Quick guide to Cambodia: Easy eVisa travel for South Africans

2018-05-29 11:15 - Saara Mowlana
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cambodia map

Plan your trip to Cambodia with this Quick Guide. (Photo: iStock)

Cambodia, a kingdom built on dream and wonder, sits comfortably alongside its equally popular brethren countries - Thailand and Vietnam in south-east Asia.

Cambodia's beauty has been compared to the lush and magical landscapes of Machu Picchu in Peru.

The country is known not just for its large range of temples that run thick with architectural splendour and intricacy, but also for its charming locals. 

Cambodia will take you on a journey that treks its natural landscapes, rich history, sacred sites and its modern urban spaces all within a single one of its cities. 

It is the perfect haven for those looking for adventure or merely reflection and introspection. You can either take to the rough landscapes on four-wheelers or kick back on the stunning coastline of Sihanoukville.

Whether you're wishing to save or splurge - either won't do too much damage to your purse strings making this beauty not just an attractive bucket list option - but a practical one too.

SEE: Angkor Wat: More than meets the eye

Here's what you need to know if you go:

  • VisasVisa on arrival or e-visa (valid for 30 days) Cost: About $40 - $99 USD if working through an operator (or about R492 - R1218 @R12,30/$). 

- Single entry visa fee for tourist (T) (30 days): US$ 30

- Single entry visa fee for business (E) (30 days): US$ 35

 - Or you can apply for an online visa: $37. Process time is about three days and visa is emailed to you.

  • Population: About 16 204 851 +/- presently
  • Capital City: Phnom Penh
  • Flight time: About 14 hours at best for a connecting flight between SA and Cambodia with one stop over.

READ: Cambodia bans cars near Angkor Wat temple

  • Currency: Cambodian Riel (KHR)  Current Exchange Rate: R1 = 329.22 KHR. It is important to note that US dollars are widely accepted.
  • Medical and health: To avoid illness and dampening your trip experience, be sure to heed the warnings and get the appropriate routine vaccinations beforehand. All Travellers: Routine Vaccinations. Most Travellers:  Hepatitis A, Typhoid. Some Travellers: Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis, Malaria, Rabies, Yellow Fever. 
  • Religion: Buddhism is the official religion in Cambodia. However, Christianity and Cham Muslim are being active and popular among a large number of population as well in the capital and provinces, showing a sign of growth. Daoism and Confuism are also commonly practiced among the Chinese people.
  • Country code: +855
  • Time Zone: Cambodia operates on Indochina Time (ICT) which is UTC+7 - Cambodia is 5 hours ahead of SA.
  • Emergencies: Dial 117 - for more emergency numbers: click here.
  • Public Transport: Cambodia has Remork-motos (motorcycle-led tuk tuks), Cyclos (bicycle rickshaw / pedicab), Motos (small motorcycle taxis), busses, Rotei Ses' (horse-led carriages), Outboards (pronounced 'out-boor' - equivalent of Venice’s vaporetto, a sort of local river-bus or taxi), taxis and shared taxis. These constitute the bulk of the tropical country's public transport system
  • Climate: Cambodia has a tropical climate. Like most of south-east Asia, Cambodia is warm to hot all year round and the climate is dominated by the annual monsoon cycle with its alternating wet and dry seasons. 
  • Best time to go: Taking into consideration of the climate and monsoon seasons, the best time to go is between December and mid-February
  • Language: Khmer is the official language spoken in Cambodia. It has been influenced considerably by Sanskrit and Pali, particularly in the royal and religious registers, and through Hinduism and Buddhism. The language has come in close contact with Thai, Lao, Vietnamese and Cham due to geographical proximity and cultural connection. Khmer’s main distinction from its neighbouring languages is that it is not a tonal language. Other languages include: Cambodian French, Cham, Chong, Jarai, Kuy, Stieng & English.

CHECK OUT: Southeast Asia: Your budget-friendly guide to a heavenly honeymoon

Useful phrases to know: 

Khmer is widely spoken around Cambodia. It's written format can be tough to read as it's constructed on a series of select symbols, so we've written them out in transliteration form for you to these learn key and quick phrases hassle free. However, you may encounter some locals who speak in Cambodian French, Cham, Chong, Jarai, Kuy, Stieng or English. Learn a few key phrases in Khmer to make your stay more enjoyable.

Useful app to download - Duolingo makes learning a new language easy and fun. 

  • Greeting - Chom Reap Sour (pronounced chom-reap-sore - a formal Hello), Susadei (pronounced soos-a-day - an informal Hello), Chom Reap Lear (pronounced chom-reep-lear - a formal Goodbye), Lee hi (an informal Goodbye) 
  • Yes - Bah (for males) & Jah (pronounced Chaa - for females)
  • No - Ot Teh (pronounced ot-tei)
  • How much is this? -  Bo man? (pronounced bow-man)
  • Please - Suom
  • Thank you - Arkun (pronounced Ar-koon)
  • Sorry - Som Dtoh (pronounced som-toe)
  • No problem! - Kmean? banhhea! (pronounced sneun-bunya)
  • My name is... -  Knyom Chhmua... (pronounced knyom-cham-moo)
  • What is your name? - Chhmua ei? (pronounced cham-moo-ey)
  • I come from... - Khnhom? ban? mk pi... (pronounced snhom-bun-mok-apee)
  • Where do you come from? - Tae? anak? mk pinea?? (pronounced tanay-mok-pinar)
  • Do you speak English? - Tae anak niyeay pheasaeaangklesa te? (pronounced ta-neck-niyeah-peersay-angclay-tay)
  • What? - Tae avei tow? (pronounced ta-voy-toe)
  • Why? - Hetoavei? (pronounced het-o-voy)
  • Where? - Kanlengna? (pronounced kon-lie-ner)
  • Who? - Norna? (pronounced no-ner)
  • When? - Pelna? (pronounced pal-na)
  • Where is the toilet? - Bang-kon noun aina?
  • Beautiful - Srasa saat (pronounced s-ross-a)
  • Delicious - Chhnang (pronounced ch-nang)
  • Oh my goodness - Au! sechaktei la robsakhnhom (pronounced oh-sec-day-ar-ob-akhnam)
  • Excuse me, where's… - Som dtoh, kanlengna...
  • Can I please have... - Suom mehta, tae khnhom ach... (pronounced sowm, ta-chnom-eye)
  • Ice cream - Karem (pronounced ca-rem)
  • Wine menu, please - Meunouy sra, suom (pronounced monoy-soraa)

Practical Tips

When travelling to Cambodia, make sure you have the following on your packing list:

  • A valid passport, arrival ticket, return ticket, adequate funds;
  • a camera;
  • basic essentials;
  • comfortable, lightweight, and casual clothes;
  • comfortable and strong shoes or boots if you decide to trek the rougher landscapes;
  • a brimmed hat;
  • sunscreen;
  • insect repellent;
  • formal / occasional wear (depending on your reason for travel);
  • basic toiletries;
  • hand sanitiser;
  • prescription medication;
  • diarrhoea and indigestion meds;
  • sunglasses (and a spare pair);
  • a medical kit (for exploration);
  • Swiss Army Knife (for exploration);
  • a flashlight (for exploration);
  • video camera and accessories;
  • binoculars (especially for safaris);
  • vaccination certificates;
  • insurance documents;
  • your credit / debit cards;
  • sandals or flipflops;
  • a notebook, tablet or smartphone; 
  • Cambodia maps - city / town maps and travel guides - in case your battery dies on you.


  • Backpack over suitcase - The minute you leave the airport in Cambodia, you will encounter uneven roads, potholes, dirt tracks, and many other obstacles that can make having a suitcase on wheels a total nightmare.
  • Get a waterproof cover / pack for your phone or tablet -  to keep them protected on the beach, water related activities and from downpours of rain. Water, sand and electronics is not a fun mixtape.
  • Get a Cambodian sim card quickly and easily at the airport when you arrive - it will save you a lot of data roaming charges!
  • Always carry a lightweight and powerful powerbank to ensure you've always got juice on the move - snapping pics and navigating Google maps tend to chow up battery life rather fast. Make sure you have your charger and a universal adapter too while you're at it.
  • As much as the urge to take as many pictures of the beautiful country as possible is strong, be sure to ask permission before you begin to snap pictures of houses or people. In some cases, you may be required to offer a tip for those pictures.
  • Watch your money - Make sure that, when changing currency you do so in a reputable hotel, foreign exchange bureau or bank.
  • Drinking water - contrary to popular belief, Cambodia does have places that offer clean and safe drinking water facilities that won't get your plastic bottle numbers climbing - check them out here. It is part of a new initiative called Refill NOT Landfill - which looks at making drinking water even more accessible to people in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Battambang; by encouraging businesses to set up a water station that customers and visitors can use. 
  • Tipping is okay, although it is not mandatory in most places. A tip of 5% - 20% of your total bill is acceptable for most services.

Top attractions in Cambodia

Cambodia is known for its extravagant and iconic temples. The many temples form part of the country's deep rooted Buddhism faith. Cambodia houses over 4 000 temples - only of which 2 000 of has been found.

This iconic temple is more than just a tomb to be raided. It is said to be a miniature replica of the universe in stone - representing 'an earthly model of the cosmic world.' It was always favoured by locals, but since its debut in 'Tomb Raider' (2001), it draws a global crowd.

Find yourself mesmerised by this lake and stilted town.  The lake fosters the local fishing and agriculture industry - a main source of income for many. Go on a guided boat trip through the floating village, named Chong Khneas, in southern Siem Reap.

The National Museum of Cambodia is a definite must-see. It is located in central Phnom Penh, next to the Royal Palace and houses the best of Khmer sculpture. After browsing a millennium’s worth of masterful Khmer design, kick back in its lush courtyard garden. 

This Wildlife Rescue Centre is home to the cutest critters. Here, Wildlife Alliance cares for and rehabilitates animals rescued from the illegal wildlife trade. The centre is home to many - from big, playful elephants to small, shy monkeys and coy sun bears.