Here’s what we did in Siem Reap, Cambodia!
Day 6 of our Vietnam & Cambodia trip! (Day 7 if you count the day we left Okinawa.)
Travel Dates: 29 July – 1 August
Although it’s summer, it was surprisingly not too hot due to cloud coverage. It’s rainy season, but we only had 1 downpour. Due to the season, tourism is low so there were less crowds! The main downside was we didn’t get to see sunset at Angkor Wat, and the sunrise wasn’t very colorful.
Airline: Inbound: Vietnam Airlines (found on Skyscanner.net, purchased on Expedia) from DaNang (Hoi An) to Siem Reap: $168 per person
It was a very small plane, and everyone had checked in early so we actually took off 20 minutes early! We were surprised to find out Vietnam Airlines allowed up to 20kg (she may have said 30-40kg but on the website I think 20kg is more accurate) of free checked baggage. The site didn’t list Vietnam to Cambodia, so I wasn’t sure the exact baggage and thought it was like VietJet where only 7kg was free.
Outbound: Vietnam Airlines (found SkyScanner.net, purchased on Expedia) from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh: $140 per person
Visa: As of 2015, U.S. citizens need a visa for both Vietnam and Cambodia. (Always check with the embassy before leaving to see if the rules have since been updated!)
For Cambodia, you can either do it at the airport (visa on arrival) to save a few dollars, or do it online in advance (https://www.evisa.gov.kh/). I think it’s $7 more online. We decided to do it on arrival. It only took about 10 minutes. You’ll have to fill out a form, wait in line, and pay $30.
For the visa, make sure to have:
-1 passport sized photo
-U.S. Dollar (While ATMs in Cambodia can give you USD, there are no ATMs before customs!)
-6 months before expiration in your passport
The visa stickers for both Cambodia and Vietnam each take up a full page in your passport.
Exchanging Money: Cambodians like US dollar! The ATMs will give you USD too. (Our tour guide even told us everyone’s salary is in USD.) They’ll give you change in USD, except for coins. Instead of US coins, they’ll give you very small denominations for their currency.
Hotel: Golden Butterfly Villa
So many hotels looked nice, and great prices! After reading TripAdvisor reviews and comparing amenities and location, I decided on this one. It was rated #5 on TripAdvisor, included an airport transfer, wi-fi, close to the city center, free massage, and was priced at only $20 per night. (Either agoda.com or directly on the hotel’s website. You can pay upon arrival.) It was great for the price and location! We paid the extra $5/night for a balcony (Although we didn’t use it, I think it gave us a bigger room).
Pros: 2 blocks from night market, Pub Street/city center
Good restaurant with good prices in the lobby (local favorites and American food)
Free 60 minute massage
Free tuk-tuk from airport to hotel (back to the airport the tuk-tuk was not free, but only $4)
Good shower water pressure (bathroom looked recently re-tiled)
Cons: Loud elementary school right next door
Poor water pressure in toilet
Faucet sprayed erratically
In-room safe was not bolted to anything
Transportation: Tuk-tuks are the most popular method, as there is no public transportation. Our hotel offered a free tuk-tuk from the airport. Be careful though, there are tuk-tuk scams. We read up on the security information online. For example, hold all of your bags so no one can snatch and grab them while you’re riding the tuk tuk, or even when you’re walking around town. Siem Reap is apparently safe compared to the rest of Cambodia, but it is still advised to use a money belt, never leave belongings unattended, even in a locked bag in your hotel room, and use the hotel safe too.
For our tour of Angkor Wat, we hired a private car/driver, and we’re so glad we did! You can hire a tuk-tuk, but it would be hot, less comfortable, and the tuk-tuk driver is most likely not an experienced, trained tour guide. More about that later!
Day 1 – Arrival Day: We arrived in the early evening (1830ish), so after getting to the hotel, we walked to Pub Street and had dinner.
Pub Street is full of restaurants. We found the food here pricier than Vietnam and more geared towards tourists (disappointing). But there are some local restaurants on side streets near Pub Street that are less touristy. (By pricier, it’s still not expensive, but more like $8-10 per dish instead of $2-4.)
Day 2: Angkor Wat Tour with Nol Noy booked through “Angkor Guide Sam Day Tour”
He was excellent! The company was #2 on Trip Advisor. (Nol told us that apparently it’s not a company, but Sam, the owner, is partners with 4-5 tour guides.)
$175 for 2 people for 2 days including sunrise (sunrise is an extra $15)
Includes: A/C van, bottled water, cold wet towels, a driver, and tour guide
Does not include lunch. (That was the only part of the tour that we recommended changes, as the lunches were at touristy restaurants. $7.50 for a fried rice dish…)
Does not include 2-3 day temple pass. Costs $40 for 3 days (same price as 2 days). Smile pretty for your souvenir ticket!
Nol took us to about 8 temples around the Angkor complex. He provided excellent history, took great photos of us, and knew exactly which way to walk around the complexes to make the most of the site.
For dinner, we walked to the night market area again.
Day 3: Angkor Wat Tour continued, starting with sunrise at Angkor Wat.
Nol picked us up at 4:50am to get us to Angkor Wat by 5:15am. Unfortunately, it is overcast during this season, so we did not see a pink sunrise, but we still enjoyed watching the temple go from night to daylight. Again, Nol took us around to 8-10 more sites, including all of the famous temples like the tomb raider temple (Ta Prohm), Elephant/Lepar Terrace, etc. We ended at about 14:30.
Afterwards, we took advantage of our free hotel massage. It was “dry” (no oil), but for being free, not bad.
For dinner, we ate at the hotel’s restaurant. Then took a short stroll around the night market.
Day 4 – Tuk-tuk to the airport at 11:20am.
-We would have gone to the land mine museum, but it’s a 45 minute tuk-tuk ride (near the Bantray Srei temple), and we didn’t feel like going back out there. You may want to ask your tour guide to stop there, as we heard it’s only 4 rooms but worth the visit.
On the way to the airport, our tuk-tuk almost overheated. He kept looking down; we were worried he was out of gas! We booked him through the hotel though, so we felt he was more reliable.
Tips for Traveling:
-Have U.S. dollar in small quantities
-You can bargain. At almost all night markets you can get things for at least 50% less.
-Wear your valuables on your body and use cross-body purse, if any.
-Book an A/C car tour for the temples. You’ll feel more refreshed and it will make viewing so many temples more enjoyable!
-The tuk-tuk can carry 4-5 people, but it is a tight squeeze and luggage will be on your lap. It’s just a moped pulling a cart. (Picture two benches facing each other, sharing foot space.)
-Bring sunglasses, especially for the tuk-tuk rides! (Lots of dust in your face!)
-Do not drink tap water or ice cubes.
-Bring bug spray!!! I got bit all day long, even with spray on. (Of course those little suckers love me.)
Next up, read about our adventure in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)!