Siem Reap is a town in Cambodia, known mostly for its closeness to the ancient city of Angkor.
It has become a bit of a resort town of sorts, a tourist hub if you will, as it is where most people will stay during their visit to the ancient ruins of Angkor.
It’s mostly hot and sunny, although mornings and late evenings in December/ January can be slightly colder. The rainy season is from May to October, being that the heaviest rainfall usually occur during September/October.
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed for two weeks, and because we wanted to get some work done, chose a hotel a bit far from the city centre, as it had spacious rooms, good Wi-Fi and a swimming pool. If you’re coming for only a week, and your main goal is to visit the ancient Angkor ruins, I’d advise picking somewhere a bit more central. That way you can visit the town at the end of the day and will be in walking distance to its main restaurants and attractions.
We found our hotel on Booking.com (here’s £15 off on Booking.com when you use this link to book your stay).
There’s no shame to admit that this is (most likely) the main reason you’ve travelled to Siem Reap in the first place. Angkor is absolutely stunning. The lost temples in the jungle, travelling trough the countryside and forest, and the cherry on top, Angkor Wat, are simply breathtaking. Here’s what you should know about Angkor:
Is one day enough?
Yes, but only to scratch the surface. In one day you can easily see the main temples, the most known ones. If you hire a tuk-tuk for the day he’ll be happy to explain what kind of circuit is possible to do in one day. It is exhausting though. And hot. So do a little research and find out what temples are your ‘must see’ in advance (for instance, we wanted to see Banteay Srei which is a bit further than the rest, so we went there first).
How many days/ which ticket should I buy?
I think the best ticket is without a doubt the three day ticket which you can use over a whole week (it doesn’t need to be consecutive days is what I mean), which is great, because you’ll need breaks in between the days. If budget is no problem, I’d defo say buy this ticket.
If you get the three-day ticket, I’d say rent a tuk-tuk for two days and then maybe rent a bike and cycle for the last day around the main temples (the closest ones to the city).
You can ask your tuk-tuk driver to go to further away, less known temples on the first day (some are completely engulfed by the jungle and are awesome) and take the second day to chill by the pool.
On your third day maybe you can rent a bicycle and go to the more famous ones – the short circuit – and then use your final day to visit other temples in between. Whatever you do leave Angkor Wat (the main one) for the end, only because after you visit this one, nothing will ever be as impressive.
Prices and buying the tickets
It’s a bit expensive, I won’t lie to you. BUT it’s worth every penny.
- The one-day pass costs $37 per person
- A three-day pass – valid over a seven-day period – costs $62
- A week-long visit pass – valid over a one-month period – will cost $72
To buy the tickets you’ll need to go to the Angkot Enterprise (ticket centre), as they’ll need to take your picture for the pass. You can either go on the morning of the first day you plan to visit, or the day before between 5.00pm and 5.30pm, to avoid cues.
- It is HOT! So bring water, sunscreen and a hat. (They sell water, fruit and refreshments at the entrance of the temples though)
- If you bring snacks watch out for monkeys! There are monkeys at the temples, particularly around Angkor Wat and they know the sound of every pack of snacks being opened. So, be careful and maybe only eat your snacks while on the tuk-tuk. (Seriously a monkey stole our backpack when he heard the ‘sound’ of snacks)
- Maybe do a little search on where to eat for lunch. Most drivers take tourists to the same places that are overcrowded, overpriced and not that great.
- Don’t buy stuff from children – there are loads of children around the temples begging or trying to sell stuff to tourists. Charities and NGOs, trying to help children and get them off the streets, ask tourists not to give them any money and not to buy anything from them, as this behaviour encourages them to stay on the streets.
- Leave Angkor Wat for last – this is the most impressive of all the ruins, as it’s magnificently preserved. All the other ones are pretty cool too, but they’ll fade by comparison, so leave it to last so that you spoil your visit to the other temples.
- Banteay Srei – a bit further away, but worth it as it’s slightly different than the others – different shape and colour – and less crowded. Beautiful giant trees!
- Ta Prohm – this is the temple made famous by Tomb Raider, where Lara C sees the tree that gives entrance to the temple. The way nature is taking over this temple is absolutely incredible, but being so famous it’s also ‘heavily consumed’ by human beings. It’s still worth seeing, but maybe try to go early…
- Baphuon – very impressive and still very well preserved, you can climb all the way to the top. Not much health and safety and not for the fainted-hearted though.
- Bayon – this temple is very different from all the others, in that it has multiple serene and smiling stone faces on the many towers; it’s beautiful.
- Phnom Bakheng – for the best sunset views (and views of Angkor Wat!)
- Angkor Wat – the main one! You can’t visit the ruins without visiting Angkor Wat! It’s one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen
But there’s so many more… honestly, put your Lara Croft/ Indiana Jones hat on and go explore!
Here are a few snaps of the temples:
And my favourite, the trees:
WHAT TO DO IN SIEM REAP
Even though Siem Reap’s main attraction is it’s closeness to the Angkor ruins, there’s still loads of things to do in the city as well.
Pub street is a famous street in Siem Reap that gets absolutely crowded at night. The beer is super cheap and the neon lights are bright. There’s loads of food too, but we found it more expensive than restaurants just a few blocks away. I’d say definitely visit, maybe after dinner, for a paint or two.
There are day markets and night markets where you can buy pretty much anything – from food, to shoes, to clothes and bracelets, to sunglasses… anything really. If you that’s your kind of thing, you won’t be disappointed to visit. If like us the market really isn’t your place, you can just pass it by as we did…
If you’re staying for a few days I’d defo recommend booking a ticket to the local Phare Circus. What is Phare? In their own words it’s “More than just a circus, Phare shows are unlike any in the world: dance, theater, original live music and breathtaking circus arts are used to tell uniquely Cambodian stories from recent history, folklore and modern society.” And the best bit is their profits support the Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPSA) organisation, a non-profit Cambodian association improving the lives of children, young adults, and their families with art schools, educational programs, and social support. You can learn more about it, and book your ticket, here.
I’d absolutely recommend renting a bike and explore the town a bit – there are several temples, pagodas worth visiting – and cycling by the river is simply a must, particularly at sunset.
Explore the surroundings
Unfortunately we didn’t have time or budget, but there are loads of tours you can take from Siem Reap, visiting a floating village on the Tonle Sap Lake is one of them and sounds amazing.
If you have more days you could also visit the nearby city of Battambang (although it’s not that easy to get to from Siem Reap, but this blog post from movetocambodia will sort you out)
WHERE TO EAT
There are many restaurants in Siem Reap,but we did find many of them too touristy or overpriced. We managed to find a few we really liked but here are our top two:
This was a little gem. I think we ended up going there nearly everyday. The food is simply delicious and the staff is super friendly. However you have to be proper chilled, at rush hour, when it’s crowded, service is a bit slow. The food is worth the wait though. You can always try to avoid peak lunch and dinner times. Or just order a beer and chill, you’re on holiday after all, right? Our favourites here were the Fried Spring Rolls, Chicken Lok Lak (OMG to die for), the Egg Noodles, and the Khmer Curry. Oh the pancakes were also really good.
Where? 020, Taphul Road, Krong Siem Reap 17259, Cambodia
Verdict: You’d be crazy not to go. Money: $. Food rate: Really Good. Price/Quality: Great (almost impossible to beat in Siem Reap)
The Christa Restaurant And Bar
We found this one on TripAdvisor and it was really worth the bicycle ride there. The food was great and massive portions too (which we weren’t quite expecting so ordered a bit too much!).
Where? Rambutan Ln, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Verdict: Do it. Money: $. Food rate: Really Good. Price/Quality: Very Good.
National Highway 6 – the local ones
Then there were the local ones that don’t really show up on the maps or anywhere, that we found on National Highway 6, just a short walk after the Madame Butterfly restaurant (heading in the airport’s direction). They’re closed at lunchtime, but at night they’re easy to spot – just a few plastic red chairs and very small restaurants. Our favourite was named Steakhouse (even though it didn’t have steak) but the one next to it was also really good (can’t remember the name).
There are also many child beggars in this area – same rules apply: don’t give them money, if you want to help find a solution and not be part of the problem, in this post you’ll find links to two local charities. Or you can always choose to support UNICEF or Save the Children instead, both helping children worldwide.