- The heart of the Angkor region of Cambodia, with a population of ~175,000.
- First settled in 802 AD, it is known for its colonial architecture and for Angkor-era ruins.
- Nickname: Great Gate to Angkor
- Currency: Cambodian riel (KHR). U.S. Dollars are widely used for anything over a few dollars. There are no coins, however, and small change will be given in riel. It will be easier for you to carry US Dollars, as some vendors will not even accept the local currency.
- Spoken languages: Khmer. English is also widely used, especially in tourist areas.
- Best time to visit: from November to April (when the weather is coolest, with the least rain).
- Arriving via airport (7 km away): taxi fare from the airport to the city is $7 (call ahead to see if your hotel offers pick up services from the airport). You can also take a tuk-tuk into the city. Transportation by bus can be made from Phnom Penh (5 hours) and Bangkok (8 hours).
WHERE TO STAY
Central Siem Reap, emanating out from the restaurant/bar hub of Pub Street, is where you will find most of the hostels and budget hotels in the city. Upmarket hotels surround the city and typically offer a variety of spas and facilities. Siem Reap itself is a very small city, and most attractions and points of interest are just a short taxi (or tuk-tuk) ride away.
- Tuk-tuks are by far the most common mode of transportation in Siem Reap. A driver and his vehicle can be hired for $15-$20 per day and will take you anywhere you want to go. Tuk-tuks can be found anywhere in the city where tourists congregate and can even be hired directly from the airport.
- Private taxis can be hired for $25-$30 per day and can provide a more air conditioned and comfortable mode of transportation. They can also be a better option for trips further outside the city if you plan on going to temples outside the immediate area of Angkor Wat.
- Many hotels and shops in Siem Reap also rent out bicycles to those that want a quieter form of transportation and would like to explore the ruins themselves. Be careful, as the heat in Siem Reap could quickly lead to exhaustion (make sure to drink plenty of water).
SIEM REAP NIGHTLIFE
- No official drinking age.
- Nightlife in Siem Reap is limited as it is a very small city.
- The foreigner friendly bars are all located on Pub Street (in the middle of Siem Reap). There are also numerous alleys and side streets off of the main road with good bars and restaurants.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- The hallmark of Siem Reap is Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples. This huge monument to the ancient Khmer Empire is a must-see.
- Banteay Srey is located 37 km north of Angkor Wat, and is worth the day trip if you have the time. This red coloured temple is known for its intricate carvings.
- The fishing village on the Tonle Sap is another great day trip idea. Hire a boat ($25) and explore this unique way of life – where the homes, schools, and even small pig farms are floating on the water.
- Go on a hike up the hill near Angkor Wat, where you will find the Bakheng Temple. Make sure you bring water to hydrate on the way. Great views from the top, especially during sunset.
- Go for a stroll through the day-time and night-time markets in central Siem Reap. Take advantage of the low prices!
- The Khmer Cooking Classes offered at many of the restaurants in Siem Reap can be a fun way to spend a few hours. Chefs from the restaurant will take you to the market to buy the fresh produce and then show you how to create authentic Khmer dishes. At the end, you get to sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labour!
- Siem Reap has numerous massage shops – after a long day climbing over temples, this can be a great way to unwind before dinner or a night out.
- As in most large cities, pickpocketing is always a risk, especially in crowded areas. Be aware of what you keep in your pockets, and keep a tight hold on purses or bags.
- Dangerous areas: make sure you stick to the main tourist areas when traveling and walking around in Siem Reap (and anywhere in Cambodia). This is not due to risk of robbery, but rather due to the chance of encountering unexploded bombs and land mines that still dot the landscape of Cambodia as a result of the Vietnam War. Keep an eye out for areas that are market off with skull and bone signs – this is how locals mark areas that are not safe.
- Be aware that beggars and touts (including child vendors) often congregate in the tourist-heavy areas, especially along the Riverfront, and can be quite aggressive. They do not usually pose a safety concern, and are best handled with a smile and a firm, “No thanks” or, “Sorry.”
The Best Siem Reap Guide Books:
- Lonely Planet Cambodia (covers the whole country)
- Southeast Asia – Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam: The Solo Girl’s Travel Guide
Recommended trip duration: 3-4 days