Information and Tips
Cambodia in a Nutshell
Size: 181,035 Square Kilometers
Population: Over 11 Million
Capital: Phnom Penh
National Language: Khmer
Major Religion: Theravada Buddhism
Here are some vital tips to survive your stay in Cambodia.
The people of Cambodia are very friendly and polite. Where there is service, Cambodian workers will always try to give you 100% and will cater to your every whim.
Merchants, especially child merchants will be very persistent and urge you to buy their products no matter what you answer. If you don't want to buy, be patient and ignore them. Do not berate them.
When donating money to someone, be sure to do it low key. If others see this happening, you will be swarmed by people begging for money.
People will stare. Do not let that ruin your vacation.
If you love animals, be wary. Sometimes children are very abusive to their pets.
People greet you in a way called Sompeas. This is when they put their hands together in a praying position, and bow to you. You should do it back.
When entering a home, leave your shoes outside.
Don't touch anyone's head or step on a pillow. That is very rude. Khmer people are very religious and believe the soul rests in the head.
Priests in orange/yellow robes will wait in front of hotels, homes, businesses, etc. to beg for money or food. This is what monks do.
Money and Shopping
One US dollar is approximately 4000 riel. You do not have to exchange your US money for Cambodian currency. US dollars are accepted everywhere. You might want to exchange some. Just to have change.
Put your coins away. Coins are obsolete and only paper money is used.
When you get change, it will almost always be returned as riel. American money is pretty to Cambodians so they'd want to keep it.
Don't even try to use US dollars in bad shape. Khmer people will not accept it for being dirty. Riels in "okay" condition will be accepted though.
When shopping, you will always have the option to bargain. Even in the shopping malls, you'll be able to bargain just a bit.
Do not buy video games. They are all 100% counterfeit. You can usually tell by the misspellings on the box and poor print quality.
Game Boys, PSPs, Nintendo DS, and known game consoles are real. However, due to being far more expensive there and no warranty, it is not worth the risk. If you want a unique colored console, just import it.
Almost all DVDs are Hong Kong bootlegs going for a $2 each.
Don't try looking around for cheap anime. None are English dubbed or have english subtitles.
In the shopping malls, workers will follow you around and make sure you don't steal anything. It's not because they're racist or anything to do with you. It's their job so try not to take it personally.
In malls like Soriya, the "rich" will give you dirty looks if you have any traits that supposedly means you're poor: Dark skin, dirty hands, junky clothes, etc.
In Cambodia, it is first come first serve. Don't bother trying to wait in line or be surprised if someone cuts you.
Food is the largest concern in Cambodia. If you are not careful with what you eat, you can get really sick. Before leaving, be sure you've gotten all of your Hepatitis Shots. That way you won't risk dying off of poorly prepared food. The shots should be free but if not, they're worth the money.
Drink only bottled water. You're not used to Cambodia and will get the runs if you drink water from an unknown source. Water in a glass from restaurants are fine.
Do NOT buy any meat off the street. You do not know how long it's been sitting there or how many parasites have laid their eggs in them.
Some bottled water are fakes. Look very closely and see if the cap is sealed. Sometimes people reuse water bottles, fill them with whatever water they can find, and try to sell them.
Stick to bottled water brands you've heard about. Evian is common in Cambodia so that would be your best bet. I always had the runs every time I drank bottled water I never heard of.
The prices for food is very nice. What you can expect to pay 7$ for a meal, is only 3$ in Cambodia or less. This is even true for fancier restaurants.
Restaurants are fine. No need to worry. But do use your judgement. If a restaurant looks unclean or shady, then move on to the next one.
Forget buying fruits and vegetables off the streets. Just go to Lucky Mart for your needs. Produce on the street are most likely spoiled, extremely freshly picked, and might still have bugs living in them.
If you want fast food, try Lucky Burger or Lucky 7. You can buy 3 meals for less than 3$. That's how insane the prices are. If you ask me, Lucky Burger's food tastes MUCH better than any fast food chain in America. Crazy, huh?
Aside from Cambodian cuisine, you can expect to find Italian food, Pho, Thai food, Chinese food, Vietnamese food, French food, and American food. I will list good restaurants in the Tourist's section of the site.
There are a lot of flies. So you'll be swatting them away from your food often. Unless you don't care.
They don't have Thai Iced Tea. Don't bother asking for it.
They do have Ovaltine. This is Cambodia's favorite malt drink.
Traffic in Cambodia is crazy. The majority get around on motorcycles and there are some cars too. There is also a motorcycle carriage known as a "Tuck Tuck." I think that is the best way to get around. It's cheap, the driver knows where everything is, and it is a good way to beat the heat.
When crossing the street, cross it slowly. Yes, it is scary with all the motorcycles and cars zipping very close and by you. But if you alk slowly people will go around you. If you run across the street, you can get hit.
Even if there is a stop light, don't think you can walk safely with no worries. If you ask me the stoplights are pointless since Khmers just come and go as they please.
The carbon monoxide and pollution emitted from cars and motorcycles is very strong. So until you get used to it, you will be returning to your hotel with a headache.
When using a Tuck Tuck, keep in mind that it should cost 3-5$ for the driver to take you anywhere in Phnom Pehn. Any higher and he's ripping you off.
There is a lot of dust and debris in Cambodia. Most of the time it isn't an issue when riding a motorcycle, Tuck Tuck, or car. But if you're sensitive, you might want to get a mask.
Occasionally a herd of cattle or other farm animal, will hang around streets and travel around casually.
If you're in Phnom Pehn, you can rent a driver to take you to Siem Reap for around 300-600$. I don't remember exactly but you can expect the price range to be around there.
Here, I'll talk about living and anything else you'll do while taking a break from your vacation. I'll also provide information of what you can expect from hotels.
A 3-Star Hotel costs on average 8-13$ per night. These hotels have AIR conditioning, safe plumbing, cable television, clean bathrooms, and often a restaurant.
Before jumping into bed and sleeping, wipe your bedspread and inspect it first. Sometimes there will be bugs, dust, and dirt.
Having people do laundry for you everyday at the hotel is a separate expense.
Sometimes toilets will be... a HOLE in the ground! But this isn't often the case with hotels.
Some bathrooms will have a walk-in shower. What I mean by this is that there isn't anything separating the shower and the toilet.
Brush your teeth and clean your private parts with bottled water. Don't ask why. Just do it.
Your bedsheets will be replaced with new ones everyday. Your room will also be cleaned everyday.
You can ask for a more poofy pillow or cozier blanket.
Keep your doors and windows shut. You really don't want to deal with mosquitoes.
There are plenty of geckos. They're harmless.
With the risk of mosquitoes, call a Travel Nurse, tell her you'll be going to Cambodia, and she'll tell you what kind of shots you need. Alternatively, you can eat anti-malaria pills daily. They can be bought at Cambodia.
If you're too lazy to eat out, you may ask a someone on a motorcycle to get it for you. For a price.
The bathrooms are a little higher in your room, so watch your feet when you use it at night. You might stub your toe.
Bring your own shampoo and soap. The ones provided at hotels aren't good enough.
You get a mini-fridge in your room.
There's a lot of pollution and trash. Be prepared for it.
Sometimes you'll see people taking showers out in the open.
Pets and farm animals are often emaciated. Try to understand that people feeding their children is their top priority.
This is all the advice I can think of that can help you. Keeping this in mind sure helped me. I'd love to go into Communication and teach some Khmer for non-Khmer speakers but due to the size of the content box, it'll be difficult. I'm sure there are plenty sites that teach some Khmer so I'll try to link them in the About section.