Cambodia: A Gem in Southeast Asia
Cambodia is a remarkable country known for its friendly and resilient people. The Khmers have triumphed over adversity with an unbreakable spirit and infectious optimism. Visitors to this enigmatic kingdom cannot help but develop a deep admiration and affection for its inhabitants.
When it comes to currency, Cambodia can be a little confusing. The official currency is the riel, where 4000r equals US$1. However, the US dollar is widely accepted as a parallel currency throughout the country. Don’t be surprised if you receive small change in riel. To make matters more interesting, in towns bordering Thailand, Thai baht (B) is also accepted.
Get Yourself a Krama
Upon arriving in Cambodia, make it a priority to purchase a krama, a traditional checked scarf. This versatile item serves several purposes. Besides protecting you from the sun, dust, and wind, you can use it as a cover-up, a quick towel, or even a makeshift pillow. Its countless uses make it an essential item that takes up minimal space in your backpack.
Pack Light and Stay Cool
Lightweight and loose-fitting clothes are the way to go in Cambodia, especially fabrics like cotton and linen that combat the humidity. The country generally has a casual dress code, unless you plan on frequenting high-end establishments in cities like Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. If you’re traveling to the upland northeast between November and March, remember to pack a warm top for the cooler nights.
What to Pack
Here are some essential items to pack for your trip to Cambodia:
- Lightweight, light-colored clothing to reflect the sun
- Comfortable sandals or shoes
- Refillable water bottle
- Powerful sunscreen and long-lasting deodorant
- Earplugs to block out noise
- Unlocked mobile phone for a Cambodian SIM card (roaming charges are expensive)
- Light raincoat for the wet season
Cambodian people are gracious hosts, and observing a few important spiritual and social conventions will go a long way:
Respect at Buddhist Sites
When visiting temples, make sure to cover your knees and elbows. You should also remove your shoes and any head covering when entering temple buildings. Avoid pointing your feet towards Buddha images by sitting with your feet tucked behind you. Additionally, it’s customary to leave a small donation. Remember, women should never touch a monk or his offering bowl, as it goes against their sacred vows.
When meeting new Khmer friends, use the traditional Cambodian greeting known as sompiah. This involves putting your hands together in a prayer-like manner. To beckon someone over, wave towards yourself with your palm facing down.
Bargaining and Dressing Modestly
Haggling is expected in Cambodian markets, and it’s important to negotiate prices. Additionally, it’s advisable to dress modestly, avoiding swimsuits or revealing clothing, even in beach destinations. Stay respectful by wearing a sarong or krama to cover up.
Tipping and Health Care
Tipping is appreciated in establishments catering to tourists, such as hotels and restaurants. It is also customary to tip tour guides and drivers on organized tours. When it comes to health care, ensure you have medical insurance before visiting Cambodia. The country has basic hospitals in the provinces, but serious injuries or illnesses may require emergency evacuation to Bangkok. Stick to reliable pharmacies or clinics when purchasing medication, and avoid tap water whenever possible.
Stay Safe with these Top Tips
While Cambodia is generally a safe country to visit, it’s important to remain vigilant:
- Keep an eye out for bag and mobile phone snatchers, especially on motorcycles.
- Avoid using your phone on the street, especially at night.
- Walking or riding alone late at night is not recommended, particularly for solo women travelers.
- Be cautious of scams, especially when arranging transportation. Smile persuasively and engage in friendly negotiation to get a fair price.
- Dress modestly and avoid isolated areas at night.
- Only purchase prescription drugs from reliable sources, as fake medication is prevalent.
- Stick to marked paths in rural areas due to the presence of landmines and unexploded ordnance.
- If you’re not an experienced driver, avoid motorcycles in Cambodia’s busy towns and cities.
Before embarking on your Cambodian adventure, make sure to:
- Check that your passport is valid for at least six months.
- Visit a travel-health clinic for any recommended vaccinations.
- Purchase travel insurance with adequate health coverage.
- Double-check whether you need to arrange a visa before arrival.
Remember, Cambodia awaits you with its warm hospitality, stunning landscapes, and rich cultural heritage. Plan your trip wisely, embrace the local customs, and create unforgettable memories in the Kingdom of Wonder.