Tips: Cambodia


KHMER LANGUAGE. This national (official) language of Cambodia is believed to be influenced by Sanskrit language, which is originated from India. One of the Khmer inscriptions found, which is carved over an ancient stone, reveals it was written in the seventh century. Today, apart from Khmer, other languages such as English and French are also spoken by Cambodians, particularly in tourism areas. If you are interested in knowing more about Khmer language, please click this link:

Listed below is a few of Khmer words. You can listen to the pronunciation by clicking the Khmer phrases (currently for MsInternet Explorer users only).

Good morning   a roon swa sday How are you sok sa bai rie té
Good afternoon saai yon swa sday Hello swa sday
Good evening rae trey swa sday Good bye léa hi
Your name is? taanieck chmuaboi My name is... knyom chmock


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Talk Now! Learn Khmer

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Cambodian for Beginners - Second Edition


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CULTURE AWARENESS. People are basically the same everywhere on this planet, i.e. there are friendly, unfriendly, kind, and nasty people, however generally Cambodians are friendly and smile quite often.

Even though they are friendly, a Cambodian won’t like it if you touch his/her head. Touching monks also should be avoided, especially for women. Shouting and showing affection on streets or public places are not their culture either.

Few other things considered as impolite or improper in Cambodia, such as using index finger to call someone over, using left hand to pass or receive something, e.g. money, papers, food, drinks, and so forth.

People might also be required to take off their shoes when entering certain sites (buildings), e.g. temples (pagoda) or a palace. If you are not sure, ask local people around you or just observe whether or not others, especially locals, take off their shoes.

For sure there will be a lot of culture differences that you might observe (learn) once you are there, the list can go on and on. Just keep in mind, as we expect foreigners to respect our own culture in our backyard, so do they elsewhere in the world or in Cambodia.


HEALTH. It is recommended that you prepare your own medicines/drugs from your local chemists or clinics. However, a few international brands such as Betadine, Decolgen,sMixagrip, Panadol, Strepsils, Woods, and so on are available in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Possible (common) health problems to foreigners are stomach upsets and mosquito bites.

Stomach upsets. Please be aware of spicy food and Khmer chili in particular, since they can be really spicy. Sometimes ice cubes can cause problems too, though it depends on where you take them. Generally it should be fine in hotels, restaurants or cafes in downtown Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Tap water is usually not potable but bottled (mineral) water is available in almost every corner of the two cities. Imported bottled water is also available for much higher price.


Mosquito bites. As Cambodia is a tropical country, you need to protect yourself from mosquito bites. Easiest ways to stay away from the bites when travelling are by covering your legs and arms with clothes or mosquito repellent. For sleeping, either use mosquito spray or mosquito net.

More information on health issues on travelling (eg. dengue/malaria symptoms, other diseases, etc) is available on this links: the US Department of Health and Human Services, the UK Department of Health, Australian DFAT.

CLOTHING. Imagine: a tourist from inland Africa or Middle East or an American Indian walking on a street in a beautiful small town in Australia or a north European or in a far east Asian country in summer wearing their custom/traditional clothes, unless you want to get similar "extra" attention from local crowds, it is advisable to respect how locals normally get dressed.

Thousand years ago, historical reports say the Cambodians were seen mostly 'half naked', but today it is not a common view on Cambodian streets to see local women even wearing a tank top (sleeveless shirt) or a very short skirt, though sometimes topless men might be visible around markets while pushing their carts. Click right picture for more and bigger photos of people of Phnom Penh.

Certain rules, such as wearing skirt or trousers down to at least your knees, are required when visiting places like pagoda or certain temples. In such places, usually you can loan a kind of sarong for about 1,000 Riel at the entrance.

It would also be better to dress appropriately when visiting police and government offices, and although Cambodia is a tropical country, it can be quite chilled during November to March (see Climate on General Information on Cambodia), where you might need thicker clothes with you.

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SHOPPING. Bargain! This is the first word you have to remember when you shop in marketplaces or shops, even in a big shopping center in downtown Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. First thing to do is to politely ask for his/her best price (or "special price" for you) before getting into further challenging "negotiation".

It would be better if you ask your hotel staff, tour guide or taxi drivers for the current local price range. Additional readings on how to bargain (from external sources):,

Shops opening time is usually around 9am-10am and closing time is between 9pm-10pm.


TIPPING is generally not, yet, a standard practise in Cambodia. Even in big restaurants or hotels they don’t usually charge additional dollars for their services, what you might see on your bill is applicable government taxes, if they charge them separately. Though tips would be appreciated by a hotel porter after taking all of your bags to your room.

TOILETS. The standards are different to the western toilet conditions. Even in cities like Phnom Penh or Siem Reap many toilets are not equipped with toilet papers. The further away you are from these two cities, the less likely you might find toilet papers in public toilets. If you want to be safe, you can buy your own toilet papers in shops or shopping malls in big cities before going further. Squat toilets (Turkish toilets) are also more common than sitting toilets. Sometimes you might find a water jet (cleansing water jet) next to the toilet, don't mistake it for a shower and usually toilets are located in shower rooms.

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