Travel Consideration: Cambodia

Contributed By RealAdventures

Cambodia is a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch. A coalition government was formed between the two major political parties in November 1998, following national elections in July of that year.

A passport and visa are required. Tourists and business people may purchase Cambodian visas valid for one month at airports in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap for a fee. Both require a passport photo. A domestic departure tax applies to all flights within Cambodia. All U.S. citizens departing Cambodia are required to pay a passenger departure tax. Airport taxes are payable in U.S. dollars. For current information about entry/visa and other requirements or to apply for a visa in the United States before departure, contact the Royal Embassy of Cambodia, 4500 16th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20022, tel. 202-726-7742, fax. 202-726-8381 or via the Internet at Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Cambodia.

Political turbulence and violence decreased significantly in Phnom Penh during 1999. While the formation of a coalition government has eased political tensions considerably, sporadic acts of violence remain possible. Therefore, the U.S. Embassy advises American citizens to avoid political gatherings or demonstrations, if they occur, and to avoid the vicinity of political party offices as well as military buildings or compounds in Phnom Penh and in the provincial capitals.
The U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh advises its personnel who travel to the provinces to exercise caution outside the provincial towns during the day and everywhere at night. Many rural parts of the country remain without effective policing and are subject to banditry.

Land mines and unexploded ordnance can be found in rural areas throughout Cambodia but especially in Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Pursat, Siem Reap, and Kampong Thom provinces. At no time should travelers walk in forested areas or even in dry rice paddies without a local guide. Areas around small bridges on secondary roads are particularly dangerous. Travelers who observe anything that resembles a mine or unexploded ordnance should not touch it. They should notify the Cambodia Mine Action Center at telephone number 023-981-083 or 084.

Crime and banditry are persistent problems in many areas. The U.S. Embassy advises its personnel to review their personal security practices regularly. The decline of the Cambodian economy has contributed to a dramatic increase in armed robberies and assaults, sometimes during daylight hours. A number of Americans have been robbed at gunpoint in Phnom Penh. Most of them were robbed while riding on motorcycle taxis and generally after dark, but such incidents have occurred in broad daylight as well. Americans should avoid traveling alone, especially after dark. They should limit outdoor activity after dark in the capital city area and return to their homes or hotels early. To avoid the risk of theft or confiscation of original documents, the U.S. Embassy advises its personnel to carry photocopies of their U.S. passport, driver's license or other important documents.

The Cambodian medical system was virtually wiped out during the Khmer Rouge period, 1975-1979, and is being rebuilt slowly. Medical facilities and services in Cambodia are not up to international standards.

U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.

Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Cambodia is provided for general reference only. It may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Road travel at night in Cambodia is not advised. The U.S. Embassy advises Embassy personnel not to travel by train because of the high risk of banditry. Travel by boat should be avoided because boats are often overcrowded and lack adequate safety equipment. Several incidents have happened on the route to Siem Reap, including a boat sinking in early 1997. Owners accept no liability for accidents.

Moto-taxis are available, however the Embassy does not recommend using them due to safety concerns, and because personal belongings can be easily stolen. An incident involving the armed robbery of a number of tourists on waterborne transportation (the "fast" boat) between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh highlights the continuing need for travelers to exercise caution and prudence with regard to personal security while traveling in Cambodia. The safety of road travel outside urban areas varies greatly. Even on heavily traveled roads, there can be incidents of banditry, so all travel should be done in daylight between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

In both urban and rural areas, road maintenance is sporadic. There are approved checkpoints throughout the country. Roads between major areas are adequate; however, those leading to more rural areas are poor. During the rainy season both urban and rural road conditions deteriorate considerably. Roadside assistance is non-existent. For specific information concerning Cambodian driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Embassy of Cambodia in Washington, D.C. or via the Internet at

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that countryís laws and regulations which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States, and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Cambodian law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Cambodia are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Personal checks and credit cards are not widely accepted within Cambodia, although a number of banks in Phnom Penh accept Visa cards for cash advances. Banks and major hotels accept travelerís checks. The U.S. dollar and Cambodian riel are both widely used. There are three Western Union offices in Phnom Penh and one in Siem Reap province to which funds can be wired.

Americans living in or visiting Cambodia are encouraged to register at the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh and obtain updated information on travel and security within Cambodia. The U.S. Embassy is located at Number 16, Street 228, (between Streets 51 and 63), Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The telephone number is (855-23) 216-436 or (855-23) 218-931; fax (855-23) 218-931 or (855-23) 217-085. A recording of security information is available 24 hours a day at telephone number (855-23) 216-805. You may also find information for the area at Department of State travel information and publications are available at Internet address U.S. travelers may hear recorded information by calling the Department of State in Washington, D.C. at 202-647-5225 from a touch-tone telephone, or receive information through the automated telefax by dialing 202-647-3000 from a fax machine.

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