At 8 a.m. on Thursday, Lin Sampho picked up an Australian tourist from a Siem Reap City hotel to take her to the Angkor Archaeological Park for a morning trek through the site’s ancient temples.
The director of the Private Siem Reap Tour Guide company took one look at his passenger, a woman in her 30s, and suggested that she change her outfit.
“She came out with a tank top and shorts on, and then I had to inform her: ‘You need to bring a jacket,’” Mr. Sampho said. “I said, ‘You need to wear proper dress to see the temples.’”
“She was surprised, like, ‘Oh, really? Wearing a tank top is not allowed to get into the temples?’” he said.
For years, the park’s dress code was loosely applied. But the government body that manages the park announced last month that the rules would be rigidly enforced beginning on Thursday.
According to the Apsara Authority’s Angkor Visitor Code of Conduct, clothing that reveals knees or shoulders is “prohibited in sacred places” at the park.
The stricter enforcement was necessary because visitors had largely ignored the dress code, said Long Kosal, a spokesman for the authority.
Compliance with other aspects of the code—prohibitions against smoking, littering, touching the monuments and speaking loudly—had not been an issue, he said.
The Apsara Authority worked with the park’s ticket office to enforce the rules on visitor attire, and signs detailing the regulations have been posted at travel agencies, hotels and the Siem Reap airport, Mr. Kosal said.
“If we see them dress inappropriately at the ticket center, we will request that they change their clothes or buy something to cover their body,” he said.
The park’s largest monument, Angkor Wat, is regularly ranked among the world’s top tourism destinations. In three separate cases last year, groups of tourists were deported from Cambodia for taking nude photographs at the temples.
“The Angkor area is a sacred place,” Mr. Kosal said. “So there should be no activity, such as dressing inappropriately, that affects the values of the place.”
Mr. Sampho, the tour guide, said the guidelines would help preserve the “quality of the culture” at the site, where tourists are often focused less on decorum and more on keeping cool.
Izzy Trompetas, a 21-year-old tourist from London, said she was asked to wear a shawl to cover up her low-cut top while at the park’s Baphuon temple on Sunday. She said she was unbothered by the request, as it reflected local values.
As long as authorities ensure that tourists are aware of the rules, “it’s alright,” said one of her travel partners, Holly Turner-Flynn, also 21. “Although—it was sweaty.”