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ESCORTED TRIPS 2012 / 2013

Essential Information

Highlights:
     Regional Flight Connections and Overland to Cambodia,
     General Advice and Health,
     Health Requirements,
     communications,
     Mail,
     Phones,
     Mobile Phones,
     Internet access,
     Local Time and Currency,

Tourist Visa to Cambodia is stamped in your passport on arrival in Siem Reap or Phnom Penh Airports. However, to be absolutely sure and to avoid inconvenience on arrival, you should obtain tourist visa in advance of your departure from the Royal Cambodian Embassy in Washington DC when departing from the USA; and contact Cambodian Embassy or consulate in your home country when departing from other countries.

Cambodia is served by an increasing number of flights from neighboring countries to both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, though the best choice is from Bangkok in Thailand. There are now five overland crossings open to foreigners, two from Thailand, and two from Vietnam and one from Laos. Even if you have obtained a Cambodia visa before entry, it is essential to obtain an entry stamp in your passport when crossing overland, as failure to do so will cause serious problems when you come to leave the country.

Thailand
From Bangkok, there are regular daily flights to Phnom Penh, taking around an hour, with Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways; the last of these offers slightly cheaper fares than the other two, but can't be booked from outside the region. Bangkok Airways and Siem Reap Airways also fly daily to Siem Reap, with slightly higher frequency in the high season of December to February. The Cambodia Angkor Airways (National Airline) will be operating this flight soon.

Overland trips to Cambodia from Thailand have increased in popularity and are well publicized in Bangkok, particularity on the Khao San Road, where travel agents try to sell their Bangkok-Siem Reap trips by alleging that doing the trip independently entails various problems (dealing with Cambodian border officials, sorting out onward transport, etc). In fact, it's straightforward enough to do the journey by public transport, and the convenience of using one of these private firms can be offset by much waiting around until the required number of passenger's turns up. Though most of these companies are reputable, a small minority of travelers has reported being ripped off over visas, and even being left for hours at the border waiting for onward transport; therefore it's worth asking fellow travelers of staff at your guesthouse about companies they would recommend or avoid.

The Aranyaprethet/Poipet border crossing is ideal if you want to start your visit to Cambodia in the north at Battambang and Siem Reap, while Trat/Koh Kong is good for Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh. From Bangkok, you can reach Aranyaprathet by train (7hr) or by air-con bus (4hr); there are also air-con buses to Trat 95hr). Both borders are open daily (7am-5pm) and visas are issued on arrival. From Poipet, onward transport by shared taxi or pick-up is readily available to Sisophon ( for Siem Reap) and daily boats from Hong Kong to SreAmbel (for Phnom Penh) and to Sihanoukville. Poipet is in fact derelict, the nearest train station being at Sisophon.

Vietnam
There are several regular daily flights to Phnom Penh and to Siem Reap from Ho Chi Minh City, operated by Vietnam Airlines and Royal Phnom Penh Airways. Border crossing are open to foreigners at MocBai/Bavet, 200km southeast of Phnom Penh, and at Chau Doc on the Bassac River, through note that Cambodian visas are not issued at either crossing point. From Bavet, it's easy to get shared taxis to Phnom Penh (6hr); though the road has been in appalling condition, the journey time should be reduced when repairs are completed at the beginning of 2003. If you've crossed over at Chau Doc, you may be able to get a motor the 60km to Phnom Penh, but given River, it's easier to take a short motor ride to the Mekong village of K'amSamnar, where you can get a boat north to Neak Leung (3hr), 37km east of Phnom Penh and connected to the capital by bus and shared taxi.

Note that only Cambodians and Vietnamese are permitted to cross east of Kep, despite assurances to the contrary from Sihanoukvill's Vietnamese consulate.

Laos
Laos Aviation and Vietnam Airlines operate daily flights from Vientiane to Phnom Penh, with stops in Siem Reap on Tuesday and Fridays; sometimes there's also an unscheduled stop in Pakxe.

Adventurous travelers may wish to try the crossing between Voeng Kham by boat or Dong Khon (Parkse) by land, and the Cambodian town of Stung Treng. Visa can be obtained at Dong Krolar border check point - Cambodia side with fee of 20 US Dollar. This will take about 6 to 7 hour to reach Phnom Penh city by bus or taxi.

General Advice and Health
Drink lots of water. Never drink tap water purified, bottled water is available everywhere.

Use an insect repellent against mosquitoes. It is the only way to be sure of protection against mosquito borne diseases. Since Cambodia has a hot and humid tropical climate, casual and light-weight clothing is best. Clothing made from natural fibers is the best option. A jacket might be needed on cool winter evenings or in hotels and restaurants using excessive air-conditioning. A hat and high-factor sun block is advisable as protection against the hot sun when sightseeing.

When you visit temples and pagodas including Angkor Wat, shorts and T-shirts are acceptable. Shoes are generally removed at the entrance to pagodas. For visits to the Silver Pagoda, which is within the Royal Palace grounds, visitors are asked to dress more formally. Gentlemen are required to wear long trousers and ladies should wear long trousers or long skirts.

Standard film, (such as Kodak, FUJI or Konica 100), slide and digital camera memory are widely available. Photos are inexpensive to process in the country. Any specialized photo equipment should be brought with you. Photography in airports, railway stations and near any military installations is forbidden and discretion should be used when photographing people, particularly monks. The cheapest and best quality photo service in Phnom Penh is SPK Photo Studio FUJI Shop at Monivong Blvd.

Health Requirements
Although no vaccinations are officially required for entry to Cambodia, they are highly encouraged. Visitors are advised to check with their doctor or a travel immunization clinic regarding protection against malaria, typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A and B. Any essential medications should be brought with you as there is no guarantee they will be available in Cambodia.

Communications
The advent of mobile phones has dramatically improved communications between the main towns. That said, many of the landlines destroyed during the Khmer Rouge era have yet to be replaced, and the lack of phone lines not only hinders ordinary business but also keeps Internet access costs high everywhere except Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. It's only been a few years since mail destined for Cambodia had to be collected in Bangkok, but the postal service is now reasonably reliable, although inbound letter that attract the attention of staff-there's no rhyme or reason to this-often get pilfered.

Mail
All Cambodia's mail is consolidated in Phnom Penh. Sending mail from provincial cities seems as reliable as posting from the capital, though it costs a little more as you'll be charged for your mail to go to Phnom Penh first. Within the capital itself, only the main post office is geared up to accept mail bound for abroad.

Mail to Europe, Australasian and North America takes between five and ten days to arrive, leaving Phnom Penh for major international destinations around twice a week the specific days can be checked at the main post office. Stamps for postcards sent from the capital cost 1800 Riel to Europe and Australia, 2100 Riel to America (add 300 Riel if posting from the provinces).

Parcels can only be posted in Phnom Penh, though at a whopping $17 for a one kilogramme parcel going abroad, it's worth deferring the task if you are subsequently heading to Thailand. You'll be charge 3000 Riel for the the customs form, detailing the contents and their value, to be completed, but it isn't necessary to leave the package open for checking. Post offices sell mailing boxes if you need them.

Phones
You can make domestic and international calls at post offices or telecom offices in most towns. The government telecommunications network; Camintel (W) (www.camintel.com) usually runs these services, which along with the Australian firm Telstra, also runs public call boxes in Phnom Penh. To use these, you'll need a phone card, available in denominations ranging from $2 to $50; look for shops displaying the phone cards can't be used in each other's facilities, but with a Tele 2 phone card, you can make international calls from any call box by dialing the access code (T) 007 (instead of the usual (T) 001), then the country code and number as usual. With any of these options, making international calls is expensive at around $3 per minute, so It's worth looking out for deals offered by internet shops, guesthouses and travel agents, which can as much as halve the cost.

For domestic calls only, the cut-price glass-sided booths, payable to the attendant. The booths vary in their coverage of Cambodia's various networks: accessible numbers will be written on the side of the booths (usually (T) 012 MobiTel numbers - see below - plus the local area code and sometimes other mobile providers).

Faxing is extortionate in Cambodia, at $3-$6 per page. If you really must send a fax, the hotel business central and internet shops are the most reliable place to do so.

Mobile Phones
There are three mobile phone service providers in Cambodia: M Phone code (T) 011, MobiTel (T) 012, Bee Line (T) 090, Smart Mobiel (T) 010, Star Cell (T) 098, Cube (T) 013. MobiTel is the most widely used network and has transmitters in all major towns, although reception is still limited to within the town boundaries. Mobile phones can be rented in the arrivals hall at Pochentong International Airport for around $28 per week. Usage is by pre-paid phone card, available in values from $5 to $100; in most towns, you'll find outlets displaying the logos of the various providers. When you get your card, scratch off the panel on the back to reveal your PIN, then call up the top-up number-also given on the card-and enter the number to activate the card. Call rates are around $0.20 per minute within the same mobile network number or out to a local landline.

Internet access
If you want to get online, do it in Phnom Penh or Siem Reap - here you're never far from an Internet shop or café and rates are under $1 per hour. In the provinces it's a different matter: even in Battambang and Sihanoukville access is limited, and expensive at around $3 per hour. One of the best ways to keep in touch while traveling is to sign up for a free email address that can be accessed from anywhere, for example Yahoo Mail, Hotmail or Skype. Once you've set up and send mail from any Internet Café, or from a hotel with Internet access.

There are Internet Service Providers in Cambodia such as Online, Telesurf, AngkorNet, Mekong Net, WirelessIp with reasonable price. Prepaid Internet Card is available at any shops and super markets and price is starting from $5 to $100.

Recently, there are many restaurants and café shop like the M Café, the Corner restaurant, Café Sentiment and more offers free internet access with WI-FI - there you just bring your own laptop only.

Local Time and Currency

Local Time:
Cambodia runs at GMT +7 hours, the same time zone as its neighbors Thailand, Vietnam and Laos

Cambodian Currency:
US dollars are as commonly used as the Cambodian Riel and even Thai Baht is acceptable in many places. Most hotels and many restaurants and shops set their prices in dollars. Small transactions are usually done in Riel. Always carry some small Riel for motorcycle taxis, snacks, and other small purchases.

Riel notes come in 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 5000, 10,000, 50,000 and 100,000 denominations, but the distinctive red 500 Riel note is the most commonly used.

Credit cards and travelers checks are not common, but are catching on. US dollar travelers’ checks are much more easily cashed than any another kind.

Money changers cluster around the markets. When accepting money, inspect the bills. Marred Riel is acceptable tender, but the tiniest tear in a large US note renders it worthless.

There are banks in all of the larger provincial capitals, including Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Battambang. Banks can change money, effect telegraphic transfers and some banks can cash travelers checks and accept Visa cards.

There is only two ATM in Cambodia, at the Canadia Bank in Phnom Penh and ANZ Royal Bank in Phnom Penh, and you must have a local account in order to use it. You cannot access foreign accounts from this.

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