Difference between revisions of "Cambodia"
Revision as of 06:23, 14 October 2017
The Kingdom of Cambodia (ព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជា ឬ ប្រទេសកម្ពុជា) (sometimes transliterated as Kampuchea to more closely represent the Khmer pronunciation) is a Southeast Asian nation bordered by Vietnam to the east, Laos to the north, Thailand to the northwest, and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest.
Cambodia has had a pretty bad run of luck for the last half-millennium or so. Ever since the fall of Angkor in 1431, the once mighty Khmer Empire has been plundered by its neighbors. It was colonized by the French in the 19th century, and during the 1970s suffered heavy carpet bombing by the USA. After a false dawn of independence in 1953, Cambodia promptly plunged back into the horrors of civil war in 1970 to suffer the Khmer Rouge's incredibly brutal reign of terror, and only after UN-sponsored elections in 1993 did the country begin to totter back onto its feet.
Much of the population still subsists on less than the equivalent of US$1 a day, the provision of even basic services remains spotty, and political intrigue remains as complex and opaque as ever; but the security situation has improved immeasurably, and increasing numbers of visitors are rediscovering Cambodia's temples and beaches. Siem Reap, the gateway to Angkor, now sports luxury hotels, chic nightspots, ATMs, and an airport fielding flights from all over the region, while Sihanoukville is getting good press as an up-and-coming beach destination. However, travel beyond the most popular tourist destinations is still unpredictable and risky.
It is important to remember that Cambodian history did not begin with the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot's incredibly harsh regime has garnered the most attention, but the Cambodians have enjoyed a long and often triumphant history. Anybody who witnesses the magnificent temples at Angkor can attest to the fact that the Khmer Empire was once wealthy, militarized, and a major force in the region. Its zenith came under Jayavarman VII (1181-ca. 1218), where the Empire made significant territorial gains from the Cham. The Khmer Empire stretched to encompass parts of modern day Thailand, Malaysia, Burma, Laos and Vietnam.
The period following the fall of the Khmer Empire has been described as Cambodia's dark ages. Climatic factors precipitated this fall, where the Ankorian civilization harnessed Cambodia's water for agriculture through elaborate systems of canals and dams. The Khmer Empire never recovered from the sacking by its neighbors based in Ayutthaya (in modern day Thailand), and Cambodia spent much of the next 400 years (until French colonization) squeezed and threatened by the rivalries of the expanding Siamese and Vietnamese Empires to the West and East. Indeed, on the eve of French colonization it was claimed that Cambodia was likely set to cease to exist as an independent kingdom entirely, with the historian John Tully claiming “there can be little doubt that their [the French] intervention prevented the political disappearance of the kingdom”.
The French came to dominate Cambodia as a protectorate from the 1860s, part of a wider ambition to control the area then termed Indochina (modern day Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos). The French were always more concerned with their possessions in Vietnam. Education of Cambodians was neglected for all but the established elite. It was from this elite that many "Red Khmers" would emerge. Japan's hold on Southeast Asia during the Second World War undermined French prestige and, following the Allied victory, Prince Sihanouk soon declared independence. This was a relatively peaceful transition as France was too absorbed with its struggle in Vietnam, which it saw as more important to its conception of L'Indochine francaise.
Prince Sihanouk was the main power figure in the country after this. He was noted for making very strange movies in which he starred, wrote and directed. His rule was characterized at this point with a Buddhist revival and an emphasis on education. This, however, was a mixed blessing. He succeeded in helping create an educated elite who became increasingly disenchanted with the lack of jobs available. As the economic situation in Cambodia deteriorated, many of these young people were attracted to the Indochinese Communist Party, and later the Khmer Rouge.
As the Second Indochina War spread to Cambodia's border (an important part of the "Ho Chi Minh trail"), the USA became increasingly concerned with events in the country. The US Air Force bombed Cambodia from 1964 to 1973. During this campaign, which was initially codenamed Operation Menu, 540,000 tonnes of bombs were dropped. Estimates of the death toll range from 40,000 to 150,000. Most of the bombing was done in support of Khmer Republic military forces fighting the Khmer Rouge and North Vietnam. In total, the US dropped 2.7 million tonnes of bombs on Cambodia from 1964 to 1973, more than the combined amount dropped by all the Allies in all theatres during World War II.
In March 1970, while overseas to visit Moscow and Beijing, Sihanouk was overthrown by Lon Nol and other generals who were looked upon favorably by the United States. Sihanouk then put his support behind the Khmer Rouge. This change influenced many to follow suit; he was, after all, considered a Boddhisatva. Meanwhile the Khmer Rouge followed the Vietnamese example and began to engender themselves to the rural poor. Between 200,000 and 300,000 people died in the civil war including the United States air campaigns.
Following a five-year struggle, Communist Khmer Rouge forces captured Phnom Penh in 1975 and ordered the evacuation of all cities and towns. Over one million people (and possibly many more) died from execution or enforced hardships. Those from the cities were known as "new" people and suffered the most at first. The rural peasantry were regarded as "base" people and fared better. However, the Khmer Rouge's cruelty was enacted on both groups. It also depended much upon where you were from. For example, people in the East generally got it worse. It is debated whether or not the Khmer Rouge began "crimes against humanity" or a protracted "genocide". There are claims that there were a disproportionate number of ethnic Chams killed, and the ethnically Vietnamese also suffered persecution. Nonetheless, the Khmer also suffered often indiscriminate mass killings. A 1978 Vietnamese invasion drove the Khmer Rouge into the countryside and ended 13 years of fighting (but the fighting would continue for some time in border areas). As a result of the devastating politics of the Khmer Rouge regime, virtually no infrastructure was left. Institutions of higher education, finance, and all forms of commerce were destroyed in 1978, so the country had to be rebuilt from scratch. UN-sponsored elections in 1993 helped restore some semblance of normalcy, as did the rapid diminution of the Khmer Rouge in the mid-1990s. A coalition government, formed under pressure of the losing party following national elections in 1998, brought renewed political stability and the surrender of remaining Khmer Rouge forces. Many leaders of the formal periods kept important positions. They often adopted more liberal views as long they could extract personal profit of the situation.
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) put Ieng Sary, Pol Pot's brother in law, on trial for 'crimes against humanity'.
The two pillars of Cambodia's newly-stable economy are textiles and tourism. The tourism industry has grown rapidly with over 1.7 million visitors arriving in 2006 and 5.0 million in 2016. The long-term development of the economy after decades of war remains a daunting challenge, as the population lacks education and productive skills, particularly in the poverty-ridden countryside, which suffers from an almost total lack of basic infrastructure. Although billions of dollars in foreign aid have been spent in Cambodia since the 1990s and a tour through Phnom Penh reveals streets of gilded mansions and luxury vehicles, more than 60% of the population still subsist on agriculture alone. Nevertheless, new construction of roads, irrigation, and farm land development are showing improvement in rural areas.
Economic development bases on the deep-water port of Sihanoukville, the enhancement of electricity supply, the modernization of the railway, and the construction and pavement of roads. "Cambodia has one of the most investor-friendly environments in ASEAN: no exchange controls, no restriction on repatriation of profits, no discrimination between foreign and local investors; (...) corporate income tax is only 20% and there are tax holidays of up to nine years. Foreigners can also take out leases of land for up to 99 years.
All visitors, except citizens of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam need a visa to enter Cambodia. The official price for a tourist visa is USD35 or USD40 for an "ordinary visa" also known more commonly as "business visa". Staff may try to charge more at some land border crossings: hold out for the official price, particularly at major crossings, but don't be upset if you have to pay USD1-2 extra. The major difference between a tourist and an ordinary/business visa is that a tourist visa can only be extended once, for maximum 2 months of stay in Cambodia, whereas an ordinary/business visa can be extended for periods up to a year or more.
Visas can be obtained at Cambodian embassies or consulates. Visas are also available "on arrival" at both international airports, all six international border crossings with Thailand, some international border crossings with Vietnam, and at the main border crossing with Laos.
To apply for a visa, you will need one or two (depending on where you apply) passport-size photo(s), a passport which is valid for at least 6 months and has at least one completely blank visa page remaining, passport photocopies when applying at some embassies/consulates (not needed if applying on arrival), and clean US$ notes with which to pay the fee (expect to pay a substantially higher price if paying in a local currency). If you don't have a passport photo at visa on arrival in Phnom Penh airport (and possibly other entry points), they will scan in the one on your passport for $3 in cash (no receipt given). It's best to carry some USD with you. There is no exchange office, but there are a couple of ATMs next to the Visa-on-arrival desks at Phnom Penh airport - all charge $5 extra on top of what you withdraw.
At Phnom Penh airport head to the Visa on Arrival desk, join the queue to the left, where your application form is reviewed (you should have been given the form on the plane). Then move to the right and wait for your name to be called. You then pay and receive your passport with the visa. Officials have difficulties pronouncing Western names so stay alert and listen out for any of your names in your passport, any of your given names or surname may be called. Once reunited with your passport, join the Immigration queue. It's exactly the same procedure at Siem Reap airport.
In Poipet, several scams abound. A favourite is the Cambodian custom officers that ask tourists to pay THB1500 (about USD45) for a visa on arrival, instead of USD30. Stand firm but stay friendly and keep smiling, they rarely insist it. Scams on the Thai side of the border, at Aranyaprathet, are even more common. Don't get on a 'government bus to the border', don't accept the help of someone who 'works for Thai Immigration' at your hotel or elsewhere, and don't go to shops marked 'visas available here' next to the border. If you don't have a passport photo immigration officers will scan the one on your passport for USD1-3 (no receipt given).
Citizens of most nations can apply for an e-Visa online on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation website, through a service provided by a private Cambodian company (CINet). This is a normal Tourist Visa but costs USD37 (plus $3 for credit card processing, for a total of $40 charged to your card - Jun 2015) instead of the normal USD30. The visa arrives as a PDF file by e-mail within 3 business days. The application requires a digital photograph of yourself (in .jpg or .png format). You can scan your passport photo or have a passport sized photograph taken with a digital camera. There are other websites pretending to make a Cambodian e-visa - at best, these are just online travel agencies which will charge you more (USD30-45) and get the same USD40 visa for you; at worst, you may end up with a fake e-visa.
You need to print two copies (one for entry and one for exit) of the PDF visa, cut out the visa parts and keep them with your passport.
Visas in advance (either online or from an embassy/consulate) save time at the border but are more expensive. However, you do get to skip the queues of people applying for the visas arrival, although sometimes you may simply spend the saved time waiting at the airport luggage belt for your suitcase.
E-Visas are only valid for entry by air or at the three border main land crossings: Bavet (on the Ho Chi Minh City-Phnom Penh road); Koh Kong (near Trat in Eastern Thailand); and Poipet (on the Bangkok-Siem Reap road). You may exit the country with an e-visa via any border crossing, however read here. Given the general reduction in visa scams at the major land borders, paying the extra USD5 to guarantee the price may (more likely if entering from Thailand) or may not be worth it. Getting a tourist visa on arrival for USD30 is more likely than being overcharged. Plus it keeps the option open of the enjoyable Phnom Penh-Chau Doc boat trip (and the use of other minor border crossings)!
Using a e-visa saves you a whole page in your passport.
Overstaying in Cambodia is dodgy. If you make it to Immigration and are fewer than 10 days over, you'll probably be allowed out with a fine of KHR50,000 (USD12.50) per day. However, if, for any reason, you're caught overstaying by the police, you'll be carted off to the notoriously unpleasant illegal immigrant holding pens and may be blacklisted from Cambodia entirely. For most people it's not worth the risk: get a legal extension or do a visa run to the nearest border instead.
Extending a Visa
While it is technically possible to extend your visa by going to the immigration authority next to Pochentong airport, it is highly recommended that you use the services of one of the numerous agents that offer this. The commission they charge is likely to be lower than the cost of taking a tuk-tuk to immigration and back, and, in addition, you are likely to save many hours, since these agents have the process streamlined. Nearly all guest houses will handle a visa extension for you, and you will receive your passport back in a couple of days.
Direct flights connect Phnom Penh International Airport (previously Pochentong International Airport) with mainland China (Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai), Hong Kong, Laos (Vientiane), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), Singapore, South Korea (Incheon), Taiwan (Taipei), Thailand (Bangkok) and Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City).
Direct flights connect Siem Reap - Angkor International Airport with mainland China (Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai), Laos (Pakse, Vientiane), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), Singapore, South Korea (Incheon, Busan), Thailand (Bangkok), Qatar (Doha) and Vietnam (Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City).
Travellers specifically going to visit the Angkor temple ruins may prefer to use Siem Reap as it's only a few minutes away from the main sites; however as Bangkok Airways has a monopoly on direct flights between Bangkok and Siem Reap, it's a lot cheaper to fly to Phnom Penh and to take a bus (or cross overland from Bangkok).
Other airlines operating flights to/from Cambodia include Asiana Airlines , Bangkok Airways , China Southern Airlines , Dragonair , Eva Airways , Korean Air , Lao Airlines , Malaysia Airlines (MAS) , Qatar Airways , Shanghai Airlines , Siem Reap Airways  (a subsidiary of Bangkok Airways), SilkAir , Singapore Airlines , Thai Airways International , Vietnam Airlines , and Cebu Pacific Airlines .
All six border crossings with Thailand are open from 07:00 to 20:00 and each offer Cambodian visas on arrival. All of the crossings are served by paved roads in both countries, except the Cambodian side of the Daun Lem crossing, which is being paved as of March 2012.
Thai buses run to but not across each of the crossings: even Chong Sa-Ngam, the last to achieve Thai connections has now gained minibuses that bring gamblers to the new casino in Choam.
In Cambodia, four of the six border towns (Poipet, Koh Kong, Daun Lem and O'Smach) are directly served by buses. Pailin, Anlong Veng and Samraong (each less than 20 km from a border) are each served by buses; motorbikes and shared taxis connect each of the towns with their respective border crossings.
Cambodia's busiest land crossing is at Aranyaprathet/Poipet on the Bangkok - Siem Reap road in North-western Cambodia. Long the stuff of nightmares, the roads are now paved all the way from Poipet to Siem Reap, Battambang and Phnom Penh.
Coastal Cambodia and the southern part of the Cardamom and Elephant Mountains region is served by the Hat Lek/Koh Kong border. The road goes all the way to Sihanoukville. From Trat in Thailand, there a minibuses to the border. In Cambodia, minibuses or taxis connect the border to Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh. The Koh Kong - Sihanoukville boat service no longer runs.
Eastern Thailand is connected to Battambang and Siem Reap by the Ban Pakard (in Chanthaburi Province)/ Phra Prom (near Pailin) crossing, which offers a less stressful and more scenic alternitive to the more northly major crossing at Poipet.
The geographically closest crossing to Battambang is that at Ban Leam (in Chanthaburi Province)/Daun Lem. Paramount Angkor run buses to Battambang though as of March 2012 the road on the Cambodian side is not yet fully paved.
The main crossing is the Moc Bai/Bavet crossing on the Ho Chi Minh City - Phnom Penh road. Buses between the two cities cost US$8-12 and take around 6 hrs. Passengers vacate the vehicle at both countries' checkpoints. Only one passport photo is required for a Cambodian visa on arrival. Tours of the Mekong Delta (US$25-35, 2-3 days) can provide a more insightful journey between the two cities.
If you end up on a Kumho Samco bus even after being told the ticket is for another company, it is possible to avoid the extra charge by being quick and getting through the Vietnam border crossing and then going straight to the Cambodia side 100 meters away. The conductor will wait for all the foreign passports needing visas then jump on a motorcycle (if he is nice you can get a lift if he is leaving to go when you are). It is a gamble but doable as they will threaten to wait only 10 minutes. Ask for a visa on arrival sheet on the bus to have the paperwork ready. If you do miss the bus some buses at least stop less than a kilometer or so down the road for a half hour food stop. Best bet: avoid Kumho Samco and the extortion.
Coastal areas are also served by the Tinh Bien/Phnom Den border near Chau Doc in Vietnam.
Stung Treng in Cambodia is connected to Pakse and the Four Thousand Islands region of Laos by the Nok Kor Ban/Trapoieng Kreal border. Onward transportation is not regularly available. Cambodian and Lao visas are available, but require a USD$2 fee on both sides of the border. Lao officials also charge a USD$2 fee for leaving the country. Expect to pay an extra few dollars on the Cambodian side if you don't have a photo for your visa application. Travel agencies on both sides offer border crossing packages.
To/from Laos - There is one border crossing for tourists on the Mekong, a 90-minute speedboat ride north of Stung Treng. The border guards have few opportunities for "alternative" income, and will usually try to make a few extra dollars from scamming tourists.
To/from Vietnam - It's possible to travel between Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh by boat, or by combination of road and boat. Fast boats leave daily from Chau Doc in Vietnam's Mekong Delta and take 5 hours to reach Phnom Penh. Chau Doc is a four hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City. A popular overland route is to make a three-day trip, stopping at Can Tho and Chau Doc before taking the boat to Phnom Penh.
By Microlight Aircraft
Airports currently operating scheduled passenger flights are in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and, though much more limited, Sihanoukville. The main operator of flights out of Sihanoukville is Cambodia Angkor Air, a joint venture between the government and Vietnam Airlines, which flies between Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam).
Helistar Cambodia , a VIP helicopter charter and scenic flights company, operate to virtually anywhere in Cambodia. Helicopters can be chartered to fly from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap for one-way or return journeys. The basic hourly charter rate is US$1700 per flight hour plus 10% VAT and 10% SPT. They operate modern, air-conditioned French-built Eurocopter Ecureuils with luxury leather seating for up to 6 passengers. They also have licenced foreign pilots. A pick-up and set-down transfer service is also available at both international airports.
The Cambodian government has been frantically upgrading roads throughout the country since about 2008. While great for the country, it does make travel advice quickly obsolete! Finding an unsealed road on the tourist track is less common these days and most travellers will not live out the horror stories of car-swallowing ruts or wet-season quagmires. For the time being (March 2012), notable unpaved roads that would be of use to travellers are: Battambang-Koh Kong (currently a great dirt bike adventure across the mountains or a long detour by bus via Phnom Penh), access to the Banteay Chhmar temples (a high-quality unsealed road, as good as a sealed road during the dry season) and the road between Sen Monorom and Banlung (if there's any remote jungle left in Cambodia, it'll be here). The borders, coast and major cities are all well connected with good roads.
Longer journeys in Cambodia can be taken by bus, pickup truck or shared taxi. In many towns, whichever of these are available will be found at the local market square. Larger towns and cities will have bus stations (though take note: buses do not always depart or arrive at the bus station in Phnom Penh. Make sure you confirm the point of departure from the agent who sells you your ticket). Buses may also serve their companies' offices, which may be more convenient than the bus station: this is particularly true in Siem Reap. Giant Ibis has the best reputation for comfort and safety and consequently charges a premium. As Giant Ibis frequently sells out, especially during the high season, a great alternative is PSD Xpress, new company with the same high quality standards than Giant Ibis. Other companies such as Sorya (formerly Ho Wah Genting),GST, Capitol Tours or Paramount Angkor Transport are slightly cheaper alternatives, but expect overcrowded, run-down buses with lots of Khmer karaoke videos but no English-speaking staff onboard.
Recently launched bus ticket booking websites BookMeBus.com and CamboTicket.com provide online platforms to search multiple destinations within Cambodia (along with the adjoining countries) and provide the flexibility to choose from multiple bus and ferry operators. Bookings can be made online with instant confirmation and e-tickets issued and payment can be made securely via credit/debit cards (MasterCard/Visa), WING money transfer and also Cash on delivery (within Phnom Penh). Recently launched features on both sites include the ability to book and share taxis to multiple destinations.
Generally bus travel is cheap, with journeys from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap or Sihanoukville costing around USD$6-12 for foreigners. Bring along something warm if you don't like freezing air-conditioning and earplugs if you don't like Khmer karaoke. There are a few night-time services but most buses leave in the morning and the last ones leave in the afternoon.
Vehicle safety, including commercial buses, is a big problem in Cambodia. On Highway 5, between Phnom Penh and Battambang, there are dozens of bus crashes annually, many of them horrendous, with multiple fatalities, yet most of these accidents go unreported. Drivers are paid per run and so usually motivated to finish as quickly as possible. The drivers are also often untrained, impatient, and at least on one occasion (according to those working in roadside fuel stations) drunk.
Some believe taxis are safer for inter-city travel, but taxis also often drive way too fast, and so are also involved in numerous fatal accidents. The advantage of being in a taxi, however, is direct and easy contact with the driver who will usually slow down if you demand it. The front seat in a shared taxi from Phnom Penh to Battambang should cost you about USD$20, though most foreigners prefer to rent out the whole taxi. Otherwise you may be stuck waiting around until the taxi fills and end up squeezed between more passengers than seatbelts.
There are a number of small group travel tour operators in Cambodia which travel buy private minibuses, such as Sunsai Tours, that run multi day trips across Cambodia. The small and professional guided tours are an easy and safe way to travel and see the local way of living in rural areas and places.
In cities, motorcycle taxis are ubiquitous. For quick trips across town, just stand on a corner for a moment and someone will offer you a lift - usually for a small fee of USD$1 or less, though Phnom Penh is more expensive. Unlike their Thai counterparts, they are not organized or trained in any way and do not wear any identifiable vests, so ride at your own risk. Motodops can usually be identified by their relatively shabby appearance and old motorbike. As with tuk-tuk drivers, negotiate the fare before getting on to avoid a stand-off later on, but keep in mind that few motodops speak English, as they tend to be among the poorest and least educated in Cambodian society. All motorcycle drivers are required by law to wear a helmet (though this is frequently flouted, especially at night). As of 1 January 2016, passengers are required to wear helmets, or run the risk of a USD$3.75 fine. Given Phnom Penh transport police tends to target tourists and given the high rates of transport accidents, it is best to bring your own helmet.
Since 2014, Phnom Penh has been serviced by three air conditioned inner city bus lines. While other cities currently lack municipal public transportation, these lines run along the three main highways across the city. Line A: Monivong Boulevard, Line B: Mao Tse Tung Boulevard to Ta Khmao in the Kandal Province, and Line C the Russian Confederate Boulevard linking the airport with the city.
Motorcycle rentals are available in many towns, with the notable exception of Siem Reap, which has outlawed the practice. Be careful if driving yourself: driving practices are vastly different from developed countries. Local road 'rules' will also differ from city to city.
There are a number of motorcycle touring companies in Cambodia, such as Ride Cambodia Motorcycle Tours, that run single or multi-day trips across the whole country. This is great for those that want to get far off the beaten path and see the places that a tourist bus could never reach.
Ferries operate seasonally along many of the major rivers. Major routes include Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and Siem Reap to Battambang. The Sihanoukville to Koh Kong ferry no longer runs. Boats are slower than road transport, charge higher prices for foreigners, and are sometimes overcrowded and unsafe. Then again, Cambodia's highways are also dangerous, and boats are probably the safer of the two options. The high speed boat from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap costs US$33 and takes about 6 hours, departing at 7.30am, and offers a spectacular, if monotonous, view of rural life along the Tonle Sap river.
There are also a few luxury boats operating between Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Saigon. For something around $150/day including accommodation, food and excursions, it's a good alternative to regular boat service.
The boat trip between Siem Reap and Battambang takes longer (especially in the dry season), and is less comfortable and more expensive than taking a seat in a shared taxi, but is favoured by some travellers for its close-up view of subsistence farming (and hundreds of waving children) along the river. Taking the boat late in the dry season (April and May) is not advisable as low water levels mean that you must transfer to smaller vessels mid-river.
Passenger trains between Phomh Penh and Battambang ceased in 2009  as the state of the rail infrastructure was dire. It may be possible to hitch a ride on the daily cargo train that may still run for 111 km between Phnom Penh and Touk Meas (near Kampot), if you enjoy that kind of thing. The service was reinstated in October 2010 but was reported to have possibly stopped when Toll, an Australian company, pulled out of the Cambodian rail venture in April 2012. There are plans to link the network with the Thai and Vietnamese railway networks. However, don't hold your breath!
The entire network is undergoing an agonizingly slow restoration. Services between Phomh Penh and Sihanoukville restarted in April 2016 - this service is operated by Royal Railways.
By bamboo train
While it has been possible in the past to travel considerable distances (Battambang to Phnom Penh) on the existing railway tracks by bamboo train (makeshift lorries run by 40HP engines) this is no longer possible. The bamboo train is now merely a tourist attraction on an 8km stretch of tracks near Battambang.
With a guide book in the hand
Several publications are freely available in hotels, restaurants, and bars. All tourist guide books include information, maps and advertising about a certain area (Coast/Phnom Penh/Siem Reap).
Coastal -- A free 6-monthly publication promoting the Southern Cambodian Coastal Towns (www.coastal-cambodia.com) Sihanoukville Advertiser -- A free publication covering Sihanoukville and more coastal tourist towns. (www.sihanoukvilleadvertiser.com) Voucher Guide -- A 2-monthly booklet with 7 town maps, discount coupons, a calendar, note book, ... (www.discount-cambodia.com)
The official language of Cambodia is Khmer. Unlike its Thai, Laotian and Vietnamese neighbors, Khmer is not a tonal language, though its multitude of vowels, dip- and tripthongs make it difficult for the European-trained ear to discern. Despite this, most Cambodians are charmed by any attempt you do make, so pick up a phrasebook and give it a go. There is no universal system of Latinized transcription for Khmer characters, so don't be surprised if you see three different spellings for the same word. Language schools and private language tutors can be found in all larger Cambodian cities for as little as $5/hour.
In the west, dialects of Thai that are largely incomprehensible to speakers of standard Thai are spoken. Various dialects of Chinese are spoken by the ethnic Chinese community, with Teochew being the dominant dialect in Phnom Penh, and Cantonese speakers also forming a sizeable minority among the Chinese community.
Public signage in major cities is generally bilingual in Khmer and English. There is also some prevalance of Chinese signs, as well.
Most Cambodian youths study English in school, so many young people have a stock of several rote English phrases ready to fire at any foreigner they see, though few outside of major cities can actually use the language to communicate. Most people who work in the tourist or hospitality industry speak basic, functional English, though they may panic if the conversation wanders too far from the script. It is generally advisable when meeting someone whose English seems shaky to always speak slowly, simply and straight-forwardly, be prepared to repeat or rephrase your question and try not to get impatient. If you're in doubt, watch closely to make sure you are understood - Cambodians will often nod curtly, smile and look away when they don't understand, rather than embarrass you and themselves by asking for clarification.
Some Cambodians, particularly older generations, may have studied French, and use of Thai, Vietnamese, or Chinese as a "home language" is relatively common, as well. It's also popular for Cambodians to study Korean and Chinese.
There are many temples around Cambodia for you to see. Both men and women should make sure to have their shoulders and knees covered - and head uncovered - when entering the temples out of respect.
Cambodia has a number of must see places during your trip, such as Siem Reap with Ankor Wat, Phnom Penh the capital and SihanoukVille or SVille for short in the south and the closest you will get to a classic beach resort.
The Cambodian riel (KHR) and US dollar (USD) are interchangeable currencies in Cambodia, with riel most commonly used only for small transactions in place of U.S. coins, which are not accepted anywhere. (Though in the countryside, even larger prices are more commonly quoted in riel, as there are fewer U.S. dollars floating about).
Torn or old currency notes - both dollars and riel - may be difficult to use. Cashiers may point to a small tear in the note and refuse to accept it. Using clear tape to "repair" the tear is usually the go-to strategy for this, or else concealing these notes when paying with a wad of cash. Many banks and businesses will also refuse USD$2 bills, though your best bet is to pay somewhere that commonly does business with foreigners. $50 and $100 notes are usually carefully scrutinized before being accepted, though if the purchaser appears "rich," they're usually subject to less scrutiny. If someone removes the bill from your sight, returns and claims they "can't make change," check your bill carefully to make sure it's the same note. Some unscrupulous vendors may swap them for counterfeits. Traders may try to take advantage of tourists' naivete and try to palm off dud notes. Just smile and hand them back.
The Cambodian Central Bank maintains the riel at around 3,800-4,200 riel to the dollar. In day-to-day commerce, 4,000 riel per dollar is the generally accepted exchange rate, though higher-end businesses such as foreign supermarkets and mini-marts will often post signs with their own exchange rates (typically 4100 or 4200). It's common for cashiers to skim off of customers by demanding more than 4000 if you pay in riel, but giving you change at 4000. It's advisable to spend or donate all of your riel before leaving Cambodia as riel only have value outside Cambodia as souvenirs. No one will exchange them.
Near the Thai border (for example Battambang, Koh Kong, and Poipet) Thai baht are commonly used but the locals use a hopelessly unfavourable 40 baht to the dollar as a rule of thumb. Try to change any baht rather than spend them, as banks and money changers will give you USD$1 at a cost of about 30 baht. Baht and euros can easily be exchanged in any city. Shop around if a good rate is important to you: sometimes the banks are best, sometimes the market traders.
ATMs are spreading far beyond the main cities, though if in doubt, stock up before a trip into the wild. Cambodian ATMs are generally compatible with Maestro, Cirrus, Plus, and VISA cards. Cash advances on credit cards may also be possible. Foreigners are often surprised to discover that most ATMs only dispense US dollars in varying denominations from USD10 to USD100 - though if you're determined, you might be able to find some that are loaded with both currencies. If you receive bills in poor condition (especially USD50 or USD100) from an ATM attached directly to a bank try to change them there immediately as they may be difficult to change later. 100 and 50 dollar bills may be difficult to use in general in any smaller shop as they will not have change.
ATMs generally charge a fee of around USD$5 per withdrawal. As of December 2014, there aren't any known fee-free ATMs left in Phnom Penh.
Banks sometimes operate as Western Union money transfer agents.
VISA and JCB are the most widely accepted credit cards; MasterCard and American Express cards are slowly becoming more widely accepted. Note that many places, especially budget restaurants and accommodation, do not accept credit cards.
Canadia bank ATMs display a "Time per limit exceeded!" error if you try to withdraw more than USD150 and don't pay out. The 150 dollar limit is for cards with the Maestro and MasterCard logo's, VISA cards have a limit of USD1000.
Traveller's cheques, like credit cards, are accepted in major business establishments, such as large hotels, some restaurants, travel agencies and some souvenir shops; American Express (in USD) are the most widely accepted. However, competitive rates are only usually found in banks in Cambodia's larger cities (guesthouses in heavily touristed areas may offer similar services but at horrendous rates). The usual fee for cashing traveller's cheques is 2% and USD$2 minimum.
When shopping be sure to look for businesses that display the Heritage Friendly Business Logo. Heritage Watch has launched a campaign that aims to encourage support for Cambodia's arts, culture, heritage and development. Businesses that are giving back to the community are certified as Heritage Friendly by the independent organization and permitted to display either a gold or silver Heritage Friendly logo. Look for the logo to ensure that you are supporting socially responsible corporate citizens.
www.stayanotherdaycambodia.com edits a guide about several tourism-oriented NGOs.
The Childsafe Network strongly advises against buying from children, who are usually being pawned by relatives to beg and sell trinkets, often late into the night, in busy junctions or places where they're likely to come into contact with predators. When these children approach you in ratty clothing with a sad look on their face and a story about sending them to school, don't even look at their wares - politely but firmly tell them "I don't buy from children" and turn your attention away. (Be firm. They are looking for signs of indecision and know how to work them). They usually quickly give up and move to an easier target. The NGOs set up to work with the truly poor street children and their families are some of the most respected organizations in Cambodia and can not reach the ones you keep employed in the streets and on the beach by buying their wares.
Similarly, you're likely to encounter a multitude of beggars from women and children carrying babies (Does the baby look practically comatose? They're often drugged to keep them placid), disabled people, old bald women, and, most recently, a fake monk easily recognized by the fact that he's the only monk in Cambodia actively asking for donations. (The real monks wait until someone approaches them, slips some cash into their bag, and in return they deliver a blessing). It's important to keep in mind that for any vulnerable population in Cambodia, there are probably 5-10 NGOs set up somewhere to serve that population. It's also very unusual for children and the elderly to not be supported by their families, since even distant relatives usually feel an obligation to support their kin in this country organized around tight familial connections. The pagodas have also traditionally served as homeless shelters and soup kitchens for the truly destitute, so if you want to make a difference, avoid giving in to your guilt and make a donation to a pagoda instead.
You can be successful haggling for almost anything in Cambodia. Restaurants, outdoor food stalls, even rates for guesthouses and apartments. The Khmer are notoriously quiet up, however they tend to try to avoid losing face and if you're involved in an altercation that invariably involves them losing it, be forewarned: they may lose their temper in a shocking fashion that seems completely out of proportion to the situation. A few guidelines:
Siem Reap is the easiest place to bargain, Phnom Penh may be a little harder but still worth trying. Just be polite and please keep in mind that $1-$2 in Cambodia can feed a person for a day - at home it is just pocket money. Many tourists think they get ripped off by a tuk-tuk driver, a tour-guide, a restaurant or a hotel. Don't think how much more you have paid compared to a local Cambodian, rather think how many meals the Cambodian can eat with this money. The average salary of a Cambodian in the city is USD$80-$300/month.
While not the strongest link in Southeast Asia's chain of delightful cuisine (due to the Khmer Rouge era, Khmer cuisine were nearly wiped out), Khmer food is filling and cheap. Rice and occasionally noodles are the staples. Unlike in Thailand or Laos, spicy hot food is not the mainstay; black pepper is preferred over chilli peppers, though chillis are usually served on the side. Thai and Vietnamese influences can be noted in Khmer food, although Cambodians love strong sour tastes in their dishes. Prahok, a local fish paste, is common in Khmer cooking and usually takes some getting used to. Kampot pepper is reputed to be the best in the world and accompanies crab at the Kep crab shacks and squid in the restaurants on the Ou Trojak Jet river.
Typical Khmer dishes include:
Don't forget Khmer desserts - Pong Aime (sweets). These are available from stalls in most Cambodian towns and can be excellent. Choose from a variety of sweetmeats and have them served with ice, condensed milk and sugar water. A must try is the Tuk-a-loc, a blended drink of fruits, raw egg, sweetened condensed milk and ice.
Happy Pizza can be found in many places (usually with the word 'Happy' in their restaurant name). They are basically sub-par pizza sprinkled with a kind of 'herb' that is illegal in some countries. You may have to ask for it to be added when you order. Best not to be driving or biking after eating.
There is also a wide variety of fresh fruit available from markets. The prices vary according to which fruit is in season but mangoes (around Khmer New Year, with up to 9 varieties on sale) and mangosteen (May/June) are both superb.
Other popular Khmer foods which may be less palatable to foreigners include pregnant eggs (duck eggs with the embryo still inside, you can custom order how big or how many days old of your embryo), and almost every variety of creepy-crawly, including spiders, crickets, water beetles. Also, barbecued rats, frogs, snakes, bats, dogs and small birds can be found.
The tap water supply in Phnom Penh has undergone significant changes following a "water revolutionary" in the government, Ek Sonn Chan. Consequently in Phnom Penh it is said that you can drink the tap water without problem, although it is highly chlorinated and may be sluiced through old rusty or leaded pipes - drink at your own risk. Locals usually do not drink the tap water.
Take water purification tablets or iodine to sterilize water if planning to visit more rural areas. Boiling water will also sterilize it without generating piles of waste plastic bottle waste or tainting the taste, however it will not remove arsenic or thermo tolerent coliforms  such as E. coli which may be present in water acquired from ground wells or streams . The water in the jugs at cafes or restaurants will have been boiled, as obviously will have been the tea.
Bottled water is readily available from convenience stores and street vendors, however there is some concern about the bottle water vendors: the U.S. Embassy web site says that "In 2008, Cambodia's Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy reported that more than 100 bottled- water companies in Cambodia were being considered for closure for failing to meet minimum production quality standards. Only 24 of the 130 bottled-water companies are compliant with the ministry's Department of Industrial Standards." That page seems to be down on bottled water generally, so take it with a grain of salt.
Outside of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap tap water should be assumed not to be potable. Cambodian branded water in blue plastic bottles sell for 1000 riels or less, although prices are often marked up for tourists to 50 cents or a dollar.
Iced coffee is ubiquitous in Cambodia. It is made Vietnamese style, freshly brewed and mixed with sweetened condensed milk. Walk past a local eatery any time of the day and you are bound to see at least a table of locals drinking them. One glass costs between 1500-2000riel. Iced tea made with lemon and sugar is also refreshing and ubiquitous.
Fresh coconut can be found everywhere, you could say it is ubiquitous, and is healthy and sanitary if drunk straight from the fruit. Somewhat bafflingly, locals often prefer to drink their coconut juice out of plastic bags, so you may want to indicate to the vendor if you just want the straw and the coconut!
There is no legal drinking/purchasing age for alcohol, however because of the number of children have been seen on binge drinking adventures, this has become of a concern to the government.
In general, Cambodians are not what could be described as casual drinkers: when Cambodians drink, the main objective is to get hammered as quickly as possible. Therefore there's still significant social stigma against drinking in general since it may cause people to become rowdy and lose face. This stigma is especially strong for "virtuous" women. Drinking is a male social activity - except for weddings or other specially sanctioned social occasions, men and women who aren't entertainment workers don't usually drink together. Men often exert great pressure on each other to join in, whether they initially wanted to or not. Know your limits if invited to join in!
The two most popular domestic Cambodian beers are the pilsner Anchor — pronounced "an-CHOR" to differentiate it from the more popular lager — Angkor. Recent upstart Cambodia Beer is another popular low price lager beer. Beer Lao and Tiger are popular beers with foreigners. A plethora of other beers include ABC Stout, which is dark and not so bad, in addition to the standard Heineken and Carlsberg. Cheaper beers include Crown and Leo, whilst Kingdom Beer aims for the premium market with a pilsener and a dark lager. In Phnom Penh some of the foreigner-oriented bars have also added harder-to-find imported beers to their menu;
Palm wine and rice wine are available in villages and can be OK at 500-1000 riel for a 1-litre bottle. However, some safety concerns have been raised with regards to sanitation, so the local wines may be best avoided. The rice wine is also not actually a wine but a distilled liquor with varied potency so when drinking it, pace yourself until you're sure of its strength. As a home distilled beverage there is also always the risk of improper distillation leading to methanol poisoning.
For a truly Khmer experience, hunt down a bottle of Golden Muscle Wine. Advertised on tuk-tuks everywhere, this pitch-black concoction made from deer antlers and assorted herbs packs a 35% punch and tastes vile when drunk straight, but can be made reasonably palatable (if not exactly tasty) by the addition of tonic water or cola. At US$2 for a 350 ml flask of the original and a budget-busting US$3 for the "X.O." version, it's the cheapest legitimate tipple available.
Safer and easier to drink is Sombai liqueur which is done under Western standard following the local tradition of Sraa Tram (soaked wine). If it is easy to find it in Siem Reap where the production is located, it is still possible to find some places offering it in Phnom Penh and Battambang.
Drugs, including cannabis, are illegal in Cambodia, and penalties can be very severe. That being said, most illicit substances can be acquired easily from shady-looking young men on Phnom Penh's riverside. 'Happy Pizza' and 'Happy Shakes' are commonly advertised, usually containing cannabis or occasionally psychedelic mushrooms. Consumption can be hazardous and is not recommended.
Western-style accommodation is available in most major towns the country over; even less-touristic places such as Kampong Chhnang have a number of affordable guesthouses or hotels. Basic guesthouses can go as low as US$2/night in the countryside but prices in the cities are usually in the US$5-10 range. At the budget end, expect to provide your own amenities such as towels, etc. If you want air-con and hot water, the price creeps up to close to US$10-20, and you can easily pay over US$100/night if you want to stay in a branded five-star hotel.
Cambodia has fewer opportunities for language and cultural studies for the short-term traveller, though there are many language schools and private teachers advertising for those who are hanging around a bit longer. There are also meditation groups which meet at some of the Buddhist Pagodas in Phnom Penh.
One of the most interesting ways to get to know a country, and which has become increasingly popular, is to volunteer. Volunteering in any developing country requires careful consideration of potential positive and negative impact. Many short term, unskilled, or childcare related positions could be better filled by local professionals. Volunteering in orphanages in particular should be avoided. Especially considering the presence of local family-based options through organisations like ChildrenInFamilies. ThinkChildSafe works to educate tourists about ethical volunteering and safe interactions with children in Cambodia.
English language teaching is a popular form of volunteering, where the required skills are not already available locally. Volunteering can also be a useful way to gain useful experience and networks to find paid teaching positions.
Finding a paid job teaching English in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is easy for English-speakers, even if you have no other qualifications, (though the salary will be significantly higher for native speakers, people with university degrees, those with TEFL certification, and, controversially, European heritage). If you're interested, print out some resumes and start handing them out to various schools.
Cambodia is a safe and friendly country with the usual exception of large cities late at night, particularly Phnom Penh. Bag-, phone-, and wallet-snatching, especially from those on motorcycles, is a very common problem in Phnom Penh. Be discreet with your possessions, especially electronics, and as always, take extra care in all poorly lit or more remote areas. If you are renting a motorcycle, it has been advised to purchase and use your own lock for securing it as some of the less scrupulous staff at rental companies have been known to use their copy of the key to steal bikes and leave the traveler paying the exceptionally high value estimation. Police assistance in many cases requires some "facilitation" money in a sort of bidding war between the victim and the criminal with "connections" complicating things further, making recovery of the motorcycle difficult.
In Siem Reap, a general rule not adequately explained to young women pretravel is that it is NOT safe to travel by yourself after 8pm at night in some areas. Use Tuk Tuk drivers that are well known to the place that you are staying. This is not advertised but there is an alarming rape and assault - so avoid putting oneself in that position. Most people are nice, but you really don't need the nightmare of catching a ride with the wrong one.
Crime and corruption
Potential visitors should be aware that the rule of law in Cambodia is inconsistently and under-applied. Crimes usually require bribes to be investigated, and if perpetrators are wealthy or connected to the government or other influential individuals, they will often be untouchable by police and courts.
You should also be aware that the courts are corrupt and controlled by the dominant political party, so contracts are hard to enforce without some political leverage. Perhaps for this reason, families tend to prefer to sort out altercations among themselves without involving the authorities.
It's not uncommon for a wealthy offender to pay out a few thousand dollars in exchange for mowing down some innocent bystanders, provided the families of the bystanders are too poor to contest for real justice. "Street justice" against thieves and other undesirables is also commonplace, especially if justice can be dispensed anonymously in a mob without fear of retribution against any one individual from the victim's family.
The police, generally harmless but despised by all, are usually conspicuously absent from tourist areas and anywhere else on the street after nightfall. All this being said, the violent crime rate is amazingly low (especially toward foreign visitors whose harm carries the perceived threat of involvement of foreign governments). Tourists with common sense have little to fear.
Cambodia suffers from a legacy of millions of land mines left during the war years. However, to tourists, land mines present a minimal to nonexistent threat, as most areas near touristed areas have been thoroughly de-mined. Many tourists mistake electric or sewage warning signs along national highways for land mine signs. HALO Trust, a leading mine removal organization in Cambodia asserts that you would have to drive through the jungle for at least an hour north of Angkor Wat to come across any mines. The threat is to locals in extremely rural areas who rely on subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods, especially as mechanized equipment like tractors are supplanting ox-drawn plows with greater frequency.
Nevertheless, in remote areas such as Preah Vihear (near the border) and Pailin (a former Khmer Rouge stronghold), exercise caution: ask for local advice and heed warning signs, red paint and red rope, which may indicate mined areas. Do not venture beyond well established roads and paths.
The age of consent in Cambodia is 15, however there are strict laws against the prostitution of 15-18 year olds. Prostitution is theoretically illegal but widespread, although generally not overtly aimed at tourists, with the exception of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Many bars and clubs have taxi girls wandering the premises. Bear in mind that Southeast Asia has a fast-growing HIV infection rate. Among Cambodian sex workers 1 in 8 are expected to be infected so safe sex is a must. Cambodia had gained notoriety as a destination for paedophiles in the past. This is less the case now as prostitution of girls under 18 is more hidden in traditional venues. Certain local NGOs like the ChildSafe Network and its 24-hour hotline are vigilant in watching for and soliciting reports on paedophiles, whom they report to police.
Cambodia, has a comparatively low HDI compared to its South East Asian neighbours, it lacks reliable medical facilities, doctors, clinics, hospitals and medication, especially in rural areas. Even the popular Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh kills its fair share of patients. Any serious medical problem should be dealt with in Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City or Singapore, which boast first rate services (at least to those who can afford them). Repatriation is also more easily arranged from either of those cities. Make sure your insurance covers medical evacuation. The private and pricey Thai-owned Royal Phnom Penh Hospital in Phnom Penh (which recently replaced Royal Rattanak Hospital) can be trusted for emergency medical care and can treat most diseases and injuries common to the region. Naga Clinic has branches in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. It is also clean, safe and useful for minor conditions.
Local hospitals and clinics vary from mediocre to frightening. Expect arrogant but ignorant doctors, dirt, poor equipment, expired medicines and placebos of flour and sugar. In local clinics don't let them put anything in your blood: treat dehydration orally and not with a drip, as there is a risk of septicemia (bacterial blood poisoning). The same goes for blood transfusions.
No health certificates or vaccinations are officially required for entry to Cambodia, unless arriving directly from Africa. However, consult a doctor a few weeks before leaving home for up-to-date advice on inoculations. Generally advised are shots against tetanus, diphtheria, hepatitis B and meningitis, a polio booster and especially gamma globulin shots (against hepatitis A). Consider malaria tablets for trips to Cambodia of less than 30 days, though the most commonly visited places have minimal risk (see below). A mosquito net may also help. Mosquitoes swarm at dusk, imported (i.e. trusted) DEET based insect repellent is available in Cambodia.
The contents of a basic medical kit-such as panadol, antihistamines, antibiotics, kaolin, oral rehydration solution, calamine lotion, bandages and band-aids, scissors and DEET insect repellent-can be acquired in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. The particularly fastidious should put their kits together in Bangkok or Saigon before coming to Cambodia. There's no need to bother doing this before coming to Asia.
Phnom Penh is malaria-free, and most major tourist attractions (including Siem Reap) are virtually malaria-free. The biggest disease worry is mosquito-borne dengue fever which, although quite unpleasant, generally isn't life-threatening for first-time victims.
The most common ailment for travelers is diarrhea, which can deteriorate into dysentery, resulting in dehydration. Stay hydrated by trying to consume 2-3 litres of water per day and don't forget that dehydration can also be brought on by a lack of salt.Soy sauce is your friend in this climate.
Avoid untreated water, ice made from untreated water and any raw fruit or vegetables that may have been washed in untreated water.
If you do get severe diarrhea and become badly dehydrated, take an oral rehydration solution and drink plenty of treated water. However, a lot of blood or mucus in the stool can indicate dysentery, which requires antibiotics.
April is the cruelest month: the weather is hottest (> 35 °C) in March and April, use sunscreen and wear a hat to avoid sunstroke.
Cambodia is a country at a crossroads. While the more heavily touristed places like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are well-adjusted to tourist behaviour, people in places such as Stung Treng or Banlung are less so. Always ask permission before you take somebody's picture, as many in the more remote areas do not like to be photographed, and some in the urban areas will ask for payment.
Dress is more conservative in Cambodia for both men and women - partially for reasons of modesty and partially, especially in urban areas, to avoid skin exposure to the sun which provides an unsightly tan. Don't worry - no one expects you to wear gloves, a hat and ski mask like many of the locals when out in the blazing sun! It is normal for women to wear trousers, even in rural areas (though taboo, like most of the world, for men to wear dresses or skirts except in gay bars). However, while shorts are now tolerated in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap (they're considered "sexy"), it is more respectful for both men and women to wear knee-length shorts or trousers when outside of these areas and a must if you intend to visit any temples. Rural Cambodians generally swim, waterlogged, in their clothes, though men may take off their shirts (if they want to risk getting brown). It's unusual to see Cambodian women in Western swimwear, though completely normal for foreigners in Sihanoukville. Western women in swimwear outside of major tourist areas will incur a lot of stares, though it's unlikely that anyone will say anything. Also, Cambodian women do not normally wear sleeveless shirts outside the home and never show their breasts in public, except when breastfeeding. In contrast, it is not unusual to see Cambodian men lounging around, bare from the waist up. Toe-less shoes are fine for both sexes and nearly every occasion.
As a general rule, two adults of the opposite sex will be assumed to be husband and wife and same-sex couples will almost never be recognized as such. Couples should avoid showing too much affection in public, though same-sex couples can get away with more physical closeness than they might be used to because same-sex friends and relatives are generally more "touchy" and maintain less personal space than Westerners do. (So if a Cambodian friend of the same sex touches you on the thigh or rests their hands on your shoulders, they're probably not hitting on you...) Kissing in public is scandalous for both same- and opposite-sex couples - it's almost never shown on Cambodian TV and a huge source of titillation when it shows up in movies. There's no need to prove or fake a matrimony for opposite-sex couples or friends to stay together in a hotel. Same-sex couples might raise an eyebrow if they request a single bed, but staff will usually comply without comment.
The Khmer Rouge issue is a very delicate one, and one which Cambodians generally prefer not to talk about. Keep in mind that anyone over the age of 40 has survived a genocide - there's a lot of trauma lurking under the surface, and the typical Cambodian way of dealing with it is to bury it. If you must bring it up, make sure you know the person well and watch their behaviour for signs that they're uncomfortable and don't press it. The unfortunate consequence of this is that younger generations are often unaware of their own family history and have a limited understanding of what happened.
Be wary of bringing up political issues. The 2013 general election saw more minority support and anti-ruling party demonstrations than ever before and a lot of Cambodians are resentful of the current political situation. Those who support the reigning government have also tended to dig in their heels, and so hot disagreements can break out.
Related to this, another sensitive subject to Cambodians is Vietnam and the Vietnamese. There is a long history of animosity from Cambodia toward Vietnam that was stirred up most recently by a minority political leader. Officially, the Vietnamese are celebrated for their role as liberators when they intervened in Cambodia in 1979 to overthrow the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. Under their guidance, a pro-Vietnamese government was established that continues to this day. Those dissatisfied with the status quo often devolve into generally baseless, racist tirades against the Vietnamese. Any comparison between Vietnam and Cambodia that doesn't overtly favour Cambodia may be met with scorn or even anger from some locals. Therefore, it's better to avoid the subject altogether if possible.
Cambodia uses the GSM mobile system.
Internet cafes are cheap (US$0.50-US$1/hour) and common, even small towns will have at least one offering broadband. In Kampot, Kratie and Sihanoukville rates are around US$1/hour. WiFi is increasingly popular, with signals available in some unlikely places: not just in coffee shops but also fast food restaurants, bars, and even gas stations. Domestic broadband prices range from $29.95 to $89.00. Always remember VAT is added to all prices, and even the locals pay VAT.
Fast wireless 3G/4G internet (3.5G or 7.2MBpS 3G/4G Modem usb stick, unlocked 3G/4G modem costs 30$) is now available in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville/Kampot/Kep with slower Edge coverage in almost all other areas. Tourists can add 3G/4G mobile internet to their SIM for as little as $3/month (0.8GB max, LT3 package)(Metfone) or 1c/MB with Qbmore or unlimited data package for $25/month (Metfone), equipping another 3G router can form a WiFi hotspot to share internet in your house/neighbourhood.
The Khmer language does not yet have a very established presence in the electronic world, unlike its wealthier neighbors like Thai or Vietnamese. Therefore few electronics have the capability to display the Khmer alphabet and so until now Cambodians have had to write in transliterated Khmer or "Khmerlish" online or in text messages, though Khmer unicode fonts are becoming more widely available.
Once a disaster, a trip to the post office in Cambodia no longer means a final good bye to your consignment. Intercontinental postcards should arrive in 2 weeks; within Asia, 1 week. Domestic rates are cheap, however international customs fees and rates can be high, though still less that private carriers. Some foreign customers have still experienced varied results on occasion with packages that disappear or have been gone through with some items missing. Contact by the post office to notify you that your package has arrived is also unreliable, so you should go in person when you suspect your parcel will have arrived.
Or else find your own way back to Poipet and then cross the border to Aranyaprathet (Thailand). There are buses about 5km from the border in case you cannot get one directly at the border. It is a Thai bus and will cost about 270 baht to take you to Bangkok. You may be able to get cheaper ones from Khaosan road but remember for all the money you save you are going to be screwed around all day long, with long waits, expensive food etc... It is sometimes nice to travel in a group but those agencies give good prices in the hope that you will buy other services - see scams section. The bus in Bangkok at Mo Chit you can take a bus everywhere - that is to the North of Thailand. Ekamai in Bangkok is the Eastern bus terminal going to Pattaya and South East. Sai Tai is the Southern Bus terminal going south and to the islands. It is across the river from Khaosan road and should not cost more than 100 baht in a taxi. Be careful of the scams but if you are willing to put up with all the BS and nonsense then by all means book you ticket from Khaosan and see what you get.