Travel Guide: Siem Reap, Cambodia
Siem Reap (the capital city of the Siem Reap Province) is a popular resort town and tourist getaway in Northwest Cambodia. It is not your typical resort town with sandy beaches and palm tree lined streets: however, its proximity to Angkor Wat captivates travelers from all over the world.
Travel Information/ Airport/ Visa:
When you first arrive at Siem Reap International Airport you will be surprised by the quaint airport with tarmac deplaning, reminiscent of a small tropical Island.
The airport consists of one main building where you obtain your tourist visa/ go through customs and get your luggage – doesn’t get much easier than that. Visas are $30USD and can be obtained upon arrival (just don’t forget to bring a passport photo). And yes, they take US currency and actually prefer it to Cambodian Riel.
Insider Information – Before you leave the airport make sure to exchange $20.00US for Cambodian Riel as this will come in handy while exploring the town, trinket shopping and when you come into contact with locals (mostly children) who may provide small services for you (like removing your shoes prior to entering a Buddhist monastery).
There is no need to prearrange a hotel transfer as this can be handled once you arrive at the airport. After collecting your luggage, exit the airport, you will find a transportation service center on your left. You will be able to arrange a hotel transfer van ($10) a car ($7) or a tuk tuk ($3).
There are over a thousand temples in the Angkor area, ranging in scale from nondescript piles of brick rubble scattered through the rice fields to Angkor Wat, said to be the world’s largest single religious monument.
If you have limited time in Siem Reap, these are the five must see temples:
- Start the day off by watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat
- Bayon (this is this temple will mutple Buddha head statues)
- Ta Prohm (this is temple where the giant trees seem to grow out of the sky)
- Banteay Kdey (this is the tomb raider temple)
- End the day by watching the sunset at PreRup
Insider Information– Buy the temple pass the evening before after 5 pm; therefore, it is good the entire next day. You can see the sunset at PreRup and the sunrise at Angkor Wat without purchasing a two day pass. You can hire a driver through your hotel; however, any tuk tuk driver or shuttle transportation service driver will make himself available to tour you around for approximate $20 – $30 per day.
If you are in the mood to experience the Cambodia night life the best place is the The Old Market area, which includes the nearby Pub Street alleys and the Night Markets. You can spend the evening people watching, sipping fancy cocktails, shopping for souvenirs or local artisan crafts, or experience the local style with a henna tattoo.
If shopping is your vice, you will have plenty of options; however, skip the elephant pants and go for the wrap around skirts that come in a variety of colors and patterns. They are really more stylish than the pants and just as comfortable. Most of the shops have similar items so do not feel pressured to buy in one place as you most likely will see the same items later that day.
Insider information- Every shop keeper will bargain with you and don’t worry if you feel like you are paying too little as they will never sell anything below its actual value. Most items will range from $3 to $10. Make sure to have lots of $1 as this will come in handy when exercising your bargaining skills. Souvenirs to buy in Cambodia are elephant print clothing, silk scarves and robes, rattan mats and Cambodian candy.
When traveling to foreign countries it can be difficult to decide where to stay. I stayed at the Sofitel Hotel in Siem Reap and I would recommend this hotel. Their concierge was helpful and they set up tours to Angkor Wat for me.
My visit to Cambodia was a wonderful experience. Hopefully some of my information about this region will help inspire you to travel there or provide you with some necessary information.