Siem Reap is the gateway city to the Angkor region of temple ruins in Northern Cambodia, the capital of the province. The city has a Colonial and Chinese style architecture in the Old French Quarter and around the market. Siem Reap has a lot to offer including museums, traditional dinners with dancing, a circus, souvenir and handicraft markets from local artisans, silk farms, fishing villages, floating villages, and Tonle Sap Lake, the largest lake in SE Asia.
The city is filled with cute modern coffee shops, cafes, and restaurants. And its streets are line filled with colorful hanging stars and flags as well as blooming trees all over the city. The Siem Reap River runs through the city covered with green algae, creating a lush green canal of trees. The market streets are strung with lights and bird cages line the traditional old wooden bridge. The city has Pub Street, a 4-way cross street that becomes a pedestrian area at night with lanterns and lights hung all around in the main hub of bars and restaurants in the city. Keeping reading to learn more from our Siem Reap Guide
Siem Reap Guide: Airport to City Center
Siem Reap International Airport is a little over 6 miles outside of the city and is about a 30-minute car ride. It’s a little bit longer by tuk-tuk, the main public transit available in the city. The tuk-tuks are on every street corner of the city, so you can quickly and easily catch. They are also right outside the airport at the arrivals exit door.
You can pre-arrange a tuk-tuk to pick you up with your accommodations which is what we did. That way you already have a price set and will not have to barter and be charged too high of a price. Keep in mind that the traffic at night can actually get crowded in Siem Reap in the city, and it takes longer to get to the airport if you have a night flight. Take this into consideration in how early you leave to get to the airport for your flight.
Price: $6USD (in or out of the city to the airport) This ride includes two people in a tuk tuk
Siem Reap Guide: Money Conversion
A rare and unique thing about traveling to Siem Reap is that they use mostly US dollars as one of their standard currencies. You will get change back in US dollar as well as Cambodian riel. They do not use coins at all in their currency, so the Cambodian Riel functions as the smaller change to supplement the lack of coins. So when you go to restaurants, cafes, and markets, you will be paying and bartering in USD. You can pay in Cambodian Riel, but it is not as commonly used, especially if you are foreigner they will talk in USD. It is best to convert money to USD for your stay.
The money exchange place we used was called Huy Keang Currency Exchange. They gave a fair exchange rate and could take Thai baht to convert as well as USD and would give back USD or Cambodian Real. This shop was right down the street from the cineplex complex in town I refer to below where we got a travel sim card for our iphone.
Siem Reap Guide: Travel Sim
The best and most professional and reliable service to get a sim card in the city is in the cineplex complex next to the movie theater. It was called Smart, and is a green building and themed phone store. We definitely recommend getting a travel sim in Siem Reap. It will make your travel way simpler and is very inexpensive. They offer travel sims for your phone with 1, 2, 3 and 7-day packages for as low as $2-10 USD with data for several days! The travel sims here are a great deal and worth your money to make your trip really easy.
Siem Reap Things to do
Angkor Wat Temple Ruins
This is an iconic, sprawling temple complex that is surrounded by a wide moat & features intricate carvings. The temple is known for its 5 am sunrises behind a floating lotus lake in front of the temple. From here, you can capture the perfect reflection of the beautiful temple as the sun rises. In this province alone, there are over 1000 temples. The specific Angkor Wat temple area holds 10 main temples that are the most visited by tourists and spiritual pilgrims which is what makes this area one of the most significant religious sites in the world. Among these temples are Angkor Thom, Bayon, and Ta Prohm, the temple used to film Tomb Rader.
Visit a Floating Village & Tonle Sap Lake
Tonle Sap Lake is the largest lake in SE Asia and is only one hour outside of Siem Reap City. This lake holds many floating villages in different areas around the lake. There are stilted house villages on the floating lake as well as floating bamboo houses right on top of the water. The closest floating village is an hour outside of Siem Reap where you take wooden local boats to tour the village and see how the locals live. There are children floating in pots and taking their own boats to the one small floating schoolhouse. This is an amazing cultural experience.
Shop the Old Market
The Old Market is across the Old Market Bridge that is the beautiful, wooden Chinese style pedestrian bridge over the river. The stalls are full of local textiles, clothing, woven baskets, jewelry, hats, and all kinds of other wood work products and souvenirs. You can get local baskets for around $7 USD and buy other cheap local, handcraft souvenirs. During the day the market is quiet and is busier at night with lots of lights and food stalls on the street. There are lots of local spices and tea. This is a bustling market and a great chance to experience the local culture.
Hours: 7am-9pm daily
This was our favorite coffee shop and bakery in town, and it is such a unique and artistic space from the entrance to every detail inside of their shop. You enter under a bamboo teepee of hanging coffee cups into a brick and cement modern building with huge windows. The huge vaulted ceilings make the place huge and give you a great view of the temple across the river, and thus the name temple coffee. There are exposed brick walls, old motorbikes, and other vintage decor accessories along with wood, and low set tables with very comfy couch-like seating. You have to remove your shoes to sit on some of them so keep that in mind.
This place has the best coffee, meals, and snacks, and you can sit for hours to work or just hang out to escape the rain as we did. This place also has a rooftop sky lounge that also doubles as a bar at night and is open until midnight with amazing views of the city along the Siem Reap River.
Hours: 7am-12am daily
Price: $$, an espresso was $4USD
This colorful fun alley is found in the middle of Pub Street along an alley filled with restaurants and shops. This is a quaint and quiet area, as is most of Pub street during the day. It is busier at night but is full of cute alleys and small streets to explore during the day. You can find the umbrella street if you look up Trattoria Pizza, a restaurant on the alley. On this street is also, Blush Boutique which is a higher end local fashion clothing store.
Siem Reap River Walk
The Siem Reap River running through the city cuts the downtown in half. The river is a lush green oasis in the midst of the city with tall green trees and shaded benches overlooking the green tinted water. There are old wooden boats with locals paddling down the river, and grand, white, intricately carved lampposts that line the walkway. It is a beautiful area to take a walk and escape the heat on a hot day.
There is a contemporary art gallery between Laundry bar and Elia Greek Kitchen on the edge of Pub Street. This gallery is neon colors and mixes SE Asian art with contemporary modern style. There are lots of bright and interesting pieces. This gallery is not on google maps but if you go between these two buildings on google maps you will find this interesting experience. There is no listing so I am not sure about the hours but there is a loft upstairs with an art gallery after you enter through this narrow neon passage. The artist himself is often there as well in his paint jumpsuit to chat.
Art Night Market
You can find all sorts of artisan handcrafts at the night art market. There are shops and market stalls all down pub street, leading across the old bridge to the old market stalls that are open at night as well. The markets in Siem Reap are huge for the comparatively small city. Most of the markets carry similar local handcrafts. The old market holds more clothing whereas the pub street market area and art center have more carvings, jewlery, handcrafts, and baskets.
Hours: 4pm-11pm daily
Made in Cambodia Market
This handcraft fair is smaller than the others and has stalls of local artisan products that are higher quality than the other markets. The textiles and clothing they sell are traditional and woven silk which comes from the local silk factories outside the city that you can tour. Cambodia is known for its silk and is one of the main souvenirs that people take home from the country. This market has food vendors and live music. The market is easy to find because of the strung colorful banners and the grass hut roof of one of the main shops. But remember it is only open on Saturdays.
Hours: Saturdays, 12pm-10pm daily
Pub Street is the hub of all the action and nightlife of Siem Reap. This is where all the restaurants, bars, and shops and is always bustling with people. There is music playing loud, lanterns and lights hung everywhere in the air. The atmosphere is electric making it a fun area to walk around and experience at night. Pub Street at night is a pedestrian-only part of the downtown area, making it super easy to walk around and explore.
Siem Reap Guide: Where to eat
There are tons of delicious cafes, restaurants, and coffee shops in Siem Reap city. They serve up a great mix of local and western food. Below is a link to our full food guide with our favorite spots below:
Siem Reap Guide: Where to shop
Siem Reap is filled with small boutiques that are local and foreign owned and run. There are lots of local fashion clothing boutiques as well as a store with unique purses made from recycled bags and other things creative items in the city. There are plenty of shops to explore, and below is a link to our full Siem Reap shopping guide.
Siem Reap Guide: Where to stay
Lub D Hostel
Lub D is a newer hostel in Siem Reap and is top rated in the city as a social gathering point. There is a cool modern pool with a bar and an amazing outdoor patio space for the guests. They have lots of games and a pool table, as well as the Red Fox Cafe which serves amazing local and western food. The breakfast at the hostel is the best breakfast and comes free with your room. We tried the delicious homemade acai bowls, ham and cheese croissants, and the avocado toast. They serve locally made kombucha and have lots of drinks, snacks, and food.
There is a movie room with AC and a coworking space that you can pay to use daily, weekly or monthly if you are a digital nomad. Lub D hostel is a modern boutique hostel that is high end for a low budget cost. The rooms are like a nice hotel room with local murals by artists and hanging wooden lights you can buy in the market place for a souvenir. They have nice western bathrooms, and the atmosphere in the hostel is a friendly place with lots of people to hang out with.
The hostel has a tour agency called Travel Adventure Co. inside of the hostel that is really convenient to take cheap tours of things to see and do in the city as well as the temples, floating markets, lotus fields kayaking, and cycling tours of the local villages. This is one of our favorite hostels we have stayed at in Southeast Asia and the best hostel in Siem Reap! They also have cheap and easy airport transportation too. This hostel makes traveling so easy and fun and their staff are all so nice and fun. They have high-speed wifi and a luggage storage service for up to 60 days as well which is almost unheard of for travelers!
Price: $25USD/night for private double rooms, $8USD for mixed & women’s dorms, BOOK HERE!!!!