Juicing in the Charming City: Phnom Penh juice bars

Cambodia is hot year-round, and Phnom Penh expats of a certain age try to stay in shape. Who can blame them, with the variety of gyms available, not to mention other fitness, yoga and dance classes in town. And the beach is just a three to four-hour bus ride away, right? Not to mention the Penh’s many pools; one is often required to be bikini or boardshort-ready as an expat in Cambodia.

Juicy Mercy Phnom Penh

Juicing in Phnom Penh, a sign at Juicy Mercy.

But eating healthy is just as important as getting in your exercise. And whether or not working out is your thing, sometimes drinking your five-a-day is nicer than all of the chewing involved in eating a big healthy salad.

Juice bars are popping up all over Phnom Penh, just in time to keep your hot season “glow” and give you some much-needed vitamins and minerals. This raft of juice shops focuses on fresh, local fruits and vegetables, and no added sugar. Most juice bars offer both juices and smoothies– we’ve set out their sizes and prices so you can compare. We’ve noticed that Phnom Penh juice bars don’t open especially early (8 a.m.) but do stay open until 8 or 9 p.m. for the student crowd.

Bbii Fresh Phnom Penh

Get your juice on at Bbii Fresh in Phnom Penh

Bbii Fresh

Small juice: $2.50
Medium juice: $3.99
Smoothie: $3.99

Special features: Bbii Fresh have small juices for take-away in cute squat glass bottles, and one type of pre-made salad with two options for dressings. And there’s a unique feature among the Phnom Penh juice bars:  a tidy, minimalist hostel/hotel in the back.

Juicy Mercy

juice (one size): $3.80
smoothie (one size): $2.80
Special features: Juicy Mercy also have a few salads, which looked tasty, and Greek yogurt. Although it is a little pricey, if you work out at The Place, Juicy Mercy means you can easily pop in for a juice post-workout. The space is also comfortable and includes tables and chairs that you could work at, or large leather couches.

The Hub juice

Anti-aging carrot at pineapple juice at the Hub.

Hub Juice and Smoothie Bar

Small juice (12 oz): $2.80
Medium juice (16 oz): $3.50
Smoothie: $2.00 – $2.80

Special features: Hub’s juices and smoothies are fully customizable! Calorie information is included for each juice and smoothie. Plus, they have specials like frozen fruit popsicles and fruit juice mixed with Red Bull (consumers must be over 16). They also have a seven day “juice cleanse” program, which recommends certain juices to drink before lunch and before dinner. At $39.20 for the week, this is probably the most affordable juice cleanse in town (although you still have to buy your own meals). Plus, they deliver.

The Juice House

Small juice (12 oz): $2.85
Medium juice (16 oz): $3.95
Smoothie: $2.00 – $3.00

The Juice House has a unique approach to juice, which is to make them taste delicious by adding things like ice cream and cookies to them. It’s not all high-calorie treats, though. They have a range of 100% fruit and vegetable juices ingeniously served over ice so as to not dilute them, and smoothies that can be made with rice milk, almond milk, soy milk or cow’s milk, and sweetened with honey.

Phnom Penh juice bar juice house

Juice served, literally, over ice.

Chom Ka (delivery only!)

juice: $4 for 500ml or $8 for 1 liter

This simple juice delivery service makes it easy to keep your home or work fridge stocked with juices to satisfy your 5-fruits-and-vegetables-a-day. Order the day before for morning delivery, or plan out an entire week of healthy juices to be delivered to your home or office. The mangosteen juice, which is only available during mangosteen season, is milkshake-thick, sweet, light pink, and not to be missed.

You can also get some fresh, healthy juices from these fine Phnom Penh cafes, along with yummy salads and other good-for-you fare:

Artillery juices $2.50, smoothies $2.50 -3.00, three-day Just Juice Cleanse $69 (delivery included)
Backyard Cafe juices $3.50, smoothies $3.50 – 4, 3 day juice cleanse $65
Gerbie’s juices $2.95, smoothies $3.25
Kettlebell Cafe juices $2.25- 2.75
Vego juices $2.95, “Power Drinks” $2.95

Bbii Fresh

172A Street 51, between Street 360 and 370, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 011 883 882; 093 883 882
facebook.com/BbiiFRESH
bbiigroup.com

Juicy Mercy

22 Street 282, between Street 51 and Norodom Blvd, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 017 610 904
facebook.com/juicymercy

Hub Juice and Smoothie Bar

Corner of St 310 and St 63, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 016 995 993
hubcambodia.com

The Juice House

30Eo Street 178, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T:012 220 815
facebook.com/thejuicehousePP

Chom Ka

T: 017 359 545 (call or text)
facebook.com/pages/Chom-Ka-Juice

Artillery

Street “240 ½” off of Street 240, Royal Palace area, Phnom Penh
13B Street 278 between Street 57 and Street 63, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 078 985 530, 012 904 365
artillerycafe.com

Backyard Cafe

11B Street 246, Royal Palace area, Phnom Penh
T: 078 751 715
backyardeats.com

Gerbie’s

78 Street 51, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 098 786 161
facebook.com/gerbiessaladandsandwich

Kettlebell Cafe

45 Street 454, Toul Tom Pong, Phnom Penh
T: 012 750 430
facebook.com/amatakkettlebellcafe

Vego Salad Bar

3Eo Street 51, BKK1, Phnom Penh
21B Street 294, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 012 984 596; 011 984 596
vegosaladbar.com

Review: Cambodia Bayon Airlines

Yet another Chinese entrant into Cambodian domestic airspace, Cambodia Bayon Airlines flies between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, and Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville. Flights are incredibly cheap, but there are some serious safety concerns to consider. We fly Cambodia Bayon Airlines from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and see what all of the fuss is about.

Cambodia Bayon Airlines

Cambodia Bayon Airlines flies Chinese MA60 turboprop planes. Be ready for a loud ride.

Cambodia Bayon Airlines is Chinese-owned, partially by Joy Air who unsurprisingly chose not to operate under their original name, which sounds exceedingly crude in the Khmer language. They’re flying one MA60, a Soviet-style turboprop plane, that covers all of the three routes each day, but they’re planning to expand their fleet and presumably dominate the Cambodian domestic market with flights between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap every 45 minutes.

The MA60 (“Modern Ark 60″) is a Chinese-made plan with a troubled history. Because of numerous crashes, accidents, and safety concerns, the plane has been banned from flying in the US, Europe, UK, New Zealand, and Australia. Recently, countries like Tonga, Nepal, and Indonesia have either gotten rid of or banned the MA60 due to safety issues. Cambodia Bayon Airlines, on the other hand, has 19 more on order, which will eventually make them one of the airlines in the world with the largest number of these exotic, if dangerous, planes (only beaten by the aptly named Okay Airlines).

Cambodia Bayon Air economy class

Economy class on Cambodia Bayon Air…not as bad as you might expect.

Now here’s where I digress into the stuff that you might not care about, but Bayon Air purchased the 20 planes at a cost of $450 million from Chinese state-owned aerospace company Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC). But according to the Phnom Penh Post, “Bayon Air is a subsidiary of Bayon Holding Limited, which is wholly owned by AVIC and China Easter Air’s Joy Air.” So yes, a company is purchasing millions of dollars in unsafe planes from itself to operate in Cambodian airspace.

Of course I was completely unaware of any of this when I booked the morning Bayon Air flight from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. And it was fine; I survived the flight. The flight took about 50 minutes, which is longer than Bassaka Air, because it’s a smaller plane. The noise near the propellers is pretty loud, and there’s no room for any large or awkward luggage in the overhead bins. Perhaps knowing these failings, Bayon Air bribes its passengers by handing out pastries and water during the flight.

Cambodia Bayon Air inflight service

The pastry bribe: not bad for a 50-minute flight.

I was told that check-in closes 30 minutes before the flight takes off (and boarding starts at the same time). Like the other domestic airlines, Bayon Airlines is relatively lax with ID requirements and will accept a photocopy of your passport in lieu of the real thing. I also noticed the security screener ignoring the screen, making me wish I hadn’t chucked my bottle of water.

The Bayon Airlines MA60 have 50 seats. 48 of those are regular economy seats, but the other two appear to be two random easy chairs in the back of the plane (which is where the passengers board) that makes up the whole of business class.

On the Phnom Penh to Siem Reap route, prices start at $32 for a one-way once taxes are included and a preposterous $153 for business class. The Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville route seems to be hovering around $70 (and $169 for biz). This route is especially silly, because it flies from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap to Sihanoukville, which takes almost three hours. If you hit the gas, you can drive it in the same amount of time, so the plane is probably not the best way to get from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. If you’re flying Siem Reap to Sihanoukville, flights are currently starting around $54 for a one-way ticket.

Cambodia Bayon Air business class

The exceedingly odd solo business class seat. There’s one more across the aisle.

Overall, I probably won’t be spending a lot of time flying on Cambodia Bayon Air because of safety concerns, but I also recognize that I’m probably more likely to die on Cambodia’s roads than I will in its skies, no matter how often I fly.

Bayon Airlines schedule:
Phnom Penh to Siem Reap: 8:10 a.m.
Siem Reap to Phnom Penh: 8:00 p.m.

Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville: 4:20 p.m.
Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh: 3:00 p.m.

Sihanoukville to Siem Reap: 5:35 p.m.
Siem Reap to Sihanoukville: 9:55 a.m.

At the time of writing, Bayon Air is flying daily trips between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville (with a triangle flight). It’s best to check and confirm, as they change their schedule regularly. I’d recommend not booking too far in advance or relying on them to connect to an international flight. With only one plane, if they have any mechanical failures the flights for the day will inevitably be cancelled.

Tickets can be booked with most travel agents in Cambodia, or tickets can be reserved on the Cambodia Bayon Airlines website, and then paid for within 24 hours at their office in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, or Sihanoukville. They will also, allegedly, send someone to you to pick up payment in either of those cities while they work on getting their payment processing set up.

Cambodia Bayon Airlines
Phnom Penh International Airport, Phnom Penh
Borei Angkor Arcade Shopping Center, Road 6, Siem Reap
T: 023 231 555; 099 227 301
bayonairlines.com

Cambodia Gay Pride 2015

Slightly ahead of the international event, Cambodia Gay Pride week (a Cambodia-style ten-day week) starts tomorrow, Friday, May 15th. The theme this year is ‘I am what I am‘.  The theme was chosen to convey “that you’re born to be what you are,” says Dirk de Graaff, owner of Rambutan Resort and an organizer of the event. “You don’t need to hide, you don’t need to be shy, and should live the life you want to because you are who you are!”

The 10-day event will celebrate the LGBT community, increase local acceptance, and raise awareness of LGBT issues in Cambodia. Of course all of the Phnom Penh gay bars will be having their own special celebrations, but there’s a full roster of workshops, educational events, movies, and parties starting on Saturday. Here are some of the highlights:

cambodia gay pride

Blue Chilli cabaret show. The Cambodia LGBT community goes all out for pride week+ in Phnom Penh.

Saturday, May 16th

1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Transgender rights workshop
. This full-day workshop aims to identify education gaps and develop possible solutions to problems and to support the transgender community in Cambodia 2015.

6:00 p.m.
RoCK Pride Aerobics. Bringing the fun of Pride Week to the streets of Phnom Penh! Meet at 6:00 p.m. at Wat Ounalom and join in riverside aerobics with the pride community. Organized by Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK).

9:00 p.m. until late
Pride Party at D-Club. D-Club (of Duplex) is having a pride-themed opening night party.

Sunday, May 17th

9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Come Out, Come Home workshop. This CamASEAN-sponsored workshop will help participants to explore strategies to come out in a safe environment and to promote understanding within families.

3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The amazingly fabulous pride tuk tuk race. Join this tuk tuk race around Phnom Penh which will be visiting various LGBT venues and organizations. Email knyay@hotmail.com for more details and to sign up for a team.

8:00 p.m. to midnight
Opening party. Meta House hosts an opening night for a series of pride movie shorts. The night will feature LGBT photography display and documentaries and a DJ after.

Monday, May 18th

6:00 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Pride Film Festival Opening Party. Kick-off party the first night of a week of pride films at The Empire. Party starts at 6 p.m. and movie screenings at 6:30 p.m. The first night will show Pride and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Pride movies will be screened nightly through May 24th, check the schedule for more info.

6:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.
Fashion show and exhibition party. Strange Fruit Cambodia is hosting a fashion show and painting exhibition to celebrate Cambodia pride.

Tuesday, May 19th

4:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Wine and cheese evening. Manor House will be hosting a wine and cheese evening featuring international wines and a selection of cheese and nibbles. Bring swimwear and a towel if you’d like to enjoy the use of the Manor House pool.

6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Pride films at the Empire: Stranger by the Lake (France, 2013)
8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Pride films at the Empire: Classic Night: The Children’s Hour (US, 1961)
For more details about the pride films at The Empire, check out the schedule.

8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Q Magazine launch party: Celebrate the launch of the first gay magazine in Cambodia. Also celebrate the first time single-sex venue Arthur&Paul is deigning to let women on the premises.

Wednesday, May 20th

6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Pride films at the Empire: Drown (Australia, 2015)
8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Pride films at the Empire: The Imitation Game (UK, 2014)
For more details about the pride films at The Empire, check out the schedule.

9:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.
Diva and dudes party. Come check out the Rainbow Bar drag show that will be in full swing for pride week!

Thursday, May 21st

6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Pride films at the Empire: Xenia (Green, 2014)
For more details about the pride films at The Empire, check out the schedule.

8:00 p.m. until late
Uniform Night at Space Hair Salon. The undeniably handsome staff of the Space Hair Salon will be decked out in uniforms, and so should you! Head to Space for drinks, dancing, and delightful banter.

12:00 a.m. until late
Shameless!. Weekly queer night at Pontoon features an eclectic mix of backpackers, sexpats, and Cambodia’s gay community. Featuring a late-night gender-bending cabaret dance performance. Free entry.

Friday, May 22nd

6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Pride films at the Empire: Love is Strange (US, 2014)
For more details about the pride films at The Empire, check out the schedule.

9:00 p.m. until late
Pride it out at Blue Chilli. Head over to Blue Chilli where they’ll be having a “hot men show” as well as a Cambodian drag diva performance, plus free condoms and HIV testing. Promises to be a good time.

Saturday, May 23rd

11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Gay pride brunch. Feel Good 2 is doing a special gay pride brunch with a gorgeous set menu for only $10 that includes a glass of mimosa.

1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
LGBT-Christian dialogue. This three-hour session includes a panel talk with LGBT community members and leaders of churches and Christian organizations. The goal is to facilitate dialogue and to create a safe forum where all voices can be heard.

6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Pride films at the Empire: Weekend (UK, 2011)

8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Pride films at the Empire: Pride (UK, 2014)
For more details about the pride films at The Empire, check out the schedule.

9:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.
Diva and Party Night. 2 Colors Bar hosts a fun night of drinking, divas, and drag. Drink specials from 10:00 p.m. with a “sexy boys show” and drag show starting at 10:30 p.m., plus art exhibition and raffle drawing. Contact 2 Colors for more info.

11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.
Heart of Darkness pride closing party. Heart of Darkness, Phnom Penh’s preeminent gay club, hosts a pride night bash that will include “showtime boys” dancing to the tunes of DJ Rob, plus a special Mr. Gay Cambodia competition. $5 cover charge includes one free drink.

Sunday, May 24th

1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Pool Party. Rambutan Resort and Arthur&Paul join forces to host a pride closing party that will feature drinking, swimming, and sauna. Don’t forget your swim togs!

4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m
Pride films at the Empire: Patrik, Age 1.5 (Sweden, 2008)

6:30 p.m.to 8:30 p.m.
Pride films at the Empire: The Way He Looks (Brazil, 2014)

8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Pride films at the Empire: Closing movie: Lilting (UK, 2014)
For more details about the pride films at The Empire, check out the schedule.

For more information about Cambodia Pride Week 2015, see Gay News Cambodia and the I Am What I Am 2015 Facebook page. If you know of additional events that should be listed here, please contact us.

Review: Cambodia’s Bassaka Air

There’s been an influx of new domestic airlines in Cambodia in the last year. Usually domestic airlines don’t seem to last more than a few months in Cambodia, so we haven’t bothered reviewing them. They’ve been operational for almost six months, so we finally decided to fly Bassaka Air’s Phnom Penh-Siem Reap route and tell you everything you need to know.

Cambodia Bassaka Air A320

Bassaka Air flies the A320 Airbus, the biggest plane on the Phnom Penh-Siem Reap route.

Bassaka Air currently flies from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. They also have a Phnom Penh to Macau route — the airline is meant to ferry Chinese gamblers to the Kingdom of Wonder — with flights going to Macau a couple times a week. Tickets are ridiculously cheap compared to the previous route monopoly-holder Cambodia Angkor Air, with flights on Bassaka starting at just $19 each way and averaging under $50.

Bassaka Air used to be another airline you’ve never heard of, PP Air. They rebranded and have relaunched as Bassaka Air. The airline is a joint venture between NagaCorp (the casino, etc.) and the Chinese government. The airline has two planes, A320-200 Airbuses, that were formerly owned by Vietnam Airlines. The A320-200s are big planes that seat 168 passengers, and as such the trip is much shorter than Cambodia Angkor Air and Bayon Air, who both fly this route in smaller, slower propeller planes.

Bassaka Air A320

Another gratuitous Bassaka Air airplane photo!

This also means you can actually bring luggage onto the flight, which is difficult in the smaller prop planes that don’t have regular-sized overhead compartments. Plus, every ticket comes with a checked bag allowance of 44lbs (20kg). The larger planes are generally considered safer as well, but just because the plane is safer doesn’t necessarily mean the flight is safer. There have been concerns expressed about Bassaka Air’s safety standards, and there are (unconfirmed) rumors that most of their pilots are still in training.

Cambodia Bassaka Air cabin

Inside the Y cabin on Bassaka Air’s A320 plane.

On my recent flight the check-in desk closed 35 minutes before boarding (but they recommend arriving at least 45 minutes before the flight departs). Some form of ID is required to fly, but a photocopy of a passport sufficed in my case. Boarding began 30 minutes before the flight left.

The planes have 12 business class seats, which start at $94 each and offer no added service that I noticed. But you can’t put a price on face, I suppose! During the flight passengers are given a bottle of water, which is difficult to finish because the flying time is so short. We touched down just 35 minutes after leaving Siem Reap.

Cambodia Bassaka Air business class

Business class. Four times the price for an extra couple of inches.

Overall, flights on Bassaka Air are great value for money. But there are a few caveats. Domestic airlines flying in Cambodia tend to fold very quickly, with more than 15 small airlines popping up and then disappearing over the last two decades. For this reason, it’s probably not a great idea to book flights more than a few weeks in advance, in case the airline goes under. And indeed, at the time of writing tickets are only available five weeks out. It’s also likely that they will, like other domestic airlines, cancel flights if they don’t have enough fliers. Also, it’s very unclear if safety standards are upheld (and Cambodia has had domestic flights go down in the past). It’s generally agreed that Cambodia Angkor Air is the safest of the airlines operating domestically, but I’d put Bassaka in second place behind them.

Bassaka Air schedule:
Phnom Penh to Siem Reap: 9:20 a.m.
Siem Reap to Phnom Penh: 10:55 a.m.

Currently, there is just one flight per day in each direction between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, but it’s worth checking online to make sure the schedule above hasn’t changed. Flights can be booked online at the Bassaka Air website or through most travel agents in Cambodia and happily, prices are the same regardless of what country you are from. The airline website allows passengers to pick their seat at no charge (including exit rows) and pay by credit card. Flight date changes are easy to make, costing $15 plus fare difference, and tickets can be cancelled for a $20 fee. Be warned that there are several imposter websites already.

Bassaka Air

335 Sihanouk Blvd (near Olympic Stadium), Phnom Penh
T: 023 217 688
bassakaair.com
facebook.com/bassakaair

Learning Khmer: Interview with a Khmer language teacher

You know you should learn Khmer, but have you done it? Khmer teacher Chhun Vanna has been instructing foreigners in the finer points of the Cambodian language for five years now. Today, she talks to us about common mistakes that Cambodia expats often make when learning Khmer, plus tips for learning the language.

Vanna Learn Khmer Now

Teacher Chhun Vanna answers your questions about learning Khmer.

What is the most difficult part of learning Khmer for Cambodia expats?

There are many difficult parts of learning Khmer for foreigners. Khmer has some sounds that English does not have. A lot of times the dt and ng sound at the the beginning of a word are hard for them to reproduce.

How long does it take for an expat to learn Khmer to a proficient level?

Every student is very different. Some come wanting lessons five days a week, plus studying a lot on their own. Or some study once a week, but they have a girlfriend or boyfriend giving them a lot of practice. But If there was a student who lived in Cambodia, I would say after six months the student could speak really well. Reading and writing is also possible in six months, but the student has to be motivated and find the best way to learn.

What are the common mistakes that expats make when trying to speak Khmer?

Foreigners make some mistakes when speaking Khmer, but for the most part, the grammar is easy compared to English. Some Khmer words are ordered different than English and the student will try to translate exactly, instead of remember the different rules of the Cambodian language.

Learning Khmer: language flash cards

Vanna says you can learn to read in six months. Yikes!

Do you have any tips for expats who are studying Khmer?

The first tip for learning Khmer is practice, practice, practice. If you live in Cambodia, go order food in Khmer. Pretend you don’t speak English and try only Khmer. Learn one new word a day. Pick one word and use it many times (out loud, and in your head). For students learning outside of Cambodia listen to YouTube lessons, and Khmer music. Maybe put notes on things you are learning. If learning about the kitchen, write the Khmer word on the refrigerator, and write the Khmer word on the trash can, etc.

What is your favorite expression in Khmer that most Cambodia expats probably don’t know, and what does it mean?

One saying i like is, “Kom kit rian Jong Tver mondrey Saorb kperm puak dei noam ouy kro. Trov rian Tver jia kak se-Kor terb mian trop dtor tov kang kroy.” In Khmer script: កុំគិតតរៀនចង់ធ្វើមន្រ្តី ស្អប់ខ្ពើមភក់ដីនាំអោយក្រ ត្រូវរៀនធ្វើជាកសិករ ទើបមានទ្រព្យតទៅខាងក្រោយ។.

It means: ‘Don’t try to become a government minister as that just leads you to do corruption. Instead be a farmer and real wealth will come to you.’

Another easier saying for foreigners which can be used many different ways is min ey te (មិនអីទេ). A lot of foreigners know it, but I rarely hear them say the word. It can mean ‘you’re welcome,’ ‘it doesn’t matter,’ and ‘I dont care.’ It is similar to the Thai word mai pen rai.

Get more tips on learning Khmer from Vanna at learnkhmernow.com, where she has videos, worksheets, and vocab lessons to help get you started. 

The cheapest ATMs in Phnom Penh

Not everyone decides to open a local bank account when they move to Cambodia. Should you? We help you break down the cost of taking money out of ATMs, so you can decide for yourself.

Phnom Penh free ATMs

Finding the best ATM in Phnom Penh means removing your helmet and sunglasses.

Luckily, there are plenty of ATMs to choose from in Phnom Penh, so you can access your foreign bank accounts and buy all of the cheap beers you can drink.

Warning: most Phnom Penh ATMs spit out the largest bills possible, and it can be hard to get change (unless you want to be the one in charge of making sure everyone pays their share of food and drink at your next big group dinner). We recommend withdrawing an amount in USD that is not a multiple of $50– taking out $380, for example, will give you four $20s and three $100s rather than the four awkward $100 notes you would generally be saddled with if you withdrew $400.

(NB: Our favorite places to break $100 bills are: Lucky Supermarket, Brown Coffee, and Supercheap. I’m pretty sure they all know this, but they never give us a hard time.)

ATM fees have, unfortunately, been going up in the past year. Canadia Bank ATMs used to be free, now it charges $4 per withdrawal. Mekong Bank also used to have no fees and now has joined the $5 per transaction crowd. If you have a European ATM card count yourself lucky, as several banks waive their fees and offer free ATM withdrawals (ACLEDA, Canadia, Maybank*, and Vattanac*), or you may have a travel-friendly bank that reimburses you for ATM fees and gives you a great exchange rate. The rest of us will generally have to pay fees of $4-5 per transaction.

These fees add up — withdrawing just four times per month (which, if you have a typical daily withdrawal maximum of $500, means you have a fairly average $2000/month Phnom Penh lifestyle) and you’ll pay $240 per year in fees (plus any fees your own bank can add!).

Are you one of the unfortunate souls with a MasterCard Debit/ATM card in Phnom Penh? There are a few Visa-only ATMs in Phnom Penh, but it’s not that bad. ABA, ACLEDA, ANZ, Canadia, and Mekong all take both Visa and MasterCard and are the most ubiquitous.

Cambodian money

Keeping it riel: there are a few ATMs that dispense Cambodian riel.

Most ATMs dispense US Dollars. This is really helpful if you are staying in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap (and the main parts of Battambang, Kampot, and Kep) where most prices are in USD, but not so much if you are headed to any of the other provinces and lovely towns villages outside of these urban centers. If you prefer to take out riel rather than go to a money changer, here are a few ATMs in Phnom Penh that dispense Cambodian riel directly:

ABA on Street 57 (next to Sunshine Mart, between St 278 and St 282)

Mekong Bank in Phnom Penh Tower (#445, Monivong Blvd, at the corner with St. 232)

*Visa/PLUS only.

There are new banks popping up all the time, let us know in the comments if you discover any no-fee ATMs in Phnom Penh.

Expat Kid Q&A: Ups and downs of parenting in Phnom Penh

In this expat series about raising kids in Cambodia, we talk to parents about the finer points of child rearing in the Kingdom of Wonder.

Anais and kids, family

Phnom Penh residents: Anaïs and family.

French expat Anaïs Pagès Peeters has been living in Phnom Penh for six years, with her Belgian husband and their children, who are three and one years old. Anaïs is a freelance writer and runs a small business called globe-crawlers.com, that sells locally made accessories for babies and toddlers on the go. Here, Move to Cambodia gets the low-down from Anaïs on expat kids in Phnom Penh.

What’s the best part about raising kids in Cambodia?

I would have personally found it hard to leave my babies in a daycare, which would have been my only affordable choice in Europe. Here, knowing that my children are being taken care of by a loving and caring person in their own home environment, while still having some time to socialize with other children as well, is very reassuring.

Kids usually love to swim. It is swimming outside season pretty much every month of the year in Cambodia. The beach is only 3.5 hours away and is great for a weekend break.

There are more and more activities organized for babies and children. Your week can fill up pretty quickly taking them to these different places (baby groups, music classes for babies and toddlers, dancing, swimming, etc.)

Kids playgroup

There are more and more playgroups for babies and kids in Phnom Penh.

What’s the worst part about raising kids in Phnom Penh?

When you have a small baby, you can’t just take him in the carrier or put him in his stroller and go for a walk or grocery shopping. There is no walking over here (no sidewalk, sweltering heat). If you’re lucky you may have a driver and a car but the rest of us have to rely on (unreliable) tuk tuks, who ask for extortionate fares when you start comparing with, for example, the salary of your nanny who has important skills and responsibilities. Tuk tuks have the same inconveniences of a car (they get stuck in traffic) and of a motorbike (you are hot, breathe in dust and the exhaust fumes…) all in one without any of its advantages.

Schools are pretty expensive whereas back home it would be free. Also, is very hard to find an affordable house with a small garden unless you decide to live in Tuol Kork, Boeung Tumpun or other areas away from the center. Which is a shame because children love to run and play outside.

What are your favorite activities for kids in Phnom Penh?

Going to walk in front on the Royal Palace on a Sunday evening with my baby in her stroller and my toddler on his balance bike. One of the only place in town where we can have a short stroll.

If you could give one piece of advice to new expat parents in Phnom Penh, what would it be?

The poor health care system. I have recently found a great pediatrician, which is very reassuring. But I always worry that if something bad happens to my kids, I wouldn’t even really know where to go. I don’t even completely trust the two clinics (SOS and Royal Rattanak) that are considered to have standards closest to Western ones. Another worry is HOW to get to these places. There is no ambulance service and the few private ones that some hospitals have are always stuck in Phnom Penh’s terrible traffic. No one budges to let them go!