After years of much unrest, Cambodia has undergone economic growth and rapid development since the early 1990s. An important part of this process is its tourism in dus try, which has experienced a major boom. The credit for this is largely due to the rich cul tural heritage of Angkor, and the millions of visitors it attracts each year. As a result, the sleepy town of Siem Reap, serving as a gate way to Angkor, has transformed into a bustling tourist town, with lodgings and eateries to suit all pockets. The simple ticket system, easily arranged transport, and new communication facilities have made sightseeing in Angkor a straightforward affair.
Admission Charges and Opening Hours To gain access to the Angkor archaeological complex, visitors need to buy a pass from the booth at the main entrance (open 5am–6pm daily). The ticket ing system here might seem a bit expensive at first glance but offers good value for money, especially because part of the funds go toward the pre ser vation of Angkor’s many historic monuments. Three types of passes are available, each allowing entry into all the monuments in the complex except Phnom Kulen, Koh Ker, and Beng Melea, for which extra charges apply. Choices range from a one-day pass for US$20; a three-day pass for US$40 to be used within one week; and a seven-day pass for US$60 to be used within one month. Children under 12 can enter free on presentation of their passport. A passport-size photograph has to be provided along with the entry fee to create an iden tity pass. You can carry your own picture or have one taken at the admission booth. Passes must be shown at each site.
Tourist Information The privately-owned Tourism Information Office in Siem Reap, in a white building on Pokambor Avenue, is not particularly helpful except for making bookings. More useful, and in the same building, is the Khmer Angkor Tour Guide Association, which offers cars for rent, along with licensed English-speaking drivers. The Tourism of Cambodia website is also informative. The quarterly publication Siem Reap Angkor Visitors Guide provides up-to-date travel- related information to visitors and includes shopping, transport, hotel, and restaurant listings. It is available free online (canbypublications.com/ siemreap/srhome.htm) or at many hotels across town. Orphanage visits in Siem Reap are popular with tourists, but be aware that these often cause more harm than good and can be an outright scam. Visit the information centers or website of the local NGO ConCERT (concertcambodia.org), as well as www.thinkchildsafe.org/ thinkbeforevisiting if you really want to help.
Where to Stay Today, the variety of lodgings in Siem Riep is wide, from five- star luxury such as Raffles Grand Hotel D’Ankor (see p241) to family-run hotels with basic amenities and well-equipped, reasonably priced guesthouses. Visitors who have not opted for a pre-booked tour will find plenty of information regarding accommo dation at the airport. Many touts also hover around the airport, but it is wise to exercise caution when dealing with them – scam artists are not rare. Most establishments, even down to the humblest guesthouses, will send a car and driver to meet you at the airport. Another easier and often substantially cheaper option is to book online. Note that room rates usually fluctuate between expensive during peak season from November to March, to very cheap during the low season from May to November.
Where to Eat The assortment and quality of cuisines available in Siem Reap is varied enough to suit all tastes, ranging from Thai, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Chinese to French, Indian, American, and Italian. There are many reason a bly priced restau- rants, especially near Psar Chaa. This area is also full of street food vendors, serving local fare. Most guesthouses have small cafés, while the larger hotels boast fine restaurants. Most can pack picnic baskets as well if asked.
Personal Health and Security Cambodia is a poor country, and not particularly advanced in healthcare. In almost any serious situation, it makes sense to be evacuated for treatment to nearby Bangkok. However, with proper precautions most visitors have a safe and healthy stay. Drink only bottled water, eat well- cooked food, avoid ice, and be sure to wash your hands before eating. To avoid dehydration, heat exhaustion, and even heatstroke when visiting Angkor, carry bottled mineral water and wear a hat or headscarf. Avoid going out during the hottest part of the day. Malaria is present in parts of Cambodia, including Angkor, and travelers can take a prophylactic. Other risks are dengue fever, hepatitis, and rabies. Ask your doctor about immunization requirements before you travel. STDs and AIDS are also prevalent in Cambodia. Unexploded mines are a serious concern in Siem Reap. Tourists should steer clear of areas off the well-beaten path, and stay close to their guides. Personal security in Angkor can be taken care of by apply- ing common sense. Avoid dark and remote areas, do not wear too much jewelry or revealing clothes in the case of women, and leave valuable items in the hotel safe. Tourist police and guards are stationed at points throughout the complex.
Banking and Currency The Cambodian currency is the riel, worth approximately 4,000 to the US dollar. Riel notes come in denominations from 50r to 100,000r, though even the latter is worth only around US$25. However, visitors to Angkor infrequently need to use the riel since, for many tourist transactions, the US dollar is the preferred currency. Failing this, the Thai bhat is often acceptable in Siem Reap. Still, it is a good idea to keep some change in riel handy for giving small tips or buying very cheap items. There are several banks in Siem Reap, offering facilities for exchanging currency and cashing traveler’s checks. Banking hours are generally 9am–4pm Monday to Friday. Major credit cards are widely accepted, and can be used to obtain a cash advance from a bank. ATMs, are another source of cash, including US dollars.
Communications Cambodia has good mobile phone coverage. International roaming charges tend to be high but visitors can obtain a SIM for one of the seven local service providers to avoid these. Most phone shops will need to see a passport with a valid visa before issuing a SIM. Wi-Fi is plentiful and affordable, and there are no government restrictions on Internet access. Many hotels, guesthouses and cafés offer free Wi-Fi. For postal and courier services, visitors can head to the main post office in town, or agen cies such as DHL and EMS.
Disabled Travelers There are presently virtually no special facilities for disabled travelers anywhere in Angkor. Many of the new luxury hotels, however, are making an effort to become better equipped to meet the needs of those who require special assistance.