While you may have heard of Angkor Wat you may not have heard of the town nearby called Siem Reap. This is where you’ll be staying when you visit this region of Cambodia and there’s plenty of accommodation to choose from here. It’s a fast growing and bustling town filled with plenty of tourist traps as well as local life. So here’s my short guide to making the most of your time in Siem Reap and Angkor Wat
Plan your trip
If you are into history and ruins, allow a couple of days to explore. It is possible to hit the highlights of Angkor in a single day like we did, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it that way. You don’t come to Angkor just to see the one temple. You come here to explore the whole area. And that takes time.
Do your research and plan and book hotels, hire guide and car,all in advance.
Visa on Arrival
Don’t bother arranging for visa in advance. My flight was packed, and yet it took me no longer than 10 minutes to get my passport stamped at Siem Reap airport. Make sure your passport will not expire within six months and carry one passport-sized photo. Visas on arrival costs USD 30.
No worries about changing money — the US dollar is Cambodia’s unofficial second currency. The official currency, the Cambodian riel, trades at around 4,000 riel to the US dollar. Most tourist-oriented businesses quote prices in dollars.
Hire a guide
Guides can help you learn more about what you are looking at by telling about the history and facts of the temple. I would definitely recommend a local guide for temple tours as the detailed carvings deserve full explanation to appreciate their splendour. An English speaking guide can be hired by reserving beforehand or by hiring one at the entrance to the main temples. Also you will get to know about Cambodian history and present political situation and all inside stories from them.
Must see temples
It’s difficult to choose one temple over another because every temple is unique in its own way, however, if your time is limited have an idea of which temples you don’t want to miss. The ‘must-see’ sites including Angkor Wat (the main one), the Bayon (the one with the faces), Ta Prohm (the one with trees growing over, in and throughout it that was featured in the ‘Tomb Raider’ movie), Preah Khan (the one similar to Ta Prohm, yet for some reason with slight fewer crowds) and Banteay Srei (the one far away from town that is thought to have be done by women because the carvings are so fine and detailed).
Means of transportation
The temples cover a vast area, so walking is out of the question; is much better to arrange transportation in Siem Reap. Be it AC car,bike or tuk tuk,options are plenty. Tuk tuk is the cheap and best bet . Depending on weather decide your transportation.
What to wear
There is no dress code but a fair amount of modesty should be exercised as these are temples after all. It can be extremely hot and humid so I would suggest comfortable in loose-fitting cotton wear. Most important is comfortable shoes with good soles; the paving at the temples is uneven and slippery when wet. Take an umbrella against the rain/sun. A hat is also recommended to keep the hot sun off your face.
Carry a backpack or small bag containing water, snacks, and extra sunscreen.
Bargain for souvenirs
Around the temples, expect to find many Cambodians trying to sell you cold drinks, guide books, and other souvenirs. It will be difficult to turn them away as most of them are small kids. Sad as it is, there are absolutely no jobs outside of the tourism industry in Siem Reap.
Also you will find abundance of night markets and street sellers in the town. Just remember the price they tell you is always higher than the price they’ll accept. Key is to haggle and buy as many souvenirs you want for your loved ones.
Check out my Angkor experience…