The Rainy Season: May to November can bring many rewards; especially for keen photographers. Although the weather can be humid at times; the temples and countryside look quite stunning. The rains occur mainly in the afternoons and evenings and take the form of intense thunderstorms they are spectacular and our balcony is a superb viewpoint.
The most popular time is in the cooler Dry Season from November to March. Hardly any rain falls and skies are usually clear. Humidity is much lower, evenings are pleasant and early mornings sometimes feel a little chilly. It is still very hot during the day with temperatures in the low 30s centigrade
The popularity of this season means that at peak times the sights are crowded and queues develop at the ticket booths. By timing your visit to avoid main sights in the peak hours and visiting the less known temples it is possible to have a much more relaxed visit.
Most of my temple pictures were taken in May to November when the rains bring out the fabulous colors and textures in the stones and vegetation. There are less visitors at this time and it is possible to find peace and tranquility among some quite popular sights. The downside is that travel to more remote areas by land can be difficult.
Visas can be obtained on entry to Cambodia at airports and many overland crossing points. There are relatively few Cambodian Consulates around the World for advance visa purchase but it is hardly necessary given the ease of getting one on entry. Many overland travelers obtain their visas from the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok. This is a painless process if you have a couple of days to spare. Tourist visas cost $20 and are valid for one month. Visas for Malaysian and Singaporean citizens are not required. Tourist visas can be renewed once for an additional month only and are Single entry. If you leave Cambodia you will need a new one when you return.
E visas are now available online from E Visas they cost $25 and reduce queuing time at Siem Reap and Phnom Penh international Airports. At the time of writing they are not yet available for other land crossings. If you want to stay longer ,one month Business Visas cost $25 and are renewable through some travel Agencies. There are some visa scams at the Poipet border where some Thai Travel agency buses stop just short of the border for lunch and offer to get your visa at an inflated price (Up to $40) There is absolutely no need to do this.
Thai Visasare normally given free for 1 month at overland border crossings for most countries in Europe EU and US etc. If you are coming from an unusual country and are passing through Thailand check with your countries embassy (or website).
We can obtain Your Vietnamese Visa for you, in 3 -4 Working Days. The price is currently $38. If you are passing through Bangkok or Phnom Penh you can get your Vietnamese Visas there through many travel agencies.
Flights to and from Cambodia
Flights are best booked well in advance. Most people fly through Bangkok. As the regional hub it has the best and cheapest choices. Costs to Bangkok from London for example can be as low as under £400 return; but expect £700 or more at Christmas or if you have to fly at short notice.
Flying From Malaysia, Singapore & Thailand
There are some good deals to Siem Reap through Air Malaysia via Kuala Lumpur International Airport KLIA An increasing number of guests are traveling by this route. For international flights using Malaysian Airlines you can check in at KL Central Station which is the city Transport hub. The fast KLIA Express takes less than 3O mins.
Air Asia and Jet Star Asia are now operating from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok at discount prices. This has significantly reduced the cost of a short break from Malaysia and Singapore! To get the best price it is best to book well in advance. A new Low Cost terminal KLCC for Air Asia etc opened at the end of May 06. This is 15kms by road from KLIA.
There is a bus shuttle service from the main KLIA airport to KLCC: 15mins for 1.5MYR
There are direct buses to KLCC from KL Central Station: 1h 15mins for 9MYR.
Exchange rate Approx 3.6MYR to 1US$
You can fly direct to Siem Reap from Bangkok using Bangkok Airways $145. Bangkok Airways are doing some good deals if you buy a multi destination ticket within Thailand and to neighboring countries inc Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. $50 for an internal Thai flight and $80 international within SE Asia. (fares are subject to fuel surcharges)
The new Bangkok International Airport opened in September 06 This is 30kms from the old Don Muang Airport which will not be used for passenger international services after the end of September. Fuel and other surcharges have been increased significantly. Many airlines do not state this clearly in advertising. A new arrivals hall at Siem Reap Airport Has now been completed (July 2006); This vastly improved facility is a very pleasant entry to Cambodia.
There is a hefty $25 departure tax from Cambodian Airports for international flights and a variable rate for internal. This applies to PP to Siem Reap (Flights are approx $60-$70 + tax)
Flying via Phnom Penh
It is well worth flying here either on the outward leg or on return. Prices start at around $70 each way. However there sometimes is a lower baggage limit than on International Flights. This should not be problem off season, but on busy flights in peak season you may have to pay a baggage surcharge we will clarify this if we obtain air tickets for you. There is a variable departure tax from Cambodian Airports for internal flights. This applies to PP to Siem Reap (Between $5 and $18)
Overland Travel to Cambodia
The overland routes into Cambodia are generally improving; however even the main routes to Siem Reap are unpaved or in a very poor state of repair . We recommend taking the air con public bus from Bangkok (Morchit) Northern terminal. If you catch a bus at 7am or 7:30 you can get to Aranyaprathet at 12 pm. A short Tuk Tuk ride (5Km) takes you too the Cambodia border.
The train from Bangkok is a good and enjoyable option. Trains leave at 5:55 and arrive at Aryanapathet around 12pm. There are many willing tuk tuk drivers to take you the 6kms to the border. Don’t be persuaded to buy onward tickets on the Thai side as you are likely to have long delays waiting for a bus and you will be likely to suffer the same fate as those buying a ticket from Bangkok.
Poipet Border Crossing
The border crossing situation has now changed in July 2005. On exit from Cambodian immigration, tourists are directed to a ‘free’ Tourist bus which is now taking tourists to an a new Bus station and Taxi stand near the Market in Poipet; where minivans and buses transport tourists to Siem Reap. It is not compulsory to use this .
If you have arranged a taxi pick up from us; do not use the free service; wait at the exit from immigration. We have a car service to take you from Poipet to Siem Reap with no hassles. just let us know 2 – 3 days in advance. The fixed taxi fare has risen to $45 for tourist cars to Siem Reap. This has been enforced by the authorities by putting up the fee that drivers have to pay per journey.
The cost on the bus service to Siem Reap is $10 per person. The bus is ending its journey at the new Bus Station East of town. We understand that there can be delays waiting for the bus to fill up; but the bus drives direct to Siem Reap Bus Station with a short stop and is taking 5 hours due to the poor state of the road.
The new bus station is a chaotic entry to Siem Reap. Please be patient if you have pre arranged a pick up. There are a lot of drivers and in busy periods it will take time to find our driver with our orange peace of Angkor Board.
The Tales of Asia forum has a useful blog on this subject which makes interesting reading. Road conditions have now improved though it is still rough in places from Poipet to 30kms east of Kralanh (that is two thirds of the 180kms ) Allow 4 hours for the journey.
The route to Phnom Penh is now much improved. 300kms of tarmac road, buses take 5 1/2 hours, cars 4 hours. We will pick you up at the bus station which is 3kms to the east of town. It can be chaotic and noisy at times, so stay cool and look out for our driver with our Golden Orange Hotel board.
Siem Reap to and from Phnom Penh
Now that the road has improved, the bus has now become a cheaper, more reliable and faster option. Buses take around 5 to 6 hours and cost between $4 and $9 . There is usually a 1/2 hour stop in Kompong Thom. We can arrange a pick up from the Bus Station which is 3 kms east of Siem Reap Town. It can be very chaotic there on arrival with many drivers and touts. Stay cool; don’t rush and look out for our driver with our Golden Orange Hotel board. Taxis cost from $45+ for the journey which takes 4 – 5 Hours.
It is also possible to go by road or take a boat to Battambang and continue to Phnom Penh by bus this would take 2 days. For the train enthusiast; it is also possible to go by rail from Battambang to Phnom Penh; but do not expect speed or comfort!
Fast ferries do the PP SR run in around 6 hours. Boats are running daily but due to competition by the buses there are less of them The boats have a car service to pick up passengers from their hotels in Siem Reap 5:30 am.
Warning about the Boats
The boat companies operating the Phnom Penh Ferries have little regard for the comfort or safety of passengers. We are getting reports that no proper gangplank is provided or assistance with luggage at Siem Reap. Passengers may have to jump down to the causeway or will have to cross a precarious plank with no handrail. We advise anyone who is elderly or not fully mobile not to use these boats.
In the Dry Season – Late Feb to August , the water levels on the Tonle Sap Lake make boat travel slower and less reliable. There are sometimes 2 -3 changes of boat and at worst it can take 9 or more hours. There is no food or drink provided on these boats.
Up to 4 passengers, an English Speaking driver will cost $10 more.
Please note that there are seasonal variations in the cost of traveling.
Warning for bus travelers
Avoid the rip off Bangkok buses and go by public buses from the Northern Bus Terminal or by train. Everyone who uses the Bangkok Tour Agency Buses have had problems, from overpriced visas, to horrendous journeys up to 18-20 hours in cramped minivans or pickups arriving in the early hours. Arriving at the guest houses late at night you will be pressured into staying at their guest house. They will not help with transport or often even allow phone calls to your chosen hotel or guest house.
Most TAT agencies in Bangkok say the journey takes 8-10 hours via Poipet. Don’t believe them! At best It will take 12 or more hours. Some operators are now sending people to remote border crossings; taking 18-20 hours on arriving at 2am. The Bus that takes you from Bangkok to the border is usually a good air con vehicle . If you are taken to a place called Pallin It is here that most problems occur. If you are asked to pay 1500THB or more for visa; our best advice is to refuse to go any further; walk back into Thailand and take a Taxi to Poipet
If you stay there you will certainly be delayed by 3 hours waiting for the transport (usually overcrowded minivans or pickup trucks ). you will have an uncomfortable journey on dirt roads via Battembang; with numerous long stops and at least one well rehearsed breakdown. If you get to Siem Reap before midnight; count yourself lucky! Poipet is a big town with new Casinos straddling the main road, there are plenty of taxis to take you from there.
Buses from Bangkok can arrive anywhere in Siem Reap and frequently very late Well rehearsed breakdowns are a common reason for delay so we can only collect you if you phone us from your arrival point
Going From Siem Reap to Bangkok is also a problem with some bus companies. They are generally good to Poipet; but many people are having long delays on the Thai Side. So far we cannot strongly recommend any company on this route as it is a bit of a lottery beyond the Thai Border as to what bus you get on. If you are lucky you can get a luxury VIP bus with WC. We do use Chhenna Tours from time to time, although slow, (12hours) they get to KS Road OK.
Money & Exchange
Take ample amounts of US Dollars here. They are the most widely used currency in Cambodia. You get 4200r to the US$ or 7200 riel to the GP£ .Some areas near Thailand use Thai Baht, though you would get a worse exchange rate. US$ Travelers cheques are the best ones to have. Commission rates for T/Cs are 2- 4%. In practice the 4000r to the dollar rate is still being used for convenience. Rate for Thai Baht to US$ is generally 32THB to 1$
It really isn’t worth changing local currency when you arrive, as riels are just used as small change. There are no coins; just low value notes; 100r = £0.8p. Virtually all businesses convert riels at the following rate $1=4000r, For example when changing dollars and are expecting $1.25 in change you would get $1+1000r(25c)
There are now ATMs for foreign accounts in a few places in Cambodia. the ANZ royal Bank brought the first ones to Phnom Penh in November 2005 and a few branches of Canadia Bank. now have them. They all dispense cash in US $ and riel
There are plenty of ATMs in Phnom Penh and several in Siem Reap, the Airport Caltex Star Mart and ANZ and Canadia banks. Do not expect ATMs anywhere else yet. It is also is possible to get cash on Visa card. Use the right bank and you can get 0% commission. There are limits to the amount of cash that can be withdrawn. Credit cards are becoming more accepted here, but only in large shops / International Hotels. If you are traveling from Thailand the exchange rate in Siem Reap is poor. most businesses exchange Baht to dollars at a rate of $1=30 Baht .Some money changers can give a worse rate than this
Temples and Passes
There are 3 Passes currently available, all can be purchased at the Ticket Office on the road to Angkor Wat. For the multi day passes a passport type photo is required. You can get a photo on the spot; but in busy periods, queues for the photo office can be long.1 Day $20: giving access to all Temples
3 Day $40: this is the most popular; most of the main sights can be covered in 3 days.
7 Day $60: with this pass you have scope to visit a lot of the outlying sites and have a rest and relaxation in between.
We recommend a minimum of 3 days to visit the Angkor Temples. The sites are so big and spread out that anything less than that will not really do these fabulous sights justice. The heat Even in the “‘cool”‘ season can make scrambling around the ruins hard work. A week pass is good value for temple enthusiasts; as even some of the smaller sights require a pass.
There are a lot of Tourist Police who do spot checks. There are fines for those without a ticket and severe penalties for anyone foolish enough to remove any of the temple artifacts.
There are no compulsory inoculations however some vaccinations are strongly advised. Below is just a brief guide. Please consult your Doctor for advice. Hepatitis A, B and Tetanus vaccinations are advised. Typhoid, Japanese Encephalitis and Cholera do occur in some areas of Cambodia, these can also be inoculated against.
Yellow Fever: an inoculation certificate is required if you are traveling from an infected area. It is not normally necessary if you are coming from Europe or USA etc.
Malaria and Dengue Fever are a risk in Cambodia, they are both carried by mosquitoes. Within towns and cities like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap areas, Malaria risk is low. Out in the country, one would need to be especially careful after dark. Long sleeves and light colored trousers will help, as will a good insecticide spray. Doctors and pharmacies prescribe various types of Malarial pills. Some can be very expensive in UK. Most common types are easily and cheaply obtained in pharmacies here and Thailand without prescription.
This is less dangerous than Malaria, but it can be very unpleasant. The mosquitoes carrying this disease are active by day. Unfortunately there is no vaccination available, so one should take similar precautions as you would for Malaria. Particular care should be taken in the early mornings and late afternoons. Salt deficiency and dehydration: can be a problem if not enough water is taken. Drink far more (water) than you would do in temperate zones and take plenty of salt with food.
Health Insurance: is essential as some medical facilities are not yet up to western standards. Healthcare for Westerners is improving in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Outside of these areas you will need to use local Hospitals and clinics. These are improving but are not recommended unless there is no alternative. We can put you in touch with reliable 24 hour English speaking doctors in Siem Reap in the unlikely event of you being unwell.
Food Hygiene and Water
Is a lot better here than many Asian countries. All western run and most Khmer run restaurants provide good safe cooked food. Ice is made in factories so should not be a concern. Water at our hotel in Siem Reap is relatively clean, taken directly from underground however we do not advise drinking it! We have ample supplies of clean bottled water for guests.
There are good WC/Restrooms at many of the main Angkor Temple Sites. They are of a decent standard with Western rest rooms and are usually kept immaculately clean. You need to show your Temple Pass for free admission. In the towns and bus stands etc, WCs are generally good. Many Hotels and the better eating places places have clean western style toilets of a standard that we found surprising on our first visit. Standards can be higher than neighboring Thailand for example. Toilet paper is not usually supplied; so take tissues just in case. Only out in the country do conditions deteriorate; where facilities are basic or non-existent.
Land mines and Beggars
Cambodia is one of the most heavily mined countries in the World. The large numbers of maimed beggars on the streets are testimony to this. Towns and tourist sights are safe.. Only if you go wandering off the paths in rural areas against advice will you be at risk.
It is a very sad fact of life here that there are a number of disabled beggars on the streets. There is no social welfare, but there are disabled support groups like Angkor Association for the Disabled who train disabled people to develop their skills and improve the quality of life for their families.
It is far better to give to charities like this than the persistent beggars who hang around the Old Market in Siem Reap. They annoy tourists and I’m sure that some; if they had the will or the encouragement; could do something useful to earn a living.
We are actively supporting the Angkor Association for the Disabled and welcome donations.