A General Information Guide to Cambodia
Planning your trip to Cambodia is very easy as long as you have the right mind set. With Siem Reap being a small town of 300,000 inhabitant, if you plan your trip well, you will make the most of it!
Cambodia is filled with culture, history, Khmer cuisine and one of the friendliest people. 90% of Cambodians are Buddhist and the rest falls into a minor different sect of religions. Please always be conscience when taking photos of Monks or children, always make sure you ask for permission before you snap that shot.
Another thing to keep in mind is not to buy anything from the children on the streets that are selling souvenirs or begging for money. You will be promoting the exploiting of human trafficking of children and pro-longing the cycle of having the money you give them go directly to the owners and not towards their education. Please keep that very important note in mind.
In this article, we will help you from how to get around cambodia to the best things to do in Siem Reap. A huge thank you to Brian from Beautiful Cambodia for answering all my questions prior my trip and during my trip. He runs a tour company to promote sustainability tourism and shares the same values.
Siem Reap Quick Jump List
How to Get There
Best Time to Go
Things to do in Siem Reap
How to get around Cambodia
Where to stay in Siem Reap
Places to Eat
Flying or Driving into Siem Reap?
There are many ways into Cambodia, some through Myanmar, Bangkok, Doha, Dubai, China, Vietnam or Bali and even Hong Kong. You can also opt to drive from Phnom Penh into Siem Reap with a travel time of 6 hours with taxis. But I heard that the drive is a little tiring and you need to make sure you negotiate good rates with the taxi or bus before agreeing to a fix price. I flew from Dubai on Emirates Airline flight to Bangkok and took a connecting flight from Bangkok directly to Siem Reap via Bangkok Airways. Emirates Airline does have a flight to Phnom Penh via Myanmar but that was too long of a journey for me. So I opted to fly to Bangkok and because of the code share agreement between Bangkok Airways and Emirates, I found my connecting flight directly into Siem Reap. During my 6 hour transit, I refreshed in an airport hotel which made everything quite smooth. Airlines I looked into:
Fly Dubai from Dubai – Bangkok
Emirates Airlines from Dubai to Bangkok ( You also have an option to Phnom Penh via Myanmar)
Cathay Pacific Via Hong Kong direct to Siem Reap
Where To Sleep?
After some serious 6 month renovation, the property closed for six month in 2016 and reopened in April 2017. Belmond La Residence D’Angkor Wat, a boutique hotel consisting of 59 suites blending with traditional Khmer style and contemporary design with a lot of greenery. A 10-minute walk from shops and restaurants and a 20 minute drive to Angkor. The rooms are a beautiful size for a couple or solo traveler like myself, the rooms can also accommodate a day bed that can turn into a sleeping bed for children. The hotel is a gem to wake up to every morning facing the pool. A 20 minute drive from Siem Reap Airport. The hotel can also organize your trips and pack special lunches before the kids head out for excursions and breakfast for you too! They also provide helicopter rides above Angkor Wat. A charming and tranquil place to call home in Cambodia. An insider tip: Don’t miss out on the state-of-the-art Kong Kea Spa! Try one of the signature treatments with cleansing, purifying and relaxing part of the ritual or a 90 minute foot and leg massage!
Spice Circle, the hotel’s main restaurant, serves hawker-style Khmer cuisine on a fixed menu and buffet dinners on some nights. The pool bar is also open and the papaya salad was one of the items I always ordered! The hotel also organizes a gourmet surprise dine around called ‘The Mystery Dining Tour ‘, where a tuk-tuk ferries you from one decadent course to the next.
- Room Service
- Free WiFi
- Parking on site
Time: Cambodia runs at GMT +7 hours, the same time zone as its neighbors Thailand, Vietnam and Laos
Currency: US dollars are as commonly used as the Cambodian Riel and even Thai Baht is acceptable in many places. Most hotels and many restaurants and shops set their prices in dollars. Small transactions are usually done in Riel. Always carry some small Riel for motorcycle taxis, snacks, beggars and other small purchases.
Riel notes come in 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 5000, 10,000, 50,000 and 100,000 denominations, but the distinctive red 500 Riel note is the most commonly used.
Best Time to Visit?
The climate can generally be described as tropical. As the country is affected by monsoon, it is hot and humid with an overage temperature around 27.C (80.F). There are two distinct seasons: the Rainy Season and the Dry Season. However, the Dry Season is divided into two sub-seasons, cool and hot. These seasons are:
The Rainy season:
From June till October 27-35.C (80-95.f)
The Dry season (cool):
From November till February 17-27.C (80-95.F)
The Dry season (Hot) :
From March till May 29-38.C (84-100.F)
The nightlife in Siem Reap is limited to 2 streets. Pub Street and The Lane.
In these streets you will find numerous bars and restaurants that open until dawn.
You can also visit night markets in Siem Reap and also shop in the local markets for silk and souvenirs.
Places To Eat in Siem Reap
The popular Khmer dish called amok uses a kind of catfish steamed in a savoury coconut-based curry. The small fish known as Trey Dang Dau are very common and are often eaten deep-fried. While freshwater fish is the most commonly used meat in the Cambodian diet, pork and chicken are also popular.
Try the curry chicken in coconut
THE ASPARA TERRACE
Pan-Asian buffet includes excellent Khmer dishes
Great place for Thai Food
Great place – Beautiful surroundings
The finest Indian fusion restaurant
Top Things To Do In Siem Reap
Cambodia’s most popular attraction and the largest religious monument in the world and one of the most historical, beautiful and long history. All built without the aid of any machinery. The site was constructed between 802 and 1220 AD when machinery wasn’t available and it took 35 years to build with the help of approximately 1,000 elephants in addition to the 300,000 labourers. A huge five million tons of sandstone was used to build the religious site which covers an area of 208 hectares. It became an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, which encouraged an international effort to prevent further damage. Waking up at 4am to catch the sunrise will be the most magical moment you could ever experience. At first, you are in total darkness and as the sun starts to rise, Angkor Wat starts to be clearer and visible. A mind blowing experience! Make sure you have enough time to wander. It can take from 2 hours to 5 hours and even more! Make sure you wear the proper clothing, you will need to cover your shoulders while going up to the temples and it could get very hot so always carry water with you.
There are a few floating villages in Cambodia and some you should absolutely not go to due to the vicious cycle of exploiting children to beg for money for the wrong reasons and not to the people who need it. Kompog Khleang, situated at Tonle Sap lake is the one we recommend. I do not recommend Kompong Phluk. Kampong Khleang lies on the shore of the biggest fresh water lake in southeast Asia. With more than 10.000 people, it is the biggest community on the shore of Tonle Sap. During the dry season, (December – April), you can reach the village by car, but during the wet season, a big transformation and is accessible only by boat! Your tour will usually be a sunset tour and start at 2pm. Make sure you carry some water with you and some snacks for the sunset dock. Carry mosquito repellent spray with you.
Phnom Kulen Waterfalls
Phnom Kulen was known as Mahendraparvata, the first capital of Cambodia’s Angkor civilization, a mountainous plateau of hermits and herbs, and secret places lost in deep jungle, that lies 25 miles north-east of Angkor Wat. Its name means “mountain of the Lychee” . There is a sacred hilltop site on top of the range. The site is known for its carvings representing fertility and its waters which hold special significance to Hindus.
Visit Bayon Temple
Maybe my favorite. It is an extraordinary temple located at the geographical center of the city of Angkor. The main temple has a large central dome surrounded by smaller towers decorated with faces and detailed ornaments. It was built about 100 years after Angkor Wat under Jayavarman VII (reigned 1181-1219). The entry tower of the Bayon is from the east. I remember being stunned at all the faces looking down at me. It’s like nothing I have seen before. The temples open at 7am, so make your way there right after Angkor Wat, make sure you also pass through the gates of the temples. There are 5, if you have enough time try and make all 5 of them in a tuk tuk.
Visit Tah Prohm Temple
The famous Tomb Raider movie with Angelina Jolie was filmed here. The temple was established by the Khmer King Jayavarman VII in 1189. Unlike most temples at Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm keeps its features like its initial construction. It is covered with the jungles making it one of the most famous temples at Angkor Wat. Previously, this temple used to occupy 12 640 people including 18 monks, 2,740 priests. One of the most eerie temples I have ever seen! Trees take over Tah Prohm, leaving the temple engulfed by the jungle. I spent my time there when it was pouring with rain! Don’t let that stop you!
Take a helicopter ride
An incredible feeling and understanding the magnitude in size of Angkor Wat and the city. At Belmond La Residence D’angkor Wat provides helicopter tours, make sure you book in advance.
Donate money to a community school
It’s easy to get lost in compassion versus doing what is politically correct. There are so many reasons why you must think twice about waving your money to the kids on the street versus supporting a community school. For one, you break the cycle of exploiting children to be on the streets rather than being in school. The money you give to the beggars on the street will not be used for the good reasons, rather, if you want to give back, find a local school, donate money to sponsor one child for a year or a month and break the cycle of allowing the kids on the streets instead of being in school. I worked with IVHQ on a volunteer project for the school.
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