Cambodia, land of the Angkor Kings

For over five hundred years, Angkor was at the core of one of humankind's greatest civilizations. The mighty “Devaraja” or God-kings ruled a vast swathes of what is now Southeast Asia from their heartland in the northern plains of Cambodia. They built immense and dazzling cities and temples decorated with intricate stone carvings to honour both their gods and themselves. At its height in the late 12th century , Angkor is believed to have been home to about one million people. One of the largest cities on earth at that time. Read more...

Like other great empires before and since, the mighty Khmer civilization eventually declined. In the 15th century, the Ayutthaya Thais sacked the city several times until eventually it was abandoned and entire population, including the Royal Court moved to current day Phnom Penh. Once abandoned, the jungle quickly reclaimed the temples and they remained lost to the outside world until their rediscovery in 1860 by the French explorer Henri Mahout.

It has been said the temples of Angkor represent the finest architectural artistry in human history. To comprehend their grandeur and magnificence requires imagination. Imagine the Great Egyptian Pyramids at Giza if every stone were carved with portrayals of fantastic myths and legends. To better grasp the sheer scale, both St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London would fit easily inside the perimeter walls of Angkor Wat.

The country of Cambodia itself remained a quiet, undisturbed backwater for much of the last century. Now emerging from years of isolation, the country offers a true taste of Southeast Asia before the arrival of mass tourism and rampant commercialisation.

Together with the other countries of Indochina, Cambodia has had its fill of tragedy. Yet its people are nothing if not pragmatic and forward looking. Cambodia today has much to offer the curious and adventurous traveller.

Travel tips

The nation of Cambodia has been inhabited for thousands of years, and arguably the height of Cambodian power was the Khmer Empire which ruled most of the Indochinese peninsula for about 600 years. Over the years, the Khmer culture has been influenced by its neighbors, especially Thailand and Vietnam, as well as the former French colonial occupiers.

Some of the most interesting Cambodian festivals are unique to small localities. When planning to travel to Cambodia, contact your travel consultant to see if any local festivals will occur during your itinerary. Some of the larger festivals in Vietnam are celebrated nationwide:

Khmer New Year: The holiday is based on the old Khmer lunar calendar and usually falls in mid-April. Houses are decorated and people joyfully throw flour and water on others for good luck in the year ahead.

Water Festival: The highlight of this festival is the boat racing that takes place in the Mekong and Tonle Sap Rivers near Phnom Penh. Boats with up to 50 paddlers compete for top honours. The evening is just as exciting with firework displays along the rivers.

In general, there are no serious health or safety risks when traveling in Cambodia. However, it never hurts to take precautions. Please consult your healthcare provider to see if they recommend any vaccinations or other medications when traveling.

In large cities and other crowded areas, be mindful of your belongings such as cameras, mobile phones and wallets/purses.

The Cambodian Riel (KHR) is the national currency and is pegged to the US Dollar. One US Dollar is worth approximately 4000 KHR (as of February 2016). US Dollars are common and widely accepted as well. ATMs are widely available in cities and many of them work with overseas ATM cards. Some larger hotels and shops accept credit cards, and this method of payment is becoming more common. Keep in mind that some merchants may charge small fee and that international transaction fees may apply.

The Cambodia postal system can mail letters and postcards worldwide for less than $2 US. International shipping companies such as FedEx, UPS and DHL are available as well if there is a need to ship something quickly.

SIM cards for mobile phones are cheap and widely available. Short term data packages for mobile phones are very inexpensive and easy to set up. Get in touch with your travel consultant to arrange a SIM if you wish to use your mobile phone upon arrival.

Updated

A visa is required to enter Cambodia. Visas can be obtained at the Royal Embassies and Consulates of Cambodia - there is an embassy in Canberra. A visa on arrival, valid for 30 days, is available and issued at Phnom Penh International Airport and Siem Reap International Airport - some border crossings also provide a Visa on Arrival.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has launched e-visa, which enables guests to apply for a Cambodia tourist visa online. Instead of applying through Cambodian embassies and consulates, all visitors need to do is to complete the online application form and pay with their credit card. After receiving their visa via email, print out and take it with you when traveling to Cambodia. (Note: Do not purchase e-Visas through any unofficial websites only from the official Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.)       

Meanwhile, there are nine countries being under strictly controlled before issuing Visa to enter Cambodia including Afghanistan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Sudan. (If you are one of the citizens from the mentioned countries, please check carefully with your embassy and you must have your guarantor to certify your purpose of visiting Cambodia. Unless proper information is given, you would not be allowed to enter Cambodia.)

VISA APPLICATION FORMS

The passenger hands over a completed application form together with a photo and the passport to a visa officer. Once the application is approved and passport stamped, the fee is paid. Tourist visa: US$30.  Tip: Use US$ as while other currencies may be accepted the foreign exchange rate used is very high.

Application for an entry visa requires:

+ A completed visa application form
+ Passport valid at least further 6 months
+ One recent passport photograph (4x6)
+ Appropriate visa fee
+ Supporting documents for business and official visas

CUSTOMS

The customers officer will check the completed customs form and the passport. Luggage is placed on the x-ray machine. After passing all luggage (including hand luggage, handbag, etc.) through the machine, upon exiting the Arrivals Hall passengers will be met by our guide.

When travelling from Cambodia to Vietnam be sure to detail a brief list of any and all antiques purchased in Cambodia. Upon arrival in Vietnam, have Vietnamese customs authorities confirm and stamp this list. There are strict restrictions on exporting certain Vietnamese arts and antiques so identifying goods purchased in Cambodia in advance is the best and safest thing to do.

AIRPORT TAX

International and Domestic Airport Tax (Phnom Penh & Siem Reap): Air fares include airport taxes and passengers are no longer required to pay airport taxes.

When traveling in Cambodia, remember to be flexible and keep an open mind. Many traveler frustrations begin with differing expectations and miscommunication. If there is an issue, try to stay pleasant, smile and enjoy the experience. The Khmer people are very proud of their country and culture and are proud to showcase their nation and its wonders to international visitors.