Many of the ancient Buddhist traditions that have shaped Cambodian culture are still alive and well today. This short list of travel tips for traveling in Cambodia will help make your time in country that much more memorable.
Head/Feet: In many Buddhist traditions throughout Southeast Asia the head is seen as the highest and most sacred point of the body and soul, and the feet represent the lowest and least pure area. Though the exact customs vary between Southeast Asian destinations, its best to refrain from touching anyone or anything with your feet while traveling in the region. You should also refrain from touching the heads of people or statues of the Buddha.
Voice and Veneer: A resilient people known for putting their best foot forward at all times, the Khmer take great care to appear calm and collected whenever they are in public. Mimicking the calm demeanor of these friendly people will go a long way towards making your Cambodia experiences that much more memorable.
Beachwear: Though less conservative than some neighboring countries, the culture of Cambodia is still very modest. It is common to see Cambodians swim in blue jeans and a t-shirt, forgoing typical western beachwear all together. While swimwear is fine at the pool or the beach, it's best to bring a set of modest clothes along to wear before and after swimming or sunbathing.
Temples: Though dress codes are rarely enforced at Buddhist temples in Cambodia, it's best to be over dressed than potentially offend the devout with inappropriate clothing.
Shoes: Please remove your shoes before entering homes, offices, or temples in Cambodia. Your guide will help you remember where you should and should not wear shoes.
Money in Cambodia:
1. The Riel is the official currency in Cambodia. Riel banknotes are available in denominations of 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, and 100,000 notes.
2. U.S. Dollars are widely accepted, but we recommend only dealing in local currencies to ensure a better exchange rate. While many vendors will take U.S. dollars, your change will usually be in the local currency at a poor exchange rate.
3. Credit cards are accepted in some high-end establishments, particularly those that cater to travelers, but it is best to handle as many transactions in the local currency as possible.
4. ATMs can be found in the cities such as Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, but are less common outside these locations.
5. Though currency exchange rates fluctuate daily, you can typically assume 1 U.S. Dollar is equivalent to roughly 4,000 Cambodian Riel.
Buddhism in Cambodia:
Buddha: Images of the Buddha are sacred in Cambodia. Travelers should not touch or climb any images of the Buddha while traveling in Cambodia.
Monks: The orange-clad Buddhist monks of Cambodia occupy a highly venerated position in society. Local customs dictate that these monks are given the utmost respect. Refrain from shaking hands with monks or attempting to give gifts directly to them.