Population : 14.7 million
Capital City : Phnom Penh (Pop: 2 million)
People : Khmers (90%)
Language : Khmer
Currency : Riel and US dollars
Time Zone : GMT +7 Hours
Visa & Passport
A passport with at least six months validity from the date of entry into Cambodia is required. We recommend you make a photocopy of your passport and keep it somewhere separate, or scan your passport and keep the scan in an accessible email account.
A 30 day visa on arrival is granted for many nationals at Phnom Penh International Airport, Siem Reap International Airport, and International Border Checkpoints. A passport sized photo is required to complete the visa.
The Royal Government of Cambodia has also recently approved e-visas. All you have to do is complete the online application form available at the official website, pay by credit card online, and include uploading a recent passport-size photo in JPEG/ PNG format. This e-visa is a single entry visa valid for 30 months from the date of issue for a 30 day stay.
Please note that visa extensions are available at the Immigration Department in Phnom Penh City for a 3 month stay. The Cambodian government is also set to offer an option for a 3-year tourist visa for certain nationalities in the future.
For more information please check here.
The official currency is Riel. However, US dollars are also widely accepted and sometimes preferred. Riel is used for items where the price is less than US$1 and can be used in conjunction with USD. ATMs are widely available in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang and Sihanoukville; they distribute US dollars. There are not many ATMs outside these areas. It is recommended that you always carry cash in small notes with you. These notes should be clean, and free from rips and tears where possible.
Please note while there are many gem shops in Cambodia, we advise against any purchase as the majority of gems are fake. Our guides are not permitted to take our guests to these shops and any purchase is at your own risk.
Phones and Internet Service
Post in Cambodia is routed by air through Bangkok, making the service much more reliable than in the past. Telephone connections to the rest of the world are widely available but can be expensive. Internet access is available in most major tourist places such as hotels and restaurants.
People, History & Culture
Quickly rising in the ranks of Asia’s top travel destinations, Cambodia is a humble yet majestic country with a story as dynamic as its culture. Despite its recent past being marred with war and genocide, Cambodia is now ripe with progressive energy. Thanks to the recent influx of tourism and renewed interest in Khmer culture, Cambodia is in the midst of a cultural renaissance. Historical icons like the UNESCO World Heritage site of Angkor Complex and a pristine southern coastline have put Cambodia into the spotlight for travellers to the region.
Much of Cambodia’s draw is thanks to the Khmer people, though, who are regularly regarded as some of Southeast Asia’s friendliest locals. Yet not so long ago, Khmer culture and the heart of its people were nearly destroyed. Between the years of 1975 and 1979, nearly one fifth of the country’s population was wiped out by the ruling Khmer Rouge in an effort to transition the nation to a solely agrarian society. Nowadays, this grisly period in Cambodia’s history is immortalised in some of Cambodia’s most visited tourist sites, and visitors are encouraged to learn about this dark period at various killing field sites and prison museums.
Beyond its tragic past, however, Cambodia is a perfect place to witness remnants of the ancient Khmer Empire, heralded as one of the most advanced and powerful ancient empires in the world. Credited with incredible feats in engineering and infrastructure, the Khmer Empire proves continuously fascinating for scholars and archeologists alike who continue to uncover fascinating evidence of this mysterious civilisation's glorious past. Perhaps one of the best places to learn about this exceptional empire is at UNESCO World Heritage recognised Angkor Wat, the largest religious structure in the world and a distinct point of pride for the Khmer people.
Getting around Cambodia’s cities is both inexpensive and a travel experience in itself. Most cities’ best-known mode of transportation are tuk-tuks - motorised open-air carts that are more maneuverable than a car but safer than a motorbike. Most tuk-tuks in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and other big cities have cushioned seats and make for an exciting mode of transportation when visiting temples, museums and other city sites.
Generally, cost for trips in major cities like Siem Riep are approximately $1-3. Journeys shorter than a kilometer are never less than $1, and prices can increase at nightfall. It is important to keep your belongings close, as bag snatching in Phnom Penh can occur. Also, expect to pay extra depending on the number of passengers there are or for excessive baggage.
Tuk-tuks are one of the most convenient and practical modes of transportation for visitors. While popular with locals, motorbike taxis are unregulated and can drive recklessly. Motorbike transportation in Cambodia is not recommended by Buffalo Tours, and it should be noted that it is not usually covered by insurance.
The tropical climate of Cambodia is relatively calm and consistent throughout the country due to its vast plains. The average temperature is 27 degrees celsius and there are two seasons: the humid monsoon season from April to October, and the dry season from November to March.
Between March and May, the dusty flatlands that stretch through Cambodia become hot and dry with temperatures reaching almost 40 degrees Celsius during midday. Due to lack of rainfall, the timing is perfect for escaping to the beaches of Sihanoukville.
The ideal season to explore the temples of Angkor Wat is during the rainy season which arrives in June and often lasts until November. The rain replenishes the lush greenery adding to the mystique of the mighty ruins, covered in moss and leafy trees. Eventually, the rain ushers in cooler temperatures by October.
Overall, the best time of year to visit Cambodia is from November to February. Temperatures reach a comfortable mid-20 degrees Celsius, skies are clear and evenings are cool. However, Cambodia’s weather can be unpredictable, so it may be a good idea to carry an umbrella or raincoat with you. It is also easy and inexpensive to purchase raincoats from supermarkets and general stores.
Festivals and National Holidays
The most important holiday for Cambodia is Khmer New Year, or Chaul Chnam Thmey (meaning, ‘enter new year’ in Khmer) held between April 14 and 16. These three days are based on the Buddhist calendar, marking the end of the harvest and the welcoming of the rainy season. Typically, each of the three days are distinct in their customs and traditions, with the first day believed to be when “angels” visit homes. You will find many Khmer locals spending this first day cleaning their homes and donning their best clothing. On following days, pious Buddhists will spend time giving alms to the poor, washing Buddhist idols with scented water and elders and enjoying Karlan rice cake, a sticky-rice treat roasted over charcoal.
Second in significance on to Chaul Chnam Thmey is Pchum Ben holiday, a 15-day religious festival in veneration of the dead. Celebrated in September or October, Khmer locals believe that this marks the time of year that the gate’s of hell open and ghosts of relatives once again roam the earth. Families pay respect to deceased ancestors of up to 7 generations, offering food and gifts at family altars. If you’re in Cambodia during this holiday, you might find that ancestral altars and temples are especially vibrant and lively.
Other major holidays include:
- Victory Day, 7 January
- Bonn Visak Bochea, Mid-May
- Royal Ploughing Ceremony, May
- Water Festival, October or November
The central tower of Angkor Wat is closed to visitors on Buddhist holidays.
Often mentioned in the same breath as iconic bucket list destinations such as Peru’s Machu Picchu and India’s Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument on earth, and at the heart of Cambodia’s archaeological allure. It’s the centerpiece of a sprawling complex consisting of dozens of temples at the heart of a once-thriving ancient city. Each temple within this iconic complex is equally impressive and deserving of a visit in their own right, such as the smiling faces of Bayon Temple and the jungle covered Ta Prohm. If you have a few days, be sure to visit the lesser-explored Angkor Thom, Beng Mealea and Banteay Srei.
As the gateway to the temples of Angkor, Siem Reap is the epicentre of Cambodia’s burgeoning tourism industry, and the fastest growing city in the country. Having transformed from a sleepy town to a bustling tourist hub, most that come here will rush straight to the Angkor temples without ever looking back, but those that do will miss out on central Siem Reap’s own fascinating culture. Additional tours to Kampong Khleang, the largest floating village of Tonle Sap lake or Chansor Community Village to see what life's like in the Cambodian countryside are great additions to any trip to Siem Reap.
Many consider Phnom Penh an obligatory stopping point on their way to more famous destinations in Cambodia – but the former “Pearl of Asia” is an alluring travel destination in its own right. Part of the capital’s appeal is in how its charm slowly reveals itself to visitors. From its colonial architecture to its picturesque riverside promenade and glittering Royal Palace, sooner or later most visitors acquiesce to the undeniable charm of this rustic city. While it may not have the frenetic nightlife of Bangkok or the sophistication of Singapore, it leaves visitors with a sense of intimacy otherwise absent from Asia’s more metropolitan destinations.
Explore Ancient Temples
One of the biggest tourism draws to Cambodia is the spectacular temples of Angkor, bastions of an ancient empire. Often the focal points of any visit to Cambodia, the Angkor Temples are usually a must-see destination for any first-time visitor – but many stop here. Those that commit time and energy to exploring temples beyond Angkor are rewarded by smaller crowds coupled with fascinating back-stories. Exploring temples of Cambodia offers a mesmerising glimpse into the ancient history of the country and its people.
Discover Cambodia's Spirituality
Cambodia is a devoutly Buddhist country where locals’ lives are deeply intertwined with spirituality. Consequently, many of its historic temples and wats are still very much in regular use by pious locals, and it’s hard to go more than a few meters down the road without passing by a Buddhist monk in saffron robes. To get a true sense of Cambodian culture explore the complexities of Buddhism, by meditating with a monk, taking part in traditional ceremonies or simply exploring pagodas alongside a knowledgeable local.
Visit a Rural Village
Despite the fact that most of Cambodia is made up of agrarian communities, these groups are usually far enough outside of the tourist track that many visitors will leave Cambodia without having ever experienced what life in rural village is really like. Don’t make the same mistake –a dedicated day to get off of the beaten track is worthwhile to get a more accurate sense of how spirituality, history and culture informs the lifestyles of most Cambodians.