Despite having the eighth wonder of the world in its backyard, Cambodia’s real treasure is its people. The Khmers have been to hell and back, struggling through years of bloodshed, poverty and political instability. Thanks to an unbreakable spirit and infectious optimism, they have prevailed with their smiles intact. No visitor comes away without a measure of admiration and affection for the inhabitants of this enigmatic kingdom.
The official currency in Cambodia, the Cambodian riel, trades at around 4,000 riel to the US dollar. But there’s a 90 percent level of dollarization in the country. What this means is that you don’t need to be concerned about getting riel when you arrive in Cambodia. In fact, the visa you get on arrival must be paid for in US dollars.
Eating and Drinking
Cambodian cuisine is rich in flavors and has been influenced by a lot of different cultures. The dishes are fairly simple, but full of nutrients and perfect for a well-balanced diet. There is an abundance of tropical fruit to make fresh juice with exotic taste. The flavors of Cambodian meals are strong and contrasting, with a lot of spices (often fermented) and fresh fish coming directly from the numerous rivers around the country. Rice, vegetables and especially fruit are an imperative for every Cambodian meal.
Cambodian food is a combination of Thai, Vietnamese, French, Chinese and Khmer cuisine. Street food is extremely important. Breakfast often consists of rice porridge or noodles. Broth with meat or fish is usually served during lunch or dinner, along with stir-fried dishes with beef, pork or chicken. Desserts often consist of fresh fruit such as coconut, banana or mangos. The typical dishes are Fish Amok, Nom Banh Chok and Lap Khmer between many others.
Because of the high temperatures, it is important to drink enough. You can find a wide variety of drinks, ranging from fruit juices to local beers. Tea and coffee are very popular, mostly because of the French influence.
Fruit is important to the local cuisine: Fruit juices are a must when you are travelling around the country. Iced lemon tea and lemonade are the most popular fruit drinks. Smoothies are popular as well; they are an important part of night life. There are juice stalls everywhere, with their blenders and fruit displays. You can choose to add coconut milk, sugar syrup, condensed milk or a raw egg.
The two most famous Cambodian beers are Anchor and Angkor. Beer Lao and Tiger are also popular, but mostly among foreigners. Cambodian beers are really affordable and offer a wide range of qualities.
Angkor is brewed in Sihanoukville, and it is considered Cambodia’s national beer. The beer is light and refreshing; a must for many locals and tourists during hot days. The Extra Stout variety has a strong coffee-like taste and a dark, dense color.
Other popular brands are ABC, another dark beer with a strong flavor; Cambodia Lager, brewed with European ingredients, it has a golden color and is very drinkable. Klang Beer is “extra strong and smooth”: it is easily recognizable because of the elephant on the can.
Australia Government Travel Advice
The Australian Government provides up to date information on the safety of travelling to various countries, and all travellers should take note of this advice. Liberty Tours recommends that all travellers take out appropriate Travel Insurance to cover the entire duration of their absence from home. Liberty Tours can assist with obtaining Travel Insurance.
Follow this link for current official assessment:
Advice on health risks and vaccination recommendations can also be found using the same link.
Most of the year in Cambodia is lovely, but some times are nicer than others to visit. For those who are sensitive to heat, cool season from November to February is the best time to visit Cambodia, specifically December and January. This is high season for the tourism industry in most of the country, and the popular destinations–Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Kep, Kampot, and Phnom Penh–do most of their tourist business during this time. In particular, the Angkor Wat complex at Siem Reap is usually packed with visitors from all over the world.
What to pack
All year round, bring lightweight clothing of natural fibers, comfortable shoes, a scarf for the breeze on the coast. From December to March, you can add a sweatshirt for the evening, and in the rainy season, a light sweatshirt and a light raincoat or umbrella. For the mountains, pack spring/autumn clothes, a raincoat or umbrella, and a sweater and a jacket for the evening, a bit warmer from December to March. When visiting temples, it is customary to remove shoes, dress neatly and cover a little.