Some Handy Local Knowledge

Cambodia-Quick-Facts
Cambodia-Map-for-Web

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.

Cash

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).

Drink

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.  Please Note: The water at Sandy Beach is only for showering, we do sell bottled water for drinking.

Cambodia-Region-Map

Cities

  • Phnom Penh — the capital
  • Banlung — far northeastern provincial capital located near some great waterfalls and national parks
  • Battambang — the second biggest town of Cambodia
  • Kampot — town between the capital and Sihanoukville and gateway to the Bokor National Park
  • Koh Kong — small border crossing town near the Thai border
  • Kompong Thom — access to less well known (and less crowded) ancient temples and other sites
  • Kratie — relaxed river town in the north-east on the Mekong, and an excellent place to get a close look at endangered river dolphins
  • Siem Reap — the access point for Angkor Wat
  • Sihanoukville — seaside town in the south, also known as Kompong Som

*Note: Sihanoukville is the closest City to Koh Rong Island and Sandy Beach Bungalows

Telephone

Cambodia uses the GSM mobile system.

  • Mobitel is the largest operator, although competition is stiff. Pre-paid SIM cards are widely available (USD1 and up), but require a passport to buy. A guest house or tuk-tuk driver can also just buy one for you. \Mobitel recently acquired one of their largest competitors, M-Phone, after M-Phone declared bankruptcy. This has expanded their coverage and service availability significantly.
  • Smart offers good coverage and cheap prices, especially for mobile Internet. The service code *656*100# exchanges USD1 for a USD15 Internet balance which never seems to get lower when you use it (Feb 2014).

Internet

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.  Please Note: Internet is available to purchase at Sandy Beach

Talk

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.

Respect

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.

Eat

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.

Fried noodles, sour soup and a Khmer-style curry

Fried noodles, sour soup and a Khmer-style curry

One of the must-try local Cambodian pan cake

One of the must-try local Cambodian pan cake

*Note: The above information has been obtained from http://wikitravel.org/en/Cambodia and is only a fraction of the information available on the site, so if you’d like to read more please give them a visit.

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