What to know before traveling to Cambodia
Delicious food, sacred temples, forests, pristine beaches, rivers, lakes, and ancient villages are just a few of the reasons to add a Cambodia tour to your travel plans. You can also see the world’s largest religious monument, Angkor Wat, which dates back to the 12th century, and try the area’s unique cuisine, including its famous fish curry. Let’s take a closer look at what you should know before traveling to Cambodia and how to best enjoy this unique and mysterious part of the world.
Great reasons to visit Cambodia
While modern Cambodia maintains some progress in culture and daily life, much of the country remains unexplored. This makes it an ideal destination for the adventurous traveler and lovers of rural landscapes. A new road network now makes it easy to access previously unknown areas. Sisowath Quay is the main tourist center for the area and has bars, cafes and restaurants, night markets and boat tour providers. The less traditional side of Cambodia reveals a mix of art deco bars, sunset cocktails and friendly locals. The landscape is a stunning and unusual mix of plains, highlands and low mountains that contrasts with the vastness of the Mekong Delta.
What is Cambodia famous for?
Cambodia draws attention for its beautiful temples and its world famous Irrawaddy dolphins that reside in the Mekong River.
Temples – In the historical area of Battambang you can find rice fields and villages surrounding Wat Peapahd Temple, Baset Temple, Wat Ek Phnom and many other important ancient buildings. It is worth spending the day here.
Irrawaddy Dolphins: Irrawaddy dolphins are rare dolphins only found in a relatively small area between Cambodia and Laos and are a special protected species for Cambodians.
Khmer Aspara Dance: The traditional Khmer Aspara dance is a world famous and immensely popular traditional dance performed by Cambodian folk dancers and ballet members. A visit to the area is not complete without witnessing it at least once!
Beaches: Beautiful beaches with unique marine life are another draw to the area, along with the opportunity to sample the region’s unique and flavorful cuisine.
Best attractions in Cambodia
World Heritage Sites: Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world.** The monument and archaeological park together form a temple city that attracts hundreds of tourists and worshipers each year and this World Heritage Site is a must-see when you are in Cambodia. It is here that you will find the Bayon Temple, Ta Prohm Temple, and Banteay Srei. These ancient and beautiful temples evoke a magnificent feeling of being trapped in a very different, ancient time.
Beaches and Island Paradise: The beaches of Sihanoukville are located in the Kompong Som province and present travelers with an attractive and sunny beach resort. Take a towel and a good book or go scuba diving. The best luxury hotels can be found at Sokha and Independence Beach and the best sandy beaches are at Ochheuteal and Serendipity. Koh Rong Samloem is an island paradise that is still quite quiet and undeveloped, but just as idyllic as the famous islands of Thailand.
Krong Siem Reap is not only famous for its Buddhist temples, it is also the place to find some of the contrasting aspects of Cambodia. On Pub Street you can enjoy a delicious lunch at the cosmopolitan-style bakeries and cafes selling pastries, ice cream, coffee and light meals. At local restaurants you can find kuthiew, a traditional Cambodian white noodle soup studded with tender pork or chicken, or more familiar, pasta, steak or burgers.
Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, is a bold and colorful place where you can sample the best street food, Cambodian palm juice, iced tea and coffee, and shop for local handicrafts.
Preah Sihanouk is a seaside town where you can visit Bamboo Island, a small island with the quietest beach and the Victory Beach Pier.
Krong Kracheh is popular with tourists for its kayak day trips and the island of Koh Trong, nestled in the Mekong opposite Kratie Island, offers a peaceful and traditional atmosphere.
When is the best time to visit?
The dry and sunny season when the skies are clear and the days are long is between November and April and is the best time to visit Cambodia. Temperatures range from cool to warm, without being uncomfortable, and it doesn’t rain. December and January are the high season months when temperatures are warmest and the beaches and hotels are the busiest. Cambodia has a tropical monsoon climate with most of the rain falling from May to October/November. The silver lining to this is lush green scenery and reasons to stay in a cozy hotel.
Things you should know before traveling to Cambodia
To travel to Cambodia, make sure you know some of these essential facts:
Visa – Depending on your current passport, you will need a visa and it is best to figure this out before you travel. Travelers from ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries do not need a visa.
Currency – When visiting Cambodia, make sure you have a combination of currencies. Riel is the currency of Cambodia and you can use it to pay for anything that costs less than 1 USD. For anything above this, you will use US dollars. For change of less than a dollar, you will be given Riel. ATMs dispense USD or sometimes both. Hotels, restaurants and vendors usually don’t accept money that has rips or tears and they really don’t like older bills.
Language: Khmer is the native language of Cambodia and it’s a great idea to learn a few basic phrases.
Local Transport (Tuk-tuk): Tuk-tuk is the standard way of getting around in Cambodia, so settle in for the ride.
More facts about Cambodia!
Most Cambodians are subsistence farmers and live in rural areas.
Cambodians are mostly Khmer with a smaller number of Vietnamese and Chinese ethnic groups and the majority belong to the Buddhist religion.
Rice is a staple food in the country and you will find it in most of the local cuisine and in all the traditional restaurants in the cities and rural areas.
English is widely spoken along with Khmer, so you won’t need a translator!