Cambodia travel guide
It might be one of Southeast Asia's smallest countries, but Cambodia can compete with the big boys when it comes to must-see sights. Once the preserve of trailblazing backpackers, this formerly war-torn nation is now firmly established on the Asia travel circuit. That luxury yachts ply their trade on Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia's largest freshwater lake, is a mark of just how far Cambodia has come.
Carving the country in two is the mighty Mekong River, which remains the lifeblood of Cambodia, running as it does from the bustling capital, Phnom Penh, to Vietnam's Mekong Delta. A journey down this iconic waterway is one of the great pleasures of Southeast Asia – boats of all shapes and sizes drift, chug and spray their way along the Mekong, carrying piglets, clay pots, bananas, motorcycles, you name it.
Away from the water, the ravages of war have become unlikely tourist attractions in Phnom Penh and other cities. Crowds gather at former prison camps and the notorious Killing Fields to contemplate Cambodia's darkest hour, a period of unimaginable suffering that took place under the brutal regime of Pol Pot.
The crumbling remains of the Khmer Empire are the biggest draw in Cambodia, though. After building up a kingdom that stretched into neighbouring Thailand and China, the Khmers fell, leaving behind an extraordinary collection of temple complexes, most notably Angkor Wat, which owns the bragging rights to being the largest religious monument in the world.
Then there are more typical Southeast Asian attractions – frenetic cities crammed with rickshaws, strange and exotic food, blissful beaches, tropical jungles teeming with wildlife, and a densely-forested hinterland full of tribal villages.
There are few places that have been through as much as Cambodia, but this optimistic nation has belied its tumultuous history and emerged as one of the warmest, most welcoming destinations in Southeast Asia.
181,035 sq km (69,900 sq miles).
15,827,241 (UN estimate 2016).
86.8 per sq km.
King Norodom Sihamoni since 2004.
Prime Minister Hun Sen since 1985.
Last updated: 22 January 2018
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Political tensions remain high following the dissolution of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) on 16 November 2017. This followed the arrest of the CNRP leader Kem Sokha on 3 September 2017. Political rallies or disputes could trigger violent protests. Monitor local media closely and avoid all protests and demonstrations as they could turn violent.
Around 159,000 British nationals visited Cambodia in 2016. Most visits are trouble-free but there have been reports of assaults and robberies against foreigners.
UK health authorities have classified Cambodia as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Cambodia, attacks can’t be ruled out.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
Safety and security
Political tensions remain high following the dissolution of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) on 16 November 2017. This followed the arrest of the CNRP leader Kem Sokha on 3 September 2017. Political disputes could trigger violent protests. Avoid large gatherings, demonstrations and political meetings and avoid expressing strong opinions on Cambodian politics or culture.
During 2016, legal action was taken against the leaders of the CNRP. Several party members and activists were jailed and on 7 July 2016 Dr Kem Ley, a prominent political commentator, was shot dead.
A general election will take place in July 2018. It’s possible that political tensions will increase in the run-up to this election.
Although most visits are trouble-free, the British Embassy continues to receive crime reports from British nationals. Most of these are bag snatchings, often by thieves riding past on motorbikes. Bag straps have been cut and bags snatched from those on foot and passengers on moving tuk-tuks and motorbikes, often causing injury. Hotspots for petty crime include the riverfront and BKK areas of Phnom Penh, and the beaches and tourist areas of Sihanoukville and nearby islands.
In 2017, there have been incidents of female travellers, including British nationals, being sexually assaulted in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. This includes incidents of lone women being sexually assaulted by men claiming to be motorbike taxi drivers in the Pub Street area of Siem Reap. You should be vigilant at all times, especially when walking alone.
Take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your belongings:
- use a hotel safe for your valuables
- minimise the items you carry with you. If you carry a bag, make sure the strap is over your shoulder, away from the road to deter thieves on motorbikes from snatching it
- take extra care at night and in isolated areas
- be particularly vigilant travelling at night by bicycle or motorcycle, especially if you’re alone. Stick to well-used, well-lit roads and carry a personal alarm if possible
- avoid placing bags in the front basket of bicycles
- be wary of pickpockets, especially on public transport and in crowded areas
- if you travel by bus, make sure cash and valuables you have are secured. There have been incidents where passengers have had items taken from bags while asleep.
- tuk-tuks with metal grills on the back and side can offer some protection against bag snatching.
Police in Sihanoukville have been reporting instances of drink spiking and violence in the evening in some bars frequented by foreigners. Be vigilant, particularly in and around late night bars and don’t leave drinks unattended.
Parties, including organised dance parties on islands off the coast of Sihanoukville as well as in other locations, may place you at risk of sexual assault, robbery, injury, arrest, and lost belongings, including travel documents. These islands are often isolated and access to medical or emergency assistance is likely to be limited or non-existent. You should take appropriate precautions for your personal safety.
Local law enforcement responses to crimes, even violent crimes, are often limited and may fall far below the standard expected in the UK. Foreigners attempting to report crimes have reported finding police stations closed, emergency telephone numbers unanswered, or police unwilling to investigate crimes. Police will often not speak any English.
There have been reports of police charging fees for some services, including issuing police reports. Issuing a police report for crimes should not carry a fee. If you suspect an inappropriate fee is being demanded from you, report the matter by email to the British Embassy, including details of the police station.
Cambodians are friendly, but you should be wary if a Cambodian or other foreign national befriends you quickly and invites you to their home or hotel on the pretext of meeting their family.
Penalties for drug offences in Cambodia are severe and can include long jail sentences for possession of even small quantities of recreational drugs. Drugs have also caused a number of deaths of overseas visitors to Cambodia. These are suspected to be a result of purity issues, or adulteration by unknown substances.
The local equivalent to the UK ‘999’ emergency lines are: 117 for police, 118 for fire, and 119 for ambulance. If you need to report a crime in Phnom Penh, go to the Central Security Office at Number 13,Street 158, near Wat Koh. In Siem Reap, the Tourist Police office is next to the ticketing booth for the Angkor temple ruins. In Sihanoukville, Battambang and other towns in Cambodia, please seek advice from local police on which police station you should report to.
While there is good internet, wifi and mobile phone coverage in the main cities and towns of Cambodia, many of the islands and remote areas may not be covered. Make sure your friends and family are aware that you may be out of contact.
Be especially alert to the local security situation in border regions and at land crossings between countries. Seek local advice before you set off. Stay on clear pathways as there may be landmines or unexploded ordnance. At the more remote crossing points, conditions can be basic. Some visitors have reported local officials and tour operators asking for unofficial fees or inflating visa prices at land borders. Make sure you know the correct visa requirements and fees before you travel.
Cambodia does not have the same health and safety standards as in the UK. Please be aware that safety advice will be minimal and there may not be warning signs at tourist sites.
You should get permission from the district head, provincial governor or national tourism authority for any travel perceived as out of the ordinary, including business, extensive photography, or scientific research of any kind.
Heavy storms during the monsoon can cause disruption and damage including flooding and landslides. Travel to some provinces can be seriously disrupted during this time. Poor drainage leads to flooded roads in monsoon season, causing major traffic congestion in Phnom Penh, allow additional travel time if you’re heading to the airport. The Mekong River Commission posts official updates on the Mekong River on its website. Monitor local news and weather reports, and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation.
Lakes, caves and waterfalls are particularly prone to dangerous flash flooding during the rainy season.
The line of the international border near the Preah Vihear temple (Khaoi Pra Viharn in Thai) was disputed by Cambodia and Thailand. Since 2008, there were occasional clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops in the area, with fighting between Cambodian and Thai troops at Ta Krabey in 2011. There have also been disputes over control of the Ta Moan and Ta Krabey temples, which lie close to the Thailand-Cambodia border. In 2013, the International Court of Justice ruled that Cambodia has sovereignty over the whole territory of the Preah Vihear temple.
Although relations between the two countries concerning the border have improved, you should take extra care when travelling in this area, and follow the instructions of the local authorities.
Cambodia remains heavily affected by landmines and unexploded ordnance. Mined areas are often unmarked. Don’t stray off main routes in rural areas, including around temple complexes and don’t pick up metal objects.
Cambodia has one of the highest rates of road traffic accidents in the region. There are high numbers of fatalities and serious injuries. In May 2017, a bus carrying tourists (including Britons) left the road and overturned near Poipet, in the north west of the country. Many accidents are due to poor vehicle and driver safety standards. Travel after dark significantly increases the risk of accidents.
You’ll need a Cambodian driving licence to drive a vehicle, including a motorcycle. If you have an International Driving Permit, you can apply for a Cambodian licence for US $32. Some local travel agencies can arrange this for a fee. Driving or riding a motorbike without a licence may invalidate your travel insurance in the event of an accident. Your vehicle may also be impounded.
Travelling as a passenger by motorcycle taxi (‘motodop’) is dangerous. Vehicles are poorly maintained and driving standards are low. There is also a risk of bag snatching, particularly in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville.
The police can impose an on-the-spot fine if you ride a motorcycle without a helmet. Riding without a helmet may also invalidate your insurance. The police have also been known to stop tourists without Cambodian driving licences and advise them to return their motorcycles immediately. Sometimes a fine is imposed. In Sihanoukville it’s a requirement for police to issue a receipt when issuing a fine for a traffic violation.
Before you hire a vehicle, check your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered (as either a driver or passenger for motorcycles) and check the small print of the rental agreement. Don’t use your passport as security for motorcycle or car rental. Owners have been known to hold on to passports against claimed damage to the motorcycle or scooter.
Accidents have occurred due to overloaded or poorly maintained boats. There have also been reports of tourist boats continuing to operate despite weather warnings, particularly between Sihanoukville and the nearby islands. In 2016, 2 incidents (one off the coast at Sihanoukville and the other on the river near Kampot) saw tourist vessels sink.
Boat travel on rivers becomes difficult in the dry season (March - May). Water levels in rivers and lakes are high during the rainy season. Check online and with other travellers for opinions on travel options.
There have been attacks against ships in the South China Sea and surrounding seas. Mariners should be vigilant, reduce opportunities for theft, establish secure areas on-board and report all incidents to the coastal and Flag State authorities.
Adventurous activities and swimming
If you’re considering jungle trekking, use a reputable tour guide. There’s no licensing system for tour guides, so seek advice from other travellers, your hotel and look at online reviews before hiring a guide.
Take care when swimming, diving, kayaking or white water rafting in rivers or close to waterfalls, particularly in the rainy season from May to October. Currents can be extremely strong and there have been fatalities of as a result of this. Jellyfish can be found close to the shore, particularly during the rainy season. Their sting can be fatal. If in doubt take local advice from hotel management and dive centres.
If you rent jet skis or water sports’ equipment, make sure adequate safety precautions are in place. Rent only from reputable operators, thoroughly check for damage before use and insist on training.
The standards maintained by diving schools and rescue services are not always as high as in the UK. Check a dive operator’s credentials carefully before using them and make sure you’re covered by your insurance. If you have not had any previous diving experience, ask your dive operator to explain what cover they offer before signing up for a course. Make sure safety equipment is available on the boat, particularly oxygen. You should also ask about contingency plans including the ability to call for help while at sea and to evacuate divers to the nearest hyperbaric chamber if necessary.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Cambodia, attacks can’t be ruled out. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by expatriates and foreign travellers. There have been a small number of grenade/bomb attacks and shootings. Most have been linked to business, personal and traffic disputes. Four people were injured following a small explosion in Phnom Penh in September 2016.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Local laws and customs
If you’re arrested and convicted of a crime in Cambodia you can expect a long prison sentence. Pre-trial detention can also last many months.
The conditions in Cambodian prisons are extremely poor and overcrowded. Medical facilities in prisons are also extremely poor.The UK has no prisoner transfer agreement with Cambodia so if you’re found guilty you can expect to serve your full prison term in Cambodia, have your visa revoked and be deported when released.
Sexual abuse against children is a serious crime. The UK and Cambodian authorities are committed to combating travelling child sex offenders. Those who commit sex offences against children abroad can also be prosecuted in the UK.
Don’t become involved with drugs of any kind. Penalties for possession, distribution or manufacture of drugs, including Class C, are severe. Drugs have also caused of a number of deaths of overseas visitors to Cambodia. These are suspected to be a result of purity issues, or adulteration by unknown substances.
Never take photographs in or near airports or military bases. Ask permission before taking pictures of people, especially monks and other religious figures.
The Cambodian authorities have issued an official code of conduct for visitors to Angkor Wat and other religious sites, including a dress code. You shouldn’t wear skirts or shorts above the knee or tops that reveal bare shoulders. If you don’t follow the dress code you may be refused admission to the sites.
There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual activity or the organisation of LGBT events in Cambodia, but public attitudes can be mixed. There is no legal protection against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, but the British Embassy has no recorded cases of discrimination towards LGBT travellers. The LGBT community is becoming more visible, including through gay clubs, club nights and the work of some human rights organisations. Pride events are held annually in Phnom Penh. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
There are new procedures for foreign and Cambodian citizens who wish to marry in Cambodia. For more information, contact the British Embassy in Phnom Penh.
Adopting Cambodian children
The Department for Education (DfE) has suspended all adoptions of Cambodian children by UK residents. A new Inter-Country Adoption Law came into effect in Cambodia on 1 January 2013. The Department for Education will continue to monitor the adoption processes in Cambodia and review the suspension accordingly.
Commercial surrogacy is banned in Cambodia and the commissioning of commercial surrogacy is subject to penalties including imprisonment and fines. The Foreign & Commonwealth and Home Office have produced guidance for anyone considering surrogacy overseas.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Tourist visas are available on arrival at the Phnom Penh or Siem Reap international airports, for $30. If you wish to get a visa on arrival you should arrive with a passport photograph. You can also get an eVisa online before you travel.
Visa fees, conditions and photograph requirements are subject to change. Check the Royal Cambodian Embassy, or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Co-operation website for the latest information on fees, conditions and photograph requirements and on how to apply for an e-visa.
Tourist visas issued by a Royal Cambodian Embassy abroad may appear to have a longer validity than 1 month. The validity of the visa refers to time you have to enter Cambodia. The visa is valid for 30 days from the actual date of entry into Cambodia. Make sure your passport is stamped on arrival, and keep the departure form. If you lose your departure form, you’ll need to contact immigration officials before you leave the country to make alternative arrangements.
You can be fined, detained and deported if you overstay your visa. There is a fine of $10 per day for overstaying the validity term of your visa. There is no limit to this fine. Those who overstay more than 30 days will be required to leave Cambodia in addition to paying the fine.
If you lose your passport with your Cambodia visa (and corresponding entry stamp) you’ll need to get an exit visa from the Cambodian authorities once you have received an Emergency Travel Document from the British Embassy. An exit visa will cost $30 and must be obtained from the Cambodian Immigration Department in Phnom Penh, 332, Russian Boulevard, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The exit visa will take up to 3 working days to be processed by the Cambodian authorities.
Recent changes to visa requirements for Thailand may affect travellers wishing to make regular crossings at the land border between Cambodia and Thailand. for further information.
Information on land border crossings from Laos and Vietnam is available at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Co-operation website.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Cambodia. Entry is normally refused if you have a damaged passport or pages missing.
Your passport should also be valid for a minimum period of 6 months for any subsequent renewal or extension of your visa applied for from within Cambodia.
To work in Cambodia, you’ll need a valid business visa and a valid work permit. Business visas are issued by the Immigration Department and are usually available on arrival in Phnom Penh airport, or at the Immigration Department. You may be able to apply for a Business visa in advance at your nearest Cambodian Embassy. Your employer will need to apply for your work permit from the Department of Labour and Social Affairs.
The Cambodian government is enforcing these rules more strictly than in previous years. There is some uncertainty about whether the government will impose charges retroactively on individuals who did not have valid work permits previously. Procedures are subject to change and you should always consult the relevant Cambodian government department for the latest advice.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK ETDs are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Cambodia.
If you’re leaving the country using an ETD issued in Cambodia (and therefore containing no entry stamp), you must get an exit visa prior to departure (see Visa section above for more details).
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
Public health facilities in Cambodia are very poor. Private clinics and hospitals in Phnom Penh are often better equipped, but are of variable quality and can be expensive. Many treatments and procedures are not available in Cambodia. Many people travel to neighbouring countries for medical treatment. The standards maintained by Cambodian emergency services are extremely poor in comparison to the UK and evacuation may be necessary for medical emergencies and anything other than minor medical concerns. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and that you also have accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation as some hospitals will expect payment by you at the time of treatment.
There are no proper mental health care facilities in Cambodia. Professional treatment including medication is difficult and expensive to obtain. Emergency mental health treatment is likely to require an air ambulance transfer to a country offering appropriate facilities.
Local pharmacies provide a limited supply of medications. Many sell counterfeit or out of date products. Make sure you bring adequate supplies for the duration of your stay.
UK health authorities have classified Cambodia as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
There have been some cases of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in poultry in Cambodia. This has led to a small number of human infections, including fatalities during 2011.
The risk to humans is believed to be very low, but as a precaution you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.
There have been cases of hand, foot and mouth disease resulting in a number of deaths among children.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 119 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
ATMs are available in Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap and in some other major towns. Take care when withdrawing cash and be aware of your surroundings.
Not all ATMs and banks accept foreign debit and credit cards. Check with your bank before you travel. Credit cards aren’t widely accepted, but some hotels and businesses in larger cities will accept them.Travellers cheques can be exchanged at some banks and bureaux de change.
The US dollar is the main currency used in Cambodia. Prices in hotels, shops and restaurants are quoted in US dollars. Cambodian Riels are used only as small change at a rate of around 4000 Riels/US$1.
There have been recent reports of counterfeit dollar notes being given as change in shops and clubs. Difficulties can also be encountered when trying to spend damaged notes. You should check that notes you receive are genuine and aren’t damaged or torn. Banks and money exchange shops will sometimes replace damaged notes but will often charge for this service.
It may not be possible to exchange Northern Irish and Scottish bank notes.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.