What do you need to bring to Cambodia?
Even though the ruins of Angkor draw millions to Cambodia every year, the country remains a tiny, impoverished place. While it's not one of the hardest places to travel in the world, Cambodia presents visitors with a range of challenges and chaotic circumstances. A smart traveller brings a short list of items to cope with Cambodia's particular conditions and to make the most of his time in the country.
The weather in Cambodia is invariably hot and humid and punctuated with strong sunshine. Travelers need light, loose clothing, including at least one long-sleeved topand a pair of full-length trousers -- some clothing that covers mostof the skin. A sun hat is a good idea as well. Having some long-sleeved tops and full-length pants also helps keep mosquitoes and other biting insects at bay. The humid conditions promote mould and mildew, so a cheap pair of flip-flops for the bathroom can help guard against athlete's foot and similar health problems.
Except for the two major tourist areas of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, the town where Angkor Wat is found, malaria is present throughout Cambodia. That includes the beach and resort areas in the south, such as Kampot, Kep and Sihanoukville. Visitors should procure a prescription anti-malarial medication effective against the strains present in Cambodia, and bring along a bottle of strong, deep-woods style insect repellent. Tap water in Cambodia should be treated as suspect. A traveller who does not want to be tied to bottled water throughout his stay needs a water disinfectant agent,
such as iodine tablets or chlorine drops, or an EPA-approved water filtration system of the sort used by backcountry campers.
The Cambodian currency, the riel, is heavily devalued and best treated as small change. The U.S. dollar is used for most transactions, from paying the dinner bill to hiring a car and driver. While Cambodia has ATMs capable of international transactions, these are not always reliable, only present in major cities and dispense mostly $20. For these reasons, a traveller to Cambodia should bring an ample supply of U.S. currency, most of it in small bills. Travelers who spend time in Thailand before entering Cambodia should hang on to their leftover Thai baht, as that currency is widely accepted in Cambodia as well.
Americans and most other Westerners traveling to Cambodia need a tourist visa and a valid passport to enter the country, but a Visa on Arrival service is available at the airports and most of the land crossing points. A traveller can either arrange a tourist visa with the Embassy of Cambodia prior to departure or apply for it at the airport or border. However, travellers who choose the latter method will need two passport photos and enough U.S. or Thai currency to pay for the visa fees.
Tipping is not traditionally expected here, but in a country as poor as Cambodia, tips can go a long way. Salaries remain extremely low and service is often superb thanks to a Khmer commitment to hospitality. Hence a tip of just US$1 might be half a day’s wages for some. Many of the upmarket hotels levy a 10% service charge, but this doesn’t always make it to the staff. If you stay a couple of nights in the same hotel, try to remember to tip the staff that clean your room. Consider tipping drivers and guides, as the time they spend on the road means time away from home and family.
It is considered proper to make a small monetary donation at the end of a visit to a wat, especially if a monk has shown you around; most wats have contribution boxes for this purpose.