Cambodia prides itself on its millennial culture. The legacy of Angkorian high culture is reflected everywhere. Traditions and Buddhist values are alive, but decades of war, civil war and genocide weigh heavily on the nation. Today Cambodia is stable, but democracy only exists on paper.
After three decades of war and civil war, political developments since the early 1990’s have produced a formal democracy with regular elections, which, however, is still clearly permeated by the legacy of authoritarian rule and characterized by an extremely high degree of corruption.
According to Cheeroutdoor.com, Cambodia’s economy has grown by an average of seven percent a year in recent years. The most important economic sectors are the shoe and clothing industry, agriculture, civil engineering and tourism. Although extreme poverty has decreased significantly in the past two decades, Cambodia will retain the Least Developed Country (LDC) status until 2025.
Theravada Buddhism and the Khmer civilization are inextricably linked. The traditions and rites essentially determine the identity of the Cambodians, even if the country continues to develop in the direction of modernity.
In some regions of the country, traveling can be difficult because of the still poor infrastructure. After decades of political unrest, Cambodia is now considered a generally safe travel destination. For short and long-term stays, a visa is required, which can be obtained upon entry. The climatically best travel time for Cambodia is December to February.
Official name: Kingdom of Cambodia
Area: 181,035 km²
Residents: 16.0 million
Growth of population: 1.6% (per year)
Population density: 87 people per square kilometer
Seat of government: Phnom Penh
Official language: Khmer
Cambodia is located in Southeast Asia, more precisely: on the Indochinese Peninsula, on the northeast bank of the Gulf of Thailand. The coast has a length of 443 kilometers. Cambodia borders Thailand to the west and north-west for 803 kilometers, Laos to the north (541 km) and Vietnam (1,228 km) to the east and south-east. The total area is 181,035 km², of which 176,520 km² are land. Cambodia is about half the size of Germany.
Probably the most extensive list of links to websites dealing with Cambodian history, culture and other aspects of the country is provided by mekong.net. Comprehensive representations of Cambodia on the Internet can be found primarily in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia and in Cambodia – A Country Study of the Library of Congress, which unfortunately has not been updated since 1987, in many ways – especially for a detailed account of the history of the country – but it’s still worth the click. Current political information at a glance can be found on the website of the Federal Foreign Office.
For tangible and reliable data in tabular form on Cambodia, a look at the CIA’s World Factbook is recommended. Brief basic information can also be found on the websites of the BBC, the US Department of State and in the United Nations database. Even the Federal Statistical Office provides some elementary information on Cambodia, while the World Bank provides both general and economy- specific data. However, if you take a closer look at statistical information on Cambodia, you will quickly find that the figures differ depending on the source, even if the magnitudes are usually very similar.
The largest cities in Cambodia are the capital Phnom Penh (approx. 2.5 million residents in the metropolitan area), Battambang (250,000), Siem Reap (200,000) and Sihanoukville (150,000). The country is divided into 24 provinces plus the capital Phnom Penh and more than 1,600 municipalities. Decades of armed conflict and the terror regime of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970’s destroyed the country’s infrastructure.
The transport network is one of the worst in Southeast Asia, but is being rebuilt. Most of the seven national roads are in good condition and can now also be used at night. In contrast, rail transport still plays a very subordinate role in the transport of people and goods. The rail network has been gradually expanded since 2007; the majority of the $ 142 million project is contributed by the Asian Development Bank. In 2016, the Phnom Penh – Takeo – Kampot – Sihanoukville railway was revived for passengers, but so far only on weekends and public holidays. Trains have been running between Phnom Penh and Poipet since 2018on the border with Thailand, primarily for freight. And because the connection with Thailand was restored in April 2019 after a 45-year interruption, it is now possible for travelers to travel from Bangkok to Phnom Penh by train.
Around half of the international visitors reach Cambodia via the airports in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The most important border crossings are Poipet and Koh Kong (to Thailand) as well as Bavet and “Chau Doc” (to Vietnam). Cambodia has several ports; the most important one is in Sihanoukville, but due to its shallow draft it is only of limited use for world trade. After the ASEAN free trade zone comes into force, the port in Phnom Penh will continue to gain in importance.
On the other hand, the country still suffers from a lack of hospitals and health centers, and educational institutions do not yet exist in sufficient quality or quantity. In large parts of Cambodia, access to telecommunications services is now secured via wireless connections.