Cambodia: Travel/Tourist Information Guide
Cambodia is a country with a very rich cultural heritage located in Southeast Asia. It is officially known as Kingdom of Cambodia. With an area of approximately 181,035 square kilometers or 88 hectares, it is bordered by Thailand to the northwest, Laos to the northeast, Vietnam to the east, and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest. Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital city, is the country’s economic, political, industrial, and cultural center. The country has a very rich history. In 1953, Cambodia gained its independence. However, the Vietnam War affected the country as it was bombed by USA from 1969 until 1973. After these tragic events, Cambodia was under the power of the Khmer Rouge until the 1991 Paris Peace Accords that enables the United Nations governed the country briefly. In 1997, the country was placed in the hands of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodian People Party until these days.
Despite Cambodia’s history and today’s economic standing, it still attracts tourists and backpackers to visits remarkable attractions. Cambodia's Angkor Wat is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage. Along with it are ancient holy places, colorful pagodas, pristine islands, century beach, and other attractions makes Cambodia one of the places to sought. The locals have a very friendly and welcoming attitude, which helps tourists to be more comfortable in touring the country.
Regions of Cambodia
Kingdom of Cambodia is divided into 25 provinces along with Phnom Penh as the 25th province although it is a special administrative area. However, grouping these provinces forms regions. There are five regions: Phnom Penh Administrative Area, Northwestern Region, Northern Region, Eastern Region, and Southern Region.
Phnom Penh Administrative Area
This region includes the capital city, Phnom Penh, and the surrounding area including the Prey Veng and Svay Rieng. Phnom Penh was also once known as the "Pearl of Asia". It is located at the confluence of three rivers, the Mekong River, the Basaac River, and the Tonle Sap. As the wealthiest and most populous city in Cambodia, the city is known to have the most beautiful and historical architectures. This includes the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda, the National Museum, the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum, the Choeng Ek Killing Fields, and Wat Phnom.
The northwest area of Cambodia consists of Battambang, Pursat, Kompong Chhang, and Sisophon, Poipet, and Pailin. This region is also the home of the Banteay Chhmar. It is a huge Ankorian-era temple that is still let untouched by mass tourism. This massive three square kilometer temple is known for its magnificent carvings.
Battambang the second biggest city in Cambodia. It is situated on the Sangkae River, once a very important water traffic road from Cambodia to Thailand. It is now a peaceful river, disturbed only by occasional fishing boats and ferries carrying tourists to see the surrounding natural beauties. The main draw of this majestic city is its time-warped collection of colonial structures including the Bamboo Railway.
Surrounding Battambang are other cities and towns. Kompong Chhang is an old colonial town with a very quiet ambiance Another traditional and center of arts is Pursat. It is the nation’s main marble carving center. Sisophon is a town midway between Siam Reap and the Thai border. The town is usually a gateway to Siam Reap, Battambang, and Banteay Chhmar. Pailin is the main gateway to cross the border to Thailand, which is around 20 kilometers. Poipet is the border town of Cambodia from Bangkok, Thailand.
The Northern Region houses the most majestic attraction of Cambodia, the Angkor Wat. Apart from this temple, other cities and towns are Siem Reap, Phnom Kulen, Beng Meala, Koh Ker, Kompong Thom, Tbeng Meanchey, Preah Vihear, Anlong Veng, and Sambor Prei Kuk.
Angkor Wat is the most famous site in Cambodia, and probably the entire Southeast Asia. The site is enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage List, and has been voted repeatedly as one of the new wonders of the world; it is also known as the 7th Wonder of the World. Geologically, it is a part of Siem Reap, the capital of the province with the same name. The provincial capital is in the south of the province on the shores of the Tonle Sap Lake. This is by far, the most visited part of Cambodia.
The Eastern Region is a more remote part of Cambodia. It is the home of the provinces of Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri. Housed in this region are the mellow towns of Banlung, Kompong Cham, Kratie, and Stung Treng.
Banlung is a small town. It is the capital of Ratanakiri Province, which is located north bordering Vietnam to the east and Laos to the north. The town is muddy during wet season and dusty during dry season. The town is known for its volcanic lakes, waterfalls, and national parks. It is the home of the Yeak Laom Volcanic Lake and the Virachey National Park.
The Southern Region of Cambodia consists of some of the most wonderful attractions in the country. The Kirirom National Park in and the Ream National Park is in this region along with Sihanoukville, Kep, Kampot, Koh Kong, Takeo, and Kompong Trach.
Sihanoukville is a town on the southern coast of Cambodia. It is a seaside resort for the rich Cambodians, and, since recently, foreign tourists. Its once notoriously dirty beaches and isolated islands around it make it feel more like a tropical paradise than a small town in Cambodia.
Kep is the name of the smallest province in Cambodia. It is bordered by the Gulf of Thailand and the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc to the south, surrounded by the Kampot Province. Kep is being rapidly modernized especially in the recent years. Beside the seaside resort and islands of the Kep Archipelago, there are also some interesting sites to explore and visit such as the Kep National Park and surrounding caves.
Get In & Around
There are two main international airports in Cambodia: Phnom Penh International Airport and Siem Reap - Angkor International Airport. There are direct flights from the rest of the countries in Southeast Asia along with South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, and Qatar. Some airlines that operates between these countries and Cambodia are Air-Asia, Jetair Asia, Asiana Airlines, Cebu Pacific Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Dragonair, Korean Air, and others.
Once in Cambodia, it is easy to get around as there are buses that connects the provinces. There are also car rentals and tours available for a convenient way of getting around.
All visitors except citizens of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam need a visa to enter Cambodia. There are two types of visa: tourist and Visa-E or Business Visa.
The tourist visa costs at around 30 USD and is only valid for one stay of up to 30 days that can be extended only once for a maximum of two months.
On the other hand, the Business Visa (“Ordinary Visa”) can cost 35 to 40 USD and can be extended indefinitely. The cost of the extension may cost 155 USD per 6b months extension and 290 USD for 12 months’ extension.
Visas are available at the Cambodian embassies and consulates. There are also visas upon arrival available at the two main airports, all six international border crossings with Thailand, some international border crossings with Vietnam, and the man border crossing with Laos.