An alternative to bus or plane from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (or the other way round) could be the Express Boat. I paid 35 USD for the trip in November 2008, and the journey took around 6 hours. The Express Boat had very little comfort inside, there was no room for your legs, and most passengers climbed on the roof of the boat. You have a really nice view from the roof, but you must be a little careful when climbing up because there are no railings on the sides of the boat. Remember sunscreen, sunglasses, and maybe a jacket if it’s a windy day. As an indoor entertainment, 2-3 DVD-movies were shown on a small TV screen – only visible for the first 5 rows...
The journey began on the Tonlé River and this part of the trip was quite interesting; beautiful nature, birds, small villages, and fisher boats. The last couple of hours before arriving Siem Reap, you are sailing on the Tonlé Lake - and it is more like sailing on an ocean than a lake. However, sunshine and fresh air is always a great alternative to a long bus ride.
The port of Siem Reap is located 20-30 minutes from the city centre, but transport only costs a few dollars – and the port is crowded with taxi drivers, tuk-tuk drivers, and moto-drivers.
The Siem Reap Airport is small and compact but clean and very modern, more modern than the airport in Phnom Penh even. The airport is located 7km out of town and is easy to access via taxi or tuk tuk. There are restaurants, gift shops and all the amenities you would normally expect at any major airport including Duty Free. Siem Reap and Phnom Penh airports are the two international gateways into Cambodia. And if you're planning to move from Cambodia to Northern Vietnam, air travel is the fastest way to Hanoi and it's not a very expensive ticket.
Just a heads up, all international travelers are required to pay a $25US departure tax at the airport prior to leaving the country via air. This fee can be paid in either cash or by credit card.
Siem Reap - Angkor International Airport is the second largest airport in Cambodia. It has frequent flights from Phnom Penh International Airport as well as direct flights to/from Laos (Pakse | Vientiane), Korea (Incheon), Singapore, Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), Taiwan (Kaohsiung | Taipei), Thailand (Bangkok | U-Tapao) and Vietnam (Danang | Ho Chi Minh City).
The airport is less than 15 minutes by car from the center of town. A moto should only cost $1. Visa on Arrival is available for $20 (payable in US dollars) and a single color photo. International departure tax is a steep $25.
There are 2 airlines flying this sector:
Silkair (daughter company of Singapore Airlines) is the only full service airline to fly direct to Siem Reap from Singapore. The return journey involves a stopover at Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia.
Jetstar Asia (daughter company of Qantas) is the only budget airline to fly direct to Siem Reap from Singapore.
if travelling from siem reap to phnom penh or visa versa make sure to book on the Mekong Express VIP bus at about $12 each way. it is the most comfortable bus with an onboard assistance and onboard PROPER toilet.
we made the mistake to be talked into travelling by Paramount VIP bus at $5.50 each way and it was a total disaster. the seats are torn, the ac is working, but the vents are broken so you cannot direct the ac.
the worst part was the "toilet" you have to go down a metal ladder in the goods loading section of the bus which is full of motorcycles, boxes and luggage. headroom was about 5feet(about 1.3 metres) and then you have to squeeze sideways into the toilet area, the door cannot be opened fully because of the buckets of water behind the door. there is no way you can reach the toilet bowl so the best you can do is to use one of the bowls from the buckets of water and throw the contents in the direction of the toiletbowl. spend the extra $6 and travel Mekong Express, you will save the extra cost on soiled clothes trying to get to the "toilet"
OK, so the temples of Angkor cover a vast area of some 400 square kilometres. So what's the best way of getting around to see them? Well I first bought a 3-day pass for $40 so I had enough time to see the majority of them and certainly the most important and well known of them plus some a little further away. This is what I did:
Day 1: I hired a bicycle from a place just down the road from where I stayed in Siem Reap and cycled all the way to the entrance gate that's located along the main road that leads from the town to Angkor Wat. I then got my pass and cycled up to Angkor Wat which is about 6km from Siem Reap, so bear this in mind. After visiting this, I then cycled north and into Angkor Thom and cycled around this in order to see the Bayan temple, Baphuon Temple, Elephant Terrace, entrance gates, and finally Preah Khan which is just outside the northern gate of Angkor Thom. I then cycled back in the early evening when it was getting dark. This is quite a tuff days sightseeing by bike but I managed to do it and I'm hardly Lance Armstrong!
Day 2: I hired a tuk-tuk driver from my hotel in order to visit the temple to the east of Angkor Thom which included Pre Rup, Banteay Kdei, Ta Prohm (where parts of the Tomb Raider film were shot), Ta Keo, and a couple just outside the eastern gate. This cost me $15.
Day 3: I hired the same tuk-tuk driver and first visited the Roluos Group of temples which are located about 13km east of Siem Reap. I then got the driver the take me all the way north so that I could visit Banteay Srey and Banteay Samre which are located a fair way northeast of Angkor Wat. This cost me $30.
The main bus station is situated outside Siem Reap at the taxi-park though many bus companies will offer to pick you up and ferry you out to the bus station. Many of them are located near the old market and I took a bus from the Capitol bus office to the bus station and then transferred onto another waiting bus bound for Phnom Penh. We then left at about 9.30am and stopped for lunch on the way in some cattle shed of a place at the silly time of 10.50am! We then arrived in Phnom Penh at the Capitol Tours office at about 3.30pm. The bus cost $5.25.
If you arrive in Siem Reap from Battambang on the very scenic fast boat then you'll arrive at the Chong Khmeas ferry dock which is about 10km south of Siem Reap. From here, you can take a tuk-tuk into Siem Reap itself. The tuk-tuks are actually called a "remorque-moto" and can be best described as a motorcycle towing a chariot and are great fun.
The Siem Reap International Airport is just a few kilometres away from Siem Reap and the Angkor monuments, which makes it very convenient. This was a new and small airport when I was there in November 2009, and there were a few eateries and souvenir shops inside.
The problem with Siem Reap is there are not many flights going there, so you need to plan ahead and book your tickets in advance. This is especially during the cooler and drier season between November to February (which is the peak tourist season). For me, I took a flight from Singapore to Siem Reap via the budget airlines Jetstar Asia (via Phnom Penh).
More photos of the airport is at the travelogue section of this VT page.
If you want to visit the Angkor Monuments, the best and cheapest way is by the local Tuk Tuk (carriages pulled by motorcycles). The official Tuk Tuk drivers will wear a vest with their numbers stated at the back of the vest, so this is controlled and safe.
Usually, the driver will charge by per Tuk Tuk per day, and each Tuk Tuk can take about 3 persons to be comfortable. The cost per day is quite affordable (see below), and the driver will send you to each of the monuments of your choice, wait for you to hop-on and going to the next monument and so-on. This is a very flexible way to get around, and it is a very good and relaxing experience.
When I was there in November 2009, my Tuk Tuk driver was Mr Heanh (see photos). He is a nice and honest person who speaks English, experienced and will guide you to the major monuments. If you are interested, you can contact Mr Heanh when you are in Siem Reap. His contact number is tel: 092-835-719 and his Tuk Tuk number is S20 (unfortunately, he does not have an email address). His charges per day is as follows:
- US$15 for Angkor Wat, Angkor Thum City and nearby monuments such as Ta Prohm, Ta Keo.
- US$20 for the above monuments, plus those in the Grand Circuit such as Sras Srang, Pre Rup, East Mebon, Ta Som, Neak Pean & Preah Khan.
- US$25 for further away monuments such as Banteay Srei (about 40km away).
Please note that the above rates does not include a guide. Mr Heanh will only tell you basic information e.g. names of the monuments and which era they were built). If you hire a guide (which I did not), I was told it is about US$40 per day. There are various guides who can speak various languages very fluently!
Besides walking, the best way (and safe, experiencing the wind as well) to get around Siem Reap is by the Tuk Tuk (carriages pulled by motorcycles). There are Tuk Tuk everywhere, and you can get one easily along the road or at your accomodation.
Before going off, please negotiate with the driver about the price. The normal rate is US$1 per person anywhere within Siem Reap city, and around US$5 to the Siem Reap International Airport.
As for full day trips to the Angkor monuments, they will cost between US$15 to 25 per Tuk Tuk per day, depending on the distance of the monuments. Please see my "Tuk Tuk to Angkor Monuments & Beyond" tip for more information.
will offer you free transportation
via a tuk tuk.
If it's raining or extremely hot,
you may opt to hire a car with a driver.
We were fortunate to the service of Mr. Samreth
who took good care of us.
His car was comfortable and when ever it rained,
he pulled out the umbrellas from the trunk.
He also provided us with fresh facial cloths
after each visit of the temples
while under the humid heat.
He was kind and provided us with GREAT service!
I just returned from Cambodia and I found that the service of Bangkok Airways is really outstanding. I came to Siem Reap from Tokyo via Bangkok. As my baggage was ticketed only to Bangkok I suppoused that inmigration and customs were a must in order to check for my next flight to Cambodia. Surprise! After leaving my Japan Airlines flight I looked for Bangkok Airways counter inside the terminal ( follow the indications of transfer or connections, or ask if you feel unsure) it is well at the end of the new airport. When I got their desk I simple let them know my baggage tag and they did the rest. I have a two hour connection, so no problem for them, they located the suitcases and send them directly to the Bangkok Airways plane. So if you are not in a hurry and the first airline checked your baggages and put it in the correct plane, Bangkok Airlines will help you. Meanwhile, you are invited to a small but comfortable lounge... THAT'S SERVICE!
Going by bike around Siem Reap and to the temples of Angkor is a nice alternative to the tuk-tuks. It's very much cheaper (2$ per day compared to roughly 13$) and you can go whereever you want to in your own tempo. This is an advantage as many of the tuk-tuk drivers think that a tourist's only wish in Siem Reap is to go to the temples immediately. If you just want to drive around town, bad luck...
However, going by bike has a big disadvantage, too. Cambodia's roads are very dusty when it's dry and very muddy when it has rained. Thus, you'll either have your lungs filled with dust or your clothes smeared with mud - or both if you're really unlucky. Once you have left the city for the temples, this will get a lot better as there isn't so much dust anymore and the jungle trees prevent you from getting to wet.
Two more tips: First, take a lot of water with you! It's 6km from central Siem Reap to Angkor, and there are no cold days in Cambodia. Going to further away temples will make you need more water. Second, don't rent a bicycle without a keylock. You will certainly need it.
Bicycles can be rented at basically every hotel or guesthouse.
Tuk-Tuks are the standard way to get around Siem Reap and to the temples of Angkor. Basically a motorbike with a small roofed trailer, these vehicles are found everywhere in Cambodia. In Siem Reap you can catch a tuk-tuk at literally every corner. If you want to use it to go to the temples of Angkor, it might be useful to have the same driver do the job several days in a row - this will make it considerably cheaper. If you want to use it to go around town - hm. Most of the sights are within walking distance in the centre, so you can save a lot of money by just walking.