Last Updated on 29 July 2022
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What are the very best things to do in Siem Reap?
A firm favourite on the world travel circuit and famed as the gateway to Angkor, Siem Reap is a city located in northwestern Cambodia. Although primarily used as a base to visit the ancient temples, there are many things to do in Siem Reap beyond Angkor Wat. Siem Reap is a city bursting with history, culture and tuk-tuks. All mixed with a lively backpacker atmosphere, this makes Siem Reap an undeniably fun place to be and great addition to any itinerary for Southeast Asia!
1. Watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat
It’s no secret that visiting Angkor Wat and its surrounding temples is the main reason travellers visit Siem Reap. Of course, there are plenty of things to do in Siem Reap besides temples which you can see on this list. But any trip to Siem Reap would not be complete without an obligatory visit to Angkor Wat.
Tip: You will require an Angkor Pass to visit Angkor Archaeological Park. You can buy this for one, three or seven days from the official Angkor Ticket Centre. This is located on the corner of Street 60 and Apsara Road in Siem Reap. You will need to have your photograph taken for the ticket.
Built between the 9th and 12th century, Angkor Wat is a symmetrical moated temple and the largest religious monument in the world. Angkor Wat is the cherry on top of more than 1,000 temples and shrines of Angkor. Constructed of sandstone blocks, Angkor Wat is carved from floor to ceiling with legends.
Tip: Take a packed breakfast to enjoy the sunrise with. If you have breakfast included at your hotel, they should be able to provide you with one.
Initially built as a Hindu Temple devoted to Vishnu, Angkor Wat was later dedicated to Buddhism. Angkor Wat was discovered in the 19th century by French explorers, and is one of the most jaw-dropping religious monuments in the world. Watching the sunrise behind Angkor Wat to the sound of croaking frogs and toads is one of the must-do things in Siem Reap, and an enchanting experience which deserves to be on any bucket list for Southeast Asia.
How to get to Angkor Wat: You can cycle from Siem Reap to Angkor Wat. But an easier way to reach the temple is to hire a tuk-tuk driver for the day to take you to the temples of Angkor (see the FAQ section for more information). The tuk-tuk driver should take you via the Angkor Ticket Centre on the way.
2. Wander Ta Prohm
If you only have 2 or 3 days in Siem Reap and are wondering what temples must be on your list of things to do, Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm should be at the top. Commonly known as the Tomb Raider temple as a chunk of the 2001 film was set there, Ta Prohm is a spectacular Buddhist temple within the Angkor complex. As you wander through the mystical ruins it will be easy to think you’ve stumbled across a film set for something like Jumanji.
Tip: Ensure you are dressed appropriately when visiting the temples of Angkor. The general rule is to ensure your shoulders, upper arms and knees are covered.
Hidden amongst the jungle, wandering around Ta Prohm is an enchanting and mesmerising experience. Given that the complex is being reclaimed by nature, it is arguably even more stunning than Angkor Wat itself. The roots of trees snake around the ruins, strangling them as they go and causing the ancient bricks to crumble to the ground. Ta Prohm is a reminder that nature always wins, and is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Siem Reap.
How to get to Ta Prohm: Ta Prohm is located a few minutes away from Angkor Wat by tuk-tuk. If you rent a tuk-tuk driver they will be able to take you to Ta Prohm. You will need the Angkor Pass to visit Ta Prohm as it is part of Angkor Archaeological Park.
3. Visit the floating Villages of Kompong Phluk
You might feel a bit templed out when you visit Siem Reap, leading you to ask: What else is there to do in Siem Reap besides temples? Plenty, is the answer. A visit to Kompong Phluk will show you Siem Reap beyond Angkor Wat, and provides a unique insight into an alternative way of Cambodian life.
Kompong Phluk is a community of floating villages to which around 3,000 people call home. Made up of colourful stilted wooden huts which rise up high above the water, the only way to access to homes is by going up precarious-looking wonky ladders that sway back and forth to the rhythm of the water.
Kompong Phluk is home to the fishing families who fish on Tonle Sap Lake. As you bob on by the stilted huts in your boat, you will not only pass by homes, but temples and schools on stilts too. The area is abundant with mangrove forests, and visiting these is an option during the rainy season when they are flooded.
To see Kampong Phluk in all its glory, the best time to visit is during the rainy season when the floating village is truly living above water. The rainy season spans from May to September. But don’t be deterred if you are travelling to Cambodia during the dry season as a visit to the area is equally as spectacular. During October to April when the water level drops, in parts of the stilted community you will have the opportunity to walk beneath the structures.
How to get to Kompong Phluk: Kompong Phluk is located ~32km drive southeast of the city, making for a great day trip from Siem Reap. The easiest way to visit is to book an organised tour departing from Siem Reap. Your hotel should be able to assist with this. Alternatively you will be able to find one online (make sure the reviews are good).
4. See Tonle Sap Lake
If you decide to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and take a day trip to the floating villages of Kompong Phluk, it’s highly likely this will include a visit to Tonle Sap Lake. Tonle Sap Lake is one of the most famous attractions around Siem Reap given that it is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia.
The Lake provides half of the fish consumed in Cambodia, and more than quadruples in size in the monsoon season. Arguably a natural wonder of the world, Tonle Sap Lake is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve given it’s abundance of wildlife. Witnessing the sunset over Tonle Sap Lake is one of the most amazing things to do in Siem Reap. There are vendors rowing their floating shops around Tonle Sap Lake, so you will be able to enjoy this with a cold can of Angkor in hand!
How to get to Tonle Sap Lake: Most tours that go to Kompong Phluk offer a visit to Tonle Sap Lake also, making it the easiest way to see two of the best attractions around Siem Reap in one go!
5. Break out of the Great Escape Siem Reap
If you are looking for fun or quirky things to do in Siem Reap, then booking a slot at The Great Escape could be for you! The Great Escape offers various themed escape room experiences. With the door locked behind you and 60 minutes on the clock, you will need to find clues to help you solve puzzles in order to break free! This is one of the best things to do on a rainy day in Siem Reap. The prison-themed and Crime Scene 86 escape rooms are ones which I can vouch for (and I can assure you it’s not as easy as it sounds)!
How to get to The Great Escape Siem Reap: Pre-book the escape room by asking your hotel to call ahead. Request a return tuk-tuk for ease of getting there as it is ~10 minute drive from the centre of the city!
6. Party on Pub Street
The tamer version of Bangkok’s Khao San Road, Pub Street is one of the best things to do in Siem Reap at night. A 100m stretch of road that is the epicentre of the city’s nightlife, Pub Street is filled with an assortment of loud bars, lively restaurants, and neon lights; you will either love it or hate it! It is a great place to soak up the warmth of the Cambodian evenings after a busy day temple-trotting, especially if you are a social butterfly because you will find people from all over the world here! And, the price of beer is ludicrously cheap!
How to get to Pub Street in Siem Reap: Pub Street is officially Street 8, and is labelled on a map as this. However it is commonly known as Pub Street, and if you say this to anyone in Siem Reap they will know where you mean!
7. Shop at Siem Reap’s Night Market
Located at the bottom end of Pub Street, Siem Reap’s Night Market is a lively place where you will find an array of items for sale, such as souvenirs, bags, handicrafts, clothes and food. Given it’s close proximity to Pub Street, the area around the Night Market is dotted with bars and restaurants – perhaps preferred by travellers who aren’t into the thudding music of Pub Street!
Aside from the Night Market near Pub Street, there are various others in the city. Made in Cambodia Market is one of the places to visit in Siem Reap if you are looking for artisan products. But if you are only in Siem Reap for a few days and are going to spend the evening partying on Pub Street, then the nearby Night Market is an easy one to visit.
Tip: Always haggle in the night markets. With a smile on your face, name your price and enter into the bartering process! If you don’t reach a mutual agreement, you can walk away, but always be polite (manners don’t cost anything).
How to get to the Night Market in Siem Reap: Go to Pub Street (Street 8) and look out for the brightly illuminated neon sign which says ‘Night Market’.
8. Indulge in Cambodian food
Southeast Asia is a paradise for foodies, and Cambodia is no different! Siem Reap has an abundance of restaurants where you can sample some traditional specialities, like Khmer Curry or Fish Amok. Old House Restaurant is a budget-friendly dinner spot, serving a range of local and international delights. Khmer Amok with Chicken comes highly recommended (by moi)!
How to get to Old House Restaurant: Located a few minutes walk from Pub Street, so walking or tuk-tuk (depending on where you stay) is the easiest way to reach Old House Restaurant. The address is 2 Thnou St, Siem Reap, Cambodia.
9. Visit Wat Preah Prom Rath
If you are looking for things to do in Siem Reap on a budget, then a visit to Wat Preah Prom Rath may be your cup of tea given that there is no entry fee (donations are welcomed). Located at the heart of Siem Reap, Wat Preah Prom Rath offers the opportunity to see how Cambodian Buddhism is practised today.
Tip: Pack a Sarong and carry it with you when you are out and about. Temples in Southeast Asia tend to have strict dress codes, such as ensuring your legs and shoulders are covered.
Situated close to the riverside, Wat Preah Prom Rath boasts lovely palm-lined gardens dotted with decorative statues (some of which are very interesting). The monastery itself is a beautifully intricate and ornate building, and is home to a quota of monks. Wat Preah Prom Rath is one of the best places to visit in Siem Reap for a taste of history, culture, and a slice of tranquillity amongst the chaos of the city.
How to get to Wat Preah Prom Rath: Located along Siem Reap River on Pokambor Avenue. Walking or tuk-tuk (depending on where you stay) is the easiest way to reach Wat Preah Prom Rath.
FAQs about Siem Reap
How many days should I spend in Siem Reap?
I spent 4 full days in Siem Reap as part of an itinerary for Bali, Cambodia and Hong Kong. This gave ample time to get a taste of Angkor, do a day trip to Kompong Phluk and Tonle Sap Lake, and to see the main sights of Siem Reap.
First consider how many days you would like to spend exploring the temples of Angkor. A one day ticket will enable you to merely sample the ancient complex if you have a tight schedule. But if you have the gift of time, 3 days in Angkor will allow you to delve a little deeper so you may want to increase your time in Siem Reap to around 6 days.
What is the best time to visit Siem Reap?
You can travel in Cambodia all year round. The dry season is from October to April, and the wet season spans from May to September. The heaviest rainfall is usually in August and September. The climate is warm year-round with the highest temperatures being from March to June where it can exceed 35°C. I travelled to Siem Reap in late October, and experienced some isolated evening thunderstorms.
What is the currency in Siem Reap?
The US Dollar is the primary currency however Cambodian Riel is becoming more widely used. Change of less than $10 can often be given in Riel, so make sure you have the exchange rates noted down. In Cambodia, prices are usually quoted in US Dollar and Cambodian Riel.
Tip: Make sure your notes are in good condition or they may be refused.
Where to go after Siem Reap?
Your options are endless when considering where to go after Siem Reap, given that it is central to Southeast Asia. There are an abundance of operators who offer cheap flights around Southeast Asia. Some logical next stops would be Thailand, Laos or Vietnam given that Cambodia is sandwiched between these three countries. Malaysia and Singapore are other good options. On my trip, I came from Bali and then went on to Hong Kong.
What is the best way of getting around Siem Reap?
If you stay in central Siem Reap, walking is the best way to get around as the main sights are located close together. Tuk-tuks are abundant and affordable. Prices will depend on the distance you need to travel and your negotiation skills. However it shouldn’t cost any more than a couple of dollars to travel in and around the city centre. If you are really budget conscious (like me), then walk unless it’s too far!
Is Siem Reap expensive?
Siem Reap is a cheap travel destination, and the main cost is going to be international flights to/from Cambodia. Siem Reap has an abundance of chic hotels to suit a backpacker, flashpacker and luxury budget.
For 4 nights in a hotel, including breakfast, airport pick up and a pool I paid £38.50/~$53.00 (total cost was £77.00/~$106.00 based on 2 people sharing as I travelled as part of a duo).
Food and drink
Food and drink is cheap in Siem Reap, especially around the area of Pub Street. I always use TripAdvisor to find good quality cheap eats in the area, to avoid paying over the odds! You should expect to pay under £10 (~$14) for a good quality multiple course meal, including a drink if you eat in cheap restaurants!
Transport (including to Angkor Wat)
Tuk-tuk rides in and around the city centre should cost no more than a few dollars, dependent on distance. You can also use these as transport to/from the airport (which is an interesting experience when trying to balance a large suitcase on your lap). At the time of writing, a tuk-tuk from Siem Reap Airport to the city centre has a fixed rate of $9. Your hotel may be able to assist with arranging this (and it could even be included in your room price). The airport is located around 8km from the city centre.
Angkor Wat is around 5km from Siem Reap. Renting a tuk-tuk for the day to take you to the temples of Angkor can vary in price, costing anywhere from $30-$50. Be sure to do some research on current prices before you go. Hotels can usually arrange this for you. I would suggest checking out the price online, with your hotel and speaking with tuk-tuk drivers when you are in Siem Reap to get the best price!
How do you get to Siem Reap?
It can be expensive and time-consuming to fly into Siem Reap internationally, and may involve transiting through a regional hub like Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City. There are an abundance of regional airlines operating around Southeast Asia, which go to/from Siem Reap. Flying into Siem Reap from a regional airport will be more costly than other options such as bus but is more convenient and shouldn’t break the bank with budget airlines such as AirAsia. If you are travelling from Phnom Penh or Bangkok, then bus is an option.
Tip: You can use 12GoAsia as a tool to compare transport options and their costs around Asia. Personally, I always book directly with the operator if possible and just use this as a guide.
What was the Khmer Rouge?
Cambodia is a country with a brutally devastating history of genocidal rule inflicted by the Khmer Rouge. From 1975-79 under the leadership of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia and sought to exterminate people they deemed as intellectual. Schools were turned into prisons and money was abolished. Khmer people were sent to the countryside to do back-breaking labour, and as a result many died of starvation, disease and overwork. It is estimated that up to 2 million people lost their lives during the Cambodian Genocide; an atrocity which modern Cambodia continues to try and heal from.
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