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Travelling to Cambodia: Ten of the most useful pieces of advice on the Web

The Internet is full of travel advice and tips. As expats living in Southeast Asia we consider this ten picks particularly useful for any traveler thinking of Cambodia as their next destination.

1. Minimize your drinks – Nomadic Matt

It’s easy to get carried away by $.50 draft beer and ‘happy hours’ that in reality are just a way to justify the low price of alcohol in Cambodia and to attract travelers to bars and nightlife venues.

“Drinks, though, really add up. Every drink is a dollar and before you know it, you’ve spent more money on beer than on food and accommodation.”

Nomadic Matt – Cambodia Travel Guide

2. You don’t need to be concerned about getting the local currency – Move to Cambodia

cambodian-currency

Most tourist-related businesses as well supermarkets, pharmacies and boutique shops list their prices in US dollars. However you are going to get change in Khmer Riel since American coins are not used in the country.

“The official currency in Cambodia, the Cambodian riel, trades at around 4,000 riel to the US dollar. But there’s a 90 percent level of dollarization in the country. What this means is that you don’t need to be concerned about getting riel when you arrive in Cambodia. In fact, the visa you get on arrival must be paid for in US dollars.”

Move to Cambodia – Cambodian currency

3. Be aware of the reality of orphanages in Cambodia – Move to Cambodia

cambodian-orphanages

There is an increasing number of travelers that are choosing to volunteer in Cambodian orphanages as part of their trips. These places are also becoming popular stops for group tours, creating a demand for orphanages in the tourism industry.

“In fact, the vast majority of children who are placed in orphanages in Cambodia are not orphans and have at least one living parent […] Cambodian kids are being taken out of their homes in order to give foreigners the chance to post photos of themselves hanging out with Cambodian orphans on Facebook.”

Move to Cambodia – Volunteering in Cambodia

4. Make sure to really experience the Cambodian food – Fodor’s Travel.

cambodian-food

Khmer food is significantly different from the cuisine of its neighbors. Less spicy than the average Thai dish and more substantial than Vietnamese food. Although some ingredients may seem unconventional for some foreigners it is well worth it to experience the Khmer flavors. Amok, Lok Lak, Khmer Red Curry and Kampot Pepper Crab are must-try dishes.

“Everywhere you turn in Cambodia, it seems there’s a grill with skewers of beef or whole fish. Snapper and prawns are often available, but the best fish is typically pulled from the country’s freshwater lakes.”

Fodor’s Travel – 8 Must-Try Dishes in Cambodia

5. Siem Reap’s baby milk scam has gone mainstream but it is far from being over – Travelfish.

cambodian-milk-scam

Siem Reap’s milk scam consists of both women and children. They wander the town center with sleeping babies often repeating the phrase “I don’t want money” and leading tourists to a nearby store for food or milk. After paying a substantial amount of money for these items the beggar will return them to the store and split the money with the store owner.

“[…] imagine how you would feel if, once you had gone, the child returned to the store to give back the milk, and received a refund of half the cost, while the store pocketed the other half? Happy kid, happy store owner. Duped tourist”

Travelfish – Siem Reap’s baby milk scam

6. Visiting Angkor Wat while avoiding the crowds is not easy but definitely possible – Rough Guides.

angkor-wat

Cambodia’s most visited tourist spot attracts over two million travelers every year. During ‘high season’ the crowds can be tricky to avoid; it’s all about timing, local knowledge, the right schedule and right selection of temples to visit. Getting the right guide and using a tour operator with local knowledge remains the best advice.

“This isn’t a destination where you can wing it, so book with a specialist operator who has local expertise and is up to date on the best places to get away from the ever-expanding crowds.”

Rough Guides – How to see Angkor Wat without the crowds

7. There are amazing beaches in Cambodia for every kind of traveler – Beach Tomato.

cambodian-beaches

Many of Cambodia’s beaches are as beautiful as their Thai counterparts but way less populated. Although tourism and economic development are certainly changing the game in some parts of Cambodia’s coastline, there are many beautiful islands and beaches that remain largely untouched.

“With deep pink sunsets and crystal clear waters ideal for snorkeling and diving, it’s a wonder how the beaches of Cambodia have remained such hidden gems.”

Beach Tomato – Best beaches in Cambodia

8. War tourism should be a choice and not a must. – Rusty Compass

cambodian-attractions

Toul Sleng and the Killing Fields can be deeply disturbing for some travelers. Some people might find war tourism in Cambodia exploitative while others consider it part of the experience. The attention however should be drawn to Cambodia’s recovery and the optimism of its people.

“[…] the overwhelming sense I have on any visit, is of recovery. It’s a difficult multi-generational process and there are many backward steps. But there’s no denying it’s under way. And places like Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek draw attention to how far the country’s come.”

Rusty Compass – Cambodia’s dark tourism sights – to visit or not?

9. There are cultural “dos and don’ts” that every traveler must know. – Igloo Women

cambodian-culture

Cambodia is quite a conservative country and Khmer people will try to avoid confrontation if you offend them in any way. There are values and non-verbal behaviors that must be understood to improve cross-cultural interactions; this will also make the trip way more enjoyable for every traveler.

“If you get openly angry or frustrated you’ll be viewed as not being able to control yourself – and in a work setting this is quite unprofessional. In addition, getting angry does not (as in other cultures) help you get things done.”

Igloo Women – Cambodia – Cultural Dos and Don’ts

10. It can be challenging to embrace the concept of time in Cambodia – En Route Traveler

cambodian-time

In most western cultures people rely on “clock-time” to manage their daily schedule and keep the day ‘organised’ through an external clock; things are planned and prepared to make the most out of the day. In Cambodia many people still use their internal clock, focusing on one task at a time. This means that sometimes it’s ok to arrive to that appointment twenty minutes late and it doesn’t mean people don’t care nor are they being disrespectful.

“[…} The current language of poverty would tell us that “it’s not that they ‘don’t’ plan, it’s that they ‘can’t’ plan.” But I sense a different kind of approach to time here. I have this nagging suspicion that the developed world’s framework for understanding the cognitive capabilities of a mind in poverty doesn’t really apply here in Cambodia.”

En Route Traveler – Cambodia On Time

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Destinations in Cambodia

Itineraries in Cambodia