Cambodia is known as the Kingdom of Wonder and now that I’ve seen the Angkor temples for myself I couldn’t agree more. After 10 days in Vietnam we headed to Cambodia and were completely blown away by its beauty and history. In this post I’ve compiled some important tips that you will need to know before arriving in Siem Reap and crossing the border into Cambodia—I hope you find them helpful!
Visa Requirements for Cambodia
Most travelers are required to obtain a visa when visiting Cambodia. Normally flight attendants will provide entry and departure forms to fill out during your flight. Once you arrive at the airport you will need to get in line at the visa application desk, fill out and submit the application form (see below), provide your passport and a passport sized photo, and pay the $30 fee. After a few minutes you will receive your passport and it should contain your tourist visa. Once you’ve got the visa you’ll need to go through border control, provide your passport, your entry form, and scan your fingerprints. And that’s it!
Extra tips for getting your tourist visa in Cambodia:
- Keep in mind you’re expected to pay cash in USD but I paid in Euros (I’m not sure about other currencies).
- It’s cheaper to get a “tourist visa” ($30 instead of $35) however they charged me for a regular visa…not sure why? See if you can save $5!
- You can get an e-visa ahead of time online.
- If you plan to get your visa at the airport make sure to bring 2 passport sized photos.
- You should save your departure form for when you leave Cambodia (they usually staple it to your passport when you enter the country).
Cost of visiting Siem Reap
Cambodia can work for both budget conscious or luxury travelers. The country has its own currency, but American Dollars (USD) are expected and accepted everywhere. In Siem Reap you’ll find accommodation ranging from hostels to luxury hotels and everything in between. Keep in mind Cambodia is considered a third world country and one third of the population lives off less than a dollar a day. Most of the population earns less than $150 a month too. Meals in town will cost you $6 or less, and a half pint of Angkor beer goes for $0.50 to $1.00. In the countryside people are extremely poor, so I assume meals will cost even less if you venture outside of Siem Reap.
Tuk Tuks around town are also cheap; it cost us $3 from our hotel to the center (10 minute ride). If you’re not sure what to pay for a Tuk Tuk ask the people working at your hotel/hostel/guest house so you don’t overpay. Similar to Vietnam tipping it is not customary for locals, but it is expected from tourists in hotels, massage parlors, and some restaurants. There’s not a set tipping amount in Cambodia so we tipped 5% – 10% most of the time.
If you’re looking to spend the minimum (after flights, temple tickets, and accommodation are set) I would say you could definitely make a daily budget of $25 or less work while visiting Siem Reap.
Where to stay & things to do in Siem Reap
My advice is to find a place that is within a 10 to 15 minute drive of Pub Street. Pub Street is the commercial center and nightlife scene of Siem Reap. You’ll find the night market nearby too. When you’re not exploring temples you’ll probably head to this area for drinks, dinner and dancing so why not stay close by?
At night Pub Street is crawling with young locals and tourists and you’ll find tons of restaurants, shops, bars and clubs to enjoy. This is also a good spot for picking up Tuk Tuks.
You’ll find tons of shops on and around Pub Street and the night market is just a 5 minute walk away. The market opens every night at 5pm to 12am. Haggling with shopkeepers is normal and expected; I usually start at half of what they ask for and meet in the middle. People are accustomed to haggling so just smile, be polite, and walk away if they won’t lower to your price. You can probably find the same thing somewhere else, or come back to that shop if you don’t! 😉
There are lots of cool items to buy at the market; my favorites were the wrap pants ($3-$5), silk wrap pants ($7), and wallets made from recycled cement bags ($3). You’ll also find good quality knockoffs in “outlet” shops along Pub Street—they claim to be the real brand (like North Face), but I find it hard to believe they can do a “buy one get one free” sale if they’re selling real brand items.
Many tourists get massages during their time in Cambodia too. After walking around on your feet all day it’s the perfect way to pamper yourself. In Vietnam and Cambodia I paid around $15 – $20 for a two-hour massage. I’d recommend giving your a masseuse a $5 tip too (in cash).
Extra tips for visiting Siem Reap
- Tuk Tuks are the most popular mode of transport in Siem Reap and they’re extremely cheap. Before jumping into one however, you will need to agree on the price with the driver first. In my experience the drivers won’t try to rip you off, but they will try to get a few more bucks out of you if possible. You should ask the employees at your hotel/hostel/rental what the average cost is for a Tuk Tuk to and from the center. When negotiating prices with drivers stick to the amount you know is fair and don’t budge; there are tons of Tuk Tuks to choose from so you won’t have an issue finding one for the right cost. Keep in mind the price shouldn’t change based on the amount of people in your group either.
- Don’t talk about Cambodia’s politics while you’re there—the current political party is a “constitutional monarchy” but in reality it’s more like a mafia or dictatorship. You could put locals (and yourself) at risk by discussing politics in a negative way, so I would avoid it completely.
- Hotels tend to be cheaper in off-season (summer) if you’re looking to save money.
- If you’re interested in trying local dishes order Amok (fish) or Lok Lak (beef) – they’re delicious!
- Don’t drink tap water—stick to bottled water.