There is definitely no need to worry about the language if you can speak and understand English – but I guess that is no problem for you since you are reading this 😉
Even though the national language is Khmer and consists of total different signs and letters, everyone’s English is good enough to get what you want. The vocabulary of some tuk tuk drivers or women selling their goods at the market is no more than “how much”, “dollar”, “good price for you”, “ladyyyyyy” or “same same”. But it has always been enough for the situation.
A Cambodian guy once taught me the basics in their language and I failed so hard. I feel bad to admit, but more than “thank you” and “goodbye” I honestly can’t remember. Having that in mind I was thankful for every English word they understood.
Cambodian students nowadays learn English from very young age at school. Often times the English from young Cambodians is better than the one of some Europeans.
Although the official currency in Cambodia is Riel (KHR) they accept dollar almost everywhere. Riel is only used for change, or when paying less than $1-$2 since 1000 Riel are 25 cents.
To only bring dollars is totally enough – you end up getting Riel anyway.
Having very small dollar bank notes however turned out to be a huge ease. Life in Cambodia is so cheap that it seriously was a pain in the ass to get rid of my $100. I definitely preferred and now recommend paying with $1 or $5 bills only – it is just way easier.
Withdrawing money is just as easy and comfortable as in every other country. The bigger cities are abounding with ATM’s and cash machines. I always waited till I ran out of cash and only then walked to the next corner – occupied with a cash machine – to get some more bank notes. On your way to the next market you probably walk by at least 5 possibilities to withdraw money.
Travelling while it was still winter back home, the temperature and climate was for sure a thing it took me to get used to – I’m not even sure if I ever got used to it, or if I just got used to being sweaty 🙂
The climate in Cambodia is tropical and only varies between two seasons: raining season from May till October and dry season from November till April. Even during the rainy months the weather is warm, generally between 26-30° Celsius the whole year, and if it rains it is no continuous rainfall which usually doesn’t last longer than 30 minutes.
- Medical Care
You should stock your first-aid-kit depending on the occasion you choose to go to Cambodia. People going on a business trip or to relax at the pool in nice hotels all day probably look at it in a different way than backpackers spending their nights in tree houses in a jungle on an island (such tree house farms do exist in real life). It is everyone’s own choice what injections to get and what medicaments or pills to take with you but my advice is to spend a few minutes to inform yourself on what diseases and dangerous animals do exist and what precautions you can take and then talk to your doctor. You don’t need to make a big production out of it but simply knowing about it and taking a few caveats never hurt.
I also highly recommend getting a health insurance for foreign countries. It might not happen anything but just in case it does, you for sure don’t want to bother over there – this would be the last thing you want to think about in a situation you desperately need to see a doctor!
You can also check out my blog post about 10 things to think about before leaving for further tips.
- Important phone numbers
All important phone numbers were saved in my phone, as well as printed out on a piece of paper somewhere in my carry-on luggage for the case my phone got stolen or lost (Therefore the phone should be in a different bag than the paper with the numbers).
Important numbers are: the country code which is +85, the international dialing code 00, the general emergency call/police at 117, the fire department at 118, and the accident rescue with the number 119.
- SIM-card or WIFI?
Before I started the trip I have heard over and over again that I should buy a SIM card as soon as I arrive there to stay in touch with my friends and family overseas. It turned out that this piece of information is a little outdated.
Every place I’ve been to had just fine and free WIFI. At hotels or hostels, restaurants, busses and even at laundry places I was able to access my apps that require internet access.
I wouldn’t bother buying a SIM-card, just ask for the WIFI code and you’re good to browse.
I am clearly not an electrician and definitely don’t know much about electricity but I’ve heard that the power in Cambodia is 230 V – to me it is nothing but three numbers and a letter. If you would like to know more about it I advise you to inform yourself, but what I do can tell you are some practical experiences: me coming from an EU country I could plug in all my electronic devices just fine without the use of an adapter.
A multi-contact plug however has sometimes been a life saver. We often times shared a room of three or four and when we got home after a day of taking lots of pictures on our phones and cameras the batteries desperately needed some power all at the same time.
Yet the power bank really was the big deal! It can recharge your phone up to three times while it isn’t tied to a power outlet – they sometimes have been at the most random heights and positions. Especially on long bus rides, days relaxing at the beach or in general somewhere without a power outlet, it is such an ease.
- Water and hygiene
Flights and waiting times can be very long and since you aren’t allowed to take anything to drink through security I highly suggest to have an empty bottle in your carry-on which you can refill anywhere at the numerous water fountains inside the airport.
Once you arrive in Cambodia avoid drinking tap water. You will be able to buy 1L bottles for about 50 cents. I also used bottled up water to brush my teeth since I wanted to avoid spending my time in Cambodia in the bathroom.
The first night in Cambodia my friend and I stayed at a pretty nice and rather expensive hotel a little outside of the city. We just arrived and didn’t want to go anywhere to buy water but neither did we want to pay for the ridiculous expensive water in the mini bar. So we decided to boil the tap water in the water kettle a few times and were then well provided for the rest of the day.
At least the first days of your time in Asia you should choose carefully what you eat. You may want to be hesitant with raw food like salads or other yummy foods that can’t be peeled but got rinsed with tap water. There is some truth to the saying “cook it, peel it or forget it!”
If you are going to spend a couple of weeks somewhere you might want to do your laundry at some point 🙂 I had even stuffed travel detergent in my backpack just to realize: this would be another item I carried to Asia just to say it has been in Asia.
So the truth is that I was on vacation and didn’t want to spend my time doing my own laundry so during one of the walks to the market, to the beach or around the city it just happened to occur that I had my dirty laundry with me and dropped by a place where they wash your dirty clothes – and even iron them. I mean let’s be honest; could I ever possible top that with my little travel detergent?
I found a chain that has a store in every city and does laundry within 24 hours for $1 for each kg.
- Bus and taxi rides
For two hour rides there is easily ordered a taxi which takes you from point A to destination B. During my first 2 ½ hours ride I expected to be bankrupt as soon as we arrived, thinking in European prices – but luckily I was in Cambodia in a taxi laden with suitcases, backpacks and people that not even a cat would have fit in the car, and we only paid $30 all together.
However if the ride gets longer you probably want to buy a bus ticket which you can buy online in advance or at the bus stops in every city.
For either type of travelling you choose, here is my advice – which cost my health for a few days: bring a sweat shirt and a scarf. I don’t know what it is about the Asians and their desire for cold rooms, but everything that is a closed and separate room (from cars, to supermarkets and hotel rooms) is at least 10 degrees Celsius cooler than the outside temperature. It feels great for the first two seconds but after you feel the freezing air blowing on your naked skin you start to be very cold very soon probably.
Since this blog is also about veganism it is pretty obvious that I have to mention food at least once. Asia is known for their rice culture and it is true: I was eating rice every single day at least once. It turned out that they often times use fish sauce in their dishes or like to put egg in their fried rice. Yet if you ask them if a meal was without eggs, milk, meat or fish sauce or if they could prepare it without those ingredients they are very happy to do so. In my favourite restaurants I was already known as the lady without meat and eggs 🙂
Plus, Asia has the best and most intense tasting fruits ever. So some days I would just eat fruits and fruits and fruits and some more fruits, which are incredible cheap
I luckily never was a victim of rubbery but I have heard many stories about many different variations how people got their things stolen. If they steal your stuff there is very little till nothing you can do, but in case I lost or forgot my phone somewhere I wrote a text and put it as my screensaver. In the text I asked the person to send me an email to return the phone back; I promised a finder’s fee.
You are probably going to ride a tuk tuk or shop at the markets quite a few times. It doesn’t matter what it is you are buying, but always always negotiate. If they want you to pay $7 suggest $2. I sometimes felt ridiculous and even rude, but they would never sell anything if they don’t make profit from it. They most likely will never agree on your first price but you will meet somewhere in the middle; and the higher you start the higher you will end.
I hope I was able to help you a little while getting ready for your trip. 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.