Siem Reap is a popular tourist town and the main gateway to access the iconic Angkor Wat temple. It makes a pleasant place to stay for the duration of the time exploring the ancient temples, but beyond that there isn’t much else to do in town.
Here is our travel guide to Siem Reap:
When to go
The Cambodia weather and climate is split between two seasons: dry and wet. The dry season runs from November to April and the wet season lasts from May to October.
The hottest months are May until May with an average temperature in the region of 29° C. This isn’t the best time for temple sightseeing because of the oppressive heat and dust. The wettest months are September and October with heavy rain and the risk of flash flooding. Travel to Siem Reap is most popular during the months of November to February when the temperature is the driest and quite cool. But, the foot traffic at this time can be extremely high. Also, at the busiest tourist times the prices are likely to spike.
For a better balance of an acceptable number of tourists and comfy temple sightseeing weather, a Cambodia tour that takes place between June and August is certain to be ideal. While there is rain at this time of the year, it isn’t yet in full swing and is quite predictable (early in the afternoon for a short period). The rain helps keep the landscape less dusty and the climate cooler, and there is also a lot fewer tourists.
How to get to Siem Reap
The easiest way to reach this popular tourist capital is by flight and arriving at the local Siem Reap International Airport. From the airport, hire a taxi (about $7-$10) or tuk-tuk (about $6) to get to your hotel or guest-house.
How long to stay
A stay in Siem Reap is essentially about touring the Angkor Archaeological Park. If a Cambodia travel itinerary only includes the most popular ancient temples, than a 3-4 night stay in town is likely to be enough.
How much money to bring
Travel in Cambodia is relatively inexpensive, even when compared to other SE Asian countries. A refreshing ice cold beer from a local bar is less than a dollar, while a fancy meal in one of the better restaurants is only $10. A solo traveller on a budget can easily get by on about $30 per day, while the couples shouldn't have too much difficulty with a spend limit of $50 per day. For travelling with a little extra flexibility in the budget, there is the option to set a budget at $100 per day to live much-like a king. The daily budgets should be enough to cover the most typical expenses like transportation, shopping, food and drinks, accommodation, and your Angkor pass.
Also, US dollars are the preferred currency for many transactions in Cambodia, with the local Riel only used when giving small change.
Where to go
The stand out reason to visit Siem Reap on the Cambodia tour packages is to get access to the ancient Angkor temples. Even though Angkor Wat is the largest and most iconic of the temples in the park, it is far from being the only temple in this part of Cambodia. In fact, there are literally hundreds of ancient temples throughout the park in various states of repair.
To gain entry to the Angkor Archaeological Park it is necessary to purchase a Angkor Pass, which costs $37 for 1 day, $62 for 3 days, or $72 for 7 days.
For most visitors, a 3 day pass will suffice if planning to only explore the major temples (Ta Phrom, Bayon, Angkor Wat, Bantaey Srei). A temple tour of just the highlights is certain enough to give a fulfilling Angkor experience. However, if you plan to visit all the temples and have the time available on the travel itinerary, a 7 day pass is ideal.
With the multiple day passes it is not necessary to visit the temples on consecutive days. For instance, the 3 day pass and be used on any 3 days within the 7 day time-frame of the pass, while the 7 day pass has a relaxed one month time-frame which permits entry to the park for any 7 days during that time.
Where to buy souvenirs and gifts
Tourist is Siem Reap have a variety of shopping opportunists with several colourful and lively markets. The Old Market (Psah Chah) is likely to be the favourite place to shop for gifts such as scarves, silver, shirts, spices, dried packaged fruit, and more. Also, there is the nearby Night Market, which is slightly more upmarket.
How to get around
The primary mode of transportation in Siem Reap is likely to be the tuk-tuk. A ride in an open tuk-tuk after a long day of exploring temples is certain to be appreciated with its fresh breeze. Tuk-tuks are easily booked through your hotel on flagged down on the street.
The typical costs of hiring a tuk-tuk are in the region of $5 to visit Angkor Wat at sunrise or sunset, $15 for an Angkor circuit which takes in several temples, $25 for a more complete guided Angkor circuit, $22 to visit the more out of the way Bantaey Srei, or $6 for a one-way airport transfer. However, it is best to negotiate a price before getting in the tuk-tuk or else the price can get a little steep at the other end. Other transport options including hiring a car/driver or renting a bicycle (approx $5 per day).
Useful travel tips
Dress appropriately - when visiting the Angkor temples it is essential to dress respectfully, which includes a shirt or similar top that covers the shoulder area and a skirt or pants that falls below the knees. The temples within the Angkor Archaeological Park are sacred to the local people so revealing clothes like tank tops, short skirts, or plunging necklines aren't permitted inside the complex grounds.
Arrive early - an early arrival at the park is the best way to not only tour Angkor Wat with relatively small crowds, but also get the stunning sunrise shot with the temples in the background. Also, an early start means it is possible to explore the temples before the main heat of the day arrives.