January 29, 2019 – We’ve spent our lives in Cambodia and want to make your trip as easy as possible…so you can focus on having fun! Check out our tips and let us know if you need some extra help.
Visa on Arrival
International airports and over-land immigration centers offer visas on arrival for most passport holders. You need to bring a passport-style photograph of yourself against a white background as well as $20-30USD in cash depending on the visa you’re applying for. Alternatively, you can get an e-Visa online at https://www.evisa.gov.kh.
Visas are processed in-house and typically take 10—15 minutes but can take longer if you’re last in a long line of tourists. It’s worth getting to the booth as early as possible and filling out the application form beforehand if your bus or air carrier provides it (or fill it out while waiting in line). Keep in mind that most flights only offer the customs form and not the longer visa application form that is provided at the airport.
Visas on arrival typically last 30 days. Tourist visas are the cheapest option but only offer single entry; if you are hopping around South East Asia it might be worth getting a business visa for a few more bucks that allow multiple entries and is easy to extend at any travel agency in the country.
English is Commonly Spoken
A legacy of the UN’s brief rule here, English is widely spoken in most urban areas which makes Cambodia easy to travel and navigate for English speakers. Most menus and signs will be in English, and vendors operating in busy areas are all able to speak English.
US Dollars and Khmer Riel are Interchangeable
The local currency is based on the US dollar and its largest printed denomination is 20,000 Khmer Riel – or $5 USD. The economy here is still based on the US dollar, another legacy of the UN’s governance here in the early 90s.
The US dollars are accepted everywhere and officially exchanges at 4100 Riel, however most places accept 4000 Riel to $1 USD for the sake of simplicity. Anything below $1 USD uses Khmer Riel exclusively – American coins are not accepted here. We recommend just carrying USD for larger bills so your wallet isn’t stuffed with small denominations.
Getting Around: Tuk Tuks & Rideshare Apps
The easiest, cheapest and most efficient way around the city is by Tuktuk. Most hotels always have a few drivers waiting outside on the street to take guests to their destinations and are also ubiquitous throughout the city. You need to haggle the price before you start your journey. $2 USD is a typical price for a standard 10 minute ride around town. You are likely to be charged the “tourist fee” which is typically only a dollar or two more than standard local fares. Or just try what local expats do – don’t mention price until you arrive at your destination and then give them a couple bucks and walk away. If the driver is unhappy they will let you know!
If you don’t want to deal with the stress of haggling and navigating the city, there are two big ride-share applications to use: PassApp and Grab. PassApp is the most popular local application and can find you 2-seater tuk tuks, 4-seater cars, and 6-seater four wheel drives to take you around the city. You can set pick-up and drop-off locations around town for pre-negotiated rates. The prices are exceedingly reasonable and far better than you’d be able to negotiate with a tuktuk on your own. Payments are made in cash.
Uber sold their local business to Grab, an international application that is relatively new and growing. This is the best way to get to the airport or destinations a bit further in the city. It also has the option of getting the old-school 4-seater tuk tuks if that’s something you prefer, and also allows you to pay via credit card.
Important: Please be careful with your belongings, bags and phones during any tuktuk ride – have them hidden or secured and not within reaching distance of people outside. Drive-by thefts by motorbike are unfortunately common.
We recommend using ABA and ANZ ATMs as they are partnered with the Bank of Canada and Australia/New Zealand, respectively. Your debit or credit cards are less likely to be flagged by these reputable international banks. They both allow you to withdraw USD and KHR, and are easy to locate on Google Maps.
Besides hotels, it’s rare for places to accept card. Cambodia is still a cash-based economy, so even higher-end bars and restaurants only accept cash. If you forget, don’t worry, most establishments will be able to direct you to a nearby ATM.
Power Outlets and Adapters
While US, European and UK power outlets can be found in Cambodia, the typical flat 2-pronged US outlets are most common. Voltage in Cambodia is 230 volts (US voltage is 120), so you may still need an adapter if your device is unable to handle higher voltage. Most electronic devices will not have a problem, but items like hair dryers sometimes do not work without an adapter. If your devices use UK or European plugs then we recommend you bring an adapter, but if you forget they are quite cheap at the local market!
Get a Local Sim Card
Sim cards are cheap and worth the trouble. You can pick them up at many ports of entry, and the Phnom Penh airport even give SIM cards for free with pre-paid plans which are usually a bit pricier than the local plans.
If you’re in a town or city, look for an official Smart or Cellcard shop – these are the biggest and fastest operators in Cambodia. If you’ll be staying on the southern islands, Metfone is also a good choice as it is more reliable there. These shops will charge around $3-5 USD for a sim card and then you’ll need to top it up with credit so it can be used. Make sure you bring your passport as all SIM card purchases need to be registered.
Alternatively, many street-side shops and mini-marts also sell SIM cards. They will charge a bit more but passports are not required.
Data here is very cheap, and $2 for a week-long stay is more than enough phone credit to buy. It’s easy to purchase additional credit any time by visiting a street-side shop or mini-mart. Let them know what carrier you’re using and how much you’d like to top-up. They’ll give you a scratch-off code with instructions on how to input in your phone.
Tipping is Welcome but not Mandatory
We don’t have a tipping culture here, but it is welcomed and appreciated if you do feel like service was exceptional. There are no guidelines at all about what percentage of the bill is expected based on the level of service delivered, so just go with your gut if you feel like giving an extra “thank you.”
Want to Eat Local in Phnom Penh?
Come Join Us!
Our Phnom Penh Food Tours will take you away from the tourists and visit the kind of neighborhood spots that don’t show up on top ten lists — where the locals eat. Click Here for more info.