Cambodia here we come! – Planning our trip

Last year Nigel’s eldest Daughter decided to move to Cambodia to teach English and we have been looking since for a good deal on flights so that we can go and visit her.  Finally after lots of searching we saw a post on http://www.holidaypirates.com advertising flights to Cambodia in October 2016 for approximately £350 each.  She is staying in Siem Reap and after some fiddling around with dates we managed to secure flights from London Heathrow to Siem Reap with Air China for £365 each for a two week break. It was cheaper if we booked through a company called Omega Travel by approximately £15 however after reading some reviews we decided to book with Air China direct.  The peace of mind of knowing our flights would be honoured was definitely worth the extra money. Our flights have layovers in Beijing for approximately 6 hours each way.

So with flights booked and much excitement about our next adventure it was time to find out about the more practical stuff we need to know in preparation for our trip.

Immunisations

There seems to be some controversy about which jabs are required visiting Cambodia as it depends on activities you are likely to undertake and also the areas in which you are staying.  As  a general rule it is recommended by http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk  that as a minimum all travellers have the following:

 – General immunisation courses and boosters such as tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, mumps, measles and rubella

 – Hepatitis A

– Typhoid

– Hepatitis B

Additionally depending on the area and whether or not you will be visiting rural areas the following are also recommended:

– Rabies

– Cholera

– Japanese Encephalitis

A risk which is also present in Cambodia is malaria however it is not thought to be a problem in the Siem Reap or Phnom Phenh areas where we are likely to visit.   We are considering a trip to Phuket for  the second week of our trip but nothing further is required for there as is it also not considered a malaria risk.   In both Cambodia and Thailand there is a remote risk of contracting dengue fever which is contracted through mosquito bites.  Symptoms include a high fever (40C/104F), severe headache, muscle and joint pain, nausea or vomiting, or pain behind the eyes. Medical assistance is required quickly if these symptoms occur however it is more likely to be contracted through the rainy season. We will definitely be using lots of DEET!

Visas

During our stopover in Beijing we may have enough time to leave the airport.  If we decide to it is possible to get a 72 hour free visa permit at Beijing Airport.  It is reported there are special lanes at Passport Control/Immigration which are located just on the left hand side of the Lanes for Foreign Citizens as well as on the right side of the Lanes for Chinese Citizens.  All passengers wishing to get this permit need to fill in an entry registration card and gain a stamp on their passport.   It is possible to organise private tours from sites such as http://www.tour-beijing.com/short-tours/#.V1IeepErLIU and we may consider one of these if we think we can make it back to the airport in time for our continuing flight.

You need a Tourist Visa to enter Cambodia and this can be obtained prior to the trip from the Royal Embassy of Cambodia in London.    The form is available to download online and can be sent off with passport and a photograph to the Embassy or a visit can be made in person.  The fee is not stated on the site but more information can be found at http://www.cambodianembassy.org.uk. Additionally it appears you can now apply online for an e-visa at https://www.evisa.gov.kh/ which costs $30 with a $7 processing fee.  Tourist visas can also be obtained at Siem Reap or Phnong Peng airports payable in US dollars however they are single entry and therefore if like us you are considering visiting Thailand you will have to pay another visa fee upon reentry to Cambodia.

UK Citizens can enter Thailand for up to 30 days without a visa.   If however you wish to stay for longer or work in there you need to apply  For all of the above visas you need to have at least 6 months validity left on your passport.

Currency

The Cambodian currency is the Riel (KHR) and there are approximately 5,886 KHR to the pound.  Despite this US dollars are accepted everywhere in Cambodia.  From recommendations and info around the internet cash machines dispense US dollars however it is wise to have small denominations such as $1 and $5’s as larger notes are more difficult to get changed.

In Thailand the currency is the BAHT (THB) and a pound will buy approximately 51 of them.  It is recommended that you do not buy THB before entering Thailand as exchange rates are often unfavourable, it is better to exchange money whilst there.

Healthcare

Medical facilities in Cambodia are reported to be quite poor; I know that when Nigel’s daughter broke her ankle whilst over there she had to negotiate with various medical facilities to get the best deal on her treatment! as for any trip it is highly advised that comprehensive travel insurance is purchased for any trip and we will be ensuring that our insurance through our Barclays Travel Plus account covers everything we need it to before we go.  Dental facilities in Cambodia are reported to be pretty good and easy to access.

The number to call in a medical emergency in Cambodia is 119 and consultation with your insurance company is recommended if possible prior to any treatment.  It is also advised that funds are available in case of an emergency to cover costs which may be asked for up front.  A very interesting site which covers healthcare in Siem Reap can be found here https://www.travelfish.org/orientation_detail/cambodia/western_cambodia/siem_reap/siem_reap/72

Probably the most likely illness any tourist to have in Cambodia is diarrhea and therefore packing some immodium for when travelling away from a toilet is essential.  It may also be worth packing some rehydration salts just in case but pharmacys are available locally.

In Thailand it is reported that access to medical care is easier than in Cambodia but may still not be up to British standards.  There are plentiful private hospitals however these can be expensive.  For medical emergencies the number to call is 1669.  Main health concerns reported in Thailand include a handful of cases of the Zika virus which can cause birth defects and hand foot and mouth disease.

Crime and Safety

Cambodia has reported recently (June 2016) that there has been some political unrest in the Phnom Penh area and political demonstrations.  All tourists are advised to avoid any large gatherings such as protests due to the volatility of the situation and the chances of violence occurring.

Bag snatching is a common in Cambodia, often by thieves on motorcycles who grab bags driving past.  Bags have also been snatched from people travelling in tuk tuks and people walking down the street.  The UK government website offers the following advice for travellers:

  • use a hotel safe for your valuables
  • minimise the items you carry with you. If you carry a bag, make sure the strap is over your shoulder, away from the road to deter thieves on motorbikes from snatching it
  • take extra care at night and in isolated areas
  • be particularly vigilant travelling at night by bicycle or motorcycle, especially if you’re alone. Stick to well-used, well-lit roads and carry a personal alarm if possible
  • avoid placing bags in the front basket of bicycles
  • be wary of pickpockets, especially on public transport and in crowded areas
  • if you travel by bus, make sure cash and valuables you have are secured. There have been incidents where passengers have had items taken from bags while asleep.
  • tuk-tuks with metal grills on the back and side can offer some protection against bag snatching.

In Thailand similar problems are reported in addition to passport theft,  drink spiking and credit card skimming.  Care should be taken to ensure that drinks are protected at all times and to never hand over passports when for example hiring vehicles as they can be held in payment for potential damage.  All ATM’s should be examined for signs of tampering.

Laws and Customs

In Cambodia child sexual abuse is taken seriously and the government is working closely with the UK government to combat  travelling sex offenders.   Tourists should not take pictures of any military bases or airports and always ask permission to take photographs of locals especially religious people such as monks.

In both Thailand and Cambodia drugs should be avoided at all costs; not only  due to the dangers of fake drugs which could kill due to unknown purity but also the penalties for being caught in possession of any substances, especially Class A.  Lengthy prison sentences are given for possession of any kind of drug including cannabis.  If you are found in possession of 20g of any Class A type drug there is risk of receiving the death penalty.

In Thailand great offence is taken at any comments made either in person or through social media which defame the King or Royal family.  Called Le’se Majeste, it is punishable by prison sentences of 3-15 years and this applies to foreign nationals.

OK so that’s all the serious stuff out the way…now to research where to visit 😀

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