When to go?
Most tourists visit Cambodia from October to March as this is the dry season and considered to be High Season. The disadvantage is that during this season the hotels and tour package rates are higher than in low season. The temperatures in dry season are around 30 degrees C. Many tourists visit Cambodia in July, August and September, though the trip might be affected by rain. The advantage is that the temples and hotel rates are lower than dry season. The beaches at Sihnoukville and the Hill Tribes in Ratanakiri province are not recommended to visit during the rainy season.
Cambodia can be visited throughout the year. However those planning to travel extensively by road should avoid the last two months of the rainy season when some countryside roads may be impassable.
The climate is tropical and distinguished by three major seasons. The most pleasant season is the dry season from November to March during which temperatures are cooler (average 20-28 c). The hot season lasts from April to May (average temperatures 30-35 c) and from June to early October is the rainy season, which we call the Green Season, when temperatures are relatively cool (average 25-30 c). At this time of year it rarely rains in the morning as most precipitation comes in the afternoon and even then sporadically. Rainfall varies considerably from area to area. The seaward slopes of the south-west highlands (Kompong Som and Kampot provinces) receive more than 5,000 mm of rain per annum, the central lowlands average only 1,400 mm.
Security & Safety
After years of political and social upheaval, Cambodia now enjoys relative stability. Continuing efforts are made to reconstruct the country from decades of war, to upgrade the infrastructure (roads, bridges, airports etc) and to ensure security. Cambodia is safe for travel.
The majority of the Khmers are Buddhists and follow the doctrine of Theravada, the Small Vehicle. The Cham minority, migrated from the former Kingdom of Champa in today's Central Vietnam, is Muslim and some hill tribes in the North East still practice some forms of animism. Elements of Hinduism are still incorporated into important ceremonies involving birth, marriage and death.
In airports, border crossings and national museums photography is forbidden. Even though Cambodian people are generally happy to be photographed it is important to ask their permission first. This is especially important with tribal people, who may have superstitions against photography.
Entering Religious Areas
Visitors are required to dress decently and modestly within the precincts of religious buildings. Ladies should ensure their shoulders and knees are covered. Shoes and socks must always be removed at Pagodas and monasteries. Failure to follow these guidelines may cause cultural and religious offence to devout Cambodian people.
Khmer is the official language, inherited from the Mon-Khmer family, enriched by the Indian Pali and the Sanskrit languages. There are various dialects spoken in areas outside Phnom Penh. English is the second language, followed by French even though they are not widely spoken outside the capital.
The local currency is the Riel, however in most major tourist destinations, almost all goods and services are calculated and paid for in the US currency. Credit cards are excepted only at a few place such as major hotels, restaurants owned by foreigners and souvenir shop. Travellers cheques and currencies other than US Dollars are accepted only by major banks. It is best to carry US Dollars in small dominations for tipping and market shopping.
Although no vaccinations are officially required for entry to Cambodia, they are encouraged. Visitors are advised to check with their doctor or travel immunization clinic regarding protection against malaria typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A & B. Any essential medications should be brought with you as there is no guarantee they will be available in Cambodia.
It is not advisable to drink tap water but bottled mineral water is safe and available everywhere. All hotels provide a complimentary bottle of local mineral water per person in the room. Ice cubes are generally safe in reputable hotels and restaurants but it is best to avoid it on street stalls or in country areas. Some minor stomach problems are always possible when travelling in exotic countries. You are encourgaed to bring a supply of your usual anti-diarrhoea and constipation medicine.
Food & Drinks
Khmer cuisine is closely related to those in neighbouring Thailand and Laos, although it is not as spicy. Curries, stir-fried vegetables, rice, noodles and soups are staples of the Khmer diet. Fresh river fish and shellfish are both abundant and delicious. Western food is provided only in the major cities although other Asian dishes are widely available. Cambodia is well known in the region for its Prahok, a strong, fermented fish paste used in a variety of traditional dishes. Bottled drinking water is readily available in all reputable hotels and restaurants. Salad and fruit served at these establishments are usually safe.
All of our tours are based on full board arrangements. For full-day excursions, picnic lunch can be provided if suitable restaurants are unavailable.
Handicrafts, such as beautiful silverware, pottery and jewelry, oil paintings and intricate carvings from sandstone marble and tropical hardwoods abound in local, open marketplaces throughout Cambodia. Local tailors make custom clothing from local silk and cotton. Local marketplaces sell everything from mainstream and exotic foods, clothes and electrical appliances, to hundreds of krama, the multi-purpose scarf worn by many Cambodians. Even for non-shoppers, the markets offer a fascinating glimpse of Cambodian daily life and culture.
Direct flights to Phnom Penh are available from Bangkok, Guangzhou, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Nanning, Pakse, Seoul-Incheon, Shanghai, Singapore, Taipei and Vientiane. Airlines currently serving Phnom Penh are Air Asia, Asiana Airlines, Bangkok Airways, China Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Dragonair, Eva Air, Jetstar Asia, Korean Air, Lao Aviation, Malaysia Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Siem Reap Airways, Silk Air, Thai Airways International and Vietnam Airlines.
Direct flights to Siem Reap are available from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Danang, Guangzhou, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Kaohsiung, Kuala Lumpur, Kunming, Luang Prabang, Pakse, Pusan, Seoul-Incheon, Singapore, Taipei and Vientiane. Airlines currently serving Siem Reap are Air Asia, Asiana Airlines, Bangkok Airways, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Jetstar Asia, Korean Air, Lao Aviation, Malaysia Airlines, PMT Air, Silkair and Vietnam Airlines.
There is a US$25 (international) and US$6 (domestic) flight tax at both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports. It is usually included in the airline fees.
Customs & Formalities
Regulations are relaxed and simple formalities should be observed when entering the country. Every traveller must complete a customs declaration form during the arrival flight and must submit it on arrival.
Any amount of foreign currency can be brought into Cambodia, but the amount of Cambodian currency must not exceed 100.000 Riels per person. Tourists and non-residents carrying over USD 10.000 in cash or its equivalent must declare it to ensure they will be allowed to exit the country with that amount (and that it hasn't been obtained within the country).
An Asia Travel Needs representative will meet travellers at the exit of the airport building, after airport immigration and customs control points have been passed. For easy recognition, our representative will display an Asia Travel Needs sign with the names of the guests or group. This representative will be in possession of tickets for ongoing flights of the clients. Clients who have purchased international tickets with us they will receive them on their departure day.
Mail & Communication
Mail is routed by air through Bangkok and is reliable. Most hotels have IDD lines, but calls and faxes are very expensive with the average cost of a call to Australia, Europe and USA approximately USD 7.- per minute. Public phones that use pre-paid phone cards are common in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Phone cards can be purchased at the post office, most hotels and supermarkets.
Offices are usually open from Monday to Friday from 08:00 until 17:00 but often close for lunch between 12:00 and 14:00. Shops open early and close any time between 18:00 and 22:00. Most shops are open 7 days a week.
Internet access is available in most hotels in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. There are also plenty of internet cafes with reliable connections at very reasonable prices.
Tipping is normal in Cambodia, especially in the service industry. You should be prepared to tip guides, drivers and porters who assist you during your stay.
As a guideline if you are travelling alone we would recommend that you tip your guide $7 per day. If travelling in a couple you should offer $10 per couple per day. If you are travelling in a group of 3-4 then tipping between $15-20 per group per day is about right. For groups larger than four allow an increase roughly equating to 10% for each additional person in the group. For your driver please tip around half of the total tip given to your guide. If your itinerary is more intensive and incorporates more specialized elements such as trekking then increase these guidelines by 20% or more depending on your satisfaction level. Higher tips are very welcome for exceptional guides and/or service.
For porters a tip of $1 per person per bag is appropriate and it is useful to keep small notes for your convenience, alternatively an equivalent amount in local currency will suffice.
Bargaining is the rule in markets, and when negotiating rates with taxi drivers (always agree a price before your journey begins). In Cambodia, you won't need to be as forceful as you would in Thailand or Vietnam.