Cambodia is one of our favourite destinations in SE Asia - the people are so friendly, the food is delicious and the cultural history astounding. Whilst most visitors travel for a few days to Siem Reap and visit Angkor Wat, there is plenty more to the country and we recommend spending longer and going out to the villages to meet the locals. In a country where many people are living on $1/day, every little helps. However, if you want to make a difference, please do not give money to the children who beg at the temples as this keeps them out of education, rather donate to a good cause. We support HUSK Cambodia, who provide housing, education and employment to poor families living near Siem Reap. Perhaps due to its brutal modern history (the Khmer Rouge killed all educated people in Cambodia, wiping out 25-40% of the population in a 4-year genocide ending in 1979) the Cambodian people tend to live for today and family is very important. Their smiles and laughter are a humbling testament to human resilience.
Cambodia has a tropical climate and is hot year round. Two clear seasons dominate the year - dry and wet. From November to May, the dry season is generally high season, so hotels and tours will be more expensive, especially in the first 3 months, when temperatures are more comfortable with highs of around 25 C and night-time lows of below 20. This is the ideal time to visit the country with clear skies, very little rain, a light breeze and cool evenings. From March to May, the temperatures begin to rise and short but heavy afternoon rain showers become more frequent. Journeys by boat may be difficult at this time due to the low water levels and days can be uncomfortably hot in the mid-to-high 30s. From June, monsoon rains feature more frequently, increasing the humidity as temperatures don't fall until October. Tonle Sap expands dramatically in wet season.
Whilst November to February would usually be considered the best time to visit Cambodia, the rains during the wet season tend to be predictable, falling mostly in the afternoon or at night. Rain allows life to flourish with jungles becoming lush, green rice paddies once more fertile and the reflection pools surrounding Angkor temples full. Fewer tourists means rates are lower and attractions less busy, so don't rule out the rest of the year.
Most visitors to Cambodia will require a visa (only citizens of other SE Asian states are exempt). Although you can apply on arrival either at the airport or land borders, we would advise obtaining a visa in advance using the eVisa service. Although this is slightly more expensive ($37), it saves a lot of time on arrival and also doesn't take up a page of your passport.
Within Cambodia, the local (soft) currency is the rial, with just over 4000 making $1. The preferred currency is the US dollar, although change may be given in rial if below $1. Be aware that dollars need to be in good condition without tears to be accepted. Thai baht are also accepted in the Western part of the country and increasingly Euros are accepted at major outlets such as Angkor Park. Cambodia is an affordable place to holiday with 5* hotels generally available for $100-200/night and excellent dinners costing under $15 per person (naturally cheaper options are available). Beer can cost as little as 50 Cents a bottle.