Planning a Trip
By Plane -- Siem Reap Airways (tel. 023/723-963; www.siemreapairways.com), Royal Phnom Penh Airways (tel. 023/216-487), President Airlines (in Phnom Penh: tel. 023/210-338; in Siem Reap: tel. 063/964-887; www.presidentairlines.com), and Bangkok Air (in Phnom Penh: tel. 023/722-545; in Siem Reap: tel. 063/380-191; www.bangkokair.com) all fly the 1-hour connection to Siem Reap from Phnom Penh.
If you just want to see the great temples at Angkor, the process is simplified with international arrivals: Vietnam Airlines flies directly from Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok Airways flies directly from Bangkok, and you can check flights by Silk Air, Lao Aviation, and Royal Cambodge Airline for other routes.
I highly recommend flying into town. The international airport is brand spanking new and beautifully designed using traditional Cambodian architecture. Note: The international departure tax (from both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap) is $25 (#14); the domestic tax is $6 (#3.35).
By Boat -- A ride on the 5-hour boat connection between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap costs $25 (#14). Contact any hotel or travel agent (they all sell the same tickets at the same price). The scenic trip connects to Siem Reap via the great Tonle Sap Lake. Also see the new Mekong Express (tel. 023/427-518) special, with a ride on their more luxurious boat for $35 (#19). Siem Reap also connects with Battambang, to the south and west, via the Tonle Sap and the Sangker River. The trip shows you life in fishing villages along the river as you trace the banks of the Sangker. In the rainy season, the ride is just 4 hours, but in the dry season (Feb-May) it can take 6 hours or more and isn't recommended. Book your ticket at any tour agent or the front desk of your hotel or guesthouse. The price is $14 (#7.75).
A new option is the weeklong cruise between Angkor Wat and either Can Tho or My Tho in Vietnam's Mekong Delta aboard one of the luxury, shallow draft Pandaw Cruise Boats (www.pandaw.com). Shared rooms on the vessel start at $780 (#433) for the duration.
By Bus -- Your hotel front desk can arrange bus transportation for you at no additional cost. Capitol Tour (No. 14 Road 182; tel. 023/217-627) runs daily minivans along the improved road between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap ($5/#2.75) for the 5-hr. ride) as well as destinations farther afield like Battambang or on to Poipet at the Thai border. Neak Krorhorm Travel and Tour (in Phnom Penh, tel. 023/219-496; and in Siem Reap near the Old Market, tel. 063/964-924) provides similar services.
You'll need some kind of wheels to make your way around Siem Reap and to and from the temples. Any hotel front desk or travel agent can make arrangements for you.
A rented car with driver is about $25 (#14) (double that with a guide). This is your best bet if hitting the temples farther afield, but if just doing the main temple circuits, I recommend one of the open-air options below.
Tuk-tuks are the best choice and available anywhere. The name is taken from the Thais, but these tuk-tuks have nothing to do with the noisy, Bangkok three-wheeler. Siem Reap's tuk-tuks (only found here) are a two-wheeled surrey pulled by a standard motorbike. They are shaded, and the padded seat is great for two. There's a small shelf at the front of the cart, usually with laminated maps and advertisements, and, in a pinch, you can seat two more, but it's not very comfy. Pay just $10 (#5.55) for the whole day.
A motorcycle taxi, called a motodup throughout Cambodia, is a good, cheap option for between $6 and $8 (#3.35-#4.45) per day. Helmets are generally available, though few wear them (we recommend wearing one). This is a good choice for solo travelers going to the temples without a guide. For sights farther afield, it can be a bit tiring. If going way out, ask for a helmet with a wind screen as it saves a day of squinting and is the safest choice.
Riding your own motorbike was once the most popular choice, but local officials have put a stop to it, citing many road accidents.
The temple roads are flat and well paved, and bicycles are a popular choice. You can rent one for $2 to $3 (#1.10-#1.65) per day from guesthouses and hotels. Take care in the scorching midday heat and drink plenty of fluids. Renting bikes means you can go where you please, as you please. When parking at temples, vendors will implore you to park near them and they'll mind your bike. Agree to nothing, but tell them that maybe you'll buy something later, and when you do need the inevitable bottle of water, buy from your new friend.
Visitor Information & Tours
Siem Reap is full of helpful traveler services and information. In fact, most hotels and guesthouses can help you arrange all of the essentials. Below are a few service providers we'd recommend among the many others you'll see in the area.
- Diethelm, No. 4 Airport Road No. 6, Siem Reap (tel. 063/963-524; fax 063/963-694; email@example.com). Providing all local and regional services, Diethelm is a top international tour operator, offering classic tours in Angkor as well as anywhere in the region.
- Exotissimo, No. 300 Airport Road No. 6, Siem Reap (tel. 063/964-323; fax 063/963-621; www.exotissimo.com; firstname.lastname@example.org). Like Diethelm, above, Exo is a large conglomerate, with offices throughout the region, that can arrange any inevitability. Mostly for larger budgets.
- Osmose, at Sam Veasna Center for Wildlife Conservation (tel. 063/963-710; www.osmosetonlesap.org). Offering high-end tours to the far-flung coastal areas of the Tonle Sap Lake, Osmose levies high fees for its popular ecotours in order to maintain high standards of low environmental impact, and to fund its efforts at encouraging sustainable development and preservation in the region.
- Terre Cambodge, at Frangipani, a small spa in the Old Market area (tel. 012/843-401; www.terrecambodge.com). Catering to many of the French tourists who flock to Siem Reap and have deeper pockets, Terre Cambodge arranges adventure trips to the farther-flung reaches in the area, ranging from off the map destinations along Tonle Sap to little-known jungle temples far from Angkor.
Here are just a few of the more reliable less-expensive companies. Hotel or guesthouse front desks can, for free or a small fee, arrange tickets with one of the companies listed below. In fact, popular Capitol Guesthouse and more upscale Mekong Express Tours don't even have offices in town, and must be booked through hotel front desks.
- Neak Krorhrom Travel and Tours, just adjacent to the Old Market (east side; tel. 063/964-924), is a good one for onward bus connections to rural stops like Battambang. In fact, book with one of the other operators and you'll likely end up waiting for the bus out in front of these offices.
- PTM, right in the heart of the bar street near the Old Market (tel. 063/964-388; fax 063/380-358; www.ptm.com.kh) offers basic bus services and can book flights.
- World Express Tours and Travel, just west of the Old Market (tel. 063/963-600; email@example.com), is a popular choice for budget travelers and books buses and flights from their office near the Old Market.