Ah Siem Reap. The most popular tourist destination in Cambodia, and for good reason. Boasting Angkor Wat, it makes it a place that tourists beeline for, but it’s so much more than that. The people are friendly, the culture is rich. There are so many things to do.
The food is great, and the drinks are cheap. The vibe is good. If you wanna know more about why i loved Cambodia so much, you can read my blog here. I had a week here, just getting to know the city, so this blog will go over things to see and do, places to eat and drink, places to stay as well as transport and a whole heap more. So, let’s dive in to the ultimate Siem Reap travel guide!
Note all prices are indicated in approximate US Dollars. Although Cambodian Riel is the official currency in Cambodia, you will find most places will list prices in US dollar, and actually prefer it in some cases. You can expect small change in Riel, however this can easily be used for tipping.
I recommend checking out the Lonely Planet Cambodia travel guide for in depth recommendations and tips.
Siem Reap Travel Guide: Things to Do
It’s common for people to just stop by in Siem Reap to see the temples for a day or two, but there’s so much more to do than that.
Siem Reap is also the kind of place that you can just wander, exploring and stopping for a beer along the way. So, my top advice here is to give yourself enough time, because I guarantee you won’t want to leave.
Visit Angkor Wat
By far the most popular sight to see in Siem Reap, the temples are a magical experience. Visit the likes of Bayon Temple, the famous ‘smiling face’ temple, Ta Prohm, of tomb raider fame, and of course watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat. Of course, there are plenty of lesser known temples to explore as well! For everything you need to know about visiting Angkor Wat, read my blog here.
Do a cooking class
Cooking classes are great for a number of reasons, 1) you get to immerse yourself in the culture, 2) you get to learn to cook some traditional dishes, 3) you get to eat food. What more could you want? There are so many cooking classes available, most which are offered by hotels.
I recommend taking one in a village, which includes pick up and drop of from your hotel and a tour of a local market to get ingredients, before heading to a local’s home to learn how to cook several traditional dishes.
Hang out in Pub Street
Pub Street is the heart of Siem Reap. There’s so much going on. Here’s your spot to get a fish foot massage, and drink happy hour cocktails and beer. It’s the spot to be for casual drinks, dinner, and a big night out. It closes off to traffic at 5pm daily to allow for the nightlife to start. See the below eating and drinking section for all my favourite spots on Pub Street.
Tip: Pub Street and it’s surrounds is also the perfect spot to get that fish foot massage you have heard about. Scattered along the street you will find numerous places, where you can sit and watch people pass you by while fish nibble at your feet. Some places offer a free beer while you sit and relax. Expect to pay $2.
Tip: If you are looking for a bit more of a quiet meal, head to Alley West, home to Siem Reap’s very own umbrella Alley, which is just steps from Pub Street, yet a whole world away!
See the floating villages.
Seeing the floating villages is a must when visiting Siem Reap. Take a boat out on to the famous Tonle Sap Lap to see the floating villages. If you have the time, it’s worth doing a tour that includes the sunset, as it truly is stunning.
Afternoon tours often include floating village tour, and dinner and drinks while watching the sunset. There are a huge range of different tours, and if you are looking at a day time one.
See the Cambodian Circus
An acrobatic circus, the Phare Cambodian Circus uses music, dance and modern circus acts to tell unique cultural stories. What’s even better is that the artists all come from a local arts school which was founded to help give young children the opportunity to hone their skills and earn a decent wage. It’s a good night out and definitely worth seeing while in Siem Reap.
Tip: The shows sell out often, especially in peak season, so I recommend buying your tickets in advance.
Shop at the night markets
Siem Reap is full of markets, you will find them everywhere. The night markets are open late, and the perfect spot for picking up souvenirs, knock-off brand clothes and accessories as well as traditional pieces. The silver is also great value and good quality, so it’s worth taking a look at if you are on the hunt for some new pieces.
Go on a village tour
Villages tours are great to get to see the real side of Siem Reap. Venture out of the bustling streets of central Siem Reap to see the local schools and homes. Depending on which tour you choose, you might get to try your hand at traditional basket weaving or taste some rice wine. Often you will stop at a local market for lunch, which is definitely an experience.
Wander and explore along the river
The Siem Reap River runs through the middle of the city. It might not be the nicest of rivers, but it makes for a good walk. Cross the river to check out the art markets and stroll towards the royal residence. Look out for monkeys along the way!
Siem Reap Travel Guide: Eating and Drinking
Obviously the place to be for food, drinks and nightlife is Pub Street, however finding a place to eat and/or drink on Pub Street can be kind of overwhelming.
There are so many places that look nice, all offering some sort of happy hour deal (note, most happy hours run all day or from 5-close on Pub Street). It’s very casual, and most places are happy for you to sit and drink without buying food, so you have countless options. These are a few of my top picks that I loved!
One of my favourites on Pub Street, Café Latino offers a huge range of cocktails on their happy hour special, with prices ranging from $1-2.50, and they are all huge. The also have a huge range of frozen margaritas and cocktails, which is great after a hot day. The menu is a mix of local Khmer dishes and western favourites. They also offer Mexican dishes. It’s cosy and comfy.
Paper Tigere Eatery
Grab a table at the front which have comfy lounge chairs and a great view of the street. With great food and good drinks, you can’t really go wrong. Situated next to the Angkor What? Bar, you can enjoy the live music they often have on.
A cosy spot in the heart of Pub Street, it’s the perfect spot for lunch or dinner. With appealing cocktail specials and 50c beer all day, it’s the perfect place to stop for lunch or dinner. Settle in for chilled out vibes and a Long Island iced tea cocktail for as little as $1.75. You really can’t go wrong.
Khmer Family Restaurant
Another great spot, the Khmer family restaurant served delicious food and tasty drinks.The staff were lovely, and they have a huge range of dishes and cocktails available at great prices.
Tip: Grab some ice-cream rolls for dessert! All along Pub Street you will find small vendors selling ice-cream rolls. Pick your own fillings, and it makes for a delicious dessert that you need to try once!
Looking to kick on after happy hour and dinner? Try one of these places.
Three levels of fun. What is a restaurant early turns in to a club later in the night on the ground floor, while there is also a roof top bar. The place was packed every time I walked past, and it made for a very fun night.
Angkor What? Bar
For more chilled out vibes, head here. Claiming to have supported irresponsible drinking since 1998, it is one of the longest standing bars on Pub Street. They often have live music, and a good vibe.
Getting Around Siem Reap
- To and from the airport: Depending on how much luggage you have, you can either get a taxi or tuk tuk. Taxis from the airport are 10$ to anywhere in central Siem Reap, and a tuk tuk will be around $5. Simply walk outside the arrivals doors and turn left to book a taxi. Check with your hotel before you leave to see if they offer pick up services.
- Around Siem Reap: The easiest way to get around central Siem Reap is by Tuk Tuk or walking, depending on where you are staying. A tuk tuk to Pub Street from most central hotels will cost $1 or $2. It is easy enough to find your way around on foot as well.
- To Angkor Wat: Your best bet for a day at the temples is to organise a driver or a tuk tuk for the day. Obviously, a driver is more expensive. Expect to pay around $30 for a full day, and less for a tuk tuk. Some of the temples are not so close to each other, so having a form of transport is necessary.
Where to stay
Tip: one thing I can’t recommend enough is booking accommodation with a pool. Temperatures soar in Cambodia, and the humidity can be very draining. After a long day at the temples or exploring, it was great being able to have a swim and a drink before heading out for the night.
Location is extremely important, and I cannot recommend looking at how central a hotel or hostel is before booking. There are countless resorts and hotels lining the main roads from the airport, however these aren’t entirely central to top attractions such as Pub Street. Having the option to walk or pay $1 for a tuk tuk is a lot better than being on the outskirts of the city.
Hotel Somadevi Angkor Resort & Spa
If you are looking to stay in a nice hotel, I recommend here. We stayed here and loved it. Offering a free airport pick-up or drop off service, an included breakfast buffet and an extremely central location, it was perfect for a stay in Siem Reap.
A huge bonus was the huge pool (with a swim up bar!), as well as spacious rooms and friendly staff.
Mad Monkey Hostel
If you are looking for a hostel, Mad Monkey hostels are a chain throughout Cambodia, and offer accommodation in most Central places. I have only heard good things about the Mad Monkey in Siem Reap, and the vibe is great at night.
Wondering what to pack?
- Hat & Sunnies
- Good quality sunscreen
- Mosquito repellent. I highly recommend Bushman’s 80% Deet as most general mosquito repellents will not to the job.
- Comfy shoes
- Depending on what temples you plan on visiting at Angkor Wat, you might need to have your shoulders and knees covered. It is not necessary for all of the temples, but it is worth checking before you go.
I never travel without a neck pillow; I find it always helps me sleep on planes and is super useful when taking long buses too. I also recommend packing cells, which will make travel so much easier.
When to go?
Cambodia has two seasons – wet and dry. The wet season runs May to October and the dry season November to April. Peak season is November through February.
From experience October was still busy, but just outside of the peak so it wasn’t overcrowded, most days there would be a light shower that lasted max 10minutes in the late afternoon, which is hardly enough to even notice. Flights vary depending on time of year, as well as airline. Use Skyscanner to get the best rates on flights year-round.
- Tipping – We found tipping to generally be expected in Cambodia, and considering the low rates of pay, a little can go a long way. If you are happy with a service, round your bill or tip drivers $1.
- Check your countries Visa requirements. You can organise a visa on arrival or do it in advance. I highly recommend the later. Arriving at Siem Reap international airport was one of the quickest and easiest airport experiences I have ever had, purely because we had organised Visa’s before arriving
- Prepare to haggle at markets, or else you will get ripped off massively. A good way to start is offering half the asking price, or name your price and walk away when they say no.
- Need medical attention? The Royal Angkor International Hospital is the recommended place for travellers from most countries, including Australia. Unfortunately I ended up there to get some vaccinations after being bitten by a cat, and I have to say everything was clean and to a high standard.
I hope you have found this Siem Reap travel guide useful! Looking for me? Check out my other Cambodia blogs: