Siem Reap, located in Northwestern Cambodia is the gateway to the Temples of Angkor. The most famous of all, Angkor Wat is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is actually the largest religious monument in the world. With millions of people from around the world flocking to visit the Angkor region each year, here’s what you might need to know about the resort town of Siem Reap which will ultimately be your base for exploring.
Indochina Time Zone (UTC +07:00).
The most common way to arrive in Siem Reap is via air into the Siem Reap International Airport (REP). There are direct flights daily into Siem Reap from Bangkok and Phnom Penh with the national carrier – Cambodian Angkor Air, as well as many other cities around Asia with other airlines.
From the airport, the main town of Siem Reap is about 25 minutes away by car. Many hotels will offer transfers to and from the airport – this is probably the most efficient and convenient way to get there. You can get taxis from the airport but they are often more expensive.
The Cambodian Riel. However, USD is widely accessible and almost preferred. Almost all prices you come across in Siem Reap, including ticket prices, restaurants, markets, fruit stands, tuk tuks, etc, will be listed in USD. ATMs are easily accessible in the main town and around Pub Street. Most ATMs will dispense USD.
Interestingly, Cambodia doesn’t seem to have adopted the US coins. So if you are receiving change that includes cents, for example $3.50USD, you will receive $3 in USD and then 50c in the equivalent Cambodian Riel notes. Although it can be confusing at times, make sure you always double check your change to make sure at least the USD notes are correct.
Australians visiting Cambodia are required to hold a visa. There are two different options, either an e-visa or a tourist visa. If you’re travelling for tourism you can apply for an electronic tourist visa (e-visa) online through the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation. The e-visa can only be used for a single entry visit, for up to 30 days and only for visitors arriving via Phnom Penh, Siem Reap or Sihanoukville International Airport, Cham Yeam (Koh Kong), Poi Pet (Banteay Meanchey), Bavet (Svay Rieng) or Tropaeng Kreal Border Post (Stung Treang) – all other entry points will require a tourist visa.
Tourists visas are the second option for entry into Cambodia and can be obtained either from the Embassy of Cambodia in Canberra, or on arrival at the airport. It is strongly recommended that you obtain your visa prior to arrival to avoid lengthy delays or possible denied entry. To apply for a tourist visa, you can visit the Embassy of Cambodia webpage to download the application form. You then send that form, along with your passport, the fee of $50AUD and a pre-paid pre-addressed envelope to the embassy in Canberra. The turn around is generally less than 4 business days.
The overall temperature of Cambodia is quite high all year round, with the yearly average of Siem Reap sitting in the low 30s. The dry period runs from December to February, with generally cooler days (again, still low 30s) but humidity can still be high. The rainy season runs from May to October, with September generally being the wettest month of the year.
The official language of Cambodia is Khmer, although many locals in Siem Reap can speak and understand English. Depending on their confidence with English, they might even want to practice with you and have a big chat!
The easiest way to get around Siem Reap and out to the Temples of Angkor is generally by Tuk Tuk. You can hire a tuk tuk and driver for the whole day for about $15USD, or $20USD if you’re starting the day early to see the sunrise. If you’re visiting the temples over a few days, it’s easy to just ask your tuk tuk driver to come and pick you up the next morning to save you the hassle of finding someone else, renegotiating prices, etc.
Tuk Tuk is definitely the best way to navigate the Temples of Angkor. The temples cover a huge distance and are a lot more spread out than you might think. Additionally, the heat and humidity in Siem Reap can be quite overwhelming. After a couple of hours exploring and walking around one temple it is really nice to hop back in your tuk tuk and have a little rest before exploring the next. We saw quite a few people riding bikes between the different sites – it would have been absolutely exhausting and actually quite dangerous to ride around in such heat. Keep yourself safe and shell out the extra dollars for some comfort.
For just getting around town, most hotels, hostels and resorts are within walking distance of Pub Street and the centre of Siem Reap. Otherwise, a short tuk tuk ride from your accommodation to the main town is $2USD each way.
Depending on where you stay, hotel wifi will be your main source of internet connection. Most hotels have excellent high speed wifi so you can scroll and stream until your heart’s content. Restaurants around Pub Street can be hit or miss with wifi – some connections are excellent while others say they’re connected and then won’t load. Better to be safe than sorry and only rely on being connected in your hotel.
Pub Street is the main street in Siem Reap, where you can find restaurants offering cuisines from around the world and a raging nightlife scene. Around Pub Street you can also find local markets and shopping, cafes, supermarkets, street food carts, local vendors and anything you could need for your stay.
December to February, during the driest months of the year and when the weather is a little cooler is generally the best time to visit Siem Reap. Cambodia can generally be busier during this peak holiday time, but it is still considered the best time to visit. Don’t be fooled though that this is the “cool” time of year to visit, the weather can still be very hot, especially if you’re walking around exploring temples all day. Make sure you always carry water on you and keep yourself protected from the sun.
Can’t Miss Experiences
+ Take the time to really explore the Temples of Angkor (definitely need to get a 3 day pass for this one)
+ Watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat
+ Explore Angkor Thom and the epic 216 faces carved into stone at Bayon Temple
+ Pretend you’re Lara Croft Tomb Raider as you explore Ta Prohm
+ Try a Cambodian Village Cooking Class to learn to cook like the locals
+ Check out the nightlife on Pub Street
Good To Know
Cambodia has lots of different laws, rules and restrictions about land border crossings that can quite often affect visitors. The entry and exit conditions to Cambodia can change regularly and visas on arrival might not always be available at land entry points. Disputes and arguments between Cambodia and the bordering countries can cause the things to change rapidly. If you’re arriving via land make sure you keep up to date with local media and updates on smartraveller.gov.au.