Below is something I had written up for someone who had a group of 8 but mostly relevant for anyone.
This applies for US citizens. Please check this site.
You will need $20 exact change on arrival in Siem Reap International Airport for visa application + 2 passport size photos. Non negotiable.
The guys letting you in in immigration – after they issue your visa (separate counter) – may ask you for extra $$ but you can ignore them – there are large notices asking you NOT to give them ‘tips’.
Booking a hotel
I booked my hotel via hotels.com – look through and select ones that have free WiFi – most offer pick up and drop off to airport for free, I had two cars show up to pick me up – the tour guide also offers pick up and drop off included in the tour price. (You could opt out from hotel and save a few bucks if applicable)
Tour is paid in US dollars so carry that amount for sure. Hotels accept credit cards and if using hotelsDotCom you will prepay for the stay + you will be charged extras for food and drinks.
If you prefer to try different restaurants you should book closer to the center of the city – I stayed at Cyclo d’angkor Boutique hotel.
The Cyclo d’Angkor Boutique Hotel: This is how every hotel should be. Customer first. Awesome experience. Will always stay here – See 663 traveler reviews, 550 candid photos, and great deals for The Cyclo d’Angkor Boutique Hotel at TripAdvisor.
But check the prices and stars and choose accordingly.
I did not have a direct flight to Siem Reap (Phnom Penh is the capital a few hours away by road) so I flew from Chennai to Bangkok and to Siem Reap.
Stayed in a hotel in Chennai, a little far from the airport cost me about 300 Indian Rupees vs the 900 Rupees the cabs were charging.
The Lotus Apartment Hotel – Venkatraman Street: Great place to stay – See 83 traveler reviews, 52 candid photos, and great deals for The Lotus Apartment Hotel – Venkatraman Street at TripAdvisor.
Only two flights per day from BKK. one at 8 AM and the other at 3+ pm. Return flights are at 7 PM. Check Hipmunk (but then book on Kayak) and Hopper for flights. My flights were from Chennai to BKK via Kaula lumpur and it got delayed on the way in – but I had booked a hotel close to airport in Bangkok – since I was going to miss the 3 pm flight – pick up and drop off included (I stayed in a hotel in Bangkok) – U-Tiny Boutique home.
U-Tiny Boutique Home Suvarnabhumi Bangkok: Awesome place to stay. I wish I had more time here. – See 702 traveler reviews, 407 candid photos, and great deals for U-Tiny Boutique Home Suvarnabhumi Bangkok at TripAdvisor.
The Tour and The Guide
Here is the tour schedule that I finally took after going back and forth a few times. Sorry about the long post- I tried to include everything which I hope can help you plan well.
Happy Angkor Wat Tour: Awesome – See 1,967 traveler reviews, 1,141 candid photos, and great deals for Siem Reap, Cambodia, at TripAdvisor.
The Tour company is Happy Angkor Wat tours – and my tour guide was Mr. Veasna (the name is a localized version of Vishnu) from Happy Angkor Wat tour Company and I was happy with his patience and knowledge.
The costs of the tours will go up considerably per person if booked at your hotel. If you can plan ahead, I would suggest that you either contact the above company via email below or check out tripadvisor.com for several highly rated tours – planning ahead will make sure you have someone catering to your exact specifications. You can probably have them book a small van or couple of cars since you have more people in your party.
Pacing out the tour
Now the actual tour was completely different from the way it is laid out in the post below. I asked my guide (per his offer) to take me to places so it will reduce wait times etc. So while we covered every single place below – I did not have to do long walks when it was really hot etc. I was happy he used his experience with the area to make my trip more comfortable.
Since you will mostly be there for only three days (this is the most common tour) – its important to start as early as possible in the day. The first day, if you arrive in Siem Reap late in the day – you may lose some time for that day – but you should still be able to put in a whole day’s worth of tours provided your group can keep up with the pace. If you are planning to take some early morning pictures near Angkor Wat those special tours will start at 5 AM. So plan ahead. Plan for lots of noisy tourists.
Plan for departure time
Something to consider when you need to leave on the third day: My flight was at 7:30 PM – but the checkout time in the hotel was noon, so rather that check out hurriedly at 7 AM in the morning on the last day (my daily tour started at 7:15-7:30 after breakfast in hotel) I paid for the room an extra day so when I came back at 4:30 PM I had time to shower and change and checkout. Though the airport is only 15 minutes away please make sure you get there 2 hours before the flight time at the very least.
And by the way, the best pictures I took were from my Nexus 5 phone – even better than the Canon G1X i had with me. I will post a link to the album to those pics when I figure out how to..:)
Here are some pictures to see what you can expect when you get there…
The check in time for my hotel was noon (also) and I arrived at 9:30 AM. So I left my luggage with the front desk – and my extra cash with them in their safe. They counted the money and gave me a receipt. Usually the room has a safe but I did not want to wait around to get my room.
The locally accepted currencies are riels (Cambodian currency – 1 US $ = 4200+ riels) or Thai Bhats. US Dollars are preferred everywhere and they will give you the prices in US$. Do not convert cash into local currency – take US dollars or Thai Bhats only. I took a lot of US $1 and $5 notes for ease of use (I had a $100 in singles – which was an overkill for just one person for three days). If you have large bills you may get too much local currency as change.
If you decide to buy anything outside of a super market – please bargain as you might in an Indian vegetable market. If you don’t know what that means, start at 50% off and then reluctantly work your way up. If you pay more than 70% you over paid.
You will also need to buy a tourist ticket/pass which costs US $40 per person for three days. It will probably be 10-15 per day. You will need to show this at every place you stop. Cannot visit without this pass. It will have your picture on it too.
Food was very good – I ate where the guide stopped for our lunch – The local cuisine is very similar to Thai – but is called Khmer style – I had fish ( Khmer curry style) pretty much every meal – served in coconut milk. I did not like the chicken I tried. Vegetarian was also okay.
If you have a group who would like to try different foods – they have several highly rated restaurants in the center of the town – you can look them up on tripadvisor.com – I did not venture out – since the hotel had a small but adequate restaurant and I am not very adventurous – I have a rather weak stomach and cannot tolerate strange oils and spices.
The guide will provide water and cold towels, dress in light cotton clothing (there are rules for some temples – shoulders must be covered and shorts must reach the knees for men and women) – and prepare for a lot of humidity. Hats are recommended for some places – but some have ample foliage so you are protected from the sun. For your group have your guide buy you a couple of packs of bottled water since the hotels will charge you a lot for water bottles.
They have WiFi at pretty much every restaurant I ate at, and the WiFi quality at my small hotel was sufficient to make Whatsapp (If you never heard of this app you are so behind!) calls to India and US.
Angkor Wat: Best Place To visit. I plan to go back and spend more time. A day is NOT enough – See 44,930 traveler reviews, 44,351 candid photos, and great deals for Siem Reap, Cambodia, at TripAdvisor.
I am adding links to the Wikipedia pages for most of the places I saw – please read if possible – it will make each location more interesting. The below are in addition to the Angkor Wat temple (It used to have lots of Vishnu idols only one remains) make sure you walk around the entire prakaram first there are 4 huge carvings – one each for Ksheera sagara madhanam, Rama Ravana Yuddham, and a couple more – each is 400+ ft long illustration carved in stone – no cut and paste!
Ta Prohm: The trees and roots look big in the pictures – but they are gargantuan when you see them live! – See 18,181 traveler reviews, 14,518 candid photos, and great deals for Siem Reap, Cambodia, at TripAdvisor.
Banteay Srei: Amazing sculptures – The original name was Iswarapura – City of Iswara ( a name of Lord Shiva) – See 6,945 traveler reviews, 5,425 candid photos, and great deals for Siem Reap, Cambodia, at TripAdvisor.
This is the 1.5 km hike waterfall (tiny) with 1000s of small Shiva lingas – this was by request as this is not very popular – strenuous climb and for enthusiasts of true history only.
There are a couple of the above which are stunning the others – maybe not so much. But the historical significance is overwhelming. Especially if you have had a chance to see some of the temples in Tanjore etc.
June 13, 2016 Cities buried beneath the jungle ground – it sounds like something out of an Indiana Jones film. Yet Australian archaeologist Damian Evans has spent the past several years searching for them in the dense jungleland near Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
And some unconventional historical perspective on the area that is not at all common knowledge – fascinating information (maybe hypothesis) –