More about Siem Reap
Why go to Siem Reap?
Food and souvenirs are cheap; many attractions are walkable or accessible via tuk tuk.
Traffic is crazy, humidity is off the charts, and docking locations can vary widely.
This vibrant, friendly city is welcoming to outsiders and serves as a home base for Cambodian temple visitors.
Siem Reap Cruise Port Facilities?
Since ships don't actually dock in Siem Reap, passengers are transported to and from the ship via ferry or motorcoach. The ferry arrives at Chong Khneas near Phnom Krom, about 7.5 miles south of Siem Reap. There is always transportation waiting at the dock. Mototaxis (motorcycles) charge about $2 to $3 and cars $6 to $7 for the 20- to 30-minute ride into town. In addition, daily ferries navigate from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and often take a few hours.
Because of Siem Reap's interior, no cruise ships are able to dock anywhere near the city. In order to get there, visits to Siem Reap are often included as a land tour before embarking on a Mekong River cruise or as part of a mid-cruise overnight land excursion on Southeast Asia cruises. Many river cruise lines, include a couple nights' hotel accommodation in their fares, and shore excursions depart from the lobby of the hotel. In addition, some ships offer day trips to Siem Reap from Phnom Penh. However, because the trip can take up to six hours, they depart very early (around 4 a.m. to 5 a.m.) and don't arrive back to the ship dock in Phnom Penh until well after midnight.
Good to Know?
Like most Southeast Asian countries, the poverty of Siem Reap is hard to ignore, and children begging for money or food might approach you. As a rule, never give money to children. (It only perpetuates their poverty and keeps them further out of schooling.) If you want to give them something, purchase fruit, bread or snacks from a local market, and give them that instead of any money.
Motorbike drivers can be rather aggressive on the roads, so always look both ways (often more than once) before crossing. As a rule of thumb, walking slowly across the road is the best bet, as the motorbikes will weave around you. If you run, they're more likely to hit you or slam on their brakes to avoid you, causing a larger accident.
Watch for pickpockets in the temple complexes (especially Angkor Wat). Many of them are sly and can easily take wallets, phones and even cameras from your pockets or your hand. Avoid losing anything important by keeping your valuables out of your pocket and your camera wrapped around your neck.
On Foot: Although you're able to walk to and from most of Siem Reap's restaurants and main attractions (like the circus and temple complexes) from most of the city's main hotels, it's not advisable, unless you're with a guide or know exactly where you're heading. At night, it can be harder for the drivers to see people on the side of the road, so strolling can be a little dangerous.
By Tuk Tuk: One of the easiest and most affordable ways to get around Siem Reap is by tuk tuk -- a motorized or cycle-driven covered cart that seats up to four people. The rides vary in price but often only cost $3 to $10, depending on where you're going and whether you'd like your driver to wait for you. In addition to affordability, these are the most reliable and safest modes of transport in the city. If you're staying at a hotel, have the concierge call a tuk tuk for you and negotiate a rate so you can ensure you're paying the best price.
By Bike: Siem Reap's pancake-flat countryside lends itself to exploration by bicycle, especially if you're aiming to see the assortment of temples speckled throughout. The Angkor Wat temple complex is about 4 miles from the center of town, so renting a bike (which can be done at a few different outfitters throughout the city or borrowed from many of the high-end hotels) is one of the best ways to get there. Keep in mind, though, that the weather in Cambodia is oppressively hot and humid, so the ride can be a challenger, even for fit travelers. And always use extra caution when biking through busy, foreign traffic.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
Cambodia's currency is the riel, but most vendors, restaurants, hotels and even the temple complexes take (and prefer) U.S. dollars. Also, bring ample small bills, which come in handy for tipping, buying water and paying for tuk tuk or taxi rides. It's advised to bring enough money to get you through your stay ahead of time, as ATMs are often out of order or not government mandated. However, there are still banks available if you need to safely withdraw money.
The traditional dialect of Siem Reap (and most of Cambodia) is Khmer, an interesting language that blends the influence of Sanskrit and Pali, as well as dialects from the neighboring countries of Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. Although most tour guides, hotel employees and temple workers do speak conversational English, it's best to learn a few key words in Khmer, as the level of English varies by person.