After decades of unrest in Cambodia, the country has entered a new era of social stability. This new period has allowed Cambodia to build a successful tourism industry that welcomes people from around the world.
Here, you'll learn the five most important things you need to know before planning your next trip to Cambodia. I recently returned from holiday in Cambodia and want to share the most important tips I learnt along the way.
1. Flying Directly to Cambodia May Increase Costs
With Cambodia's infrastructure in its more early stages of development, flying directly to Cambodia may significantly increase the price of a plane ticket. It is recommended to compare prices from your home airport to popular regional airports such as those in Bangkok. Once in the region, it will be easier to find a cheap ticket to Cambodia.
2. You Will Likely Need a Visa
If you're from the United States or other developed nations you're probably not used to getting a visa. Thankfully, Cambodia makes the process pretty easy. International travelers can apply for an eVisa online or simply pay for one after they arrive in Cambodia.
I recommend using the online application because it allows you to go directly to immigration instead of waiting in line for a visa on arrival. It only took one day for me to receive my visa after I applied online. The process is very easy and only asks for your basic information.
If you choose to get a visa at the airport remember the fee is only $30 US dollars for a short-term tourism visa. Please be aware that if they ask for more it is because they are scamming you. A friend recently traveled to Cambodia and upon arrival they asked for $50 US dollars for the normal tourism visa. Simply tell them the official price is $30 US dollars and they'll give it to you.
3. Download Grab and PassApp
Grab is the "Uber" of SE Asia and PassApp is a similar app that is only used in Cambodia. Both allow you to get cheap and fast transportation. The apps tell you the price upfront so there are no surprises. It's also safer to use because all the drivers are rated and reviewed by users.
Be prepared to ride around on a tuk tuk. If you're new to SE Asia you'll likely enjoy the experience. It's also cheaper to use than riding around in a car. However, if you prefer the comfort of an enclosed vehicle the option remains available.
4. Best Places to Visit
The three most common places tourists like to visit are Phenom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville.
Phenom Penh: the capital of Cambodia. The most popular attraction is the notorious Killing Fields from the Communist Khmer Rouge. It's about a 45 minutes drive outside the city. In Phenom Penh there are plenty of affordable locations for sightseeing including the Royal Palace of Cambodia and the National Museum. There are also many restaurants that cook high-quality French cuisine at an affordable price.
Siem Reap: the most popular destination for Westerners in Cambodia. Here you can see the ancient temples of Cambodia. The temples are treasured so much by the Cambodian people that the best preserved temple, Angkor Wat, is featured on their national flag.
Sihanoukville: previously a small beach town that catered to locals, backpackers, and hippies. Now, the city has been transformed by Chinese foreign investment. Westerners now prefer to skip the city entirely and go straight to the nearby islands. Prices are more affordable and the beaches have retained their natural beauty.
5. USD is King
If you plan on sticking to the city and major tourism sites, you will only need to bring United States dollars. It is accepted virtually everywhere. Even the ATMs dispense money in US dollars rather than the local currency. Do not expect to be able to use your credit card as most places are cash only. Businesses will only accept bills - so do not bring any change (such as quarters or dimes) with you. It is normal for businesses to give you change in local currency. You can easily repurpose that change to help pay for your rides around town or meals at restaurants.
About the author:
Alexander graduated with his bachelor's degree in political science from Portland State University. He is currently pursuing his graduate degree in international relations at Peking University in Beijing, China.
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