Siem Reap, the capital city of Siem Reap Province of Cambodia, is the gateway to the Angkor region. Siem Reap, which literally means “The Defeat of Siam”, has been a popular tourist destination, not only because of the magnificent temples in the area, but also because of its very interesting culture, affordable shopping, lively nightlife, and night market. Cambodia’s currency is Cambodian Riel, which is roughly equivalent to Php0.013, depending on the forex.
If you are planning to go to Siem Reap anytime soon, then this 4-day travel guide to the “Ancient Khmer City” might help.
GETTING TO CAMBODIA
By Air: Cebu Pacific and Air Asia fly to Siem Reap. Travel time is approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes. There’s a time difference between Cambodia and Philippines, Manila being one hour ahead.
By Land: You can cross border to Cambodia from Bangkok, Vietnam and Laos.
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE GOING TO SIEM REAP
Accommodation: There are lots of hotels and affordable guesthouses in Siem Reap so finding an accommodation that will suit your budget won’t be a problem. If you love shopping or food trips, book a hostel along Sivatha Rd. or near Pub Street.
Park Hyatt Siem Reap
Address: Sivatha Blvd, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Contact No.: +855 63 211 234
Golden Temple Villa
Address: Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Contact No.: +855 63 215 555
Tara Angkor Hotel
Address: Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia, Charles De Gaulle, Krong Siem Reap 17254, Cambodia
Contact No.: +855 63 966 661
Bou Savy Guesthouse
Address: Ta Phul Village, Khum Svaydangkum, Siem Reap province, Krong Siem Reap 063, Cambodia
Contact No.: +855 12 369 600
Address: Sivatha Road, Sivatha Rd, Krong Siem Reap 12402, Cambodia
Contact No.: +855 63 688 0008
Onederz Hostel Siem Reap
Address: Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Contact No.: +855 97 211 7100
One Stop Hostel Siem Reap
Address: 342, Sivatha Blvd, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Cotact No.: +855 97 787 3032
Meal: Food in Siem Reap is very affordable that you can actually live with just USD1 per meal. In our case, since we spent most of our money in Bangkok (we went in BKK first before heading to Siem Reap), we only had few dollars left so we really managed our food budget so we can spend more in buying souvenirs and pasalubongs.
Transportation: The main transportation system in Cambodia is tuk-tuk. Since it’s a province, don’t expect trains, buses and cabs.
Touring: Hiring a tour guide is optional when you want to visit the temples in the Angkor Wat Complex. In fact, you can just rent a bike for a whole day and bike your way to the Angkor Complex to visit the magnificent temples and architecture, perfect way to enjoy the nature too. Just a word of caution though, if you don’t have powerful legs, good stamina, and can’t endure the heat of the sun during the long drive, I suggest you just hire a tuk-tuk driver to tour you. Touring the Angkor Complex is a 30km bike ride approximately. The question whether you want to hire a tour guide aside from the tuk-tuk driver is up to you, because there are times when the tuk-tuk driver can also serve as your tour guide.
Recommended Tuk-tuk Driver & Guide: Sochea Ry (He used to be a receptionist at Bou Savy Guesthouse but he now owns a tuk-tuk and also does touring for a living. Very nice and funny guy.) Chenla Mao was our tour guide when we visited last 2014.
THINGS YOU NEED TO HAVE
Comfy footwear. There will be lots of walking involved so bring your trusty shoes or flip-flops.
Camera. Angkor Wat sunrise or sunset is too beautiful not to capture.
Money. No brainer. Although no need to allot big budget since almost everything is affordable in Siem Reap. You can pay in US dollars by the way.
Shades. Protect your eyes.
Sunblock. Visiting the temples and biking can take its toll on your skin so wear sunblock before going on a tour, riding a bike or even if you just want to roam around the town.
Outfit for temples. By this, I mean have at least an outfit that covers your legs. Skip the shorts first when visiting the temples.
One thing that’s nice in Siem Reap is that they accept US dollars so finding a money exchange won’t be a problem. However, $100 can be too much money if you will just pay for one meal so it’s still a nice idea to have your dollars exchanged.
There’s a money exchange center near the downtown (Sivatha Road) of Siem Reap where the long strip of restaurants is located. If you are traveling alone or with someone in Siem Reap, a budget of Php10,000-Php15,000 is more than enough for your stay. This is exclusive of airfare and you can still lower down the cost if you stay in a mixed dorm room or when you travel in big group.
WATCH our Bangkok-Siem Reap video
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA DAILY ITINERARY
Granting you arrive in Siem Reap in the morning, check in first in your hotel and settle down before wandering. When the sun has cooled down, then it’s definitely a go signal to go out and explore Siem Reap by foot.
1st stop: Pub Street. Siem Reap province is a small, sleepy place, but in the evening the place goes alive, especially in Pub Street. Lots of foreigners can be seen strolling, shopping and drinking the night away. If you love food, booze and clothes, then Pub Street and Angkor Night Market (same area) is definitely for you. So when in Siem Reap and the sun begins to set, you know there’s only one place where you need to be.
1st stop: Angkor Wat Sunrise. Wake up early in the morning and make sure you have contacted your tour guide or tuk-tuk driver the night before the tour. Leave the hotel as early as 4:30AM just in time for you to catch the majestic sunrise in Angkor Wat.
Surprisingly, or maybe not, there are already lots of tourists lining up to get the Angkor Pass even during the wee hour of the morning, so being an early bird really pays off. You can opt to buy the Angkor day pass which costs USD37, the 3-day pass for USD62, or shell out USD72 if you plan to do the Angkor Tour for seven days.
2nd stop: Banteay Srei. Going to Banteay Srei is just optional. You can opt to skip this temple since it’s far from the rest of the temples and could eat a lot of your time. After all, including this temple in your itinerary will cost you more if you avail of a tuk-tuk ride. However, if you love to check out more of the countryside and the calming sceneries in Banteay Srei, then visiting this pinkish colored temple would be a nice idea.
3rd stop: Ta Phrom. If you are a Lara Croft and Indiana Jones fan, then this particular temple will look utterly familiar to you. The crumbling walls and towers of this temple look like the jungle has swallowed them.
The iconic large tree is the most photographed spot in Ta Phrom, although in my opinion, this temple is a bit hyped up and overrated. There are more beautiful temples than this one and I believe it just became popular because it was one of the filming locations of the film “The Tomb Raider”.
4th stop: Bayon Temple. Apart from Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple, I must say, is definitely one of the most beautiful and interesting temples in Siem Reap. The serene, friendly and smiling stone faces, occupying many of the towers, make this temple very appealing.
5th stop: Angkor Wat Sunset. Go back to Angkor Wat and ask your tour guide for the best spot to view the sunset. Otherwise, going to Phnom Bakheng and Pre Rup are also great options.
1st stop: Pottery Lesson. Learning pottery is definitely one activity that you should try when in Siem Reap. Khmer Ceramics and Fine Arts Centre’s pottery making costs USD25 and is already inclusive of the lesson plus you can actually take home two of your masterpieces. If your schedule permits, you can actually do the pottery class on your first day in Siem Reap to give enough time for your clay to be cooked, especially if you plan to bring them home with you.
2nd Stop: Shopping and Food Trip along Pub Street and Angkor Night Market. Did I mention that shopping is very cheap in Siem Reap? Aside from clothing and various kinds of souvenirs, you can find lots of interesting stuff when in Angkor Night Market.
If you’re feeling a little adventurous, you can try eating exotic food like worm, snake, centipede, and other weird food that will make you feel like you’re a contestant in the Fear Factor. Taking photos is not allowed unless you will buy some of those crispy critters.
On the other hand, if you’re an extrovert who loves to party, or an introvert who just loves to chill, secure a spot in one of the restaurants in Pub Street that suits your taste. Don’t forget to try their Angkor Beer as well.
Explore the countryside. Rent a bicycle and be like the locals. Siem Reap is very bike friendly so take time to explore some of the hidden beauties of the province, who knows what you might discover.
MUST TRY AND BUY IN SIEM REAP
Riding a bike. While tuk-tuk is the main mode of transportation in Siem Reap, lots of Khmer and foreigners opt to ride a bike instead when going from one place to another. In fact, bicycle rental is a very common thing in Siem Reap and most of the guesthouses in the province have their own bicycles for exclusive use of their guests.
Pottery. If you’ve never tried pottery before, then taking the pottery class in Siem Reap should top your list. You can check out Khmer Ceramics and Fine Arts Centre which is just few kilometers from the town proper. Trust me, it’s very enjoyable and addicting.
Foot massage. Like in Bangkok, Khmer massage is a must try especially after a long walk and bicycle ride. If you haven’t tried fish spa yet, you may want to try it out in Siem Reap, it’s actually very common there, especially along Angkor Night Market and Sivatha Road.