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Cambodia Travel FAQ

Thursday, 11 November 2010 04:01 administrator
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Please find below some of the more frequently asked questions (FAQ) people have about travelling to Cambodia. We've tried to answer all the most frequently asked questions, but if you have another query about Cambodia, please try our Travelfish messageboard.

Accommodation

Is a fan room okay, or should I budget for air-con?

  • It depends. An air-con room can bring the sniffles along with cold air. Fan rooms are generally better ventilated and have easily opened   windows -- often preferable in a beach hut. Cheaper air-con rooms in particular can be grimy and stuffy, often with air-con that doesn't actually work very well or is very noisy. If you can't open the windows and there is a blackout, they can be downright unpleasant. On the other hand, if you're travelling in the steamy heat of March to May and you haven't acclimatised or you find it difficult to function in hot weather, air-con can be invaluable and worth the extra couple of dollars. Another issue with fan rooms is that by leaving the windows open at night you open yourself to the risk of theft.

Is it possible to rent rooms or dormitories for longer periods of time while travelling in Cambodia?

  • Yes. In most cases a discount is available for longer stays. If you're planning on staying in one place for more than a couple of months, consider looking for an apartment as the costs will be lower.

Should I take my own padlock for the door of my room while travelling in Cambodia?

  • No. Some people do, but many budget places insist that you use their padlock as they'll have a spare key and won't need to kick the door down when you lose yours. Regardless of whose padlock you are using, losing a key can result in expensive fines. If you really don't feel you can trust the place enough to use the locks they supply, you should probably reconsider where you are staying.
    Once inside, do consider some type of cable to lock your bags to something too big to fit through the door or window.


What should I do if a bag is stolen from my room or dormitory while travelling in Cambodia?

  • First up, do not blame the staff. Nine times out of ten if something has been stolen from your room it will have been by a thief from outside or by another traveller. Call the police and have them assist. Do not leave valuables in your room, most half decent places will have a safe - use it.

What standard of accommodation can I expect for US$5 in Cambodia?

  • All over Asia, you tend to get what you pay for -- nowhere more so than in Cambodia. Accommodation in Cambodia tends to be a little more expensive than in neighbouring Laos and Thailand and the difference between paying $2 and $12 is huge. Many come here planning on staying at the $1 guesthouses they've all heard about -- after a night or two in one of these, however, most tend to upgrade towards the $5 range.

    The following applies to Phnom Penh:


    Under $2: Gets you a grotty little room, perhaps with a fan if you're lucky, in the lake area of town. The sheets, if there are any, will only be changed when you leave. Expect thin walls and dreary drapes and plan on spending as much time as possible elsewhere. Shared bathroom facilities.


    $2-$5: Still in the lakeside area. The higher end of this range may include a pokey little bathroom -- more likely to have smelly piping than hot water. The room will be big enough for a clean bed with sheets and a couple of bags. It may have either a large ceiling fan or a small desktop one.


    $5-$10: Gets you a reasonable fan or basic air-con room, either by the lake or at one of the cheaper places nearer the river. Your bed will have a clean mattress and sheets. Generally larger than the lower price range, these rooms often have a desk and chair. You might even get something tasteful. Your own bathroom may have hot water.


    $10-$20: More comfortable with air-con, a comfortable bed and a clean, well-equipped bathroom. The room should be spacious and may have a few extras such as a bar fridge and cable TV. May be cleaned daily.


    $20+: The beginning of mid-range small hotels and guesthouses. As the price rises from here, expect more extras, such as TV with full cable, DVD player, balcony, breakfast and so on.


Why are there so few dormitories in Cambodia?

  • Because single rooms are very cheap anyway and dorms tend to have more than their fair share of problems with theft.

Why are there so few hostels in Cambodia?

  • Because here they call them guesthouses. There is really no difference between the two.

 

Bargaining

Should I bargain for everything I want to buy in Cambodia?
  • No. If an item has a price tag then you're not expected to bargain. You are not expected to bargain in a restaurant either.

What is the best way to bargain in Cambodia?

  • With a smile and a friendly attitude. The point of bargaining is not to make sure the merchant loses money but rather to get a price that both you and the merchant will be satisfied with. Often bargaining in Khmer (all you really need to know are the numbers, cheap (thaok) and expensive (thlai)) will reap great rewards.

What shouldn't I do when bargaining in Cambodia?

  • Yell, scream or behave like a rude foreign tourist;
  • Throw your money at the vendor;
  • Refuse to buy something after the vendor has accepted your price;
  • Go red in the face arguing over 100 riel; or
  • Lose your sense of humour. You are supposed to be having fun.


Cost of travelling

How much should I budget per day for a holiday in Cambodia?

  • A typical budget in Cambodia is around US$15-20 a day. You can get by on less or a lot more, but for $20 you'll get a decent room and three meals with some left over for transport. If you are planning on travelling a lot, then $20 probably will not cut it as the cost of transportation will push it up. Likewise if you going to very few places, you can get away with less.

What is the bare minimum I could survive on in Cambodia?

  • Assuming you're sitting by the lake in Phnom Penh doing nothing, you could survive on about US$4-5 a day. That being made up of $1 for a seriously crummy room and $1 a meal for three basic meals (noodles or fried rice) and $1 for water and miscellaneous costs.

What is the best way to spend less money in Cambodia?

  • Don't drink alcohol. Beer in particular is expensive, when compared to the price of food. Spend most of your time upcountry and you'll also spend less as the prices are generally cheaper than in big cities.

Food glorious food

Can I drink the tap water in Cambodia?

  • Generally, it's not a good idea. Rely on bottled water where possible.

How can I avoid MSG in Cambodia?

  • With some difficulty, as Khmers love it and would sprinkle it on their cornflakes if they ate them. Yup ot jong ban bee giang roughly means no MSG. Expect some odd looks when you say it.

How do I avoid peanuts in Cambodia?

  • If you see one coming, cross the road. Khmers use peanut oil in a lot of their cooking. Your best option is to explain your requirement to the staff before you order.

I have a food allergy - what should I do when travelling in Cambodia?

  • Find someone in your guesthouse when you first arrive and get them to write down your allergy for you in big clear writing. Show this card whenever you're eating somewhere where nobody speaks English.

Is there good vegetarian food in Cambodia?

  • Cambodia is not world-renowned for its vegetarian food, nor for its food in general for that matter. Phnom Penh has a limited range of vegetarian places, but other than that you're in for a lot of veggie stir-fries. Ot n'yum satch means you don't eat meat. Even French places tend to not cater very well to vegetarians, and if you ask for something vegetarian, it's still likely to come in a meat-based stock.

Is western food available in Cambodia?

  • In the major tourist centres western food of varying quality is available. Outside these areas, it's rare.


Getting around

Are the ferries in Cambodia safe?


  • Mostly. The biggest problem with the boats is overloading. If you feel a boat is overloaded, don't get on it. Boat traffic is generally frequent enough that at least one boat a day departs for most destinations.

Are the trains in Cambodia safe?

  • Well there's only the one train that runs now -- from Phnom Penh to Battambang -- once a week. It's a very very very slow train, and the biggest issue is abject boredom. Come the evening, the passengers can get pretty drunk, so you'll want to keep your wits about you. Also, note the rook leaks, so wet season train runs are wet indeed.

Do the trains run on time?

  • They leave Phnom Penh on time. That's as good as it gets.

Is it easy to hitch-hike in Cambodia?

  • In remote areas, this is not at all unusual, though don't be surprised if you're asked for some money at the end of the ride.

Is it easy to rent a car or motorcycle in Cambodia?

  • Yes. You'll be expected to leave your passport, or a copy of your passport, at the place where you rented the bike or car. The insurance that you get with these is generally not worth the paper it is written on.

Should I get a tourist minibus in Cambodia?

  • No. These are cheap and nasty. Theft and dodgy operators are major problems. Go to the bus station and get a public bus or share-taxi. It works for the Khmers and it will work for you, too.

What is the best way to get around Phnom Penh?

  • There are two answers to this, depending on what time you're talking about.
    Daytime: Walking. Phnom Penh is a great city for walking, with everything really within the enthusiastic walker's reach. Lakeside to Wat Phnom takes about 30-45 minutes at a reasonable pace. Though motos are cheap and persistent, try to spend at least some time walking. If you'd had your fill, motos are fast and cheap and cyclos are slow and cheap.
    To be safe, you can try to negotiate a fare before jumping on, but often drivers won't speak enough English, and confusion can arise between "one" meaning 1,000 riel or $1.
    We find it's generally fine just to jump on and pay when you arrive. Sample fares for motos are (roughly) lakeside to Wat Phnom 1,000-1,500 riel, FCC to Tuol Sleng 2,000 riel, Russian Market to lakeside 2,000-3,000 riel.
    Prices usually rise up to double after dark. If you offer payment to the moto and he refuses to take the money, then you have definitely not offered enough, so up it. You are not expected to pay in dollars, though they are accepted.
    If you try to pay with anything bigger than a $1 note, don't expect the moto to have change. If you plan on tripping around a lot, you can hire a moto for the day, figure around $5-$8 a day depending on where you are going and how well you negotiate.

    Nighttime
    : Walking from one end of town to the other at night is not a good idea. Theft and assault remain problems in Phnom Penh -- walking long distances at night dramatically increases the risk of a problem. Walking from Sisowath Quay to lakeside around midnight after a happy pizza and beers is plain stupid. Use motos or cyclos for anything more than a few blocks.


What's the best way to travel around Cambodia - share-taxi, bus, train or boat?

 

This will most likely be decided by your budget.

Share-taxis  ( Car Rental Service in Cambodia )Overall, share-taxi transport is the quickest and most comfortable way to get from A to B. The share-taxis are nearly all Toyota Camrys. Try to get a left-hand drive one if possible, though most seem to be right-hand, suggesting they have been smuggled in from Thailand. Share-taxis run on a per seat basis -- you buy one seat in the car. Note that in a share-taxi, the front passenger seat is actually considered two seats, so the best option is to buy two seats and have the whole front seat to yourself, although then they often seem to sell a second seat next to the driver, which will invariably end up being half yours. Share-taxis leave when full, meaning at least five to six passengers, though once you leave the driver may pick up more people. We have ridden in one Camry with 12 people from Battambang to Pailin.

Bus ( Bus Routine Schedule in Cambodia | Bus Ticket Price )Bus travel in Cambodia is good, cheap, not too slow and reasonably comfortable. The main disadvantage is that not many buses leave in the afternoon. If you're planning on travelling by bus, figure an early morning departure as being probable. Buses run all the major trunk routes, such as Phnom Penh to Battambang, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. You are not expected to share your seat on a bus, but be sure to get on early to make sure you actually get one.

Train To be honest, we're yet to try the trains (except the bamboo one in Battambang). All reports say they are very slow and very cheap, but for budget travellers who have the time to spend on them, the reports are positive. Trains tend to leave on time.

Boat ( Boat Routine Schedule in Cambodia | Bus Ticket Price ) A number of trips can be done by boat, with Phnom Penh to Siem Reap being the most popular. Others include Phnom Penh to Kratie, Sihanoukville to Ko Kong and Siem Reap to Battambang. Overloading of boats often takes places. If you feel the boat is so overloaded to be unsafe, get off. They'll be another boat the next day. When the Tonle Sap is low, boat travel between Siem Reap and Battambang is not a good idea. Although comfortable and scenic to sit on the roof, be sure to bring sunscreen as you'll otherwise get burnt to a crisp.


Getting there and away

How do I get from Cambodian airports into nearby towns?

  • Both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap have international airports. If you do not have much luggage, hire a moto. In Siem Reap, they will offer to take you for almost nothing as they'll try to get you to rent them for a few days while you tour the sites. This can work out quite well, as the trip into town will give you a chance to better gauge the language ability of your moto as well as his driving skills. If you have a lot of luggage, both tuk tuks and taxis are available at Siem Reap and taxis only are at Phnom Penh. There is no public transport from either airport into town.


Help Police!

Can I trust the Khmer police?

  • Depending on the situation, the Khmer police will try to help you out as much as they can, although often that isn't very much. In cases of theft they'll quite happily let you file a report, but don't expect them to go rushing out to catch the culprit. If you are driving yourself around in Cambodia, don't be surprised if the police stop you and muddle around basically looking for a bribe. Be polite, smile a lot, and pay them -- you are allowed to bargain! The one time you do not want the police involved is if you are involved in a car or motorcycle accident. As long nobody is seriously injured, try to sort out - you will inevitably be at fault and must pay - before the police show up. If you wait for them, you'll have to pay them as well.

How can I contact with the police in any emergency case

  • 1. Police: Deal to this number  117

  • 2. Fire Fighter Deal to this number 118 or 023 722 555

  • 3. Ambulance Deal to this number 119 or 023 724 891

  • 4. Traffic Police Deal to this number 023 722 967

  • 5. Police Military (PM) Deal to this number  012 520 to 012 529 (These numbers can be communicated only for 012 network)

  • 6. Tourist Police (Shortcut Phone number will be set up soon) or 011 30 30 30

Money Madness

Are credit cards accepted in Cambodia?

  • Not generally, but most top-range hotels, some middle range and very few lower range hotels will accept them. Very few restaurants and bars accept them. Most travel agents prefer cash. If you can use them, expect to be charged a 3% surcharge.


Are there ATMs in Cambodia?

  • The ANZ Royal Group has finally brought international access, 7-day, 24-hour ATMs to Cambodia. ATMs can be found in all the main tourist centres across Cambodia (or at least Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang and Sihanoukville). .

How can I have money sent to me in Cambodia?

  • Western Union is the easiest way to receive money, though the fees are substantial, with the sender paying. You can also receive money via wire transfer at the foreign exchange sections of major banks. In most cases all you need is a passport. Western Union the transfer is immediate.

How can I send money out of Cambodia?

  • Use Western Union.

Should I bring travellers cheques, credit/debit cards or cash to Cambodia?

  • Most people now rely on a mix of cash, credit and debit cards and travellers cheques. Cambodia has no ATMs of any use to foreigners, although ANZ is supposed to begin operations early next year. For now, you need to rely on exchange booths, so will need to manage your money a bit more carefully than in say Thailand, where there is an ATM on every corner. For cash, bring US dollars in small denominations - lots of $1 and $5 notes are a great idea.

Should I tip in Cambodia?

  • Tipping is not expected but as always appreciated. If you want to tip, 10% percent is generous.
Last Updated on Thursday, 11 November 2010 05:49