Indulge in rich Cambodian traditions and culture, visit Angkor Wat which holds the title of the largest religious monument in the world and experience the reality of living in the floating village.
Visiting Siem Reap province and the ancient temples of Angkor Wat truly feels like stepping into an entirely different world or a Tomb Raider movie scene. Figuring as the second largest city in Cambodia, Siem Reap is in fact best known for the complex of 12th century temples, but trust me- there is much more to explore while visiting this mystic place.
Siem Reap is often the only stop people make in Cambodia, and it is surely a key one. If you're an adventurous soul, culture or history lover- Siem Reap must make a cut to your bucket list.
Besides it's incredibly rich culture, the things I love most about Siem Reap are the friendly locals, mysterious architecture and vibrant streets full of crafts and delicious food.
BEST TIME TO VISIT SIEM REAP
The best time to visit Siem Reap is from November until early April which is a dry season in Cambodia.
November, December and January are considered the best months to explore Siem Reap. They usually bring little rainfall and milder temperatures. However, when planning your trip during those months, be aware that this is the peak travel time which means higher prices and more crowds.
April and May are the hottest months with the temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius. Considering how humid Cambodia is in general, travelling in April and May can be a big challenge for many.
Cambodia's wet season is brought by the southwest monsoon which blows from late May to October. It brings approximately three-quarter of Cambodia's annual rainfall.
July, August and September notice the biggest rainfall and are to be avoided if you want a good weather guarantee.
HOW TO GET TO SIEM REAP AND ANGKOR WAT
The most common way to get to Siem Reap is by plane. The airport (REP) is located only 8 kilometres from town and it operates international and domestic flights. Since Cambodia is rather a stop than a final destination, it is a great idea to include it in your itinerary. You can reach Siem Reap from a majority of Asian cities including Singapore, Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Bangkok.
There are no direct flights connecting Siem Reap and the West which means you will need to transit through an Asian hub. The most common direct flights to Siem Reap are from Bangkok, Saigon (HCMC), Phnom Penh, Guangzhou, and Singapore.
Taking a flight to Siem Reap is not your cheapest option, but definitely the quickest and the most convenient.
SKYSCANNER always comes handy in finding the best flight rates!
Traveling by bus is a great budget way to get to Siem Reap, especially from big hubs like Phnom Penh and Bangkok. The ticket prices start at a few dollars per way. Considering there are many carrier companies operating, it's always great to compare the fares and pre-book online.
BOOKAWAY is a great comparison site where you can find your best transport options.
Although boat transfers are mostly chosen by locals, tourists can also reach Siem Reap by ferries that operate daily. The end of the trip is Phnom Krom, near the ferry dock at Chong Khneas around 12 km South of Siem Reap. During the dry season, the ferry stops short of the dock and passengers transfer to smaller boats to traverse the final few hundred meters.
The ticket price is $18-$25 and the journey takes 4-6 hours covering the distance of 251 kilometres.
HOW TO GET AROUND SIEM REAP
The best ways to move around Siem Reap are cars, tuk-tuks or bikes. Tuk-tuk, a two-wheeled carriage pulled by a motorbike, is a traditional local way of transport. To me, it's the best and most iconic way to explore the town and temples!
If you're planning to spend a day exploring Angkor Wat, you should rent a tuk-tuk which is $20-$40. The driver will take you to all the locations you've planned or will suggest the best route. If you haven't booked the driver prior to your trip, your hotel will help you organise it.
Siem Reap is vast and the distances between the temples are too long to walk especially during hot and humid days. If you're travelling on a budget, renting a bike can be your best option as it's only $1/day. Make sure, however, that you have plenty of water and a sunscreen with you. I would never believe how strong Cambodian Sun can be if I wouldn't experience it myself!
Another, and probably most convenient, way of exploring Siem Reap is hiring a car. The rental will cost you $50-$60 for a day.
HOW MANY DAYS TO SPEND IN SIEM REAP
Depending on your schedule and itinerary, the ideal length of stay in Siem Reap should be 3-4 days. You will need at least 2 days to explore the vast area of Angkor and experience the best of it. Ideally, you should also make some time to visit the floating village of Tonle Sap Lake as it's a place like no other. If you can afford an extra day, it's worth having a rest day here in Siem Reap. Explore fiercely, but also find some time to indulge in spa and massage services or simply relax by the pool while staying in Angkor's iconic, yet very affordable, hotels.
WHAT CURRENCY TO BRING TO SIEM REAP
The official currency in Cambodia is the riel (KHR), however American dollars are widely accepted. For 1 USD you can buy approximately 4050 KHR.
Although it's always more accurate to pay and receive change in the local currencies, it's recommended to bring dollars only. Since the country has an unofficial dual currency system, you will be able to pay for hotels, transport, tickets and shopping in USD everywhere in Siem Reap. This will also save you the hassle of exchanging money to riel, which is not always straightforward.
It is a good idea to get USD before your arrival in Cambodia. When exchanging, ask for small denominations as often the change is given in riel. Small notes will also come handy when shopping on the local market or paying for transport.
The ATMs are easy to find in major cities in Cambodia. Most of them dispense USD and charge around $5 per international transaction.
Credit cards are widely accepted by hotels and international chain businesses. You’ll also be able to pay by card in most high-end cafés and restaurants. For smaller and local businesses, tuk-tuks and markets, transactions are usually cash only.
HOW MUCH MONEY DO I NEED TO VISIT SIEM REAP
Except from international flights, there are other costs to cover when visiting Siem Reap.
Visitors from most countries will need a visa to enter Cambodia. Visas are available on arrival at both of Cambodia’s international airports and at all land border crossings. However, if you wish to apply for a visa before your trip, you can do so by submitting your application online.
The visa on arrival costs $30, and the e-visa ¢36.
ANGKOR WAT ENTRANCE FEE
The entrance fee to the Angkor Archaeological Park depends on the type of pass you choose. The prices are per person and your pass can be purchased only in the official ticket office located near Angkor.
- 1-day pass – US$ 37
- 3-day pass – US$ 62
- 7-day pass – US$ 72
DAY TRIPS FROM SIEM REAP
When in Siem Reap you cannot miss places like Tonle Sap and the floating village of Kompong Phluk. Some of the day trips are very affordable and totally worth doing:
- BUDGET: Half-day floating village tour of Kompong Phluk - $20/person
- MEDIUM SPEND: Small group Kompong Phluk village tour with lunch- $30/person
- SPLURGE: Private jeep tour to Tonle Sap, visit to floating village, sunset cruise and food on boat- $60/person
Personally, I can recommend the private tour with the sunset dinner on the boat. Although it may seem pricey, it will guarantee a day full of adventures and eye-opening experiences. Having no big expectations for this trip, it completely exceeded them and to date, it's one of the most memorable travel moments I've had. Totally worth the spend!
TRANSPORT, FOOD, ACCOMMODATION
The low cost of these makes Cambodia a perfect destination for budget travellers. If you rent a bike instead of a taxi, choose a budget hotel and eat street food, your daily budget can be as low as $20-$30 excluding visiting Angkor.
If you, however, want to experience a touch of luxury travelling here in Siem Reap, you should consider $70-$100 dollars a day. This will include a night in a stylish boutique hotel, dinner out and a taxi/tuk-tuk rental.
Last but not least, do not forget about your travel insurance before travelling to Siem Reap! This can be anywhere between $20-$50/person but is always necessary to travel safe.
WHERE TO STAY IN SIEM REAP
Over the past year, meeting the high tourism demand, Siem Reap has hugely developed in terms of hospitality. From glamping experiences to traditional resorts- the choice is great for every budget. These are some of the best and most unique hotels you can book in Siem Reap.
THE BEST LUXURY HOTELS IN SIEM REAP
THE BEIGE | From $250/night | Chic and stylish tents overlooking the river and a spacious infinity pool nestled over the Cambodian jungle. Stay at The Beige for the ultimate glamping experience serving the best service, spa treatments, facilities and game drives. Luxury safari vibes in Cambodia? That's The Beige.
TEMPLATION HOTEL | From $80/night | Minimalistic yet luxurious boutique hotel. Temptation offers a selection of private pool villas nestled in the jungle settings.
TREELINE URBAN RESORT | From $70/night | With its stylish rooftop pool, Treeline Urban Resort offers contemporary rooms at affordable prices.
LA RESIDENCE D'ANGKOR, A BELMOND HOTEL | From $250/night | Surrounded by lush tropical plants, Belmond hotel is an intimate boutique residence designed to blend perfectly with the architecture typical for Siem Reap.
ZANNIER HOTELS PHUM BAITANG | From $500/night | This unique rustic property is a perfect getaway to the countryside. Book one of the gorgeous private pool villas for the best gourmet restaurants and a healing spa, all minutes away from Angkor Wat and vibrant Siem Reap.
MAISON POLANKA | From $150/night | Featuring a unique combination of Cambodian and ancient Khmer wooden houses, Maison Polanka features a stunning infinity pool in the most relaxing lush green settings.
ANANTARA ANGKOR RESORT | From $100/night | Stylish and designed in traditional style Anantara serves high-end amenities, world's class service and free airport and tuk-tuk shuttles.
GREAT BUDGET HOTELS IN SIEM REAP
VIHARA RESIDENCE| From $25/night | Stylish and contemporary budget hotel in Siem Reap
THE NATURE |From $20/night including free airport pickup | Stunning contemporary rooms, suites and a swimming pool at very affordable prices. The Nature is truly a great value for money.
ONEDERZ SIEM REAP| From $8/night | Onederz is a perfect hostel for anyone travelling on a very restricted budget. Located only 300m from Pub Street, Onederz offers affordable breakfast, rooftop swimming pool and cosy amenities which makes it a perfect backpacker's stay.
MAISON 557 | From $25/night including breakfast | Maison 557 offers an affordable and relaxing retreat in Siem Reap. Nestled within a tropical garden, the property features 2 outdoor swimming pools and spa services.
THE GRAND CYCLO BOUTIQUE SUITE AND SPA | From $20/night | Convenient location, rooftop swimming pool, in-house restaurant, free wi-fi and breakfast. Steal!
WHERE TO EAT IN SIEM REAP?
Although Siem Reap is heaven for the street-food lovers, travellers seeking fine-dine experiences and trendy cafes will have their pick too!
THE BEST VEGETARIAN, VEGAN AND ORGANIC FOOD IN SIEM REAP
-VIBE CAFE- 100% vegan, plant based, organically sourced, nutritious and health-focussed. Vibe Cafe is all about beautifully-looking delicious meals and stylish interiors!
-CHAKMAR VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT- Rated high for its pleasant atmosphere, beautiful garden settings, lovely hosts and phenomenal vegetarian food.
-GREEN GO GARDEN- Delicious food and stylish settings. Try the pumpkin ravioli for the best vegetarian cuisine experience!
-MORINGA BAR- Set in a tropical garden, Moringa Bar serves vegan craft beer, ciders, kombucha & cocktails with a vegetarian Asian-fusion menu.
-PEACE CAFE- Peace Cafe offers fresh healthy vegetarian food, a bakery and a fair trade shop and is located only 5 minutes from Siem Reap's Old Market.
OTHER RESTAURANTS AND BARS IN SIEM REAP THAT YOU CANNOT MISS
-RED PIANO- Try Angelina Jolie's favourite cocktail here at Red Piano bar!
-KHMER HOUSE- Traditional Khmer dishes, friendly staff and great value for money! Khmer House should be on the list of every budget traveller.
-THE HIDEOUT BARISTA AND LOUNGE- Healthy Cambodian cuisine and grill.
-TEVY'S PLACE- Healthy local cuisine at very affordable prices. Be quick to get a table as this place gets packed for lunch and dinner!
-EMBASSY RESTAURANT- A perfect place for anyone seeking fine-dining in Siem Reap. Exceptional service, great fusion menu and beautifully presented dishes. Welcome to Embassy!
-URBAN TREE HUT- This restaurant has a international menu and offers experiences for every traveller- from fine dining to drinks with live music.
-HAVEN- The restaurant's high rating is well deserved with it's exceptional service, delicious food and affordable prices
-POU RESTAURANT AND BAR- Delicious and beautifully presented food and killer cocktails! Make sure you visit Pou at least once.
WHAT TO DO IN SIEM REAP
- VISIT ANGKOR WAT TEMPLES | Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world and the most ancient. It’s a mystical, vast complex of temples located in Cambodia, dating back to the 12th century. In Khmer language "Angkor Wat" means 'City of temples". Indulge in the beauty of ancient ruins, aging trees and sun rays shining through the lust surrounding nature. Without a doubt, Angkor is the most popular tourism site in Cambodia and definitely one you mustn't miss!
- TAKE A DAY TOUR TO TONLE SAP AND KOMPONG PHLUK FLOATING VILLAGE | Visit the largest lake in the Indochina Peninsula and experience the life of local people who adapt to living in the floating village. I promise you, this will be worth every penny!
- WATCH THE SUNSET OVER TONLE SAP | When visiting Kompong Phluk, have dinner on the boat while overlooking the sunset over Tonle Sap.
- VISIT PUB STREET | As they say, a trip to Cambodia is incomplete without visiting the Pub Street. Indulge in local cuisine, try deep-fried bananas and enjoy the local nightlife!
- GET A MASSAGE! | If you're after a little pamper- get a massage! Siem Reap is probably one of the best and cheapest places to get an incredibly relaxing massage. You simply cannot miss it.
- VISIT THE NIGHT MARKET | Indulge in local shopping on the night market. If you're after souvenirs, handmade clothes and jewellery, you'll be in shopping heaven.
- GO FOR THE FLIGHT OF THE GIBBON | If you have some spare cash and want a great adventure- the Angkor zipline is a perfect place. Soar through Angkor Archaeological Park jungle and watch the site from above. Learn the importance of preserving the rain-forest while having the adventure of a lifetime.
- VISIT THE LANDMINE MUSEUM | Cambodia has a difficult past and you need to take the advantage of visiting Siem Reap to learn more about it. Located 25km from the Siem Reap, the Landmine Museum is a great place to visit and find out more about the Khmer Rouge. Profits from visiting the museum contributes to landmine clearing.
Can I ride an elephant in Angkor Wat?
-As of early 2020, riding elephants in Angkor Wat Archeological has been banned. If you encounter any opportunities to book in for animal entertainment- simply refuse. Those cruel practices are still taking place in Asia. As a conscious traveller, you should never take part in them.
Is Cambodia Safe to travel?
-Although tourism infrastructures in Cambodia are less developed than in Thailand or Vietnam, Cambodia is a safe place for travellers. Just as other South-East Asian countries, it does have minor crimes, but these should never discourage you from visiting this wonderful country.
What to wear in Angkor Wat?
-Appropriate attire is required when visiting Angkor Wat. Although you may wear shorts when moving between the temples, when entering each of them you need long pants or sarong to cover the knees and a shirt that covers shoulders. There are guards by each of the temples and they will point it out to you if your outfit is not suitable. To avoid this, make sure you dress respectfully. There are small markets on the Angkor grounds where you can purchase sarongs before visiting temples.