Over two million people come to Cambodia each year to visit the temples of Angkor, myself included. What I discovered once I immersed myself in the Khmer culture was so much more than an archeological site. I came to Siem Reap without any expectations or plans, other than doing the infamous sunrise tour of Angkor Wat. As soon as I made my way out of the airport, checked into my quaint hotel, and began to explore, I knew Siem Reap was a place I was meant to be.
- You must have a passport that is valid for at least six months
- A visa IS required and can be obtained upon arrival at either of the two major airports (Siem Reap, Phnom Penh)
- A one-month long tourist visa costs US$30 and requires one passport photo (US$2 fine if you don’t have a photo)
- Make sure there is enough space in your passport. The Cambodian visa takes up one full page
WHEN TO VIST
Most travelers visit Cambodia between November and May. The so-called cool season is November-February and is the peak time for tourism. Keep in mind that Cambodia is warm and humid all year long so if you are going to be dedicating a full day or two visiting the Angkor Archeological Park you want to be as comfortable as possible. Humidity and temperatures rise significantly in the warmer season which falls between March and May.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN SIEM REAP
With the amount of people that visit Siem Reap each year it should be a tourist nightmare but there is a special calmness about the town. Still bustling and fueled by tourism, Siem Reap has somehow kept a small town charm. I suppose once the sun goes to bed and Pub Street starts to fill up I have to retract my statement about the town being calm. Night time in Siem Reap is an entirely different experience than the shops and quaint cafes you visit during the day. The bars, clubs, and restaurants are flooded out to the streets with backpackers and those looking for a cold Angkor beer after hours of sweating their way through one of the largest archeological sites in the world. The night market streets are lined with food trucks, artwork and endless amounts of souvenirs. So, grab an ice cream, or maybe a scorpion on a stick, and bargain your way through the vendors stocking up on elephant pants and handmade bracelets. A five minute walk from the night market you will find yourself a Pub Street- the Cambodian nightlife I never expected. These bars, pubs and nightclubs stay packed until 4am with backpackers looking to let loose, get a little crazy, and mingle with like-minded travelers. You can score a beer for US$1 during happy hour! Tomorrow’s hangover is a cheap one. I strongly encourage you to avoid the excitement of pub street if you are going on a sunrise tour the next morning. I can almost guarantee you will not make it and if you can pull it together to survive the tuk-tuk ride there I will bet you an Angkor beer you will not enjoy it.
WHERE TO STAY
- One of Southeast Asia’s premier social backpacker resorts
- Just a short walk to pub street and close to Angkor Temple
- Great pool to lounge at during the day or socializing around at night
- Dorms from US$6/Private rooms from US$18
- Located just a five minute walk to pub street, old market and just a few kilometers to Angkor Temples
- Swim in the saltwater swimming pool surrounded by lush greens
- Offers 24-hour room service and poolside dining
- Free WiFi and included breakfast which makes for a great deal in itself
- Rooms from US$22
- Relaxed and very stylish boutique hotel
- 0.4miles from pub street and night market
- 15 minute ride to Angkor Temples
- Amenities include a 20 meter pool, spa, gym, library and 24-hour reception service
- Rooms from US$90
- Upscale boutique hotel with 39 contemporary designed rooms
- Located in the French Quarter between The Royal Gardens and the Old Market
- Beautifully designed restaurants, pool, bar and spa
- Rooms from US$135
SUNRISE TOUR OF ANGKOR ARCHEOLOGICAL PARK
We chose to hire a tuk-tuk to pick us up at our hotel in the dark hours of the morning to be our driver for the day. I liked this option because we were on our own time and able to spend as much or as little time as we wanted at each temple. If you are looking for the history and facts about each site I suggest hiring a tour guide to accompany you on the tour. Unless you studied the Cambodian culture, the archeological park, or are just a temple fanatic, you only need one day to see the temples around Siem Reap.
- Sunrise tour is well worth it! I will cherish that experience for the rest of my life. Set those alarms for 4am and get in that tuk-tuk. I promise this Instagram worthy spot will make for a great photo op and if thats not enough you will save a shirt from being drenched in sweat by beating the heat.
- Angkor is open from 5am-6pm daily. Be there by 530am if you want to see the sunrise.
- 1-day pass costs US$37
- 3-day pass costs US$62
- Always carry your ticket on you. Each ticket is personalized with your name and photo.
- Bring sunscreen, bottle of water, bug repellant, comfortable shoes and a fan. Walking around sticky, sweaty and hot is not my idea of an enjoyable day. Come Prepared!
- Remember this is a religious site so be respectful with what you wear. Knees and shoulders must be covered at all times.
- Stock up on photos and videos. Everywhere you turn another temple is there to take your breath away. Document as much as you can with that Iphone thats glued to your hand.