This travel guide shares everything you need to know for visiting Siem Reap, Cambodia. Includes how to get to Siem Reap, where to stay, when to visit, what to eat and things to do.
Driven by curiosity and the lure of re-discovering an ancient wonder of the world, most travellers to Asia have Angkor Wat on their bucketlist. So it’s no surprise that, as the gateway to the temples, Siem Reap is the most visited place in Cambodia. This Siem Reap travel guide will help you plan your trip to the city and the nearby temples of Angkor.
Located in Northwest Cambodia, Siem Reap sits on the outskirts of the ancient city of Angkor, once the throne of the Khmer empire. Originally a cluster of villages, the town saw a huge boom with travellers coming to re-discoverer the ancient wonders nearby. Nowadays, Siem Reap is a bustling city with much of its trade evolving around tourism, with cute cafes, markets and hotels lining the colonial old quarter streets.
I recommend 2 full days in Siem Reap; one day for exploring the temples, and another for catching the sunrise and either exploring more of the temples, or other sites around the city.
History buffs might want 3 full days to explore the temples further, but otherwise, the temples can get repetitive and you only really need 1 full day to see the highlights.
As with the rest of Cambodia, Siem Reap has a monsoon climate with wet season from May to November and dry season from December to April. The stable weather of the dry season makes it an appealing time to visit, but having visited during this period I can attest that it is not for the faint-hearted with temperatures around 35°C.
In my opinion, the best time of year is the shoulder period between seasons when the weather is more stable and temperatures are cooler.
While it is undoubtedly the temple of Angkor Wat that entices travellers to Siem Reap, there are some other interesting things to do, from museums to markets and more.
There are two circuit routes that take you around the temples.
➡️ The small circuit takes you to the iconic Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Phrom among other temples.
➡️ The grand circuit includes temples on the outskirts of the Angkor complex.
💰 $37 for 1 day / $62 for 2 days
If you have time before you visit the temples, the Angkor National Museum is a great place to learn about the history of the Khmer Empire. Housing a series of collections and artifacts from the temples, it shares why they were built, the history of the period and the purpose of the different temples.
With guides who can share their personal stories from the Khmer Rouge regime, the War Museum offers a unique insight into this turbulent period of Cambodian history. Profits are used to detect and remove unexploded landmines in Cambodia, as well as to support survivors of landmine explosions.
💰 $5 (cash only) plus a tip for your guide
More than a conventional circus, the Phare Circus artists incorporate dance, music and acting, along with jaw-dropping acrobatics, to create a mesmerizing show. Profits fund their public arts school in Battambang and create meaningful job opportunities for artists.
💰 $10 + depending on seating choice
Siem Reap is one of the easiest places to visit in Cambodia, with an international airport and bus links to all corners of the country.
While Siem Reap is connected to all destinations in Cambodia by bus, Phnom Penh and Battambang are the easiest locations to travel from.
You can often book buses through hostels and hotels in Cambodia. Alternatively, I’ve found the easiest and cheapest way to book transport in advance is through Baolau*, a search engine that compares all travel options to find the best one for you.
⏰ 5+ hours
In addition to day buses, there are also overnight buses from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap which is great for those who are short on time.
⏰ 4 hours
It is also possible to take the bus from Bangkok across the border to Siem Reap. This is the cheapest way to travel from Thailand to Siem Reap, however, it will set you back a full day on travel and with international flights costing only a fraction more, personally, I would opt to fly.
⏰ 10+ hours
Siem Reap is home to a small but very modern airport that is serviced with both domestic and international flights. If you are travelling from outside of Cambodia this is how I would recommend getting to Siem Reap. Likewise, if you are coming from Sihanoukville, then flying is the most efficient way to get to Siem Reap, as you would otherwise need to transit through Phnom Penh or Battambang.
The airport is a 20minute drive from the city center and is serviced by taxis, tuk-tuks, and motorbikes taxis. Check out Grab App or Pass App for cheap rides.
The inner city of Siem Reap is walkable and there are lots of tuk-tuks for travelling further afield. You can hail cheap tuk-tuk rides using Grab or Pass App.
If you want your own set of wheels, there are many places you can rent a motorbike, e-bike or bicycle to get around. Prices start at $3/day for a bicycle and $10/day for motorbikes.
For exploring the temples, I recommend renting a tuk-tuk as the temples are spread across huge distances. You can find drivers around the Old Market area of town and organize it directly with them.
💰 $15-20 a day
Siem Reap is home to lots of social enterprises and NGO restaurants where you can find great food and drinks, knowing that your money is going towards a good cause.
Footprints Cafe 📍 A cute cafe, serving drinks and food, with all profits going towards local education programs.
Sister Srey Cafe 📍 A social enterprise cafe funding education programs and land mine clearance in Siem Reap.
Haven 📍 Training restaurant underprivileged adults, teaching them work skills and providing opportunities.
New Hope Restaurant 📍 Training restaurant with profits funding education and healthcare programs in Siem Reap.
For street food, head to the riverside near the Old Market where most dishes are a couple of dollars. For budget restaurants, I highly recommend Nick Restaurant and Khmer Taste Restaurant.
In the evening, pub street comes alive with music and is the place to come if you want to let loose. There are bars for all budgets here.
As one of the most popular destinations in Asia, Siem Reap has hundreds of great accommodation options*. For ease of exploring the town, I recommend staying in the area around the riverfront and Old Market, or near the outskirts of Pub Street. This area is the Old French Quarter and is easy to explore on foot, with lots of restaurants, shopping and tuk-tuk drivers you can arrange temple tours with.
➡️ Onederz Siem Reap* is the perfect base for backpackers, with dorms and private rooms, onsite restaurants, a social vibe and multiple swimming pools.
➡️ For a more luxurious experience, Golden Temple Residence* looks unreal and has amazing offers on Booking.com.
Siem Reap can definitely be done on a budget, with cheap hostels and food helping to offset the expense of the Angkor tickets. Save money on your temple trip by sharing a tuk-tuk. Here is an estimated budget for planning your trip.
The cheapest way to get to Siem Reap is via bus, starting at $9. Book travel transport here*.
Tuk-tuks rental for exploring the temples starts at $15/day but can be shared by up to 4 people, reducing the individual cost significantly.
Street food from vendors can be found for $2, and restaurant meals start at $3.50. I would budget around $15 for food per day.
Hostels, like Onederz Siem Reap*, start at $5 a night and private rooms can be found for as little as $8. Find accommodation to fit your budget here*.
The greatest expense will be your ticket to the temples but, as a bucketlist site, it’s worth it!
Temple ticket 💰 $37+ depending on the number of days
Daily tuk-tuk rental 💰 $15
Angkor Museum 💰 $12
War Museum 💰 $5
Phar Circus 💰 $10