Cambodia //

Travel essentials

Climate

Cambodia remains consistently hot year-round – seasons are defined principally by rainfall rather than temperature. The dry season runs from November to May, subdivided into the so-called cool season (Nov–Feb), the peak tourist period, and the slightly warmer and more humid hot season (March–May). The rainy season (roughly June–Oct) is when the country receives most of its annual rainfall, although occasional downpours can occur at pretty much any time of year.

Costs

Cambodia is one of the cheapest Asian countries to visit, and although prices are starting to creep up, the country still offers outstanding value.

Good budget rooms are available for around $7 in most parts of the country (slightly more in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap). Eating is also cheap. A meal at a local market or Khmer restaurant can be had for $2 or even less, while main courses in tourist restaurants start from as little as $2 (although upscale places can cost considerably more). A small bottle of mineral water costs just 1000 riel, while draught beer usually sells for $1 a glass. Transport is similarly inexpensive – $1 per hour of travel suffices as a rough rule of thumb, although you’ll pay a bit more on certain routes or when travelling with more upmarket bus companies. Entrance fees are also generally modest – tickets to visit the temples at Angkor are excellent value, although a few museums and other sights are disproportionately expensive.

Transport and tours are the two things most likely to blow your budget. Hiring a car and driver to explore remote temples like Banteay Chhmar, Koh Ker, Preah Khan (Kompong Thom) and Preah Vihear can easily set you back something in the region of $60–100 per day. Tours are also pricey. Visiting the temples of Angkor by tuk-tuk is relatively inexpensive, but more unusual tours – personalized itineraries around the Mekong Trail, trekking in Rattanakiri, birdwatching and boat trips, quad-biking, horseriding, and so on – will generally set you back at least $60 a day, and often much more.

All of which means that staying in budget guesthouses, eating at local restaurants and markets and travelling on public transport you could conceivably get by on as little as $10 per person a day if travelling in a couple and cutting out all extras. Eating in tourist restaurants, indulging in a few beers and taking the occasional tour by tuk-tuk will push this up to $15–20 a day. For $50 a day you can live comfortably, staying in nice hotels and eating well, while $100 a day allows you to stay in luxurious accommodation – although it’s also possible to spend a lot more than this.

A sales tax (comprising a ten percent government tax and ten percent service) is often charged in mid-range hotels. Always check in advance. Tax is also sometimes added to food at restaurants – in which case this should be clearly stated on the menu.

Despite its turbulent recent history, Cambodia is now a generally safe country in which to travel. It’s important to be mindful, however, of the fact that Cambodia is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, and also has significant quantities of unexploded ordnance (UXO) lying around. In the countryside you must stick to well-trodden paths.

Crime and personal safety

Mines and ordnance apart, there is still a culture of guns in Cambodia, and there have been incidents of armed robbery against locals and tourists alike. Gun crime is a regular occurrence in Phnom Penh (although considerably less common elsewhere in the country), usually reaching a peak at festival times, most notably Khmer New Year. Don’t be paranoid, but, equally, be aware that a small but significant number of visitors continue to be mugged at gunpoint (and occasionally shot), even in busy and touristed areas. Given this, it’s a very good idea to keep all valuables well out of sight. If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself being robbed, on no account resist – the consequences if you do so could possibly be fatal. It’s also worth making sure that all bags are hidden between your legs if travelling by moto – snatch-and-grab robberies have also been reported, with victims occasionally being pulled off the back of motos by the straps of their bags during attempted grabs. All incidents should be reported to the police as soon as possible – you’ll need a signed, dated report from them to claim on your travel insurance – and, if you lose your passport, to your embassy as well. In Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, English-speaking tourist police will help, but in the provinces you’ll have to deal with the local police, who are unlikely to have more than a smattering of English, so if possible take a Khmer-speaker with you.

Though the vast majority of Cambodian police will do their best to help in an emergency, a small minority are not averse to trying to elicit money from foreigners. If you’re riding a motorbike or driving a motor vehicle, they may well deem that you’ve committed an offence. You can argue the “fine” down to a few dollars and may as well pay up, although if you can stand the hassle and don’t mind wasting a lot more time you may feel it worth reporting such incidents to the police commissioner.

Road accidents usually attract vast crowds of curious onlookers, and if any damage to property or injury to a person or domestic animal has occurred, then you’ll have to stay at the scene until the police arrive. It’s the driver’s responsibility to come to a financial arrangement with the other parties involved. In spite of their general amiability, it’s not unknown for locals to try to coerce foreigners into coughing up money, even if they are the innocent party or merely a passenger.

Drugs
As you’d expect given its proximity to some of the world’s major drug-producing regions, drugs both soft and hard are common in Cambodia. Marijuana is widely available, especially around the southern beaches, and you’ll be approached by peddlers on a fairly regular basis in all major tourist spots. Possession is of course illegal, and although prosecutions are rare, purchasing and consuming dope always carries a risk of falling foul of the police – and most likely having to pay some sort of backhander in order to avoid having charges pressed. Hard drugs including opium, cocaine and so on are also available. Needless to say the authorities take a much dimmer view of these than of dope, and possession may well earn you a term in the nearest Cambodian prison – and, given the suspect quality of a lot of the drugs sold on the street, could even be fatal. There have been cases of travellers dying after buying what they believed to be cocaine but which turned out to be pure heroin.

Note that in the case of any medical complications the nearest properly equipped hospital is in Bangkok.

Land mines and unexploded ordnance
The UN estimates that between four and six million land mines were laid in Cambodia between 1979 and 1991, but no one really knows. The Vietnamese and the government laid them as protection against Khmer Rouge guerrillas, who in turn laid them to intimidate local populations; neither side recorded the locations of the minefields. To date more than two thousand minefields have been identified (usually through members of the local population being blown up), and new locations are regularly being reported. Several organizations are actively working at de-mining the countryside, and at last the number of casualties is decreasing; but given the scale of the problem, it will be many years before the mines are cleared completely. The border area with Thailand between Koh Kong and Preah Vihear is particularly dangerous. In rural areas, take care not to leave well-used paths and never take short-cuts across rice fields without a local guide. Areas known to be badly contaminated are signed with a red skull and the words “Beware Mines”.

As if this problem weren’t enough, in the 1970s the United States dropped more than half a million tonnes of bombs on Cambodia. This began as part of a secret and illicit plan to expose the Ho Chi Minh Trail used by communist North Vietnamese troops, and ended up in a massive countrywide bombing campaign to support the pro-American Lon Nol government against the Khmer Rouge. Unexploded ordnance (UXO), or explosive remnants of war (ERW), remains a risk in rural areas, with the southeast, centre and northeast of the country particularly affected; in the countryside it’s foolish to pick up or kick any unidentified metal objects.

Electricity

The electrical supply is 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Most Cambodian sockets take two-pin, round-pronged plugs (although you’ll also find some which take two-pin, flat-pronged plugs). The electricity supply is pretty reliable, although power cuts are not unknown and some places (particularly island resorts in the south) may rely on solar power.

Gay and lesbian Cambodia

Gay and lesbian travellers shouldn’t experience any problems when travelling in Cambodia – homosexuality is not illegal, although neither is it recognized and talked about. It’s acceptable for two men or two women to link hands or arms in public, which would be unacceptable for straight couples. Cambodians find overt displays of affection offensive, however, so it’s as well to be discreet. Be that as it may, there’s an emerging gay scene (cambodia-gay.com) with gay-friendly establishments in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap (which has the country’s only male-exclusive resort, the Men’s Resort and Spa; mens-resort.com) and Sihanoukville.

Insurance

Before travelling to Cambodia you’d do well to take out an insurance policy to cover against theft, loss of personal items and documentation, illness and injury. However, before you pay for a new policy, it’s worth checking whether you are already covered: some all-risks home insurance policies may cover your possessions when overseas, and many private medical schemes include cover when abroad – check that they cover Cambodia. Students will often find that their student health coverage extends during the vacations and for one term beyond the date of last enrolment.

A typical travel insurance policy usually provides cover for the loss of baggage, tickets and – up to a certain limit – cash or cheques, as well as cancellation or curtailment of your journey. Most of them exclude so-called “dangerous” activities unless an extra premium is paid: in Cambodia this can mean scuba diving, riding a motorbike and trekking.

Internet

Getting online in Cambodia is relatively easy. Almost all hotels and guesthouses now offer free wi-fi (as do many restaurants and bars), while most towns of any size boast at least one internet café. Rates are generally cheap (2000–4000 riel/hr), although connections may be slow.

Laundry

You can get laundry done practically everywhere, at hotels and guesthouses or at private laundries in all towns – look for the signs in English. Prices are pretty uniform, at 500–1000 riel per item or $1–2 per kilogram. In Phnom Penh and Siem Reap there are a number of places with driers, giving a speedy turnaround (3hr).

Mail

Mail to Europe, Australasia and North America takes between five and ten days. Stamps for postcards cost around 3000 riel to Europe/North America.

Airmail parcels to Europe and North America cost more than $20 per kilo, so if you’re heading to Thailand it’s worth waiting until you get there, where postage is cheaper. You’ll be charged 3000 riel for the obligatory customs form, detailing the contents and their value, but it isn’t necessary to leave the package open for checking. Post offices also sell cardboard boxes for mailing items.

Poste restante mail can be received at the main post offices in Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap, for 500 riel per item. When collecting mail, bring your passport as proof of identity and ask them to check under both your first name and your family name.

Maps

Most maps of Cambodia are horribly inaccurate and/or out of date. Far and away the best is Reise Know-How’s Kambodscha map (that’s “Cambodia” in German), beautifully drawn on un-rippable waterproof paper, and as detailed and up-to-date as you could hope, given Cambodia’s ever-developing road network.

Money

Cambodia uses a dual-currency system, with local currency, the riel, used alongside (and interchangeably with) the US dollar, converted at the rate of 4000 riel to US$1 (an exchange rate which has remained stable for several years now). Riel notes (there are no riel coins, nor is US coinage used in Cambodia) are available in denominations of 100, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000. You can pay for most things – and will receive change – either in dollars, in riel, or even in a mixture of the two; there’s no need to change dollars into riel. Larger sums are usually quoted in dollars and smaller amounts in riel (although sometimes, as in menus, prices are quoted in both currencies).

Things get a bit more confused near the Thai border, where Thai baht are generally preferred to riel, or at Bavet, the Vietnamese border crossing, where you may be quoted prices in Vietnamese dong. If you don’t have baht you can generally pay in US dollars or riel, though you might end up paying fractionally more.

Bargaining
Prices at upmarket hotels, shops, food stalls, cafés and restaurants are fixed, as are fares for flights, bus journeys and boat trips. However, when shopping in markets, taking motos, tuk-tuks or cyclos, bargaining is expected. Prices in more downmarket hotels can often be negotiated as well, especially if you’re going to be staying for a few nights or longer.

Accessing your money
All large (and an increasing number of smaller) Cambodian towns now have ATMs accepting foreign cards and dispensing US dollars. The two main networks are those belonging to Canadia Bank (which accept both Visa and MasterCard) and Acleda Bank (pronounced A-See-Lay-Dah, which accept Visa only). Canadia Bank ATMs won’t charge you a commission fee to withdraw money – although you’ll still be charged by your card issuer back home – while Acleda and other banks generally charge $4–5 on top of whatever fees are levied by your card provider.

An increasing number of places accept credit cards, typically mid- and upper-range hotels and Western-oriented restaurants and shops in bigger towns and cities. You may be charged a surcharge (around five percent) if paying by card, however.

Most banks also change travellers’ cheques, usually for a two-percent commission; travellers’ cheques in currencies other than dollars are sometimes viewed with suspicion and may be rejected. You can also get cash advances on Visa and MasterCard at some banks and exchange bureaux (including the Canadia, ANZ and Acleda banks – although the last accepts Visa only). It’s also possible to have money wired from home. The Acleda Bank handles Western Union transfers, while the Canadia Bank is the agent for Moneygram. Fees, needless to say, can be steep.

While there’s no need to change dollars into riel, if you need to change currency you can head to a bank – there will also be one or two moneychangers around most markets in the country. Thai baht, pounds sterling and euros are all widely accepted for exchange, although other currencies may not be, especially outside larger cities and tourist centres. Check your money carefully before leaving and feel free to reject any notes in particularly dire condition, especially larger-denomination dollar bills with tears or blemishes.

Banking hours are generally Monday to Friday 8.30am to 3.30pm (often also Sat 8.30–11.30am).

Opening hours and public holidays

Key tourist sights, such as the National Museum, the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda and Toul Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, are open every day including most public holidays. The temples at Angkor, Tonle Bati and Sambor Prei Kuk and the country’s national parks are open daily from dawn to dusk. Markets open daily from around 6am until 5pm, shops between 7am and 7pm (or until 9/10pm in tourist areas). The main post office in Phnom Penh is open from 7.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday, 7.30am to 11am on Saturday. In the provinces, post office hours tend to be 8am to 11am and 2pm to 5.30pm (earlier on Saturday), with some, in Siem Reap, for example, open on Sunday. Banks tend to open Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 3.30pm, and sometimes on Saturday as well, between 8.30am and 11.30am.

Public holidays

Dates for Buddhist religious holidays are variable, changing each year with the lunar calendar. Any public holidays that fall on a Saturday or Sunday are taken the following Monday.

Note that public holidays are often “stretched” by a day or so, particularly at Khmer New Year, Bonn Pchum Ben and for the Water Festival.

Calendar of public holidays

January 1 International New Year’s Day

January 7 Victory Day, celebrating the liberation of Phnom Penh from the Khmer Rouge in 1979

February (variable) Meak Mochea, celebrating Buddhist teachings and precepts

March 8 International Women’s Day

April 13/14 (variable) Bonn Chaul Chhnam (Khmer New Year)

April/May (variable) Visaka Bochea, celebrating the birth, enlightenment and passing into nirvana of the Buddha

May 1 Labour Day

May (variable) Bonn Chroat Preah Nongkoal, the “Royal Ploughing Ceremony”

May 13–15 (variable) King Sihamoni’s Birthday

June 1 International Children’s Day

June 18 Her Majesty the Queen Mother’s Birthday

September 24 Constitution Day

Late September/early October (variable) Bonn Pchum Ben, “Ancestors’ Day”

October 15 King Father’s Commemoration Day, celebrating the memory of Norodom Sihanouk

October 23 Anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords

October 29–November 1 (variable) King’s Coronation Day

November 9 Independence Day

Early November Bonn Om Toeuk, “Water Festival”

December 10 UN Human Rights Day

Outdoor activities

Cambodia’s vast potential for outdoor and adventure activities is slowly being tapped, with myriad tour operators offering an ever-expanding spread of one-day trips and more extended tours. The main appeal of most outdoor activities is the chance to get off the beaten track and out into the countryside for a glimpse of the time-forgotten lifestyles of rural Cambodia, with numerous trekking opportunities, along with trips by bike, kayak and boat.

Trekking, ranging from one-day to week-long hikes, is the major draw in the upland forests of eastern Cambodia. Banlung is the main trekking centre, while there are also a growing range of hiking opportunities at Sen Monorom, including the chance to walk through the forest with elephants at the innovative Elephant Valley Project. Hiking trips around Siem Reap can be arranged through Hidden Cambodia and Terre Cambodge. In the south, you can hike into the southern Cardamoms from the community-based ecotourism project Chi Phat – they arrange trekking and cycling trips that last from just a morning to a few days. The Wild KK Project in Koh Kong offers multi-day adventures into the Areng Valley (deep in the Cardamoms), including hiking, cycling and kayaking.

Cycling tours are another popular option, ideally suited to Cambodia’s predominantly flat terrain and extensive network of relatively traffic-free rural backroads. Tours are run by Camouflage, Terre Cambodge and Hidden Cambodia in Siem Reap, Grasshopper Adventures in Phnom Penh (see Culinary tours) and Siem Reap, Soksabike in Battambang and the Wild KK Project in the south. There are also many cycling possibilities around the Mekong Trail, with tours run by Xplore Asia in Stung Treng, who can also arrange trekking, cycling and fishing trips. The country’s rough backcountry dirt tracks are also a magnet for off-road motorbike enthusiasts; Hidden Cambodia in Siem Reap organizes a range of group dirt-biking tours. Quad-biking excursions can also be arranged in Siem Reap through Quad Adventures Cambodia and in Kampot through Quad Cambodia Kampot.

Cambodia’s majestic lakes and rivers are another major draw. Kayaking trips are run by Sorya Kayaking Adventures in Kratie, Green Orange Kayak in Battambang, Indo Chine EX in Siem Reap and Xplore Asia in Stung Treng. There are also plenty of boat trips on the Mekong available at Kompong Cham, Kratie and Stung Treng; around the various floating villages on the Tonle Sap at Siem Reap, Kompong Chhnang and Pursat; and around Ream National Park, Koh S’dach and the islands near Kep in the south. There are also plenty of watersports and snorkelling/island-hopping trips available from Sihanoukville, plus diving at Sihanoukville and Koh S’dach.

Elephant rides remain popular in Banlung, Sen Monorom and around the temples of Angkor, while horseriding excursions are available through The Happy Ranch in Siem Reap. There’s some outstanding birdwatching around the Tonle Sap lake at the Prek Toal Biosphere Reserve and at Ang Trapaeng Thmor Crane Sanctuary between Siem Reap and Sisophon. Visits can be most easily arranged through tour operators in Siem Reap such as Osmose tours and the excellent, albeit pricey, Sam Veasna Centre.

There are balloon, helicopter and microlight flights above the temples of Angkor, while real adrenaline junkies should make for Flight of the Gibbon in Siem Reap, offering tree-top ziplining adventures through the forest canopy or rock climbing in Kampot.

Phones

If you are going to be spending long in Cambodia or making a lot of calls it’s well worth buying a local Sim card, which will get you rates for both domestic and international calls far below what you’re likely to pay using your home provider (although obviously you’ll need to make sure that your handset is unlocked first – or buy one locally that is). Sim cards can be bought for a few dollars at most mobile phone shops; you’ll need to show your passport as proof of identity. International calls can cost as little as US$0.25 per minute, while domestic calls will cost about 300–500 riel per minute.

Cambodia’s three main mobile phone service providers are Cellcard/Mobitel (mobitel.com.kh), Smart (smart.com.kh), and Metfone (metfone.com.kh), all of which offer reliable countrywide coverage, with Cellcard/Mobitel perhaps being the best. A pre-paid mobile broadband account costs around $30 per month, although given the universal availability of wi-fi, it’s unlikely to be worth the money unless you’re spending a lot of time in very out of the way places.

If you want to use your home mobile phone, you’ll need to check with your phone service provider whether it will work abroad, and what the call charges are to use it in Cambodia. Most mobiles in the UK, Australia and New Zealand use GSM, which works well in Southeast Asia, but a North American cellphone is unlikely to work unless it’s a tri-band phone.

You can make domestic and international phone calls at the post offices and telecom offices in most towns. These services are invariably run by the government telecommunications network, Camintel (camintel.com).

Many internet cafés also allow you to make calls via Skype; better places have headphones with a microphone so that you can talk in reasonable privacy.

For domestic calls only, the cut-price glass-sided booths found in all major towns are a cheap option at around 500 riel per minute, payable to the attendant. The booths vary in their coverage of Cambodia’s various networks: accessible numbers will be written on the side of the booths.

Calling abroad from Cambodia

Dial your international access code, followed by 855, then the local area code (minus the initial 0), then the number.

Calling Cambodia from abroad

There is no international directory enquiries service in Cambodia.

To Australia 001 or 007 + 61+ city code without the initial zero

To New Zealand 001 or 007 + 64 + city code without the initial zero

To the Republic of Ireland 001 or 007 + 353 + city code without the initial zero

To South Africa 001 or 007 + 27 + city code without the initial zero

To the UK 001 or 007 + 44 + area code without the initial zero

To the US and Canada 001 or 007 + 1 + city code without the initial zero

Photography

Cambodians generally love being photographed – although it is common courtesy to ask first; they also take a lot of photos themselves and may well ask you to stand in theirs. It’s best to avoid taking photographs of anything with a military connotation, just in case. You can get your digital shots transferred to CD or printed at most photographic shops in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, although the quality of the prints may not be as good as you’d get at home.

Time

Cambodia is 7hr ahead of GMT; 12hr ahead of New York and Montréal; 15hr ahead of Los Angeles and Vancouver; 1hr behind Perth; 4hr behind Sydney and 5hr behind Auckland; 5hr ahead of South Africa. There is no daylight saving time.

Tipping

Tipping is not generally expected, but a few hundred riel extra for a meal or a tuk-tuk or moto ride is always appreciated.

Toilets

Apart from in places that are used to catering for foreigners, squat toilets are the rule. In general there are no public toilets apart from a few places set up by enterprising individuals that you can use for a few hundred riel. It is fine to ask to use the loo at restaurants, even if you’re not eating there, although you may sometimes wish you hadn’t as they are often unsavoury. At transport stops there are almost always toilets out at the back, but you’ll need to bring your own toilet paper, sold in the markets and worth carrying with you. Sometimes you may have to do as the locals do and take to the bushes – but remember there is still a risk of mines, so don’t stray off well-trodden paths.

Tourist information

There are tourist offices in many larger towns, but most are chronically underfunded, totally lacking in English-speaking staff, and often closed even when they should be open. The best source of local information on the ground is likely to be your hotel or guesthouse, or a local tour operator or travel agent. There are no Cambodian tourist offices abroad, and Cambodian embassies aren’t equipped to handle tourist enquiries; there is some useful information online, however.

Travellers with disabilities

Cambodia has the unhappy distinction of having one of the world’s highest proportions of disabled people per capita (around 1 in 250 people) – due to land mines and the incidence of polio and other wasting diseases. That said, there is no special provision for the disabled, so travellers with disabilities will need to be especially self-reliant. Stock up on any medication, get any essential equipment serviced and take a selection of spares and accoutrements. Ask about hotel facilities when booking, as lifts are still not as common in Cambodia as you might hope.

Getting around temples can be a problem, as even at relatively lowly pagodas there are flights of steps and entrance kerbs to negotiate. The temples at Angkor are particularly difficult, with steps up most entrance pavilions and the central sanctuaries. However, negotiating at least the most accessible parts of the temples is possible with assistance, while some tour operators may also be able to arrange customized visits including all required assistance – try Cambodia specialists About Asia (aboutasiatravel.com).

Travelling with children

Travelling through Cambodia with children in tow is not for the nervous or over-protective parent, although many families find it a rewarding experience, especially with slightly older kids. Cambodians love children, although they do have a habit of greeting them with an affectionate pinch, which can be disconcerting – the protectiveness of the West is nonexistent and there are no special facilities or particular concessions made for kids. On public transport, children travel free if they share your seat; otherwise expect to pay the adult fare. It’s worth considering hiring a car and driver – not only will this mean you can stop when you want for food and comfort breaks, but it’ll be more comfortable – although note that child car seats are not available. Some hotels have family rooms, while extra beds can usually be arranged. Note that under-11’s are admitted free to the Angkor Archaeological Park (passport required as proof, or they’ll be charged the adult fee).

If you’re travelling with a baby or toddler, you’ll be able to buy disposable nappies, formula milk and tins or jars of baby food at supermarkets and mini-markets in the major cities, but elsewhere you need to take your own supplies.

Visas

Visas for Cambodia are required by everyone other than nationals of Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. Visas are issued on arrival for $20 at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap international airports, at Sihanoukville port, at all overland crossings from Thailand and Vietnam, and at Voen Kham from Laos.

A single-entry tourist visa obtained on arrival ($20; one passport photograph required, or pay a small surcharge – usually a dollar or two – to have your passport photo scanned) is valid for thirty days, including the day of issue, and can be extended once only, for one month. Note that at the Thai border Cambodian officials may ask for an bit more than the official fee – having an e-visa avoids this hassle. You can also buy a business visa ($25; one passport photo) on arrival. Like the tourist visa this is valid for thirty days, but can be extended in a variety of ways (ranging from one-month single-entry extension, three months’ single-entry, six months’ multiple-entry and twelve months’ multiple-entry; costs range from $42 to $270). Multiple entries are only available on a business visa.

Single-entry, thirty-day tourist e-visas are available online at evisa.mfaic.gov.kh for $20 plus a $5 processing charge, although they are only supported if you enter through the airports at Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, or overland at Koh Kong, Bavet and Poipet. They must be used within three months of the date of issue. They’re mainly useful if you’re entering via Poipet and wish to avoid the traditional hassles associated with that crossing.

Tourist and business visas can only be extended in Phnom Penh at the Department for Immigration (Mon–Fri 8–11am & 2–4pm; 017 812763, immigration.gov.kh) 8km out of the centre opposite the airport at 332 Russian Blvd. Given the serious amounts of red tape involved and the inconvenient location of the office, however, it’s far preferable to use one of the visa-extension services offered by travel agents and guesthouses in town, who will do all the running around for a commission of around $5–10. If you overstay your visa you’ll be charged $5 per day. There is no departure tax.

Cambodian embassies and consulates

Australia & New Zealand embassyofcambodia.org.nz/au.htm.

Canada c/o Embassy of Canada, 15th Floor, Abdulrahim Place, 990 Rama IV Rd, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand ([email protected]).

Laos Thadeua Rd, KM2 Vientiane, BP 34 ([email protected]).

South Africa c/o Embassy of South Africa, 12th A Floor, M Thai Tower, All Seasons Place, 87 Wireless Rd, Lumpini, Pathumwan, Bangkok (dirco.gov.za/Bangkok).

Thailand 518/4 Pracha Uthit Rd (Soi Ramkamhaeng 39), Wangtonglang, Bangkok 10310 ([email protected]).

UK & Ireland cambodianembassy.org.uk.

US embassyofcambodia.org.

Vietnam 71A Tran Hung Dao St, Hanoi ([email protected]); 41 Phung Khac Khoan, Ho Chi Minh City ([email protected]).

Volunteering

There are plenty of opportunities to do voluntary work in Cambodia – although in many cases you will actually have to pay to do it. The UK charity Voluntary Service Overseas (vso.org.uk) and Australian Volunteers International (australianvolunteers.com) both recruit volunteers to work on projects in Cambodia, paid at local rates. Frontier (frontier.ac.uk) has projects teaching English or helping with wildlife conservation, while Coral Cay Conservation (coralcay.org) has an ongoing project on Koh Rong (cheaper if you have diving experience). When you’re in Cambodia keep your eye out in cafés and bars where organizations post their projects and ask for volunteers. The services of teachers, doctors and vets will be much appreciated even if it’s only for a day or so.

Women travellers

Travelling around Cambodia shouldn’t pose any problems for foreign women. All the same, it’s as well to dress modestly and to avoid overfamiliarity, which can be misconstrued, particularly after men have had a few beers. If someone does overstep the mark, a firm “no” will normally suffice to ward them off. A good ruse used by Khmer women is to subtly put yourself in a position of superiority, by referring to yourself as the older sister (bpong serey) or aunt (ming) or by addressing the man as nephew (kmaoy bprohs). If this doesn’t work, then kick up a huge fuss so that everyone in the vicinity knows that you’re being harassed, which should shame the man into backing off.