If you are planning a trip to Siem Reap, you might be wondering how many days you want to spend there, so to give you an idea, here is a little information about the place.
Siem Reap is a small but vibrant riverside city, attracting visitors from all over the world as it is the gateway to the impressive Angkor Wat temple complex. Many tourists who pass through for a short stay choose to book a Siem Reap private guide to make the most of their limited time in the area.
The heart of the town is very walkable, with beautiful gardens, riverside paths, and ornate bridges. Strolling through its narrow streets and alleyways, just behind the riverside, you will find it alive with hip bars and restaurants, leading to Siem Reap’s famous Pub Street, bustling with clubs, pubs, and partygoers. Close by are local markets, which are open night and day, offering traditional crafts and delicious street food. Siem Reap has much more to offer than just the temples, with many other attractions and things to do both in town and in the surrounding area.
Research has shown that many people stay for 3 to 4 days, with many hiring a tour guide in Siem Reap to help create an itinerary and fit in as much as possible. If you have more time to spare, there is much to explore, and you will not be lost for things to do.
Things to do in Siem Reap
- Visit the must-see Angkor Archaeological Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to the world-famous Angkor Wat temple complex. This is a vast complex with ancient temples and ruins left behind by the Khmer Empire. Many people like to witness the sunrise over the majestic Angkor Wat temple (when conditions are right, it is absolutely breathtaking). If you arrange a Siem Reap private day tour, the early pick-up from your hotel will be arranged for you, along with the rest of the day’s exploring.
- Explore the other temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park. With 72 temples within the complex, it is impossible to cover them all in a few days. Each is unique in architectural design, and all served very different purposes throughout the time of the Khmer Empire, which existed between the 9th and 14th centuries. The following are popular among visitors:
Banteay Srei (known as the Lady Temple) was built in the 10th century from pink sandstone and boasts intricate carvings depicting scenes from Hindu mythology and everyday life in ancient Khmer times. It was also a cultural center for the arts and the education of astrology and Buddhist philosophy.
Angkor Thom was the ancient capital of the Khmer Empire and home to the Bayon temple at its center. Bayon is instantly recognizable and fascinating with its 200 huge smiling faces carved into the stone and facing out in four directions.
Ta Prohm (more recently famed as the Tomb Raider temple, as it was part of the set for the film) still lies unrestored. The enormous trees and their roots have grown through and between the stones of this uniquely designed temple, creating a wonderfully atmospheric scene to walk through and explore.
Visit the Angkor National Museum, which houses a wealth of beautifully presented and preserved Angkorian artifacts. The museum also provides valuable information about the arts and culture of the civilization during the Khmer Empire.
Have fun taking a cooking class and learn about the secret spices and ingredients behind traditional Cambodian cuisine. This will include a trip to a local market, a great way to discover the colorful array of fresh produce and interact with the local vendors.
- Take to the waterways and visit a floating village on the Tonle Sap Lake, Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake. This is a unique experience where you will discover a very different way of life by exploring the stilted houses, floating market stalls, methods of fishing, and stopping for refreshments at a floating restaurant. Various trips are available. Join others on a larger vessel or hire a small private traditional boat. It is a bonus to watch the pink hues of the sunset over the water from a floating restaurant if you go later in the day.
- Enjoy the rich nightlife of Siem Reap by taking in an Apsara traditional dance performance over dinner, or enjoy the incredible acrobatics and music at one of the Khmer Circus shows. Siem Reap is a wonderful town for socializing, and there are many restaurants (offering Khmer and Western cuisines), a host of bars and clubs, and a healthy live music scene. This is a town where you literally can dance ‘til dawn should you wish, but with such variety on offer, there really is something for all budgets and tastes.
Tips for planning your trip
These are some of the most frequently asked questions and may help you plan.
- When is the best time to visit Siem Reap? Cambodia’s dry season, which is also the most popular time to visit, falls between November and April. The temperatures are generally cooler after the rains end in November, gradually creeping upward on the thermometer to the hottest month in April before the rains start again. Christmas and the International New Year are the busiest times, and tourism is highest throughout these months. Booking accommodations in advance is always recommended to avoid disappointment. This also applies to some excursions, so pre-booking with a private tour guide in Siem Reap can be very helpful, as they will help you plan and book tours and tickets in advance of your arrival. The rainy season begins in May, with the wettest months being from August through November. Tourism drops somewhat after the Khmer New Year in April. Between May and late July, the rain is only likely to fall heavily for a few hours daily (usually in the late afternoon), leaving ample time to get out and about during the days and evenings. As this is the quiet period, you can take advantage of the many great deals offered by hotels and hostels. It is also the perfect time for exploring the temples without the crowds and enjoying the colors of the countryside when the fields and flora are flourishing.
How do I get to Siem Reap?
If coming from overseas, there is a new international airport about 50 minutes from town, with the shuttle bus costing $8 per person. Taxis and minivans are available from the airport. Prices start at around $25, depending on the size of the vehicle, so you may want to double up with other people coming into town and share the costs if you have not pre-booked transport.
Tuk-tuks are available, and you will agree on the cost with the driver personally. If you have the mobile apps PassApp or Grab, you can order one on arrival, and the price will be stated on the app before you agree to confirm the ride. These will take a little longer to get to town, but they are a great way to take in the scenery on arrival.
If coming by land, buses are very regular and inexpensive, with daily services from neighboring countries, the capital city of Phnom Penh, and from other towns in Cambodia (Sihanoukville, Kampot, and Battambang). Taxis are also widely available around the country if you do not wish to travel by bus. Ask your hotel to organize the taxi to ensure a reputable driver.
Where to stay in Siem Reap?
There are so many options in Siem Reap, providing for all budgets. There are many beautiful hotels, from large 5-star to small boutique-style, offering great services, and most have a swimming pool. For the budget traveler, there are many hostels throughout the town with pools, offering the choice of double, shared rooms, or dorms. Airbnbs and homestay experiences are also an option and popular with many. With so much information online, you will find what you are looking for, but remember, location is important! Most people prefer to stay within walking distance or a short tuk-tuk ride away from the heart of town. Noise can be an issue for some, with late-night revelers and loud music in some parts of town, so ask in advance or read reviews from previous guests before booking. Along the riverside and the Wat Damnak area, just across the bridge from the old market, are also very popular areas, where there is a mix of local cafes, trendy bars, and restaurants close by. You may also wish to check the proximity of local pagodas and the mosque, as services can start very early in the morning and may pose a problem for the lighter sleeper. Again, read hotel reviews for some insight.
What should you pack for your trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia?
Expect it to be hot and humid, so bring breathable clothes! Several T-shirts, shorts, light pants, and dresses Scarves and sarongs are also handy and light to pack, or simply buy them at the markets in Siem Reap. Bring light fabrics to avoid heat stroke. Trainers or good sandals are necessary for trekking and exploring the temples, but most wear flip-flops around town. I would include swimwear for the pool, sunglasses, a hat and sunscreen, insect repellent, and a very light raincoat or umbrella if visiting close to or during the rainy season. Your own water bottle is also recommended, and many hotels and hostels offer refills of fresh water.
How do I get around Siem Reap?
- Tuktuk (or remork) is the most popular way to get around Siem Reap and seats up to four people. Agree the price with the driver before accepting the ride to avoid unnecessary arguments at the end of your trip.
- PassApp and Grab (as mentioned before) are the most popular and economical. You can get the apps on your mobile device and use them country-wide during your stay. Once ordered, it will arrive wherever you are, as they use GPS. There is a variety of transport options to choose from on the app, including cars and larger vehicles.
- Many hotels and hostels have bikes that you can borrow, but they can be hired all around town.
- Motorbikes are also the most common mode of transport for locals and are available for hire. Please pay attention to the roads, as they can be extremely chaotic in town at certain times of the day and during holidays (road accidents are sadly commonplace in Southeast Asia).
- Taxi services are available and are mostly used for long distances.
If you are using a Siem Reap private guide, they will be organizing your transport to and from your hotel and throughout your excursions, as this is included in the price.
How do I buy tickets to the Angkor Archaeological Park?
The Angkor Wat Pass can be bought online for up to 30 days prior to using it. You will be asked for your passport number and to upload a photo of yourself. They are also available to buy in person at the main ticket office (which is on the way to the Archaeological Park) and may be bought on the day or before you wish to visit. They will also take a photo of you at the desk and require your passport or a copy of it. There may be queues if you are visiting during peak season, especially in the mornings, so allow extra time for this. Passes vary in price depending on the number of days you wish to visit.
It is $37 for a 1-day pass, $62 for a 3-day pass, which is valid for 10 days from the date of issue, or $75 for a 7-day pass, valid for one month from the date of issue. Learn more about How to buy angkor wat tickets Your Siem Reap private guide will also assist you with this if required.
How do I dress appropriately when visiting temples?
Dress conservatively when visiting the temples. Wear clothing that covers your shoulders and legs (knees must be covered). I like to bring a pashmina to wear over my shoulders and take it off once outside the temple. Be respectful of these rules when entering any temple, pagoda, or religious site. Again, keep the fabric as light as possible, as it gets extremely hot while out walking.
How do I stay safe in Siem Reap, Cambodia?
I have been in Siem Reap for several years and find it to be one of the safest places I have ever lived, but with that said, like traveling anywhere, pay attention!
- Stay alert, especially after dark.
- Avoid traveling alone at night and keep to well-lit areas and streets.
- Be careful if drinking alone, and don’t leave your drink unattended.
- Don’t leave your bags, mobiles, or valuables on a table unattended, as thieves are global and could well be a fellow tourist.
- When out walking, especially in crowded areas, and during festivals and parties, keep your mobiles and wallets out of sight and tightly on your person.
- Avoid bringing very expensive jewelry as a precaution, and if you do carry it with you, keep it in the safe at your accommodation when you are not wearing it (or ask hotel staff to store it for you).
- Again, pay attention when walking in and around busy traffic.
- Make note of your hotel name. People often don’t remember or can’t find their hotel, especially if it has an unusual name and many streets in Siem Reap are not named.
Tips for making the most of your trip to Siem Reap
Siem Reap is a special place, not only for the temples. There is so much to see, and I haven’t covered everything I could in this article. It is a wonderfully friendly place, and many people return year after year. To make the most of your time, and where possible, use a Siem Reap private tour guide. They are local experts, not only on the temples but on the area in general. They will also save you a lot of time organizing trips and transport. A guide can be great company, helping you interact with locals and overcome the language barrier, especially if you wish to connect with the culture. I have used Mr. Rain, who has made such a difference in my trips. Learn more about the private Angkor Wat tour.
My last tip would be to get to know the locals, which will make your visit more memorable. Cambodians are a very respectful race, and learning how to say a few basic pleasantries in Khmer will go a long way and possibly cause a few good laughs! Cambodians love to talk and have fun with foreigners. They love to test their English with you and ask questions. They are playful people who love to laugh and are very hospitable and inclusive. So join the fun where possible!
I hope these tips have helped. Safe travels!