Language: Khmer is the official language of Cambodia, although sometimes it’s just referred to as Cambodian. It’s spoken by over 90% of the country’s population. The exact dialect may vary slightly depending on where you are in the country, but most Cambodian natives speak central Khmer, the most common dialect. In recent years, Cambodia has seen a rise in tourism which has led to an increase in the use of English. While the locals in a small village might not understand you, you’ll be able to get by easily in the bigger towns and cities using English.
Currency: Cambodian Riel (Although the Riel is the official currency, Cambodia also uses US dollars for almost everything. In most of the country prices will be marked in USD, though you will likely receive Riel as change during a purchase).
Electricity Socket: 230V AC electricity. Power outlets are two-prong round sockets. To avoid the hassle of having to buy new adaptors for everywhere you go, we recommend picking up a Universal Travel Adaptor before you leave.
Visa: A 30-day tourist visa is required for all visitors coming to Cambodia. Visas can be obtained on arrival for $30 in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Preah Sihanouk. You’ll just need to bring a passport sized photo with you. The Cambodian governmentwebsite also offers e-visas, so you can apply beforehand to speed up your entry into the country. E-visas cost an additional $6 and take three days to process. The 30-day tourist visa can be extended at the embassy in Phnom Penh for $45 for an additional 30-days. Citizens coming from ASEAN nations, you can get a free visa on arrival which lasts for 30 days.
If you’ll be working in Cambodia, longer stays are permitted if you have a business visa. But for most people, the tourist visa is perfect.
Festivals and Celebrations: Cambodia is a country with a rich cultural heritage, and the Khmer people love to celebrate their traditions with big parties and festivals. If you’re visiting in April or May, you’ll be able to experience the Khmer New Year celebration. The first two days of this holiday are spent in traditional activities and family gatherings, while the third and final day erupts into a country-wide water fight (similar to Thailand’s Songkran, though much more toned down).
At the end of April or beginning of May (depending on the year), the Khmer people mark the beginning of the rice planting season with the Royal Ploughing Ceremony. This more solemn ceremony takes place in Phnom Penh and is an impressive sight to behold.
Perhaps the most festive and exciting holiday celebrated in Cambodia is the water festival, held every year in October or November. Marking the change in the flow of the Tonle Sap and Mekong River. Over a million people congregate in Phnom Penh for the occasion. The city transforms into a festival atmosphere and is a perfect place to experience Khmer culture and its best–and most fun!
Safety: In general, Cambodia is a very safe country to visit. The Khmer people are friendly and increasingly welcoming to foreigners as the country becomes more and more popular with tourists and travelers.
As with any place you visit, it’s important to be cautious. In big cities like Phnom Penh, bag snatching can happen, especially when tourists are riding in tuk-tuks. Keep your wits about you and make sure you keep your belongings close to you. Use the same caution you would in any busy city.
One additional warning about Cambodia: Never wander off in rural areas like forests or rice paddies without a guide. While not common, it is possible to stumble upon unexploded mines. In most of the places you’ll be visiting, this won’t be an issue, but just take heed from the locals and don’t go wandering off in the jungle alone.