Angkor - 43 - Bayon Temple View

Siem Reap – Cambodia – Information


APRIL 2015:



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ARRIVAL:

I used CHEAPFLIGHTS.COM to book a flight from Bangkok directly to Siem Reap International airport. The flight took 1 hour and we landed at 2:30pm.

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Arrival cards were not given out in flight. Instead we were given 3 forms as we disembarked the aircraft. This meant that everyone was competing for the limited writing table space outside the customs hall.

The 3 forms were (a) an arrival / departure card (b) a customs declaration and (c) a declaration about your general health. A lot of information needed to be triplicated across the forms.

Form (c) was collected as we entered the customs hall.

VISAS:

A Tourist Visa with a period of 30 days costs US$30. An Ordinary Visa (also referred to as “Business Visa”) with a period of 30 days costs US$35. The visa issuing process was structured and there was no attempt to over-charge anyone.

On etering th Customs Hall, those needing a Visa On Arrival had to collect a Visa Application Form and fill that one in.

You then queue to get your Visa. One man checks your Form and takes your money and passport.

You, then, move down the counter and wait for someone to wave your visa-containing-passport at you.

I asked for a 60 day Ordinary Visa but I got the bulk standard 30 day one – which was charged at the correct US$35 price.

IMMIGRATION:

Once you have your Visa, you queue at Immigration.

Immigration will take Form (a) along with scans of your finger and thumb prints of both hands and a photo of your face. Other than a slightly ‘grumpy’ face looking at you from across the counter, the process was reasonably painless.

CUSTOMS:

I found my suitcase on the carousel and walked through ‘nothing to declare’… it was the same as the ‘something to declare’. No-one paid any attention to anyone and no-one asked for my Form (b)… I don’t know why I bothered filling it in… I threw it away in the bin in my hotel room.

ELAPSED TIME:

I bought a SIM card for my smartphone on the way out (see ‘Communications’, below) and also queued up at the Taxi Counter to get a Taxi Chit (see ‘Getting There’, below).

Even with all that done, it was 3:20pm when I exited the building… the whole process had only taken 50 minutes. I thought that 50 minutes was OK (given how much needed to get done).


SIEM REAP PRICES :

The average wage for a cleaner in a hostel is US$40 / month – but they get accommodation and food provided free. Other manual workers in guesthouses average about US$75 / m. Workers in restaurants start on U$120 / m. Experienced barstaff / junior management get about US150 / m (or US$5 / day).

These are above the average elsewhere in the country. Siem Reap is benefiting from the influx of tourism.

Bare this in mind whilst negotiating prices… the price that you agree to (especially for services rather than material goods) needs to be relative to their daily income (not yours).

By all means be generous but, please, do not ruin it for the people that will follow you.


TRAVEL MONEY:

There was an ATM near the Visa Counter for those needing money for their Visa. The ATM dispenses US$s.

The first Bureau De Change is after Immigration – which is no use to anyone needing US$s for their Visa. I tried to change some of my US$ Travelers Cheques; they would not take them… they only change American Express Travelers Cheques in Cambodia.

My Thomas Cook Travelers Cheques will have to keep for another country.

Some bank ATMs charge you US$5 extra at the Cambodian end (this is in addition to any Foreign ATM fees charged by your own bank. The normal withdrawal limit is US$500.

I bank with ANZ in NZ. There are ANZ Royal banks in Cambodia. I could use those ATMs without paying any fees at all.


COMMUNICATIONS:

Data packages are really cheap in Cambodia and there are several service providers selling their products after Customs as you exit the Arrival Hall.

At the airport, you usually get your SIM card free. This is typical of many countries.

You can get packages for 2 days, 1 week, 2 weeks, 20 days, and 1 month (and there were, probably, others that I did not see).

As one example, there were US$5 packages lasting 1 month offering US$2 of call credits and 3.5GB of data.

Another example was unlimited data for 1 month for US$11.

I opted for a US$5 package lasting 1 month with 5.5GB of high speed / 4G data.


FROM THE AIRPORT TO TOWN:

Airport transfers to Siem Reap are easy because drivers have strict rules and the prices fixed by the airport.

You have four options for getting to Siem Reap from the airport: taxi, moto, tuk tuk, or van taxi.

BY TAXI:

You will find the Taxi Kiosk as you exit the airport. Here you can book a taxi for US$7 or a van taxi for US$10.

If you have four or more people, go with the van option which can usually seat 6+ passengers and comfortably carry their luggage.

If you book a taxi through your hotel, the cost is usually around US$10, but can go much higher from the luxury hotels in town.

A Taxi from your Hotel back to the airport should on cost US$5. A van taxi US$8.

BY TUK TUK:

Walk just off the sidewalk outside the airport door to find a group of men shouting “tuk tuk!”

You can get a tuk tuk into Siem Reap’s city center for US$5. Tuk tuks can seat up to four passengers, but they will try to charge you more if you have multiple passengers. Don’t pay more than US$5 TOTAL.

If you book an airport pickup through your hotel, they will usually send a tuk tuk to pick you up. Prices range from free to US$7, so if your hotel is on the higher end, you’re better off getting one from the airport on your own.

BY MOTO:

Motos are available from the taxi stand for US$2. Don’t wear your bag on your back, ask the driver to hold the bag up front or hold it between yourself and the driver. New arrivals are easy targets for bag snatchers, so be especially careful on Motos or when you put your bag down to pay for your transport.


WHERE TO STAY:

There is a huge choice here, every other building seems to be a guesthouse or hotel! It’s true to say that you will definitely get a lot for your money in Cambodia, and Siem Reap is no exception. The majority of the backpacker hostels can be found near the famous ‘Pub Street’ and lining the river.

I found this useful link http://www.talesofasia.com/cambodia-siemreap-guide-stay.htm – it is a bit ‘negative’ but puts things into a ‘nutshell’.


ACCOMMODATION:

JASMINE FAMILY HOSTEL:

Siem Reap - Jasmine Room Siem Reap Road to Angkor WatI booked this one on-line so that I would have somewhere for the first couple of nights. I paid US$12 / night including breakfast. You had a choice of about 10 different breakfasts and each of them was done properly – I had a warm baguette with fried eggs and black coffee.

I do this so that I can check out accommodation without any time pressures and find somewhere nice to stay longer term.

The Jasmine is tucked down a dead-end alley just off of Highway 6. It is a pleasant little place with a swimming pool. The rooms were good value and mine came with a fan, en suite, hot shower, in-room WiFi, and LCD TV with Cable channels.

I would recommend Jasmine for people who don’t want or need to be close to Pub Street or the Night Market. If you do, you will probably want to catch Tuk Tuks back and forth… or find accommodation closer. Otherwise, Jasmine is more convenient for getting to Angkor.

FUNKY FLASHPACKER HOSTEL:

Siem Reap - FunkyF - Double Room Siem Reap - FunkyF - Rooftop Bar ViewFunkyFlash has doubles with fan and hot shower en suite at US$18; discounts are available for longer term stays.

It is primarily for the young but I couldn’t resist booking in for 12 nights.

FunkyFlash is new and within the first 2 months of opening it rose to #2 on Tripadvisor. And, it did so with good reason… it’s funky!

Daily life revolves around the pool where modern music starts to blare out at 11am and keeps going until about 5-6pm. Hung-over youngster lounge around the pool on bean bags breaking there laziness with the odd plunge into the pool. Over-looking the pool from the 1st and 2nd floor are seating areas where you can cool down under a fan.

Siem Reap - FunkyF - Pool AreaSiem Reap - FunkyF - Fanned SeatingAs the music gets toned down around the pool it gets ramped up in the Rooftop Bar… all designed to draw clientele away from the pool towards the bar.

As Funky Flashpacker is in a residential area, the music then gets toned down on the roof at 9pm to a more ‘background’ volume level.

This place has something special about it… a winning formula.

When I was there the pool was in action for the first 5 days but then ‘closed for maintenance’ for the next 4 days. There were power outages in Siem Reap over those 5 days and the generator couldn’t support the pool as well as all of the aircon in the rooms. Without the pool atmosphere, the place struggled to maintain its vibe.

In addition, their internet was sporadic and, if you need to do some serious internet surfing, unusable for much of the day. If you want to stream video, forget it for most of the time. If you want to upload pictures to an internet drive, be prepared to labour and retry for hours.

Hopefully, management can get on top of these issues. If they can, this place is going to be one of the top places to stay in Siem Reap – for a very long time.


Booking.com




TRANSPORT:

Foreigners cannot rent scooters in Siem Reap; not even if you have an international driving permit / license. You need to have a Cambodian Driving License.

Gearless ‘basket’ bicycles can be rented for US$1 / day but check them out thoroughly first as some can be a bit shoddy. You can get a good one for this price so shop around. Don’t pay more.

Good mountain bikes or 5 gear bicycles can be rented for US$2 / day. Don’t pay more.

I rented an old (but OK) 5 gear bicycle for 10 days for US$1 / day. I had to pay in advance and leave my ID Card (Driving License) with them.

Otherwise, a Moto will take you anywhere in town for US$0.50 or US$0.75-1.00 at night. Double that for a Tuk Tuk.


WHERE TO EAT:

There are plenty of little cafes (many run my expats) that compete for the Breakfast market. With a French background to Cambodia, it is not surprising to find many do a warm Baguette based breakfast.

Siem Reap - Taste For Life - Cafe Siem Reap - Taste For Life - Eggs MenuIt is easy to find a ‘warm baguette and 2 fried eggs with butter and jam’ breakfast for US$1.

You pay US$1.50 if you want a little more (such as a slice of ham with it).

For US$2, you have lots of tasty options.

At my favourite little breakfast cafe, I usually bought a 1.5L large water next door for 50c, had Baguette and Fried Eggs, and a couple of 50c black coffees; total cost US$2.50.

Siem Reap - Chicken Noodle Soup US$1Siem Reap - Yellow Noodle Soup $1.50Local eateries still exist in the side streets.

You also have Hawkers on the sides of the roads.

In these you can get simple meals (like a noodle soup with chicken or pork) for US$1, fried noodles with meat for US$1.50 and fried rice with meat for US$1.50.

Siem Reap - Cashew Nut Chicken Noodle w Pineapple ShakeSiem Reap - Pork Curry w RiceFor US$2 you can get something a bit fancier.

I had a tasty Yellow Noodle Cashew Nut and Pork dish for US$1.75.

At another place I got a Pork Curry with Rice for US$2.

Siem Reap - Cambodian Chicken Curry w Rice Siem Reap - Mussuman w RiceCloser to Pub Street, the prices go up (and usually the size, quality, and value for money come down).

You are now talking about US$3 for the cheapest meal on the menu.

Something like a Tom Kha Gai or a Mussuman Curry or a Cambodian Chicken Curry will cost you US$3-4 including rice.

Siem Reap - Tom Kha Gai & Rice $3Siem Reap - Typical $3 MealWhen you get to Pub Street itself (and its immediate surrounds), expect to pay premium prices. It’s all about location… not quality.

The reality is that, if they are offering a 50c draft beer, it usually means that their food is poor value for money.

FUNKY FLASHPACKER:

Siem Reap - FunkyF - Mash w Mushroom w Bacon Siem Reap - FunkyF - Rooftop SeatingThey have, what I would say is, an average priced menu.

One day I had their ‘special’ Mashed Potato with Mushroom & Bacon. At US$3.50, I thought that it was too small and poor value for money.

Siem Reap - FunkyF - Funky Burger w C&B $5 Siem Reap - FunkyF - Tom Yam Gai w Rice $4There normal menu items are better value for money. On another night I had their Bangers & Mash for US$4.50; it was tasty (especially the real sausages).

There are many other dishes that looked good and on sundays they do a US$8 roast.

WESTERN CAFES & RESTAURANTS:

Siem Reap - Jungle Burger Bacon w Blue Cheese Siem Reap - My Little CafeThe Jungle Burger Cafe was recommended to me by an expat as being the ‘best burger in town’.

I found it just over the river from Pub Street.

I had a Bacon & Blue Cheese Gourmet Burger with Wedges and dip for US$7 (including a free draft beer). That isn’t far off of NZ prices for a Gourmet Burger…

You usually pay a premium in these expat places – where mains tend to sit in the US$7-US$10 range.

At My Little Cafe (near Funky Flashpacker) I had Chicken Cordon Bleu for US$4 and a Thai Beef Salad for US$3 with a large beer for US$2.


WHERE TO DRINK:

For 50-75c you can get fresh juices and shakes on any street.

Pub Street:

Siem Reap - 50c BeersSiem Reap - Pub StreetPub Street is the drinking part of town where you can get 50c Happy Hour beers and US$1 shots.

You see a few senior people there but, basically, it is a young person’s game where drinking to excess is the norm.

You know when you are approaching the Pub Street area – the Tuk Tuk drivers let you know… They usually just call out ‘Tuk Tuk?’. As you get closer to Pub Street the sequence goes:

  • Tuk Tuk Driver: ‘Tuk Tuk?’ – You: ‘No Thankyou’
  • Tuk Tuk Driver: ‘Lady Boom Boom?’ – You: ‘No Thankyou’
  • Tuk Tuk Driver: ‘Marijuana?’ – You: ‘No Thankyou’

Sometimes there’s a 4th question asked but I have never caught what they are saying – I have walked too far past them by then. It could be them telling me to ‘F*** off then’ or an offer that I am still best to refuse.

I don’t know who Lady Boom Boom is but she is very popular in Cambodia. Perhaps a local rock star? Perhaps, their equivalent of Lady Ga Ga?

The police closed Pub Street down for a week recently because of ‘noise pollution’… so, they have ‘toned it down’ a little bit.

I went to check it out for this blog but, otherwise, it was not my scene. I like a more intimate type of environment where I am not getting ripped off.

The (upstairs) Triangle Bar has a lot of live bands and charges US$1.75 for a draft beer. Outside the Triangle Bar, in the early evening, a little kiosk sells some yummy Cambodian-style Doner Kebabs for US$1 – ideal for a quick snack.

Siem Reap - Downtown - $1 Doner Kebab

AROUND TOWN:

There are many more intimate bars on the fringes of Pub Street. I would suggest that, once GRANDPAckers have ‘done Pub Street’ a couple of times (and gotten over it), these peripheral bars would become more of a regular haunt.

I quite liked the look of Mikey’s Night Bar… it has a couple of pool tables (which was why I went there – I love my pool / snooker), a flat screen TV at the bar (showing sports), and Cambodian girls hanging around for those who want company and a game of pool. Don’t be fooled, some of those girls play a mean game of pool! Happy Hour ends at 9pm, so you can get draft beers for 75c up until then.

Lesson Learnt: In places like Mikey’s, it doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a lady or not. When the girl that you just played pool with starts to throw her arms around you and grab your man boobs… it’s time to get out! I found out later that Mikey’s is one of the few prostitute bars left in the centre of town! Oops… time to find another ‘local’ with a pool table…

Walk about 1-2kms away from Pub Street (in any direction) to find more little pubs down the side streets. Many of which are worth a try… and many have the potential of becoming your ‘local’.

FUNKY FLASHPACKER:

Many guesthouses have their own restaurant / bar. Some of these are as good as any that you will find out on the streets. Many of them have Happy Hours.

Siem Reap - FunkyF - Roof BarSiem Reap - FunkyF - Rooftop SeatingBetween 4pm and 7pm there is a Happy Hour in the Funky Flashpacker Rooftop Bar with ‘2 for 1’ cocktails, US$1 shots, and 50c draft beers.

Hendrich, the bar manager’s speciality is Jager Bombs for US$1.50 (or 4 for US$5 or 20 for US$20 or 100 for US$80). Stick around to see him do his ‘domino’ trick with them – it’s usually very late at night / early morning – when things are ‘humming’. When you get 100 for US$80, he sets up the domino to go the whole length of the bar!

You don’t have to be a resident at these places to drink at the bars, so why not pop in and give one a try.


GENERAL COSTS:

LOCAL CAFES: Iced water or Tea with you meal US$0.

RESTAURANTS: Western Meals average US$7.50.

SUPERMARKETS: 170ml DEET Spray US$5.20. 700ml bottle Baroso Whiskey US$2.70.

LOCAL SHOPS: 1.5L Bottle of Water US$0.50. 1.5L Bottle of Water Refill US$0.25.

OTHER: Man’s haircut US$2.


YOUR HEALTH & SAFETY – DRUG SCENE:

DRIVING:

When you come to the realisation that there are no rules, then everything is OK.

The traffic looks chaotic but everyone is actually trying not to hit anyone else, so they do slow down to avoid you (and use their brakes as and when they must!).

The traffic around town is going too slow to be of any real danger to you (as long as you pay attention).

THE LOCALS:

Police are coming down on crime very hard in Siem Reap. I have heard of thieves getting 2 years in jail for stealing an iPhone and 5 years for burglary.

CONTACT LENSES:

There is a lot of dust in the air and one expat told me that he can’t wear contact lenses anymore – it became a danger to his eyesight.

DRUG SCENE:

I heard that 8oz of top quality marijuana (heads) costs US$20. At that price, there’s bound to be a drug scene. The trouble is that there are harder drugs around too. There are some pretty bad arse expats around town as a result; they are best avoided. Keep you nose clean.

The drug scene seems very low key. I would imagine that you will find some marijuana smoking going on in quiet corners of the backpacker hostels but I didn’t smell any on the streets.

Perhaps this is also because of the police crack down in the area.


ENTERTAINMENT:

OLD / NIGHT MARKET:

The Old / Night Market is pretty self explanatory, in fact it’s the heart of Siem Reap. Everyone flocks here from locals to foreigners alike. Alas, it has become a bit of a tourist trap; bargain hard. If you really need to buy something, you are best to get out on Road 60 (see below).

There is also a wet market and an open air food court at the back of the market.

SPORTS BARS:

There are several Sports Bars around the centre of town for those he need to get their regular fill of Soccer, Aussie Rules, and Rugby.


ANGKOR WAT:

Let’s face it, Angkor Wat is what it’s all about and the main focus of any trip to Siem Reap. Temple Opening Hours are 5:30am to 5:30pm.

By Bicycle

From the Pub Street area of town, it is about:

  • 6km to Angkor Wat
  • 8km to Angkor Thom

If cycling, it is easy to notch up 20 km in 1 day… so, plan each day. Given the distances, you should consider getting a good bike with gears.

Read here for more information.

By Tuk Tuk

The ‘Mini Tour’ takes in Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom as far as The North Gate. The going rate for a Tuk Tuk to take you around (and wait for you at each Temple) is US$15. If you negotiate well, you can get this down to US$12. A typical tour starts at 9am and ends at 3pm.

The ‘Big Tour’ takes you further for a standard rate of US$20. If you negotiate well, you can get this down to US$15.

Either tour can incorporate a sunrise or a sunset for that price. If you want to incorporate both, add US$5.


ROAD 60 EAST OF ASPARA ROAD:

This is where the locals go.

Siem Reap - Road 60 - Clothes Stalls Siem Reap - Road 60 - StallsBoth sides of the road are lined with stalls (many clothing) selling goods at proper local prices (but, you will still need to negotiate as they’ll still put the starting price up because you are a ‘rich foreigner’).

On the south side of the road is a string of local eateries and entertainment for the children (like bounce castles).

Most of the eateries do a Cambodian BBQ. This is where you have a central gas hot plate on the table and you cook your own meat and vegetables.

Siem Reap - Road 60 - BBQ CookingSiem Reap - Road 60 - BBQYou can choose which plates of goodies you get to cook. You pay by the plate.

There were 3 of us eating and we had 6 cans of beer, 4 plates of beef, 2 plates of squid, 1 plate of prawns, 1 plate of bacon, and a basket of vegetables. All up, we paid US$25.

Apparently, there is a place where you pay a fixed price of US$5 for a ‘as much as you ca eat’ BBQ. Alas, I was unable to pinpoint exactly where it is. However, if you ask a friendly Cambodian, they may be able to tell you.

The Cambodian BBQ was a really nice change and an excellent way to eat. I would highly recommend that you give one a try.


VISA EXTENSIONS:

VISA AGENTS:

You can extend you visa by going down to your local immigration office or by using a Visa Agent. There are many such agents around and their rates are only a little more than doing it yourself (without the hassle!):

  • One (1) month extension: US$48-50 (good for single entry only)
  • Three (3) months extension: US$78-80 (good for single entry only)
  • Six (6) months extension: US$159 (good for multiple entry within the period of extension)
  • One (1) year extension: US$289 (good for multiple entry within the period of extension)

“Single-entry” means that within the period of extension you may leave the territory of Cambodia and go in again only once. “Multiple-entry” means  that within the period of extension you may leave and re-enter the territory of Cambodia an unlimited number of times.

An expat (married to a Cambodian girl and living in Siem Reap for the last 10 years) recommended Sopheak Na Travel. She is known for charging honest prices for visa renewals and doing a good job on them.

NUMBER OF EXTENSIONS:

After I have extended my Tourist Visa and I still want to stay longer after the end of its allowable period of stay, can I extend it again for the second time?

A Cambodian Tourist Visa can only be extended once. That means, if you had already extended your Tourist Visa it can no longer be extended again. You will need to exit Cambodia and get a new Tourist Visa or an Ordinary Visa (also referred to as “Business Visa”) when you re-enter.

If you anticipate a longer period of stay, it is wiser to change your first (unextended) Tourist Visa, before its expiry date, into an Ordinary Visa which can give up to 12 months of allowable stay in Cambodia.


WHEN TO GO:

Dry season is peak season: November to April.


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