HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY
Comprising an area of 181,035 square kilometers, the Kingdom of Cambodia was once part of the ancient Kingdom of Funan. Today it is formed of 25 provinces. The Mekong River, which flows through the country, and the Tonle Sap lake (the Great Lake) are the lifeline of the people who live along the waterways. The Tonle Sap is one of the richest sources of freshwater fish in the world. There are three main mountains ranges, namely the Cardamom mountain in the Southwest, the Dangrek mountains in the North and the Annamese mountains in the Northeast.
POPULATION AND PEOPLE
Of the 15.5 millions people (est. 2015) about 90% are ethnic Khmers. There are several minorities such as the Chams (Khmer Muslim), Vietnamese and Chinese. Hill-tribes, such as the Pnong, Tampoun, Jarai and Kreung, can be found in the country’s mountainous regions.
Cambodia’s tropical climate is affected by the monsoons. The cool, dry Northeast monsoon, which brings little rain, lasts from November to March. April and May are the hottest months which generally clear skies and temperatures reaching upwards of 40’C during the day. From late May to early October, the Southwest monsoon brings rains and high humidity. The average daytime temperature is 32’C and around 24’C at night.
Mid-November to February: cool and dry
March to May: hot and dry
June to September: hot and wet
October to early November: cool and wet
The official religion is Theravada Buddhism and almost 90% of the population are of this faith. The rest of the population is made up of primarily of Muslim and Christians.
The official language is Khmer while the second language (spoken by the educated older Cambodians) has traditionally been French. However, in recent years, English has gained huge popularity and is widely spoken.
Around 70 percent of the population work in agriculture such as rice cultivation, rubber, cassava, and pepper. Cambodia is also rich in hardwood (teak and mahogany) and precious gems which are found in the Northwest. Other major industries include garments, tourism and light manufacturing assembly. The economy operates on free market principles, and in recent years, Cambodia has adopted one of the region’s most liberal investment laws for foreign investors.
A valid passport and visa are required for entry. Visa can be obtained at the International airports in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and other International border checkpoints on arrival. Travelers should bring two passport-size photos and fill out the forms. A one-month tourist visa costs US$30 while a business visa costs US$35. The business visa can be extended indefinitely.
Cambodia Riel is the country’s official currency. However, the US dollars are accepted in most places. ATMs are widespread, though international withdrawals may incur fees as high as $5 per withdrawal. At the time of writing, the currency exchange rate is approximately 4,000 Riels to $1.
Getting around Cambodia’s cities is both inexpensive and a travel experience in itself. Most cities’ best-known mode of transportation are tuk-tuks - motorised open-air carts that are more maneuverable than a car but safer than a motorbike. Most tuk-tuks in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and other big cities have cushioned seats and make for an exciting mode of transportation when visiting temples, museums and other city sites.
Generally, cost for trips in major cities like Siem Riep are approximately $1-3. Journeys shorter than a kilometer are never less than $1, and prices can increase at nightfall. It is important to keep your belongings close, as bag snatching in Phnom Penh can occur. Also, expect to pay extra depending on the number of passengers there are or for excessive baggage.
Tuk-tuks are one of the most convenient and practical modes of transportation for visitors. While popular with locals, motorbike taxis are unregulated and can drive recklessly. Motorbike transportation in Cambodia is not recommended by Passage To Cambodia, and it should be noted that it is not usually covered by insurance.
Cambodians are usually casual in their dressing, except when they are attending formal events or businesses, meetings, for which formal wear is required. It’s not unusual to see both men and women wearing a Krama, a long, narrow, checked cotton cloth around their neck or on their head. In provinces, traditional sarongs are also worn frequently. When visiting temples, Wats, pagodas, shoulders should be covered and shorts should cover below the knees.