Below are general tips and do's and don'ts when traveling in Cambodia.
1/ No matter how friendly monks are in Cambodia, women should not touch monks or their robes. Do not take photos or disturb monks during prayer times.
2/ In Cambodia, the feet are considered the lowest form of the body and head the highest form. Do not point or gesture with your feet or put your feet on the furniture. Also do not touch someone on the head.
3/ Kissing and hugging in the public is impolite in Cambodian culture – please avoid this behavior in public places. Wearing revealing clothing is also not considered appropriate even though others may do this. Please do not wear revealing clothing especially in temples.
4/ Do not purchase historical artifacts in Cambodia. The looting of archeological sites results in the loss of significant social and cultural treasures, and robs in the Cambodian people of their history.
5/ Buying and consuming any type of narcotic and drug in Cambodia is illegal. Do not engage in this practice as it causes social and economic problems.
6/ Support the local economy in Cambodia by buying Cambodian food and handicrafts, or simply try a traditional Cambodian meal on the menu of the many restaurants.
- Revealing clothing is unacceptable off the beach. Shorts are generally fine—as long as they aren’t too short.
- When visiting pagodas and temples, shorts and tank-tops are unacceptable. Your knees and shoulders must be covered. Footwear and socks must be removed in pagodas. Shoes are usually removed upon entering private homes too.
- When greeting people in Cambodia, it’s customary to use the sampeah gesture: bring your palms together at chest level and bow slightly in the direction of your acquaintance
DOs in Cambodia
- Ask for permission before taking photographs of any Cambodian people or monks.
- It is customary to remove your shoes when entering a place of worship such as a pagoda or temple. Additionally, visitors should dress appropriately when inside a religious site (upper arms and legs should be covered, hats removed).
- It is respectful to remove your shoes when entering someone’s home.
- Though not always expected, a respectful way of greeting another individual is to bow the head slightly with hands pressed together at the chest (known as “Sampeah”).
- If invited to dine in a Cambodian family’s home, it is polite to bring a small gift for the host such as fruit, dessert, or flowers.
- If invited to attend a Cambodian wedding, it is customary to bring cash as a wedding gift.
- When using a toothpick at the table, use one hand to cover your mouth.
- Keep business cards ready, and present them with both hands. Accept business cards with both hands.
- When one mentions of the king’s name, always raise both hands up and put the palms together in front of your faces as a sign of respect.
DON'Ts in Cambodia
- Don't use your feet to point at someone.
- Don't touch a Cambodian person on the head.
- Don't begin eating if you are a guest at a dinner and the host has yet to take a bite.
- Women should never touch male monks or hand something directly to them.
Keep public displays of affection to a respectful minimum.