Phnom Penh

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ShermansTravel experts rely on years of collective travel experience to bring you the best money-saving tips for your vacation. We take a discerning look at all the attraction passes, public transportation options, and other local bargains to make sure you get the most bang for your buck while traveling.

Phnom Penh Money-Saving Tips

Giving to beggars

Cambodia is a very poor country, and its inhabitants don’t get much help from the government. Be prepared to meet many people who will ask you for money. While distressing, it’s obviously not possible to assist every individual you meet. A reasonable comprise is to donate to a charity/NGO such as the local orphanage supported by Local Adventures Cambodia (on the same street as Okay Guesthouse: 14, Ph 258, off Samdech Sothearos Boulevard; 011-855-23-990-460).

Passport and visa issues

Make sure your passport will be valid for 6 months after your trip finishes, and has plenty of space left inside for the visa, which takes up one whole page. Visas are issued at the airport on arrival at a cost of about $40 and are valid for one month. You will need to provide a passport photo. You’ll be fined each day you over-extend your visa – at time of writing that was $10 per day, but this sum could change without notice. If you want to extend it over a month once you’re here, see the immigration office by Phnom Penh International Airport, or ask a local travel agent to do it for you.

Language

You can usually make yourself understood using English. Still, it’s always a nice gesture, and one very much appreciated by the locals, if you take the trouble to learn words such as "thank you very much" in Khmer (“ak-on-toom-toom”).

Medical

Take out travel medical insurance before you go – good companies will cover you for at least $1 million in direct medical expenses (Nomand is one of the best and most affordable companies: www.worldnomads.com). Although Phnom Penh has decent international clinics for less serious health issues, Cambodia’s medical care is basic compared to care in the United States, and for serious sicknesses you might need to be repatriated.

Before you go

The U.S. advises receiving the following booster shots before traveling to Phnom Penh: typhoid, Hepatits A, Hepatits B, rabies, and Japanese encephalitis. Visitors planning on traveling outside of Phnom Penh, especially to Angkor Wat, should also take a malaria prophylactic.

Clothing and coverage

Cambodia is a conservative country and women should dress accordingly, both out of respect for the values of this Asian culture, and to avoid being hassled by over-enthusiastic men. Cambodia can get very hot, so loose and thin garments are recommended. Pack a thin rain coat for odd tropical showers.

Sunblock

Pack sun-block, preferably 30 SPF or higher, and wear it! The sun is deceptively strong, even when it’s cloudy. Although you can purchase sun-block in Cambodia, there is no way to know whether it’s real or fake (until the next day, that is). If you must purchase sun-block here, do so from a boutique in a five star hotel where the chances are greater that you’ll get what you pay for.

Communications

If you plan to make a lot of phone calls, sign up for an internet-based Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) account like Skype. There are hundreds of internet cafes throughout the capital, which charge from one to a few dollars per hour. If you plan to make a lot of local calls, either purchase a cheap local cell phone or a local SIM card that’s compatible with your phone (costs from hotel phones vary, but can be quite expensive).

Mail

Snail mail will likely take several weeks to arrive back in the U.S. and the Cambodian postal system is quite unreliable, so send any valuables via a reputable courier – ask your hotel concierge for recommendations.

Money

Although some hotels and upscale stores and restaurants accept major credit cards, you will also need to carry cash. The U.S. dollar is used as much, or more than, the local currency (riel). Banks and ATM machines are plentiful within Phnom Penh, but it’s worth noting that if you travel outside the capital, you may not be able to use your credit cards or travelers checks at all.

Drugs

Marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, and opium are available in Cambodia, but punishment for their use (enormous fines, lengthy prison sentences) makes it hardly worth the risk. Backpackers die each year in Phnom Penh from unwittingly taking fake cocaine, ecstasy, and other poorly manufactured products.

Sex

Sex tourism is rife in Asia, and lone men will constantly be approached with offers of “pretty ladies” or similar. This is highly unadvisable, however, as HIV levels among sex workers are extremely high.

Land mine warning

Land mines are still a concern in Cambodia. Never walk in forests or rice paddies without a local guide. If you see anything resembling an explosive device, contact the Cambodia Mine Action Center at 023-368-841.

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