I travel through A LOT of airports. In fact, I probably average about 40 flights a year over the past five years, the vast majority of them international. In fact, I took a grand total of 64 flights last year!
So, I often tell you about the fantastic attractions, sights, restaurants, bars, and other venues that I experience when I land and de-plane. But, since the airports and airlines we use to get from Point A to Point B are just as important, I’ll take the time to also share my reviews of airports.
Think that it doesn’t matter which airport you fly out of because they’re all the same? Think again, as you know that’s not true if you’ve ever inadvertently booked a flight out of Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok instead of Suvarnabhumi Airport, or even if you’ve gotten the terminal wrong at Manila’s NAIA airport and had to fight through two hours of city traffic (and missed your flight) to get it right.
Today, I’ll tell you about a recent trip I took to Cambodia, flying in and out of Siem Reap International Airport (airport code REP). In short, it’s one of the nicest small airports you’ll find in the world, as there is certainly a steady stream of tourists and travelers arriving and departing from there, despite the fact that Siem Reap is just a flyspeck of a city.
However, it is the home to Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious monument with scores of temple ruins from the mighty Angkor Empire of the 12th century. Each year, about 2.1 million tourists come to see Angkor Wat and Siem Reap, and a good portion of them fly right into Siem Reap Airport (the other way is to take a long bus ride from Phnom Penh, or an even longer bus from Bangkok or Vietnam).
While it only has one runway, it’s particularly long (8,370 feet) and wide to accommodate larger airplanes. One you land, you’ll be happy that you can walk from your airplane across the tarmac into the airport (instead of taking the bus that no one likes). The structure, itself, is remarkably modern and well-designed, a reflection of the $60 million tourists dollars that flow through Angkor Wat annually in ticket sales alone. The airport is designed with details in traditional Cambodian architecture, as you may see at a temple or the Royal Palace. Inside, there is traditional Khmer (Cambodian) artwork, statues, fountains, and other decorations that speak to the cultural significance of where you are.
The airport is also clean, modern, and convenient throughout. However, many tourists do get a little confused when it comes to the visa requirements once they land. For tourists from most countries, the flight attendants will hand out a standard arrival and departure card form on the flight, which you can fill out ahead of time. However, they often forget to pass out the actual Visa on arrival form for some strange reason, which is just as important. Once you get to immigration and get in the queue, it’s hard to find those forms, and if you get to the counter and you don’t have it, they’ll actually send you away and make you wait in line again!
So make sure you have both of those, and the fee for a visa on arrival is $30, but then they also charge you $2 for a digital photo (which they’ll probably never take). Once you get out of immigration and get your bags, it’s also a good idea to take care of the many kiosks offering local SIM cards and internet/calling packages right there. There are also taxi services for you to book a ride to your hotel in the airport, but they don’t let tuk-tuks congregate at the arrival gate. So just walk outside to the street, and you’ll see plenty of tuk-tuk drivers waiting for you, and a ride to just about any hotel or in central Siem Reap will only be $7.
Enjoy Siem Reap and Angkor Wat!