CAMBODIA TRAVEL TIPS

Travel within Cambodia

It is possible to travel between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap by boat. Some may want to try the local ferries, but only the fast boats are geared to accommodate foreigners. Plan to take your own food and drink. There are now several fast boat services, which take between four and six hours, cost around US$25 and depart from near the Japanese Bridge (Chrouy Changvar) in Phnom Penh. There is and added taxi ride from the point of disembarkation at the Tonle Sap to Siem Reap. Travel by boat to Siem Reap is possible during most of the year when the water level is sufficient to allow the boats to navigate the course to the landing dock, located on a tributary to the Tonle Sap Lake. Between April and July there is a likelihood of delays or cancellations due to boats being stranded on sand banks. At this time of year and because of the excessive heat it is best to travel by air. (Smaller boats operate all year round, but are much less comfortable). However, occasionally these boats have been harassed by fishermen. Travel by road between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is now possible and foreigners can safely make the journey by public bus.

Vaccination and Health

Vaccinations are not required, except cholera if you are arriving from an infected area. However, the following immunizations are recommended before traveling to Cambodia: typhoid, tetanus and hepatitis. Most travelers take precautions against malaria, but it is best to check with a doctor for the appropriate drugs to use against the mosquitoes prevalent in Cambodia. As prevention against malaria and dengue fever a mosquitoes repellent is essential: socks, trousers and a long-sleeved shirt, especially in the evening and early morning when mosquitoes are likely to be out, are recommended.

Drink only bottled water in Cambodia. Purified water in sealed plastic bottles is readily available in hotels, restaurants, shops, street stalls, and even from vendors around the temples at Angkor. To avoid diarrhea and more serious infections transmitted by unsanitary conditions, never eat peeled fruit or sliced vegetables sold by street vendors; and avoid all ice, either crushed or in cubes.

The tropical sun can be strong and the heat overwhelming. Avoid being in the direct sun during the middle of the day. When you are outside, wear a hat and use sun block. It is important to apply a protective cream to exposed areas including the ears, nose and lips. Remember to re-apply sun block as it may wash off (even the waterproof brands) when you perspire.

Security

Most of the Angkor sites have been checked for land mines. However caution is recommended at all times. Keep to the well worn paths. Do NOT stray into the jungle areas. It is important to dress modestly and not wear expensive or ostentatious jewelry. It is also advisable not to visit the more out of the way sites alone. Go either with an official guide or with a group. The purchase of all Khmer antiques, including bronze figures and particularly ceramics, is strictly against the law and offenders will be heavily penalised if caught

Customs

Cambodia is primarily a Buddhist country and you should follow certain customs out of courtesy and respect for the religious practices. Visitors should remove their shoes before entering a modern temple if it contains a Buddha image. It is not necessary to observe this rule at the ruins of Angkor, as the temples are not actively used today. It is quite common to see monks around the ancient temples and they often like to practice their English with foreigners. A female, however, should never have any physical contact with a monk.

Respect the temples and keep in mind that they were once sacred places of worship and are still considered hallowed sanctuaries by Cambodians. As such, do not climb on stone images (not even for a photograph) and be particularly careful not to touch the head of a figure as this is considered the most sacred part of the body. Avoid touching any person's or child's head for similar reasons. It is also considered offensive to point a finger at anyone or at any religious image. The Western gesture is replaced by indicating with the whole hand up-turned.

Communications

The telephone services in Cambodia are improving all the time. IDD lines for overseas calls have been installed and pay phones are available in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap near hotels and restaurants. Phone cards can be purchased from some hotels and restaurants in the vicinity of public phone boxes or at post offices, airports or Tourism Offices. In Siem Reap, most hotels have international telephone connections. The international phone code for Cambodia is 855; plus 23 for Phnom Penh or 63 for Siem Reap. Telephone numbers change frequently in Cambodia due to the inadequate system, and calling into the country may prove frustrating. There are now three mobile phone services available with prefixes 012 (Mobitel) 011 (Shinawatra) or 015 & 016 (Samart). It is necessary to dial the prefixes unless you are using a phone having the same prefix.

Internet access is now available in Siem Reap and there are a growing number of places where you can avail yourself of this service. Connection is relatively expensive at $US12 per hour but when you make a connection it is very satisfying!

The postal service is slow but on the whole reliable. The post office is located on the West bank of the river where you will also find telephone services as well as an extensive assortment of collectable postage stamps.

Electricity

Cambodia operates on 220-volt, 50 Hz. Blackouts occur often in Phnom Penh, but less frequently in Siem Reap. Most hotels and restaurants have back-up generators. It is recommended that you take a torch for power failures.

Source: Angkor An Introduction to the Temples, Dawn Rooney; Twin Age Limited, Hong Kong, 2004

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