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 Manet since 2023.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.
Before you travel
No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:
advice on preparing for travel abroad and reducing risks
information for women, LGBT+ and disabled travellers
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.
This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Cambodia set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Royal Embassy of Cambodia in the UK.
There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Cambodia.
Passport validity requirements
To enter Cambodia your passport must be:
- valid for at least 6 months from the date you arrive in Cambodia
- undamaged and complete - entry is normally refused if you have a damaged passport or pages missing
If you apply to renew or extend your visa from within Cambodia, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the start date of that subsequent renewal or extension.
Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.
You will need a visa to enter and travel through Cambodia as a visitor.
Check with the Royal Embassy of Cambodia for the latest information on fees, conditions and photograph requirements.
Tourist visas are valid for 30 days from the 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.
Applying for a visa
Apply for an e-visa at least 4 days in advance.
If you do not get an e-visa, you can get a visa on arrival at airports or land border crossings. You need to provide a photo and pay in US dollars.
You can also get an extension of a tourist visa while you are in Cambodia.
You can be fined, detained and deported if you overstay your visa. There is no limit to this fine. If you overstay more than 30 days, you will need to leave Cambodia and pay the fine.
To work in Cambodia, you need a business visa and a work permit. Business visas are issued by the immigration department and are available:
- on arrival in Phnom Penh airport
- at the immigration department
- in advance from a Cambodian embassy
Your employer will need to apply for your work permit from the Department of Labour and Social Affairs.
The Cambodian government strictly enforces these rules, so you should ask the relevant department for the latest advice.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s Cambodia guide.
Registering with the authorities
The Cambodian Department of Immigration runs an online registration app called the Foreigners Present in Cambodia System (FPCS). If you fail to get yourself registered, you may be unable to extend your visa if you want to.
If you’re staying in a hotel, guesthouse or rented accommodation, make sure the manager or landlord registers you using the app.
If you are staying with friends or family or own your own home in Cambodia, you will need to register yourself, using the app for Android or iOS. You need to enter a Cambodian phone number for your registration to be valid.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant.
UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Terrorism in Cambodia
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Cambodia, attacks cannot be ruled out.
Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by expatriates and foreign travellers. There have been a small number of grenade or bomb attacks and shootings. Most have been linked to business, personal and traffic disputes.
Border with Thailand
The line of the international border near the Preah Vihear temple (Khaoi Pra Viharn in Thai) has been in dispute between Cambodia and Thailand, with occasional clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops. There have also been disputes over control of the Ta Moan and Ta Krabey temples, which are close to the Thailand-Cambodia border.
Take extra care when travelling in this area, and follow the instructions of the local authorities.
Other national borders
Be alert to the local security situation in border regions and at land crossings between countries. Get local advice before you set off. At the more remote crossing points, conditions can be basic. Local officials and tour operators can ask for unofficial fees or inflate visa prices at land borders. Make sure you know the correct visa requirements and fees before you travel.
Cambodia remains heavily affected by landmines and unexploded weapons. Mined areas are often unmarked. Do not:
- stray off main routes in rural areas, including around temple complexes
- pick up metal objects
A bomb was left near a casino in Phnom Penh in December 2022 and there was a shooting in the same month. Both were likely linked to organised crime, and tourists were not targeted.
Protecting your belongings
Most incidents of theft are bag snatchings, often by thieves riding past on motorbikes. Thieves will cut bag straps and snatch bags or phones from tourists on foot or in tuk-tuks and motorbikes, often causing injury. There have been incidents on bus journeys where passengers have had items taken from bags while asleep.
Hotspots for petty crime include:
- the riverfront and BKK areas of Phnom Penh
- the beaches and tourist areas of Sihanoukville and nearby islands
To protect yourself and your belongings:
- use a hotel safe for your valuables
- take extra care at night and in isolated areas and stick to well-used, well-lit roads
- carry a personal alarm if possible
- minimise the items you carry with you
- carry bags on the side of you that is furthest from the road
- do not place bags in the front basket of bicycles
- try to travel in tuk-tuks with metal grills on the back and side that offer some protection against bag snatching
Personal safety and sexual assault
Female travellers, including British nationals have been 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. Be wary of approaches from strangers and offers of transport.
Parties, including organised dance parties on Cambodia’s islands, may place you at risk of:
- sexual assault
- losing belongings, including travel documents
Islands are often isolated and access to medical or emergency assistance is limited or non-existent.
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 to meet their family.
Police have reported instances of drink spiking in some bars visited by foreigners. Do not leave drinks unattended.
Travellers have reported fake dollar bills being given as change in shops and clubs. You should check that notes you receive are genuine and are not damaged or torn.
Be sceptical if offered an opportunity of easy work. Sophisticated job scams, mostly in and around Sihanoukville and Kandal, operate by advertising ‘easy jobs with high pay’. These jobs turned out to be long hours of factory work where pay was low and free movement was allegedly restricted.
Illegal drugs and prison sentences
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 the death of several foreign travellers. These are likely to be the result of impurities, or from being mixed with unknown substances.
Reporting a crime
To report a crime:
- in Phnom Penh, go to the Tourist Police at Street 598, 12107 (Tel +855 (0)12 942 484).
- in Siem Reap, go to the Tourist Police office which is next to the ticketing booth for the Angkor temple ruins.
- in Sihanoukville, Battambang and other towns in Cambodia, check with the local police for which police station to which you should report.
Local law enforcement response to a crime, including a violent crime, is often limited. Foreigners attempting to report crimes have found:
- police stations closed
- emergency telephone numbers unanswered
- police unwilling to investigate
- police unable to speak English
There should be no cost for police to issue a police report. If police are demanding a fee, contact the British Embassy Phnom Penh and give details of the police station.
Laws and cultural differences
Prison sentences and conditions
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 legal process in Cambodia is unpredictable, lacks transparency and is open to interference from political and business interests. The investigation and trial process falls far below the standard of the UK. The British Embassy will not interfere in the legal processes of a host country.
The conditions in Cambodian prisons are extremely poor and overcrowded. Medical facilities in prisons are also very 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.
Visits to religious sites
The Cambodian authorities have issued an official code of conduct for visitors to Angkor Wat and other religious sites. You may be refused admission to the sites if you wear skirts or shorts above the knee, or if you have bare shoulders.
Using cameras in secure areas
Never take photographs on or near military bases. Ask permission before taking pictures of people, especially monks and other religious figures.
Surveys, research and unusual travel plans
You should get permission from the district head, provincial governor or national tourism authority for any travel considered as out of the ordinary, including:
carrying out surveys
- extensive photography
- scientific research of any kind
Same-sex sexual relationships are legal in Cambodia. The LGBT+ community is becoming more visible, through gay clubs, club nights and the work of some human rights organisations.
Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.
Adopting Cambodian children
The UK government has suspended all adoptions of Cambodian children by UK residents.
Commercial surrogacy is banned in Cambodia. If you pay a surrogate, you could get a fine or a prison sentence. FCDO and Home Office have produced guidance for anyone considering surrogacy abroad.
Phone and data connections
While there is good wi-fi and mobile phone networks in the main cities and towns of Cambodia, many of the islands and remote areas are not well covered. Make sure your friends and family are aware that you may be out of contact.
Health and safety
Cambodia does not have the same health and safety standards as in the UK. Be aware that safety advice will be minimal and there may be no warning signs about dangers at tourist sites.
Outdoor activities and adventure tourism
If you’re considering jungle trekking, use a reputable tour guide. There’s no licensing system for tour guides, so get advice from your hotel, and look at online reviews before hiring a guide.
When swimming, kayaking, rafting, or using jet-skis:
- take extra care in the rainy season from May to October
- watch for river currents – these can be extremely strong and there have been fatalities because of this
- beware of jellyfish in the sea close to the shore – their sting can be fatal
- take local advice from hotel management and rent equipment only from recommended operators
- check for damage before using any equipment
- insist on training and ask operators to explain safe practices
Diving school standards are not always as high as in the UK. You should:
- check a dive operator’s credentials
- make sure you’re covered by insurance
- make sure safety equipment is available on the boat, particularly oxygen
- ask about safety precautions, including the ability to transfer divers to a hyperbaric chamber
If you have not had any previous diving experience:
- ask your dive instructor to explain what cover they offer before signing up
- check what to do if something goes wrong, including how to call for help while at sea
Cambodia has one of the highest rates of road traffic accidents in south-east Asia. There are high numbers of fatalities and serious injuries. Many accidents are due to poor vehicle and driver safety standards. Travel after dark significantly increases the risk of accidents.
You need a 1949 international driving permit (IDP) to get a Cambodian driving licence for cars or motorcycles. You cannot buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel. You can buy an IDP in person from some UK post offices – find your nearest post office branch that offers this service.
If you have your IDP with you, you can apply for a Cambodian licence. Some local travel agencies can arrange this for a fee.
Driving or riding without a licence may invalidate your travel insurance and police may impound your vehicle.
Travelling as a passenger by motorcycle taxi (‘moto Dop’) is dangerous. Vehicles are poorly maintained and driving standards are low. There is also a risk that thieves (also on motorcycles) will snatch bags from you, 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 can stop tourists without Cambodian driving licences and impose a fine. 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 drivers and any passengers are covered by your travel insurance and check the small print of the rental agreement. Do not hand over your passport as a guarantee for returning a motorcycle or scooter.
Sea and river travel
Accidents have happened when boats are overloaded or poorly maintained. Tourist boats sometimes operate despite weather warnings, particularly between Sihanoukville and the nearby islands.
Water levels in rivers and lakes are high during the rainy season (June to October), making currents faster and more dangerous. Boat travel on rivers is difficult in the dry season (March to May), due to the exposure of sandbars and other hazards that can damage boats or cause them to run aground.
Extreme weather and natural disasters
Heavy storms during the monsoon season from June to October disrupt and damage the road network. Travel to some provinces can be seriously restricted by landslides at this time. Poor drainage results in flooded roads, causing major traffic congestion and delays in Phnom Penh (including along the route to the airport).
The Mekong River Commission posts official updates on the Mekong River. Monitor local news and weather reports, and weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation.
Lakes, caves and waterfalls are particularly prone to dangerous flash flooding during the rainy season from June to October.
Before you travel check that:
your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation
This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.
Emergency medical number
Dial 119 and ask for an ambulance.
Contact your insurance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Vaccinations and health risks
At least 8 weeks before your trip check:
- the latest information on vaccinations and health risks in TravelHealthPro’s Cambodia guide
- where to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.
The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.
Healthcare facilities in Cambodia
FCDO has a list of English speaking doctors in Cambodia.
There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Cambodia.
COVID-19 healthcare in Cambodia
If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms, dial +855 (0)12825424 and local authorities will be able to advise you on what action you should take.
Travel and mental health
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.
Emergency services in Cambodia
Contact your travel provider and insurer
Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.
Refunds and changes to travel
For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.
Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:
- where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
- how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
Support from FCDO
FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:
- finding English-speaking lawyers, funeral directors and translators and interpreters in Cambodia
- dealing with a death in Cambodia
- getting help if you’re a victim of crime
- what to do if you’re in hospital
- if you’re affected by a crisis, such as a terrorist attack
Help abroad in an emergency
If you’re in Cambodia and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
You can also contact FCDO online.
FCDO in London
You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.
Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)
Risk information for British companies
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.