Inquiry Submission By Subbu090102
I recently travelled to Cambodia to see the beautiful and world famous Angkor Wat. Am capturing a few tips for the benefit of my fellow travellers.
Cambodia is a beautiful country right next to Thailand, personally I think it makes a lot of sense to combine Siem Reap with Thailand (BKK/ Pattaya) as there is not much to do in Phnom Penh. Indians and most of the world get a Visa on Arrival at the Siem Reap Airport for $30. Make sure to carry a passport size photo.
Everything in Cambodia is on US Dollars, their currency is only used to give out small change, the bigger transactions happen only in USD. 1 USD = 4000 KHR
Make sure you buy a local SIM, I was recommended the SMART network which was really good. About $6 ensures you get unlimited data for 7 days of stay. The process of procuring the SIM is very easy and needs no specific documentation. I got it from a SMART store but its available in a lot of smaller kiosks.
Once you get the sim make sure you download the GRAB and Passapp Tuk Tuk apps, you will recover more than the cost of your SIM just from these two apps. It is like the Cambodian version of UBER and saves a lot of time and effort. The local Tuk Tuk vendors usually rip off the tourists but when booked thru these apps the prices are low and saves all the bargaining time.
Hotel options in Cambodia are enormous, if you are travelling solo, try staying in a Hostel where you get to meet a lot of fellow travellers from around the World but if privacy is your thing there are a lot of beautiful hotels with a decent swimming pool available at bargain on Booking site. In fact Funky Flashpacker is available for $3 a night. The hostel is centrally located, the rooms are clean, they offer clean towel and the bathrooms are nice too. It has a pool and breakfast options. This is a party hostel so there is always some music playing and party happening. A lot hotel options with swimming pool at $10.
Beer is cheaper than water in Cambodia with a lot of nice places offering beer for as low as 50 cents a glass.
Angkor Wat – There is an option to buy a 1 day / 3 day and a 7 day pass. Unless you are a major follower of art, architecture and ancient history a 1 day pass or a 3 day pass should do the trick. A 1 day pass costs about $37
While the DIY option using a local tuk tuk is available, the best way to see this is using a tour guide as they explain the history, tell us various vantage points for photo options, manage the time well. I strongly suggest Klook site (this probably is a large tour aggregator out of HK and has a good presence in SE Asia). The charges were $15 for a 10 hour day tour. They have various options, the Sunrise tour starts at 4 AM and is priced at $11. Klook can be booked and paid online.
Klook has internally tied up with Siem Reap Shuttle Tours a local company in Siem Reap, if you do not get the tour package on Klook, you can use the Siem Reap Shuttle site to book your tours. Most others are a rip off. The day tour begins with a pick up from the hotel, visit to the temples in a AC mini van and drop back to the hotel. They provide water all thru. They show about 4 major temples including Angkor Wat (this is called the inner circuit) and stop for lunch at a decent hotel.
There is a tour to 1000 linga, reclining mountain and Mount Kulen waterfalls available. I took a Private Tour and was taken on a motor bike. While the good part about the motor bike is it goes almost all the way upto the Waterfall so you dont have to walk much, I strongly suggest you to avoid the bike. The road is so dusty and to top that the weather is mostly hot so the travel is not the most pleasant one unless you love travelling pillion on bikes. The 1000 linga is nice and as a Hindu, i found it amazing how this was built so many years ago and how Hinduism reached Cambodia. The Linga’s are visible during the dry season when the water in the river (Siem Reap River) is not full. Also there are a lot of carvings of Brahma, Vishnu, Siva. Lakshmi, Parvathi on the river bed. This is followed by a visit to the Temple of reclining Buddha on the mountain. This is a beautiful quiet temple. And finally we go to the water falls. The water around the water fall is shallow and I strongly suggest taking a swim wear. There are small change places and you can swim in the waterfall. The water is clean and cool all thru the year. It is also a Hindu / Bhuddist religious site and bathing in the water is supposed to be a good ritual. The private tour cost $35 for the guide + vehicle and $20 entry fee. This was a bad choice from money point of view, the only reason I found it useful was I did not have to wake up early and started at my pace at around 10AM. I saw an all inclusive group package tour to Mount Kulen at $35 which includes pick up and drop in an AC mini van. I saw this at the Funky Flashbackpacker. I think this will be a good deal. The pick up is at 8.30AM.
If you take a 3 day pass, you can club this with a visit to Bantey Srei which is another temple on the way to Mount Kulen, however you have to opt for a private tour for this. There is a separate tour of the larger circuit which includes Bantey Srei temple. Mount Kulen is about 60 Kms from Siem Reap town.
There is tour to the Floating Village and Tonle Sap lake at $18 again available thru Klook or Siem Reap Shuttle. This is a good tour as it takes us right into the village and I have heard stories of tourists getting tricked into buying books and pens for local childrens school. The big tour companies warn you when such women approach you. The best option to take this tour is the sun set option. As the sun set on tonle sap lake is beautiful. Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Asia. Other things to do in Siem Reap is – just walking around the pub street and night market. The drinks are cheap and it has amazing food options. Indulge in Spa, foot massage. There are happy hours at most of the spa, mostly during the day time and the prices are 50% of the night prices. Worth taking. Shopping for souvenirs. Overall Siem Reap is a awesome tourist destination not to be missed.
I took a bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. This is a 6 hour journey. I suggest using the Giant Ibis for this, it costs about $15 but the bus is very punctual, the seats and the air conditioning is good. There is a good wifi available all thru the journey and other things like charging points, some snacks and a good supply of drinking water. It makes the travelling very comfortable. There are a lot of Giant Ibis offices or can be booked at their website or any other bus booking site. The views from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh is very nice as the bus passes thru various villages and you get a nice sneak peek of the Cambodian way of life. So many beautiful rice fields, banana and coconut farms on the way.
Phnom Penh by itself does not have much to offer, I booked Mad Monkey hostel but there are several others, I think Onederz is nice and is located right across the riverfront. Mad Monkey is about $5 a night offers clean bed, bath and is centrally located. There are various tour options available but these can be done independently also. A visit to the genocide museum is worthwhile. Shopping at the Central Market and Night Market is interesting. The Royal Palace is nice but I found it looks even better at night. Also you get better photos without paying a entry fee 🙂
As a vegetarian, the noodles and the fried rice is amazing at the streets. Also dont miss the coconut ice cream at the night market. They serve it on the coconut shell, with tender coconut, 3 scoops of coconut ice cream,nuts and honey along with a glass of coconut water. All this for just $1.5
Unfortunately most of the Cambodians cannot speak any english, I found the google transalator from English to Khemer very useful as it helps communicate better.
Overall Cambodia is a very nice country not to be missed. I do not think it is as cheap as I imagined it to be because everything is on USD. Cambodians are friendly nice people and I had a good time in Cambodia. Yay !!!