Destination Information for Cambodia

The first thing that strikes anyone arriving in Cambodia is the smiling faces of the people that great you. This isn’t the plastic smile of an air hostess but a genuine and warm welcome which you will become accustomed to throughout your time in this magical kingdom. The warmth of the people is probably a result of the superb surroundings in which they live. Cambodia’s rich history dates back through the ages and spectacular temples, built in another age dominate the capital city, Phnom Penh and most notably the Angkor complex of Siem Reap, our two locations in Cambodia.

The magnificent temple at Angkor Wat, thought to have been a temple dedicated to a former king, is a must for any visitor to Cambodia. The temple was given to Buddhist monks, who still care for it to this day, and it is the deep Buddhist culture of Cambodia that attracts many to this land.

But it’s not just the splendid man made attractions of Cambodia that make it such a rich place. Cambodia is also blessed with some of the most spectacular golden beaches and mystical rainforests, so when you become ‘templed out’ – or impervious to the charms of the temples – there’s always something to take your breath away.

Joining a project in Cambodia is often a great way to start a round the world tour or a great starting point for those looking to back pack their way around Asia and the Pacific. Cambodia is well connected by air and road for those looking to travel onwards to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and beyond!

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Our medical projects are based in Siem Reap, Battambang and Phnom Penh.

You will stay in guesthouse accommodation with others on the programme. Guesthouses in Cambodia are incredibly clean and good value and are of a similar standard to a bed and breakfast type hotel at home.

However, not all home comforts are available, most accommodation will have running water. It may not always be hot running water so cold showers may take some getting used to!

The water is not treated to the same standard that we’re used to at home so we would definitely not recommend drinking tap water. Bottled water will be supplied, but is abundant and cheap when you are away from the accommodation.

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Weekends are free so there will be plenty of time to travel and see the various sights. Cambodia has an extensive and affordable network of buses which make it easy to travel around.

Highlights – Cambodia

Most are based in Siem Reap which is ideally located to visit the amazing temple complex at Angkor.

The magnificent temple at Angkor Wat, thought to have been a temple dedicated to a former king, was given to Buddhist monks, who still care for it to this day, and it is the deep Buddhist culture of Cambodia that attracts many to this land.

In Phnom Penh most of the major sights are fairly central. Most can be visited by foot and are nearly located along the beautiful riverfront.

Standing on the site of the former citadel, the striking Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda rivals most palaces found in Asia. This is a must see for any visitor to Phnom Penh.

A slight distance away is the National Museum, home to a rare species of bats in it’s roof. Visit the museum at dusk to witness a spectacular fly past by the bats, but sadly you have to avoid their droppings when looking at the exhibits in the Museum!

Tuol Sleng Museum is a chilling testament to the barbarity of the Khmer Rouge and is a vital trip to understand this dark page in the history of Cambodia. The museum houses exhibits and chilling photographs of the many prisoners who passed through the building when it was known as Security Prison 21 (S-21), a converted school taken over by Pol Pot’s security forces.

But it’s not just the splendid man made attractions of Cambodia that make it such a rich place. Cambodia is also blessed with some of the most spectacular golden beaches and mystical rainforests, so when you become ‘templed out’ – or impervious to the charms of the temples – there’s always something to take your breath away.

Climate

Cambodia can be visited at any time of year, but the ideal time to visit is December and January. Humidity at this time of year is relatively low and the slight breeze and light rain tends to cool the air.

Temperatures begin to rise from early February peaking in April when it can be over 40 degrees centigrade. May or June will bring the Monsoon and rain and high humidity. This wet season lasts until October but can be a relief from the oppressive April heat. It usually only rains in short sharp bursts, which can actually be quite refreshing.

Money

You will have weekends free to travel and visit the sights so do take some spending money for food, accommodation and souvenirs.

Exactly how much to take is a matter of great debate but most who have travelled to Cambodia recommend that you could probably get by allowing £20-35 per weekend spending money. If you can, take a little extra just in case to allow for emergencies or those ‘must have’ souvenirs.

You cannot get Cambodian currency outside of Cambodia so it’s best to take your spending money as travellers cheques or cash. Credit and debit cards are not widely accepted. You can usually draw money out on credit and debit cards from most banks or hotels in Phnom Penh but they will charge a commission, usually around 5 percent of the transaction.

Travellers cheques, although sometimes difficult to change in banks, are the safest way to carry your spending money to Cambodia as they can be easily replaced if lost or stolen. In our experience we’ve found that American Express travellers cheques offer the best service but most travellers cheques are accepted. It’s probably best to avoid ‘Thomas Cook’ travellers cheques as some banks do not accept them.

However, do take a debit or credit card (preferably a Visa card) and some cash with you as travellers cheques are difficult to change (often requiring hours of queuing in banks).

You can take cash as sterling, Euros or US dollars. All are easy to change in Cambodia. Money can easily be exchanged in banks, travel agents or in the markets of Phnom Penh.

Flights

You should arrange your flights to arrive at Siem Reap or Phnom Penh International Airports, depending on the location of your project. A number of international carriers fly to these airports, including Singapore, Thai Airways and Cathay Pacific. Low cost carrier Air Asia also flies to these airports via the major international airport hubs in neighbouring locations

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Medical Director – Dr Gunther Hintz

Dr Gunther Hintz is the dean of medicine at Phnom Penh university and is the director of a local Cambodian Medical NGO. Dr Hintz supervises our placements in Phnom Penh, Battambang and Siem Reap.

[/accordion-item][/accordion] Photos from our projects in Cambodia (on Facebook, opens in new tab)