Apologies for being quiet as of late. I’ve been keeping myself busy with work (an unfortunate reality) as well as doing a bit of travelling so my blog has sadly taken a bit of a back seat these last couple of months. My mid-years resolution (is that a thing!?) is to be more active on my blog and hopefully give you guys some useful and interesting posts to read!
To start off with, I’d love to share my experience of Siem Reap, Cambodia with you. I’m not long back from a stint out there so I thought I would share some nuggets of wisdom with you. I had a lot of questions before heading out there but I couldn’t seem to find the answers in one place so I’ve decided to create this post for that purpose. Hopefully this will help anyone looking to travel out there any time soon!
Can you fly direct to Siem Reap?
There are no direct flights from the UK however flying via Bangkok, Thailand (Suvarnabhumi Airport) is a popular route with many direct flights to Siem Reap Angkor International Airport.
This is the route that I flew and the flight was a quick one hour and 10 minutes. On the plane, you will be handed several forms to fill out – for example an immigration card, visa on arrival card, customs card and health form. As these forms can take a while to fill out, it’s best to come prepared with a pen and fill these out whilst still on-board.
Siem Reap Angkor International Airport
Is the centre of Siem Reap far away from the airport?
From Siem Reap Angkor International Airport, the centre of Siem Reap is only a short journey away – approximately 7 km/4.3 miles however Pub Street (where the majority of bars and restaurants are found) is approximately 12.5 km/7.8 miles away.
What’s a good length of stay?
I would recommend three nights as the absolute minimum length of stay however there is so much to see and do in Cambodia (outside of Siem Reap too) that you could definitely visit for much longer and not get bored!
I stayed for three nights and when booking, I was sceptical that maybe I’d booked too short a trip and I wouldn’t be able to cram in all of the sights that I wanted to see. Fortunately my fears were eradicated – I felt that three nights was a perfect amount of time to soak up the Cambodian sights, explore the night life that is ‘Pub Street’, as well as having time to enjoy some downtime by the pool. Believe me, you’ll need it after all the walking at the temples (combined with drinking copious amounts of Cambodian beer for 50 cents the night before… shh don’t tell anyone!)
Do you need a visa?
Yes, you do. This doesn’t need to be arranged prior to your departure however – a one month visa can be paid for on arrival at the airport (costing $30 US Dollars). As well as this, you must hand over an up-to-date passport photo. I would strongly advise getting your passport photos taken before embarking on your trip to Cambodia (take two or more with you just to be safe).
What’s the currency?
Although they accept Cambodian Riel and Thai Baht in some places, the preferred currency in Cambodia is US Dollars. These need to be crisp (i.e. no creases) and will not be accepted if they are torn.
From time to time, you may be given Cambodian Riel as change from the US Dollars that you hand over. This is fine but just be sure to try and spend this before leaving Cambodia (or else it will virtually become useless). Bottled water is an absolute necessity in Cambodia (you can’t drink from the taps and the temperatures can get very high) so this is always a good way to get rid of a few extra Cambodian Riel.
What’s the public transport like?
Transport isn’t an issue in Siem Reap – tuk tuks are plentiful and if you’re staying in a hotel, the chances are that your hotel will also offer taxi services (though these may be more expensive). To get a tuk tuk, you just need to flag one of the many that will be scooting past you or simply walk up to any that are queued up at the side of the road.
To give you an idea of prices, when we were going to Pub Street in the evenings – we were usually charged between $2 or $3 (for a group of four people travelling 2.1 km). The price of a tuk tuk will vary however depending on the distance as well as the number of passengers.
If you plan on taking a tuk tuk out to visit one of the tourist destinations then you can even pay for an all day or return trip – this way the driver will wait for you whilst you explore the different areas. We hired a tuk tuk when visiting Phnom Bakheng temple and our driver patiently waited for us as we climbed the hill and watched the sunset (which was stunning by the way!).
Many tuk tuk drivers arrange all day or return trips with their passengers so just be sure to organise a place to meet them afterwards and try to remember what your driver looks like. At all times, I would highly recommend discussing and agreeing on a price before getting into a tuk tuk. And if you are paying for a full day or a return trip then I would recommend discussing when this will be paid (we paid for our return journey at the very end of our trip and once we were back at the hotel).
If you’re feeling extra fit and you don’t mind doing exercise in extreme temperatures then there are also bicycles available to hire. If you erupt into blisters just by looking in the direction of the sun however then perhaps this cycling adventure isn’t for you.
What is the cost of alcohol?
This varies from bar to bar however if you wander up and down Pub Street, you can find places selling local beer for as little as 50 cents (the equivalent of 34p). That’s almost TEN times cheaper than the average pint costs in the UK!
For anyone who isn’t a beer drinker, there are bars that sell cocktails for as little as $2 (the equivalent of £1.34) – bargain!
What is the food like?
Fortunately there are a good selection of restaurants in Siem Reap so you’ll be spoilt for choice – Mexican, Italian, Khmer (Cambodian), Indian and so on.
I would highly recommend visiting one of the Cambodian Barbecue restaurants one evening. If you like to try new things then this is the place for you. Although it’s not the cheapest of experiences, at the Cambodian Barbecue you can choose from an adventurous selection of meats for example snake, shark, kangaroo, ostrich, crocodile and frogs legs. What makes the experience even more unique is that you get to play chef for the evening and cook your own food at your table. Bon appétit!
Is it possible to visit all of the temples in one day?
Unfortunately this is not possible. Siem Reap is crowded with temples so I’d be lying if I said that you could visit them all in one day – as much as us time-sensitive folk would love to be able to! You can however hire a driver for the day and visit a few of the main temples for example:
- Angkor Wat – One of the 7 Wonders of the World and the largest religious monument ever constructed
- Bayon Temple – Located in the ancient city of Angkor Thom
- Ta Prohm Temple – Where Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was famously filmed
How much does it cost to visit the temples?
Before visiting any of the temples, you will need to purchase a permit. This is well known throughout Cambodia and therefore all taxi/tuk tuk drivers will take you to get this permit before you visit any temples. The permit options are:
- 1 day pass for one person – $20
- 3 day pass for one person – $40
- 7 day pass for one person – $60
When visiting any of the temples, remember to dress respectfully. Wear (or at the very least carry with you) some long trousers and make sure that your shoulders are covered. The temperatures can reach extremely high levels in Cambodia and whilst wearing full length clothing may not be the most appealing of ideas, unfortunately if you do not follow this dress code then you may be refused entry. As the old adage goes – it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Though if you do forget, then fear not as there are many stalls located near the tourist hot spots – you’ll be almost guaranteed to find something to help you cover up!
When visiting the temples, I would also strongly recommend carrying at least one bottle of water with you at all times. Some of the temples are extremely large (Angkor Wat for example) and require a lot of walking. When exploring the temples, you are mostly outdoors and exposed to direct sunlight so it’s also highly recommended that you apply sun cream before setting off, as well as bringing a bottle with you to top up at different intervals throughout the day.
If you feel like I’ve missed anything out from this list or you have any other Siem Reap related questions then please do let me know in the comments below or send me a direct email and hopefully I’ll be able to help you as best as I can.