This issue has been long forewarned by Lonely Planet and other guidebooks.
If you are coming from Laos into Cambodia, you will most likely encounter extremely corrupt and non-sensical officers on duty. Avoid arriving alone at the border! You will be riped off even harder! If you are coming from Si Phan Don in Laos, it is much much much cheaper to book a bus into Cambodia: Kratie, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, among other destinations. We payed US$14 all the way to Siem Reap, leaving at 9am and arriving at 11.30pm! But we met a couple that booked the bus only to the border, paid US$3, and were charged US$18 more to Siem Reap while on the bus...
And like that many other cases while we were on the bus. At the border, everybody was charged US$1 for a scam health check, then US$23 for the visa when it should by US$20 BY LAW, plus US$2 if you don't bring your own photo, and finally US$1 for the "stamp" !!! If you are on a tight budget and/or are really angry that they blatantly rip tourist off like this, discuss among the group, and if 2 or 3 of you start complaining and calling them corrupt, they will get really nervous, at first they will tell you "you don't pay then go out of my country, this is my country!" But they lack authority. The US$23 was pretty much set for them, but you can save the picture fee and ESPECIALLY the stamp fee! Complain about them taking all your dollars from previous fees you didn't expected and it will be quite easy to make then nervous about it.
I know US$1 isn't much, but you can eat great food with that in SIem Reap plus jackfruit shake....so it was worth to fight!
Unique Suggestions: Be ready to pay US$5-7 more for the visa if you don't want to fight with officers!
And again, DO NOT GO TO THE BORDER ON YOUR OWN, there are really nooo cars or buses there!!!
Fun Alternatives: The best alternative is to fly into Cambodia from Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok, where you will pay US$20 no matter what and leave overland because they have a brutal, ridiculous US$25 airport exit tax!
This is a covered market that has everything. Much cheaper to shop here than in stores. But at the end of April it was so hot and crowded, and truly claustrophobic. I did buy some lovely scarve, cushion covers and it would a great place to buy fabric for curtains, saris, or dresses if you were able to ship or carry out.
There are people begging throughout the market as elsewhere in the streets.
It's very hard to ignore beggars and peddlers, especially when they are children or are disfigured from land mines. Be aware that this is commonplace to experience in Cambodia.
Unique Suggestions: Be kind.
Fun Alternatives: Carry baguettes with you to break in half to give to the children. They seem just as happy to have food to eat. Sugar-free gum works well, too.
in general you should avoid the motorbike taxis.
they are quite unsafe in various ways.
mostly cause they drive like crazy, but in the bigger cities they often act as pimps and drug dealers too and they will often ppester you to be taken to a brothel or a drug dealer.
Regular taxis are generally much better and if you have the time for it, then the bicycle taxis are very fine and i have only met good and honest people among the bicycle taxi drivers.
Fun Alternatives: Like i mentioned before the best and most honest taxi drivers are generally the ones with the bicycle ricksahws.
The "official" exchange rate for US$1.00 is about 4000 Cambodian riels (as at Sep 2007 and reconfirmed in May 2008). A recent (May 2008) report stated that the money changers at the Thai/Cambodia border crossing at Aranyaprathet gave a rate of US$1.00 to 3200 riels only. 800 riels is not a lot of money but if changing a large amount of US$, they do add up. Rest assured US dollars are widely accepted in Cambodia. However, if paying in US dollars, do expect to be given change in Cambodian riels.
Unique Suggestions: Ask around for the best rates or change only a small amount of US$. Do carry small US$ notes as some street vendors/shops are unable to break down large US$ notes, especially in the early mornings.
WHat we can think when we hear about National Museum? Of course its about culture, king or previous president, bad incident, histroy and indepedent. But this Museum, its only a buddha statue...everywhere. Nothing you can see except a Buddha statue, with head or without head. So, I called this museum is Buddha museum, instead of National Museum!
Unique Suggestions: There are nothing you can do except get off from this place.
Fun Alternatives: There are one palace beside this museum. Its quite interesting place to see...yeah, because its a royal palace and most of big event held here.
is it good or bad to donate? go figure..
Unique Suggestions: give food or candy instead of money.
Fun Alternatives: bring your own bottle of drink, so you don't have to buy drink instead, maybe not only one but 2 or 3 if there is whole bunch of kids running after you.
pesky kids, trying to sell you stuff. i managed to talk a less pesky one who was also trying to sell me something, and i realised that he is doing it for additional cash while he goes to school. so not all of them are uneducated. he goes to public school in the day, sells stuff at the wats in the afternoon, and goes to english classes at night! phew. in any case, bring western candy or stationary for them. they will appreciate it.
we pay higher prices for food than locals. if you know the local price just pay it before they tell you you are wrong.
Unique Suggestions: make sure it is of a reasonable jack up. a 1000-2000r jackup is fine, but if they expect like 3 usd for fried rice at a streetstall, tell them to bugger off.
We stoped at a Sugar Palm stand, and most Tourist were paying $ 1.00 USD for 3 packs of Palm Sugar. We walked just 2 stands away from the crowd , and my Wife got 6 Packs for 1.00 USD.
Local guide said we could have held out for 7 or 8 packs. So it pays to get away from the group, and bargin.
Unique Suggestions: ASK the local tour guide BEFORE you shop about the aprox prices. The Guides will NOT bargin for you, since it tends to get them into trouble with the Locals.
Back with your Group, don't compare prices for the same items, since this causes hard feelings.
there are some unofficial guides at the temples, they would offer to take you around, but before you accept their service, ask how much they want to charge. We did not bother asking thus at the end of our half an hour tour, we had to fork out 10USD. i know it is not much, but we could have got a full day guide for 20USD.
Fun Alternatives: Get some guide books!
Boat trip on Siem Reap River.
Each boat trip cost US$20 each which was a tad too expensive as there was nothing much to see on this trip. There were 1 or 2 schools on boats, a church, Vietnamese village on water, etc. Not very fantastic as compared to the boat tour to the floating market in bangkok.
We wanted to tip the boatmen at the end of the trip even though there was no real need to, and they requested for another US$2.
Unique Suggestions: Heard that you will pass by this river if you are taking a boat ride from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, hence do not waste your $ by buying a separate trip just to tour the river.
All will try and over charge you no matter where you go in Cambodian tourist spots most notably in Phnom Penh, and especially in Sihanoukville and Siem Reap.
And I dont mean normal foreigner over charging. You will never get local rate in Cambodia but also you dont want to be ripped off.
Unique Suggestions: The general rule is that the money they ask for is twice what you should pay but Ive been asked for up to 4 times the price.
Fun Alternatives: Try to know in advance roughly how far your trip is, how much it should cost, etc and be tough at bargaining. Remember supply outstrips supply. Example - Siem Reap town centre to Earthwalkers hotel. Every driver asked for 2 dollars for 2 people. Always said 1 and always got one even if it meant walking away and driver coming after us.
Lonely Planet will tell you that it is best to visit Angkor Wat after lunch because the lighting is better for pictures. I found quite the contrary to be true. I visited Angkor Wat at 10:00 A.M. and by lunchtime (12:00 P.M.) it was so empty I had the place to myself. I thought they had closed for lunch and the guards had forgotten to ask me to leave!
We generally had a carefree time in Cambodia, but there was on instance that nearly ruined our trip. We wanted to go to jungle outpost Banlung in the far north of the country by local buses and boats. To save time, we had planned on flying back to Phnom Penh. Since the flights were on a very limited schedule, we found it would be more convenient to fly up and take the boat/bus trip back. So, we booked the ticket and headedly to the airport the next morning with no worries. When we went to check in, we were told that the ticket was not valid as it was issued in Siem Reap, not Phnom Penh. I calmly explained we had just bought the ticket in PP the previous morning. The counter person was adamant that it was not the case. I asked to talk to a manager and was joined by another traveler in the same predicament. The manager explained that some unscrupulous travel agencies sold these invalid tickets to travelers heading north with one-way flights. They figured that they would never see them again and that most would just fork over the money at the airport for the ticket. The problem was that it was a real issued ticket, just from the wrong city. This seemed like a real flaw in the system to me if they were allowing such agencies to even sell their ticket! I explained that we had come halfway around the world to Cambodia and now we were having our trips ruined by what could be easily rectified by them. The flight was half-empty so why not just give us a new ticket and then come down hard on the agency for selling an obvious scam ticket. That was impossible they said, we would have to either pay for a new ticket and collect the money from the agency on our return or go back and get our money now and return for a later flight. The only problem with that logic was there were no more flights until the following week!
Unique Suggestions: We forced the manager to call the agency while we were there and explain we were coming for a refund. We went back and demanded not only the money for the ticket but also the taxi fare to and from the airport, which he sheepishly handed over. So, we missed a trip to the jungle for what is one real lag behind Western standards in the terms of customer service.
Fun Alternatives: We got back into town and didn't want to spend more time in Phnom Penh so we headed to the bus terminal and took the next bus to anywhere it was going. It just happened to be Sihanoukville and the rest is beachy history. As you can see, even ducks enjoy the beach in Cambodia. I thought seeing monks on the beach was strange enough but monks AND ducks together....that just might have topped the jungle after all. ;)
Raffles Hotel Le Royal is the premier hotel in Phnom Penh. The hotel was first established in 1929...more
The hotel is simply splendid. The spa is the ideal manner for relaxing after a long sightseeing of...more
KO Road, Rottanak Commune, Battambang, Cambodia
Good for: Solo
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