10 things to think about before you’re off to Cambodia

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  1. Visa

Besides the flight ticket the visa is the most crucial thing you need to have if you plan on actually staying in Cambodia 🙂 Nevertheless it actually is possible to obtain your visa upon arrival at the airport or at some borders.

But for those who like to have everything planned in advance and don’t want to bother at the airport you can easily get your visa in advance online (e-Visa). At http://cambodia-visa-online.com/ you can complete the online form and so apply for your e-Visa application.

 

  1. Medicaments

The first time I travelled to Asia by myself I packed a huge bag stuffed with medicaments. It included different variations of band aids, sanitizer, aspirin, laxative, ointments, tapes and variations of pills; I almost resembled a travelling pharmacy. But I soon realized that I packed to generous and would carry extra weight for the rest of the trip. I actually didn’t even unzip this oversized first-aid-kid even once.

Some of the people I met along the trip however weren’t as lucky as I was and needed some medical advices at some point. Yet there are proper pharmacies in every city all over the country with a variety that everyone hits the pay dirt.

The only thing that was missing in my first-aid-kid was malarone – a malaria prophylaxis. I did some research and decided that I wouldn’t want to take pills everyday or carry around an extra quite expansive medicament I only needed if I got malaria but could obtain at the local hospitals. However I took some steps to lower the risk of malaria.

For example the first thing I did when the sun was about to set I put on some bug spray – bug spray has basically been my perfume during my time in Asia 🙂

I also never slept without a mosquito net. While my room mates woke up after a tough night with swollen bumps all over their legs and arms I loved my mosquito net even more from morning to morning.

But my secret malaria hack lies within the so-called Artemisia tea. I started drinking it 10 days before the journey began and drank it every morning throughout the whole trip. I am convinced that it has helped a lot. Further information can be found here: http://www.anamed-edition.com/en/

 

  1. Injections

In Cambodia – and Asia in general – diseases like cholera, typhus, rabies, malaria, hepatitis or dengue fever are still commonly spread and something to give some thoughts to before leaving. The best thing you can do is to educate yourself – for example at the tropical institute homepage – about the diseases and recommended injections, and then make an appointment with your doctor to check what he/she recommends based on your background.

In the end everyone needs to decide on their own if they’d like to get everything in just in case and to feel safe, or if they just go with it.

I personally didn’t get all available injections and never regretted my decision or felt uncomfortable due to a lack of injections. I believe that one should be aware and informed about the diseases but there is no need to be all scared and hyper about the whole thing 🙂

 

  1. Health insurance

You never know what could happen during your journey. It might not occur anything but just for the case that you need to go to the hospital, you probably aren’t in the mood right then to think about health insurances. So that is definitely a topic you want to be covered in advance.

 

  1. Culture

It simply is fact that the western culture varies in some aspects from the eastern culture, and when travelling anywhere the traveller should always be respecting the culture. Therefore it makes sense to know the basics about the culture and their beliefs in advance.

Cambodians culture is characterized by Buddhism. Temples and monks dressed in orange fabrics are found all over the country. During visits of temples or villages in mostly rural areas it is advisable to wear clothes covering knees and shoulders.

During my journey I also noticed that Asians fear losing their “face”, which means losing their dignity. It is important to control one even in difficult situations, to always be polite, respectful to one another and to take other’s feelings into account. Never expose anybody. It is impolite to talk too loud or to point at somebody with your finger.

The best thing to do is to be open-minded, and if you behave like the local inhabitants there won’t be any problems – you will get the knack pretty soon.

The most outstanding and fascinating attribute I realized about Cambodians is their big and hearty smile. Along the dirtiest roads the poorest people smiled at me with their eyes glowing so intense that I wondered every time – when do we silly western citizens finally realize that happiness doesn’t come from wealth!?

 

  1. Clothing

While you pack think about the season you will be travelling in – raining season or dry season. Travelling during November till April (=dry season) you probably find things in your luggage you won’t need at all. Sweat shirts for the nights, warm socks, more than one pair of socks in general or the rain jacket weren’t even used once.

After one week I realized I clearly packed too much. Hitting the road as a backpacker I started the trip with way too many clothes all along. Don’t forget that you are travelling to Asia where clothes are as cheap as nowhere else. And I tell you, you end up wearing the same pieces of cloth after a while anyway.

When I returned home I found clothes in the depth of my backpack I had with me just to say they’ve been in Asia once 🙂

Tank tops for example I found completely useless. When carrying my backpack the straps were rubbing my shoulders and especially in the rural areas tourists are constrained to cover their shoulders and knees.

So the tip I can give you right here: pack very light and if you need anything else you can find it for very cheap at one of the countless markets.

For more tips on what to pack for an Asia trip check out my packing list.

 

  1. Money

Having not enough money can turn travelling into stress. Despite there are ATM’s and cash machines at every corner I highly suggest you have some cash with you wherever you go. Besides you should definitely have some cash on hand when arriving at the airport. (If you live in a country where the currency isn’t dollar, change some of your money into dollar at your home country). Arriving at the airport you immediately need money to pay the taxi or tuk tuk driver.

Cash makes everything just so much easier and life in Cambodia is so cheap that I never needed to carry more than $20 with me at a time.

Even though the Cambodian currency is Riel it is possible to pay almost everywhere in dollar. One usually only pays in Riel for prices lower than $1 or $2 since 1000 Riel are 25 cents. Just be aware that bank notes you receive aren’t damaged because often times it then won’t be accepted anymore.

However, once you get used to the currencies ($1 = 4000 Riel) it is super easy, and I’ve never had any trouble receiving or paying money.

 

  1. What do you want to experience?

Before you set a foot on the plane and actually take off to Cambodia I would highly recommend giving some thoughts to what you expect and what you want to experience. During my trip I’ve met many different types of tourists. Some of them were backpackers who stayed in very cheap hostels with dorm rooms and saved money to travel for several months or even years. Others only came to Asia to hop from volunteer camp to volunteer camp and only travelled on some weekends to come back on Monday to teach kids, construct class rooms, help in a village or volunteer at an elephant camp. Some others again worked a little bit to get at least accommodation and food for free, or even earn a little extra money. And some others just have been tourists who have been there for a couple of weeks with their suitcases staying in nice hotels with big pools.

Every experience will be different, so think about what you want, how much time or how much money you have and then get excited for your very own experience.

 

  1. Important documents

This one is pretty obvious. You definitely want to have all important documents – still valid – with you. Things like your passport, flight ticket, visa or credit card as well as your license should be packed in your carry-on luggage.

Less obvious is to take a picture of every document, scan it and send it to your phone or make a copy of each and store it away in a different piece of luggage just in case the originals get stolen.

 

  1. Plane ride food

Depending from where in the world you come from the trip to Cambodia or Asia in general is long. You for sure will get served food on the plane but if you eat a special diet, like vegan or even raw, don’t forget to contact the airline to make sure you get your special meal.

Besides, I always have a snack in my carry-on, varying from dried fruit or vegetables to granola bars or nuts.

 


I hope I was able to help you while you get ready to take off to Cambodia. Feel free to check out any of my other posts. If you have any questions or notes, please leave a comment or send me a message.

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