sacred.

Business and eating are typically conducted with the right hand only; the left hand is reserved for "other" duties in the toilet.

Be mindful of Cambodia's tough past by not bringing up sensitive subjects such as war, violence, or the Khmer Rouge.

Proper Etiquette in Cambodia

  • Never touch a Cambodian person on the head, even children.
  • Never raise your feet higher than someone's head.
  • When seated on the ground, tuck your feet beneath you so that they do not point at someone.
  • Unless told otherwise, always remove your shoes before entering a home or business.
  • Do not use your left hand to touch, eat, or hand someone something.
  • Pointing with your index finger is considered rude. Instead, gesture with your right hand palm-up.

Greeting People in Cambodia

The traditional Cambodian greeting - known as Som Pas - is made by putting your two hands together (with fingertips near the chin) and a giving a slight bow with your head. The hands are held higher to show more respect to elders and monks.

Many Cambodians choose to shake hands with visitors, so the best rule-of-thumb is simply to return whatever greeting that you were given initially. It is considered very rude not to return a greeting.

Proper Dress in Cambodia

Modest dress is the rule in Cambodia, particularly for women. Although many tourists wear shorts to deal with the heat, the locals tend to cover as much skin as possible. In Cambodia, shorts are considered proper attire only for schoolchildren!

Men in Cambodia typically wear collared shirts and long pants. Women should not wear short skirts or show their shoulders.

Although tourism has caused this standard to lax somewhat, always dress conservatively when visiting temples, homes, or entering a public office.

Interacting With the Opposite Sex

Cambodians are conservative in sexuality and strongly frown upon public displays of affection.

Be mindful in your contact with the opposite sex, even placing an arm around a local to pose for a picture can be misinterpreted.

Respect for Elders

Aside from monks, elders are given the highest level of respect in Cambodia. Always acknowledge an elder's status by allowing them to control the conversation, walk first, and take the lead.

When seated, you should attempt to never sit higher than the eldest person in the room.

Buddhist Monks in Cambodia

Practically anywhere that you go in Cambodia, you are sure to see Buddhist monks dressed in colored robes. The monks are highly respected within society - take an opportunity to have a friendly interaction with these interesting people!

  • Women should never touch a monk or hand anything to them; even the monk's mother may not do so.
  • If a monk is seated, you should sit also before starting a conversation.
  • Monks are not allowed to eat after noon - be mindful by not eating or snacking around them.

Temple Etiquette in Cambodia

Whether visiting sprawling temples or one of the smaller pagodas in  Siem Reap, always show respect by following these guidelines:

  • Remove shoes and hats before entering the worship area - no one is exempt.
  • Turn off mobile phones and MP3 players.
  • Avoid loud or disrespectful conversation inside of temples.
  • Dress modestly by wearing long pants and covering your shoulders.
  • Avoid sitting higher than seated monks.
  • Do not touch a Buddha statue and ask for permission before taking photos. If you do take photos, drop a small donation in the box.

Visiting a Local's Home in Cambodia

Getting invited to someone's home for dinner may be a highlight of your trip to Cambodia.

Follow these guidelines to make the experience even more special:

  • Remove your shoes, even if not told to do so by your host.
  • Remove your hat while indoors.
  • It is polite to bring a small gift such as fruit, flowers, or candy to your host; hand your gift to them with both hands.
  • Always wait for the eldest to sit. The same applies to when to begin eating.
  • Avoid conversation about business or war when at the table.


Copyright © 2010 TTB Travel&Tour