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Cambodia Overview

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Situated in the southwest of the Indochinese peninsula, Cambodia occupies a total area of 181,035 square kilometers and borders Thailand to the west and northwest, Laos to the northeast, Vietnam to the east, and Gulf of Thailand to the southwest.



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The vast majority of Cambodians speak Khmer, a language of the Mon-Khmer group. Its only close relative is the language of the Mon, a Burmese minority. Khmer is only distantly related to Thai and to some Indonesian languages, with some borrowed words from Vietnamese, Chinese, Pali, French and English. The script is related to Devanagari and looks a bit like Thai script at first glance. An increasing number of urban Cambodians speak English, especially young people, and some (mostly older) Cambodians can speak French. Though its grammar is quite straightforward, Khmer is a fairly difficult language for most English speakers to learn because of its pronunciation.



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Theravada Buddhism is the prevailing official religion in Cambodia and approximately ninety percent of the population is Buddhist. Islam, Hinduism and Christianity are also embraced in Cambodia. Since Buddha statues and images represent the revered Buddha, visitors are asked to treat all such statues and images with respect, so as not to offend local people. In Cambodia, regardless of religion, the country maintains a harmonized state.


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No advance process visa, process upon arrival at the airport.



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Chaul Chnam in mid-April is a three-day celebration of the Khmer New Year: Khmers make offerings at Wats, clean out their homes and exchange gifts of new clothes. Chat Preah Nengkal in May is the Royal Ploughing ceremony, a ritual agricultural festival led by the royal family. It takes place near the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. Bon Om Tuk in late October or early November celebrating the reversal of the Tonle Sap River (with the onset of the dry season, water backed up in the Tonle Sap Lake begins to empty into the Mekong, in the wet season the waters reverse). Chinese Lunar New Year. The Chinese and Vietnamese inhabitants of Cambodia celebrate their New Year in late January or early to mid-February – for the Vietnamese, this is Tet. Because Chinese and Vietnamese run many businesses in Phnom Penh, commerce grinds to a halt around this time.

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Traditionally, sarongs (made of cotton or a cotton-synthetic blend or silk) are worn by both men and women and are most evident in the countryside. Most urban Khmer men dress in trousers and many women dress in western-style clothing. On formal occasions such as religious festivals and family celebrations, women often wear hols, a type of shirt. At night women wear single-colored silk dresses called phamuongs, which are decorated along the hems. If the celebration is a wedding, the colors of such garments are determined by the day of the week on which the wedding takes place.

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Cambodia’s population is approximately 14 million. Ninety per cent of residents are Khmer; the rest are Cham (Khmer Muslim), Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Thai, Phnorng, Kuoy, Stieng, Tamil, etc. Population density is 78/ km2.





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Cambodian cuisine is similar to Thai but with fewer spices. A traditional Cambodian meal almost always includes a soup, or samla, which is eaten at the same time as other courses. Samla machou banle is fish soup with a sour flavor rather like the hot and sour dishes of neighboring Thailand. Cambodian ‘salad’ dishes are also popular and delicious although quite different from the western concept of a cold salad. Phlea sach ko is a beef and vegetable salad, flavored with coriander, mint leaves and lemon grass. These herbs find their ways into many Cambodian dishes. Like all other Buddhist countries, vegetarian food is readily available and ordering in a restaurant shouldn’t pose any problems, as there is a separate vegetarian page in most menus.


Like most of Southeast Asia, Cambodia’s climate is hot and warm almost all year round. The climate is dominated by the annual monsoon cycle of rainy and dry seasons. The rainy season lasts from May to October, and the dry season from November to April. December to January are the coolest months, while the hottest period is in April. The average temperature is around 27-28C.



The Riel (KHR) is the official currency of Cambodia. The current rate of exchange is US$1 = 4,050 Riel. As a result, the dollar has become the country’s common currency. Most hotels and restaurants, shops, taxis, buses and airlines set their prices in US dollars. Even the visa prices and departure taxes are set in US dollars. All major currencies, especially the US Dollar can be exchanged at banks. 

Banks offer the usual banking services – cash advances on credits cards (most accept Visa card,) international currency exchange, cash travelers checks. Most banks are open from 8:00 to 15:00 or 16:00, Monday through Friday. Some are open Saturday mornings until 11:30. ATMs are available 24 hours.