The temples of Angkor and the adjoining town of Siem Reap lie 200 miles northwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital. A quiet provincial town just a decade ago, Siem Reap has exploded in size. But its axis remains the Old Market area along the banks of the Siem Reap River, which flows south into the Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in southeast Asia. The old colonial quarter and a majority of the better hotels, restaurants, and shops are to be found within a few blocks of the river. The protected Angkor archaeological zone begins three miles to the north and sprawls across 150 square miles of skillet-flat plains occasionally punctuated with small, temple-topped hills. The airport is a ten-minute drive to the west along National Highway 6, a two-lane blacktop lined with cookie-cutter hotels catering to package tourists.
WHEN TO GO
The mobs are thickest in the cooler winter months (DecemberMarch). November is ideal: The rains have ended, the landscape is lush, yet the tourist crush hasn't begun. April is the hottest, driest month; the wet season spans May through October, though the deluge doesn't usually begin until September. Even then, the rains don't normally fall all day, so Angkor can be enjoyed with only a fraction of the crowds. Secondary roads may become muddy quagmires, however, hindering travel to the more remote attractions. Prices tend to drop about 25 percent during this low season.
HOW TO GET THERE
There are no direct flights from the United States to Cambodia; the best bet is to fly nonstop to Bangkok and switch to a Bangkok Airways (www.bangkokair.com) flight to Siem Reap (REP) or connect via Singapore on Silk Air (www.silkair.com). There are also connections through Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh City. Tourist visas for Cambodia, good for a 30-day stay, cost $20 and are issued at the Siem Reap airport upon arrival. Bring a passport photo to avoid the $2 picture-taking charge. From Siem Reap airport, a taxi into town costs about $7; or take a moto (motorbike taxi) for $2. There is also a $25 departure tax. All fees can be paid with U.S. dollars.
To get around, the most popular option is to hire a car and driver ($20 per day), SUV (about $60 per day), or moto (about $7 per day). Ask your hotel to recommend a rental agency or tuk tuk driver, who will wheel you around in a covered, two-wheeled coach attached to the back of his motorcycle. For more information and tips on visiting the temples, see the See + Do section.
The de facto tender here is the U.S. dollar, so don't bother exchanging a lot of money. Merchants prefer clean, untorn currency; anything other than crisp bills may not be accepted. Cambodia's currency, the riel, is usually given as change or reserved for small expenses.View Cambodia Factsheet