Cambodia Region Guide

Cambodia Region Guide

Taking care of your finances in the land of no ATMs, how to eat and where to live!


Cambodia is located in Southeastern Asia, bordering the Gulf of Thailand, between Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos.

Cambodia’s climate is tropical, with a rainy, monsoon season (May to November) and dry season (December to April). There is little seasonal temperature variation. The terrain is mostly low, flat plains, with mountains in the southwest and north.

The Angkor Empire extended over much of Southeast Asia between the 10th and 14th centuries, centered at Angkor Wat near the present day Siem reap. Attacks by the Thai and Vietnamese weakened the empire. In 1863, the king of Cambodia placed the country under French protection; it became part of French Indochina in 1887. Following Japanese occupation in World War II, Cambodia became independent within the French Union in 1948 and fully independent in 1953. After a five-year struggle, Communist Khmer Rouge forces captured Phnom Penh in April 1975 and ordered the evacuation of all cities and towns; over 1.5 million displaced people died from execution, enforced hardships, or starvation. In 1979 Vietnam invaded the crippled country, drove the Khmer Rouge into the countryside and initiated 13 years of civil war. The 1991 Paris Peace Accords mandated democratic elections and a ceasefire, which was not fully respected by the Khmer Rouge. UN-sponsored elections in 1993 helped restore some semblance of normalcy and the final elements of the Khmer Rouge surrendered in early 1999. Factional fighting in 1997 ended the first coalition government, but a second round of national elections in 1998 led to the formation of another coalition government and renewed political stability. The July 2003 elections were relatively peaceful, but it took one year of negotiations between contending political parties before a coalition government was formed.


  • Population: 13.12 million
  • People: 94% ethnic Khmers, 4% Chinese, 1% Vietnamese
  • Language: Khmer, English, French
  • Religion: 95% Buddhist, Cham Muslim and Roman Catholic
  • Government: multiparty democracy under a constitutional monarchy
  • Major Industries: Timber, rubber, shipping, rice milling, textiles and fishing
  • Visas: A one-month visa, available on arrival at Pochentong and Siem Reap airports, costs 20.00 for a tourist visa and 25.00 for a business visa. Visas are also available at the Thai border at Aranyaprateet, and sporadically at other border posts around the country.
  • Time Zone: GMT/UTC +7
  • Dialling Code: 855
  • Electricity: 230V ,50Hz
  • Weights & measures: Metric


The currency of Cambodia is the Riel. (Currency code: KHR) US Dollar and Thai Baht are widely accepted and used. Other currencies can readily be changed at the many money changers, which are generally reliable.


KHR 500, KMR 1000, KHR 5000, KHR 10 000, KHR 50 000

All denominations are notes, there are no coins.


  • Budget meals are US$0.50-2.
  • Mid-range for US$2-5.
  • High for US$6-10.
  • Deluxe for US$11+



  • Budget: US$2-10. In Phnom Penh head for Boeung Kak Lake, the local equivalent of Bangkok’s Kao San Road. Low end accommodation is not quite as readily available in Siem Reap.
  • Mid-range: US$10-45.
  • High: US$50-70.
  • Deluxe: US$70+

Long term

For around US$100 a month, you can get a 2 bedroom apartment with kitchen. Prices are higher in the centre of Phnom Penh and in Siem Reap where demand is higher.

Houses are large and easy to come by, often starting around US$300 a month. A one month deposit is standard, although more may be requested. Estate agencies will assist in finding accommodation.


Language institutes and universities are the main sources of teaching jobs. The biggest language institute is SITC and the biggest university is Pannasastra University. There are seldom monthly contracts and pay is typically around $US10 an hour. Other large institutions to look out for are Norton University/Banana Centre, ELT language institute, University of Cambodia and the IDP school (ACE) which has a generous hourly rate. There are numerous other schools which can be investigated as well.

Schools do not generally recruit online, and accept mostly only applicants already in the country ready to be interviewed. Although it’s difficult to get a cell phone number, having one increases job prospects as it’s easier for schools to find you when a position comes available.

PGCE qualified teachers can consider the prestigious International School of Phnom Penh or Northbridge International, although these schools often recruit at the IB fairs held annually in North America and England.

There are some positions in NGO’s but these are more difficult to come by and are usually offered to those who have been in the country for some time and have developed contacts, or who have been involved with the organization in some sort of voluntary position.

Corporate work pays more – sometimes up to $US25 an hour but it is sporadic and usually comes through the language institutes. CamEd and Regent are two agencies that deal primarily in corporate contracts.

Voluntary work is available in the provinces. These positions often don’t pay but provide free board and lodging. Those interested should contact agencies like CARE and World Vision.

Generally, no TEFL certificate is required for although there are exceptions. IDP requires a CELTA or equivalent.


January or February - Chinese and Vietnamese New Year; it is celebrated principally by the Chinese and Vietnamese minorities. The celebration is flexible in date as it is determined by the lunar calendar.

January - Commemoration Day of the last sermon of the Buddha; date determined by the lunar calendar.

January 7 - national holiday in commemoration of the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979.

March 8 - Women's Day.

April - Cambodian New Year, equalling Songkran in Thailand; the celebrations last for three days during which Cambodians douse each other liberally with water; exact date determined by the lunar calendar.

April - Visak Bauchea; commemoration of the birth and the first sermon of the Buddha; exact date determined by the lunar calendar.

April 17 - Independence Day; commemorating of the fall of the Lon Nol dictatorship on April 17, 1975.

May 1- Labour Day

June 19 - Memorial Day of the founding of the revolutionary forces of Cambodia in 1951.

June 28 - Memorial Day of the founding of the Revolutionary People's Party of Cambodia in 1951; parades and celebrations in Phnom Penh.

July - beginning of the Buddhist Lent; the exact date depends on the lunar calendar.

September - the day of the final celebrations of the Buddhist Lent; exact date determined by the lunar calendar.

September - Prachum Ben; a kind of Cambodian All-Saints-Day in commemoration of the dead and ancestors; exact date determined by the lunar calendar.

October and November - Water Festival; this festival celebrates the turn of the current of the Tonle Sap river.

Things to do and see

Phnom Penh is not generally considered a tourist paradise, although places to see are the National Museum, the Grand Palace and the omnipresent killing fields. The riverside boulevard and the new Hun Sen Park are pleasant city centre distractions.

Siem Reap is where most of the tourism in the country is centred. Besides the numerous ancient ruined temples, a boat ride on the Tonle Sap Lake is recommended and there are crocodile farms and other tourist diversions to keep everyone busy.

For a quieter side of life, Battambang is extremely pleasant and suitable for off-road exploring. The north-eastern highland areas around Roatanakiri arestunningly beautiful but very basic and facilities are poor.

For the beach, head for Kampong Som, which is a buzzing place by Cambodian standards, but Kampot/Kep/Bokor is a much more adventurous and interesting beach destination. The Thai-border area of Koh Kong is also worth a visit if you have the time to explore some of the surrounding areas.