SIEM REAP AT A GLANCE
“The defeat of Siam”, a moniker bestowed upon SIEM REAP by King Ang Chan after he successfully repulsed the armies sent by Thai King Maha during the 1500s on a conflict of kingdoms that had lasted for over a century. Such was the glorifying history of its name. Nowadays, the resort town of Siem Reap in northwestern Cambodia is better known for the visually stunning temple of Angkor Wat; an attribute that appeals more to tourists.
Truly, it so appealing that it’s been drawing millions of tourists year after year which made tourism the second biggest industry in the province. This tremendous development triggered the need for more establishments which eventually transformed the face of the land in the nearby areas of the Angkor temples to a more urban look.
Even so, Siem Reap stays true to its culture and continues to cultivate its traditions. It remains to be a rural town on its countryside; a peaceful dwelling for its hospitable locals.
QUICK FACTS ABOUT SIEM REAP
Here are bits of information you need to know about Siem Reap:
- The Khmer people in Siem Reap takes about 95% of the population, the remaining 5% is comprised of ethnic Vietnamese, Chinese and Cham.
- As a result of the civil war and the later genocide brought about by the Khmer Rouge, only about 5% of the people in Siem Reap are old. The dominant population is under 30 years old.
- In terms of religion, almost 95% of the people observe Theravada Buddhism. The rest are a mix of Sunni Muslim and Christian. Buddhist people consider the top of the head holy while the feet unholy. As it is so, avoid putting your feet up in a remork or tuk tuk or pointing them out to people.
- Despite its growing economy, the quality of life in the province is still relatively poor with almost 45% of its people below poverty line.
- The young generations in Siem Reap mostly understand English. Diversely, the older ones can only commune with their native tongue.
FAQs WHEN TRAVELING TO SIEM REAP
How many days to spend in Siem Reap? – The top attractions around Siem Reap are best explored in a week. Allocate 3 days wandering around the most outstanding among the 72 major temples of Angkor, and 2 days for its countryside. If you plan to only visit the temples and enjoy the night scenes, a full 3-day itinerary would be enough.
Is it safe to travel? – Siem Reap takes pride of its friendly locals. Its top attractions are generally secure and safe to tourists. In fact, each temple in the Angkor region is assigned with police to ensure that safety and security are observed. Despite these, it is still recommended to take extra careful in going around places and in choosing the people you will be with.
Do I need a Visa to visit Siem Reap?
Except for the following countries, tourists will be required of a Visa upon arrival in Cambodia. Visa application can be done at the immigration or online at evisa.gov.kh. Prepare at least USD50.
Countries with free entry to Siem Reap
- Brunei, free entry for 14 days
- Indonesia, free entry for 30 days
- Laos, free entry for 30 days
- Malaysia, free entry for 30 days
- Philippines, free entry for 21 days
- Seychelles, free entry for 14 days
- Singapore, free entry for 30 days
- Thailand, free entry for 14 days
- Vietnam, free entry for 30 days
If you are crossing land border to Cambodia, feel free to read my experience for tips on how to avoid touts and scammers: The good, the bad and the ugly side of Cambodia.
When is the best time to visit Siem Reap? If you plan on spending much of your time going around the Angkor temples, it’s best to visit from November to February when the weather is dry and bearably hot. Avoid the summer months of April and May when the heat is extreme which would likely leave you exhausted and sick after a temple tour. On a rainy day, the path going around the temples are wet and slippery so as much as possible do not travel during the rainy season from July to September.
What time is sunrise and sunset in Siem Reap? – For golden hour chasers like me, sunrise is around 6:10AM while sunset falls mostly at 6:15PM.
What are the common scams in Siem Reap? I haven’t experienced any form of rip off in Siem Reap. However, some of my blogger friends can attest that there are fake tours or locals (mostly kids) who will try to accompany you on your tour and would end up asking for money for donation or for the rendered help. When you encounter this situation, it’s best to clear out with the local the intention of helping at the very start of the tour to avoid being scammed.
What is the accepted currency? Both Cambodian Riel (KHR) and US dollar are used in Siem Reap. Transactions are mostly on a cash basis. However the use of credit cards is also acceptable in some restaurants and hotels.
How is the mobile data and signal strength? – Network and internet connectivity in Siem Reap, except around the Angkor region where it gets patchy, are strong using Cellcard or Mobitel.
What is the tipping policy in Siem Reap?
Tipping is not imposed in any establishment in Siem Reap. However, any form of gratuity is appreciated.
What is the power socket used in Siem Reap? – Just like most of the establishments in Thailand, Cambodia uses type A socket that can support flat prongs, and a 220V, 5-0Hz electricity.
HOW TO GET TO SIEM REAP
Access to Siem Reap can be done by plane and bus.
Direct flights to Siem Reap are only served at Siem Reap International Airport located 7 kilometers away from the town center, from the following countries:
- China (Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai)
- Cambodia (Phnom Penh)
- Hong Kong
- Indonesia (Jakarta)
- Laos (Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Pakse)
- Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur)
- Philippines (Manila)
- South Korea (Busan, Seoul)
- Taiwan (Taipei)
- Thailand (Bangkok)
- Vietnam (Hanoi, Danang)
Western countries would have to transit to these countries as there are no direct flights to serve them.
From Siem Reap Airport, you can take either of the transfer options below in going to the town center which might take for about 20 to 30 minutes travel time depending on your chosen transport.
- Motorbike – costs around USD2, considerably the most cost-effective for solo travelers with minimal baggage
- Tuk Tuk (rickshaw) – costs around USD5, perfect for solo or traveling couple with average baggage
- Taxi – costs around USD7, ideal for group travelers with limited baggage
- Van – costs around USD10, suited for family or group travelers with more baggage
Note: The cheaper motorbike and tuktuk rides are located near the parking lot towards the exit of the airport. These are those who just dropped off passengers.
Discounted airport transfer services by KLOOK:
- Private Siem Reap International Airport Transfers (REP) for Siem Reap
- Private Siem Reap International Airport Tuk-tuk Transfers (REP) for Siem Reap
Other KLOOK services:
- 4G WiFi (TW Airport Pick Up) for Cambodia
- Siem Reap International Airport Lounge Service by Plaza Premium Lounge
The list of countries below offer a number of bus or van companies that provide transport service to Siem Reap using modern air-conditioned vehicles. For availability and rates, visit this website: bookmebus.com.
KLOOK also offers land transfer services for the following:
- Shared Bus Transfer between Siem Reap and Bangkok by Giant Ibis
- Shared Bus Transfer between Siem Reap and Sihanoukville by Giant Ibis
- Private City Transfers between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh
HOW TO GET AROUND SIEM REAP
The top attractions in Siem Reap are concentrated in a small area – within and at a close proximity from the town proper – so getting around is easy-as-can-be.
Remork or tuk tuk is the best and most efficient way to get around the city or to hop from one temple to another inside the Angkor region. They are anywhere in the town and mostly await tourists outside the hotel. Fare for a public tuk tuk ranges from 1-2 US dollars, and a day tour around the temples in a tuk tuk for 3 persons maximum would cost for about USD25 for small circuit and USD30 for big circuit.
Bicycle is also a good option to get around the town (not recommended in going around the temples if you only have limited time). You may look for bike rental shops near your hotel, which would cost around USD2 a day. To avoid being scammed, it’s best to arrange the bike rental with your hotel staff or with KLOOK using this link: Siem Reap Bicycle Rental.
2019 TOP ATTRACTIONS IN SIEM REAP
Here are some of the best attractions you can find in Siem Reap:
ANGKOR NATIONAL PARK
The archeological park of Angkor which is made up of 72 major temples including Angkor Wat offers an insightful journey to the history of Khmer empire, one of the most advanced kingdoms of its time. It is located 20 minutes north of Siem Reap town proper on a tuktuk or car.
Some interesting sightings in the Angkor region include the deep brown-tinged temples that are on its state of preservation, some piled ruins including scores of temples that are overgrown by strangler fig trees and vines, and the old woman at Phreah Khan giving blessings to tourists.
For photographers, the best lighting conditions happen in the morning as most of the temples face east except for Angkor Wat which leans towards west. Ta Prohm and Preah Khan are hovered by trees in most of its areas which can be good options for photo op on a broad daylight.
PSAR CHAS (OLD MARKET)
Get a dose of authentic Cambodian life at Psar Chas or the Old Market, as it is recognized among locals. It is a busy strip for local vendors selling housewares, vegetables and meat of different kinds. Tourists often flock the place for its large collection of clothes, jewelries, and handicrafts that are open for bargain and are sold at a fair price.
The Old Market is located at Psar Chas road, in between Pub Street at the town proper and the Siem Reap river, which can easily be accessed by a public tuk tuk. Fare to get there is USD1 from any place in the town. Opening hours is from 7AM to 6PM, Mondays to Sundays.
Despite being a rural town, Siem Reap is a vibrant place at night. Thanks to its lively night markets and the tourist-favorite Pub Street – a long thoroughfare dotted with western-inspired restaurants and neon-lit night bars. Undeniably, it’s the best place to get soused. Draft beers are cheap and music is loudly blasting! While here, don’t miss out the happenings at Angkor What?, the most known night club at Pub Street. It’s hip with all its graffiti cover.
Pub Street is next to the night markets at the town. It is open daytime mostly at 8AM to late night around 4:00AM.
KOMPONG PHLUK (FLOATING VILLAGE)
The Khmer life on full display, such is how it is to describe Kompong Phluk fishing village located 45 minutes away upriver from Siem Reap town proper. The village floats on the swamps of Tonle Slap, the largest lake in all of Cambodia.
Among the floating villages in Siem Reap, Kampong Phluk is considerably the most authentic as only few tourists make a journey to it by boat or bus. There are a number of tour operators offering trip to Kompong Phluk for a charge between USD35 to USD50, inclusive of the transport, ticket and meals. However, if you opt to go on a DIY, feel free to ask help from a tuk tuk driver or any local to charter you a boat up to the village. Cost for a DIY tour is around USD18 per person.
The decades of conflict brought about by the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese occupation has resulted to roughly five million landmines still buried in the countryside of Siem Reap, which poses a threat to the community as it continues to collect a death toll of about 15 persons in average per month.
The Landmine Museum situated 25 kilometers north of Siem Reap, on the way to Banteay Srei, does a perfect job in educating the public on the dangers of landmine through its display of armaments and stories in the perspective of Aki Ra, the museum founder whose parents were both killed during Khmer Rouge.
The museum is open everyday from 8:00AM to 5:30PM. Guided tours are during Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9:00AM to 5:00PM. Entrance fee for foreigners 11 years old and up is USD5. All museum proceeds are used up to support the Relief Center and School for at-risk village children.
ANGKOR NATIONAL MUSEUM
All relics and artifacts that were recovered from Angkor Wat, along with other treasures that are purely Buddhist and Hindu are housed at Angkor National Museum, located at the town proper in Siem Reap specifically at
Charles de Gaulle Blvd.
Visit the museum before going to Angkor Archaeological Park to get more insights about its cultural and symbolic value. Operating hours is from 8:30AM to 6:00PM daily. Entrance fee is USD12 for adults and USD6 for children below 1.2-meter height.
You may purchase a ticket online from KLOOK using this link: Angkor National Museum Admission Ticket.
2019 TOP THINGS TO DO IN SIEM REAP
Siem Reap is all about three things: The Angkor Temples, the night markets, and Pub Street!
Going around the majestic temples that makeup the entire Angkor Archaeological Park is the experience to beat! You are immersed with the Khmer culture through the rich bas-reliefs and wall carvings as you take in an expanse of a beautiful jungle accentuated with strangler fig trees.
Wandering around the night markets with its fair-trade handicrafts and fresh delicacies from fried tarantulas to rice wine is also an activity you don’t want to miss. Stop by at a live music performance or at an interesting workshop and soak up with the unique vigor that only the local scene can bring.
Of course, the Pub Street where all roads lead to come night time is an event you cannot bargain. The joy of cheap alcohol, loud music and company with friends is absolutely irreplaceable.
Beyond these three activities, other top things to do in Siem Reap include visiting an Apsara theater, joining a cooking class (details here: Cooking Class in Sojourn Boutique Villas Herb Garden) or witnessing Phare, the Cambodian circus, which are yet another avenue to understand the beautiful history and culture of Siem Reap.
SIEM REAP SAMPLE ITINERARY
You want to spend 5 days to fully explore Siem Reap and get the total feel of this one-of-a-kind destination. Allot 2 to 3 days going around the temples in and outside Angkor Archeological Park, which would likely cost around USD100 including expenses for USD62 3-day Angkor Pass, USD60 3-day tour via tuk tuk for 3 persons, USD5 separate entrance fee each for Prasat Beng and Landmine Museum, and cost for food. You can end each day by going around the night markets or staying late at Pub Street, which would entail another budget. For the two remaining days, you may take in the suggested activities below:
Note: The allocated budget per activity covers cost for the tour, food and entrance fee for temples outside Angkor. It does not include expenses for accommodation, souvenir and other incidentals.
DAY ONE: ANGKOR TEMPLES VIA SMALL CIRCUIT + NIGHT MARKETS
DAY TWO: ANGKOR TEMPLES VIA BIG CIRCUIT + PUB STREET
DAY THREE: TEMPLES OUTSIDE ANGKOR + LANDMINE MUSEUM + APSARA DANCE
|Prasat Beng Mealea||3:00PM||USD5|
|Back to hostel||5:00PM||–|
A tuk-tuk tour for the DAY THREE activities costs around USD15.
|Kompong Phluk Village||9:00AM||USD18|
Things to note for the sample itinerary:
- Most of the activities in Siem Reap are hefty on the budget but definitely worth the price.
- Purchase your Kompong Phluk village tour online from KLOOK for a discounted price. Link here: Kompong Phluk Floating Village Half-Day Tour.
- You will stop by at a cafe on your tour around Kompong Phluk where you can buy a ticket for the Floating Forest Tour.
- The Phare Circus Ring Road is located south of the intersection with Sok San Road. They offer nightly performances at 8:00PM, with some special performances at 5:00PM. Ticket price range from USD18-38 depending on your chosen seat. You may purchase the ticket from KLOOK through this link: Phare, The Cambodian Circus or visit pharecircus.org for more information.
Some information about Angkor Temples:
- Foreigners that are 13 years old and up are required to purchase an admission pass to visit the Angkor temples.
- Passes are ONLY sold at the ticket office located at Road 60, 4 kilometers away from Siem Reap town center.
- There are three types of Angkor passes: 1-day pass for USD37, 3-day pass for USD62 and 7-day pass for USD72.
- There are two established circuits that tour operators and DIY travelers follow, the small and grand circuit which both run through Angkor Wat and to some temples in Angkor Thom. The bigger Grand Circuit extends eastwards to cover other smaller temples.
- Read further on my Angkor Temple Travel Itinerary post to know more details including the list of most photographic temples, best way to get around, and other simple hacks and tips.
Mr. Lem was my tuk tuk driver on my Angkor Temple tour. I don’t get commission from him but he is highly recommended for his professionalism. He was on time, and makes sure his guests are enjoying the tour. Feel free to contact him through these information:
- Facebook account: Lem Tuk Tuk Driver
- Mobile: +855 88 547 3246
KLOOK also offers affordable Angkor Temple tour; if you are a solo traveler avail of the discounted service using any of the links below:
- Angkor Temples Sunrise Tour around USD11
- Angkor Temples Tour around USD13
- 3 Day Angkor Exploration Private Tour by Tuk-Tuk around USD55
- Sunrise Angkor Temples Small Circuit Private Tour by Tuk-Tuk around USD19
- Angkor Temples Grand Circuit Private Tour by Tuk-Tuk around USD15
Traditional Apsara dance venues in Siem Reap: (Ticket price ranges from USD15-30 depending on the package)
|Apsara Theatre||Every day||7:30PM-9:30PM||+855 63 963 561|
|Koulen Restaurant||Every day||7:30PM||+855 92 630 090|
|Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor||Wednesday, |
|7:00PM-8:00PM||+855 63 963 888|
WHERE TO STAY IN SIEM REAP
To get around Siem Reap easily, you need to choose an accommodation near the night markets and Pub Street (which are next to each other) to get a good access to food, and tuk tuk drivers for Angkor Temple tour if you want to go DIY.
I stayed at Onederz Siem Reap, a budget hotel with a pool on its roof top. I highly recommend the place for its clean rooms, the good vibe (because it’s a top backpacker’s choice), its friendly staff and its close proximity to the night markets and Pub Street, which are about 300 meters away. Check rate and availability here.
Other top-rated hotels that are close to Siem Reap night markets are as follows:
- Ladear Angkor Boutique (mid-range) Check rate and availability here
- Visoth Angkor Residence (mid-range) Check rate and availability here
- Everland Boutique Hotel (mid-range) Check rate and availability here
- Primefold Hotel (luxury) Check rate and availability here
- Golden Temple Boutique (luxury) Check rate and availability here
EXTEND YOUR TRIP
Visit other top destinations in Southeast Asia:
- Chiang Mai, Thailand Budget Travel Guide
- Singapore Budget Travel Guide
- Bangkok Temple Hopping Travel Guide
- Kuala Lumpur Travel Guide
- Johor Bahru Travel Guide
More posts for Asia:
- Top 10 Free Attractions in Singapore
- Top Things to do in Singapore
- Cambodia in a Day: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
- Crossing the Singapore – Malaysia border for the first time
BE A RESPONSIBLE TRAVELER
Lastly, have fun and don’t forget to be awesome! 😉
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