One might call it the bad boy of Southeast Asian destinations (or like hanging out in your buddy’s really cool makeshift garage bar—where the parental figures are always some place else).
It’s a different kind of travel destination: a little rebellious, spirited, raw and wide-open.
Because of the country’s history over the past several generations, the visible lack of adults over the age of 50, and its recovering economy, it has steadily drawn the attention of veteran travelers, expats and nomadic entrepreneurs who are seeking a new frontier that they can afford to stay in, assist in, or profit from.
Though it is one of the poorest countries in the world—which explains the monsoon of aid workers here—it is a country rich in history.
Just take a trip up the Tonlé Sap river to Siem Reap where famed Angkor Wat reigns and you’ll understand the pull of this postwar country on the up-swing.
For the nu nomad, one could do far worse than reside in Cambodia for awhile.
The cost of living here, although greatly inflated for the foreign visitors, is still very affordable with reliable Internet access in most traveler locations.
In the frenetic capitol of Phnom Penh, there are fully furnished serviced apartments for under $300 per month, as well as cute bungalows along Boeng Kak lake for just a couple of dollars per night (see Where to Stay).
The bar and restaurant scene is as varied as it is lively, and long term visas are available for those who wish to domicile beyond the usual 30 days.
Cambodia is not the most sophisticated place in the world, but it is a destination with many surprises—where one could, perhaps, learn much more about themselves.
A: Very Good / B: Good / C: Just Okay / D: Poor / E: Very Poor
- Internet Access for the Nomad (ease in accessing it): C
- Internet Cost (from public to private service): C-
- Accommodation Cost: A
- Eating Cost (restaurants and groceries): A
- Country’s Overall Affordability for the Nomad: B+
- Transportation Access: B
- Transportation Cost: A
Basic facts about Cambodia
- Language: Khmer (English is widely understood along with some French.)
- Government: Constitutional Monarchy.
- Population: 14 million (1.2 million in Phnom Penh).
- Climate: Classic Tropical (mostly hot and steamy).
- Geography: 181,000 square kilometers
- Neighboring Countries: Thailand, Laos and Vietnam (See map.)
- Money: The Riel, but the U.S. Dollar is the currency of choice. (click here to convert your currency).
- Mobile Phone Frequencies: GSM 900/1800
- Electricity: 230v (50 cycles) They use two plug shapes “A” and “C”
- Daylight Savings: None.
- Time Zone: GMT/UTC +7 (Current time.)
- Country Code: 855
- Main City Codes: Phnom Penh 023, Siem Reap Province 063, Battambang Province 053
- To Dial Out of the Country:001 or 007
General Travel Information on Cambodia
Cambodia Visas and Visitation Limits
Tourist Visa: A temporary visa, available on arrival, is granted for a stay of 30 days ($20) and can be extended only once for 30 additional days.
Business Visa: Multiple-entry business visas (also available on arrival) are good for stays of 1-6 months. The cost is $25 for each month. This option can, unofficially, be extended indefinitely.
For more information on Cambodian visas, visit Cambodia Tourism.
Note: Cambodia has an airport departure tax of $25 on all international flights.
Train : Notoriously bad. Therefore, avoid long trips on their rickety railway system.
Bus : Numerous bus companies are available, from luxury to mini-van, to travel between and within major cities.
Planes : STA Travel has some good bargains on entry flights. Thai Airways, Air Asia, Vietnam Airlines, Malaysia Airlines (and several others) will get you to Phnom Penh. Domestic airlines change rather often, but look into Siem Reap Airways, Royal Phnom Penh Airways and President Airlines.
Boat: The best way to go from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (or visa-versa) or from Siem Reap to Battambang (or visa-versa) is by boat. Not only will it be memorable, but the local travel agencies make it easy.
Where to Stay
Accommodation in Cambodia have improved greatly over the past few years. Extreme budget rooms still range from $2-6 (usually with only a bed and a fan in included).
If you’re on this sort of budget and in Phnom Penh, check out the backpacker ghetto around Boeng Kak lake. Of course, there are the nicer hotels around the palace area too. For NuNomad Guidelines on how to choose your nest, visit the NuNomad Blog.
For about $15 per night you can enjoy a nice hotel room, or serviced apartment/guest house that includes a furnished kitchen, A/C, hot shower, cable TV, and wi-fi (the wi-fi usually requires an extra fee). One of the best locations to stay within Phnom Penh is street 278 just south-west of the Independence Monument. (Golden Tour Eiffel, Golden Gate and Golden Bridge guest houses are all well known.)
Travel Insurance: Travel insurance is highly recommended for this destination. See our article Coverage Comparison of Travel Insurance.
Mailing in Cambodia It’s hit-and-miss service here. The alternative is FedEx, DHL TNT and UPS—especially when valuables are involved.
- WiFi Hotspots: For a comprehensive list of free and paid for hotspot locations in Cambodia.
- Mobile Phone Providers/SIM Cards: CellCard (MobiTel), Camshin.
- Internet Access via Mobile Phone : See the Geekzone.com’s GPRS article, or Ross Barkman’s GPRS info page.
Internet and Telephone Communication
International Cell Phones
While in Cambodia the most economical way to place a call is to do so with your unlocked international cell phone, using a Cambodian SIM card. While SIM cards can be purchased at phone service shops, you will be asked to show proof of residency (long stay).
If you don’t have a rent receipt or other similar evidence, nor a Cambodian friend who will co-sign for you, you may not be able to get a SIM card in Cambodia. One of the more common SIM cards is by CellCard. They offer GPRS service within the mobile phone service package (allowing you to connect the the Web from your laptop).
Internet cafés are now popular across the country, yet are often a little pricey outside the capital Phnom Penh or Siam Reap. CellCard service provides for Internet service via your GSM phone and computer (via bluetooth). If you decide to stay a few weeks or longer in a location, Angkor Net Web is who to contact for ADSL service (about $125 USD per month).
- For more information on International Cell Phone basics, read our article on Cell Phone Basics.
- For more information on the various methods of connecting to the Internet, visit our Connecting to WWW page.
If you don’t have a Skype account yet, get one. (Calls out of Cambodia via mobile phone are sketchy at best.) You can use “telephony” service with any hi-speed Internet connection, which most Internet Cafés in Cambodia have. Otherwise, you’ll have to use land-line systems.
If you’re staying at a location where you want to use a land line, it may be most economical to purchase an international calling card. These can be purchased at many common locations throughout the country.