About Siem Reap
Siem Reap is the starting point for all tourists wishing to visit the nearby Angkor Wat.
And while Angkor Wat is the city’s main attraction, there are many other things to do in this sprawling city.
We especially liked walking along the river in the shade of the many trees by the path, eating street food, and exploring markets.
There’s a bunch to do in Siem Reap beyond the temples, so read along!
Siem Reap Travel Tips
But first, before we jump into the top things to do in Siem Reap, let’s cover the essentials and tips to help you have a more fun, enjoyable, and safer trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia.
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We have compiled a Siem Reap Travel Map, which you can refer to when exploring.
Top things to do in Siem Reap
While Siem Reap was only a tiny settlement before the intense Angkor Wat exploration started in the early 20th century, it is now a fully-fledged city, the 2nd biggest in Cambodia, with lots to do in and around it.
1. Visit Angkor Wat
It goes without saying that the top thing to do in Siem Reap is to visit Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s most famous and visited attraction.
Angkor is a spectacular collection of temples, built from the 9th to 15th centuries and officially recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
And for a good reason, as Angkor Wat is truly a wonder of the world in every sense.
Angkor Archeological Park is open every day from 5:00 am to 7:00 pm, but many temples are open between 7:30 am and 5:30 pm.
The complex grounds are immense, and exploring all the temples around can take days.
Read all about exploring Angkor Wat in our dedicated Angkor Wat Travel Guide. (coming soon)
The entrance ticket to Angkor Archeological Park costs 37 USD for one day, 62 USD for three days, and 72 USD for the seven days pass.
You can buy your Angkor Wat tickets online on the official website of Angkor Enterprise.
There are many different ways to explore Angkor Wat, as you can go around in a tuk-tuk, private car, bicycle, bus, or even on foot if you don’t mind the scorching heat.
No matter which way you choose to go around, make sure to buy your tickets in advance online, so you don’t have to wait in line on your arrival at the site, as the queue at the ticket office can be long.
We went around on a tuk-tuk with our local driver Lem, and you can easily arrange your tuk-tuk driver in Siem Reap for about 20 – 25 USD per day.
Our driver was great, and we can highly recommend him. He was recommended to us by our friend Jason who has gone with him around Angkor Wat 2 times already.
Contact Lem Tuk Tuk Siem Reap at +855 78 943 966 (WhatsApp).
And while in Angkor Wat, you can also go ziplining! We had no time to go last time, but on our return, we would definitely go. It’s not the craziest zipline experience in the world, but it looks fun!
2. Visit the Phsar Chas Old Market
While in Siem Reap, you have to visit the Old Market (Psar Chas), which not only caters to tourists but is an actual local market visited by the city’s inhabitants for their daily shopping needs.
Cambodians love buying fresh ingredients as much as possible. So it’s likely that one family visits the market multiple times per day. And since the Old Market in Siem Reap is an all-day market, it’s easy to do so.
The Old Market in Siem Reap is open every day from 6 am to 9 pm.
On Siem Reap’s Old Market, you can find everything you can expect from a South East Asian market.
And what we loved the most about the Old Market is that a few stalls offer freshly made food inside the market.
Not only that, but they also have delicious pastries and snacks, which you can usually only find in markets like this one.
We visited the Old Market many times, but the first time was on a Siem Reap Morning Food Tour, where we explored the various veggies, herbs, and other ingredients used in Khmer Cuisine. (more on that later in the article)
Don’t miss Siem Reap’s Old Market, if not to buy something, then to just look around at all the exciting goods sold.
3. Visit APOPO and the Cambodian Hero Rats
One of the coolest things to do in Siem Reap is to visit the APOPO center, where you can observe how the hero rats help to demine Cambodia, one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.
And the highlight of this 45-minute tour is the chance to hold and pet one of the retired rats.
Note: If you’re afraid of holding a rat, don’t be! They are super cute and love human contact! And if you’re lucky to get the one that climbs on your shoulder, even better!
We feel like they did a great job combining supporting a fantastic project and animal interaction without any abuse. So each visitor helps speed up the demining process and get the chance to hold a rat, which we would otherwise never be able to. Such an excellent idea!
You can watch the demonstration of how a rat finds mines and unexploded ordinance in the field. It’s so cool to see how fast but thorough these rats are.
Fun fact: The rat’s weight is just under 2kg, which is how much weight is needed to trigger most mines, so if they walk over one, they won’t activate it, unlike humans.
We recommend taking about 1 hour from your day in Siem Reap to visit APOPO and learn about one of the most critical projects in Cambodia, the demining that will save hundreds of lives.
The entrance ticket to APOPO is 8 USD per person, and you can take a tuk-tuk there for about 1 USD from downtown.
APOPO Visitor Center in Siem Reap is open daily from 8:30 am to 5 pm, with the last tour starting at 4:30 pm.
Before coming, we recommend you book your visit in advance, as there are limited spots daily.
Contact APOPO at email@example.com, or better yet, message them on WhatsApp at +855 61799237 (we arranged our visit on WhatsApp).
There’s also a tour we found online that combines a visit to APOPO and the national museum.
4. Go on a food tour
The perfect way to explore Siem Reap’s and Khmer cuisine more in-depth is by joining a food tour that takes you around the different spots in the city, trying various delicious traditional dishes, snacks, and desserts.
And we got to try different local Khmer dishes and receive valuable information on the history and culture of the places we passed by.
We highly recommend the Siem Reap Morning Food Tour, and what’s great is that they have a vegan/vegetarian option as well, so it’s suitable for everyone. Yes, in Cambodia, of all places!
5. Visit Siem Reap temples
There’s no shortage of temples in Siem Reap that are not part of the Angkor Wat complex, and while they are not as old or as grand, they are very much worth visiting.
All of Siem Reap’s temples are free to visit, but donations are appreciated.
And since they are all within walking distance from the other spots in the city’s downtown, they’re easy to visit.
The former royal residence of the Cambodian monarchy, Wat Damnak, has a rich and dramatic history.
And when they moved the royal residence away from Wat Damnak, they turned it into a temple, and now it’s home to the important Center for Khmer Studies.
Wat Damnak has no official opening hours, but you can freely walk the grounds between sunrise and sunset.
Wat Bo Pagoda
Built sometime in the 18th century, Wat Bo Pagoda is one of the oldest temples in Siem Reap.
The streets around Wat Bo are full of great coffee shops, restaurants, coworking spaces, and many great places to stay.
We were staying in Nary Villa (with a really nice pool!), two streets up from Wat Bo Pagoda, and were passing it daily on our way to the night market.
Wat Bo, like Wat Damnak, has no official opening hours, but you can freely walk around the grounds between sunrise and sunset.
Wat Preah Prom Rath
Located opposite the river, Wat Preah Prom Rath is a beautiful temple to visit, especially for sunset, when the golden light strikes the details inside the temple.
Wat Preah Prom Rath houses Khmer-style pagodas, some dating back to the 16th century.
You can visit Wat Preah Prom Rath anytime from sunrise to sunset.
6. Walk along the river
Siem Reap’s riverside is a great place to go for a walk or run. And since the trees partially cover the walkway, it luckily offers a bit of shade.
And the riverside is where you can find street food stalls during the evening, starting close to Wat Preah Prom Rath and ending at the roundabout a few minutes down from the Old Market.
7. Eat and drink at the night market
Visit the night markets in Siem Reap and try some delicious food, snacks, and drinks.
We frequently went for some tasty roti with bananas and chocolate on our visits. Click here to find the exact stall we ate roti at.
And we even managed to find a stall that agreed to make us some delicious vegetarian dishes. They made us fried morning glory with garlic, fried rice with veggies, and a mixed cabbage and other veggies dish.
All you have to do is ask because sometimes it’s unclear from the menu if the dishes can be “vegetarianized.” And many can. 👍
And the best thing you can get for a dollar at the stalls at night is all the fantastic drinks like coconut shake, lemon shake, passionfruit juice, and similar. Amazing!
The night markets in Siem Reap start operating in the late afternoon, about 1 hour before sunset, so from about 5 pm until about midnight.
We loved the street food stalls nearby the river the most, as they offered enough space with tables and chairs to enjoy the delicious food.
This was a vast contrast to our favorite SEA night market, Jonker Street Night Market in Malaysia, where you had minimal options for seating.
8. Enjoy an evening at Pub Street
Pub Street is Siem Reap’s center of nightlife, lined with live music bars, cafes, and restaurants with cheap beer, and is open late into the night.
It’s the perfect place if you’re looking for a night out in Siem Reap, as it’s busy and lively.
And you can also get yourself a nice fish pedicure for about 3 USD for 20 minutes with a beer or drink included at the many places on and around Pub Street.
9. Visit the Made in Cambodia Market
If you want to go shopping for some Cambodian-made products rather than the regular factory-made items from China that you can find elsewhere, check the Made in Cambodia Market.
All the products and handicrafts sold on the Made in Cambodia Market are locally made, and many support local initiatives.
The market is not big but offers many different things like jewelry, clothing, creative souvenirs, and paintings.
The Made in Cambodia Market is open every day from mid-day until 8 pm.
We also managed to find some tasty ice cream!
10. Visit Tonle Sap Lake
Siem Reap is only a few kilometers north of Tonle Sap Lake, the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and among the most productive fishing lakes in the world.
This vast lake supports Cambodians with their main protein, fish, which is one of the main ingredients of Khmer cuisine. And over half of the fish consumed in Cambodia comes from the Tonle Sap Lake.
Visit the Tonle Sap Lake Floating Villages
There are a few floating villages on Tonle Sap Lake, of which the Kampong Phluk Floating Village is the most famous and the most visited.
What’s interesting, though, is that the floating villages don’t always float, as during the dry season, when the water level of Tonle Sap Lake drastically drops, they are like typical villages, and you can walk/cycle through them.
We have mixed feelings about visiting these villages because they get very little from visiting tourists (tour operators are not from there).
Most floating village residents are ethnic Vietnamese who were exiled during Khmer Rouge and later returned, but many are without Vietnamese or Cambodian papers. So they’re currently stateless and have no right to own land or take jobs. That’s why they are living in floating houses.
But they have lived there for generations before, so we hope that they will soon be granted citizenship and that their lives will improve.
Go on a Sunset Dinner Cruise on Tonle Sap Lake
Enjoy a relaxing afternoon and delicious dinner or cocktails as you take in the beauty of Cambodia’s largest lake on a sunset cruise.
Visit the Prek Toal Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve
11. Visit the Angkor National Museum
To learn more about Angkor and Khmer history, visit the Angkor National Museum, which is dedicated to the preservation and education of the culture of the Khmer civilization.
Not only that, but the museum also provides a lot of background information about Buddhism and Hinduism, their symbolism, and architecture.
The museum hosts a great collection of preserved statues, carvings, and art, with signs explaining the meanings. And if you’d like a better insight, get an audio guide.
Angkor National Museum is open every day from 8:30 am to 6 pm, and the ticket costs 12 USD and 5 USD for the audio guide.
It’s worth visiting the Angkor National Museum before you visit the Angkor Wat temples, as you can get a better overview of the complex.
You can buy the tickets on-site or book them online and get a tuk-tuk ride included.
12. Get a massage
After exploring the sites in and around Siem Reap, pamper yourself with a nice massage!
There are plenty of great massage places in the city, and they’re very affordable.
You will do a lot of walking on your Angkor Wat exploration, and getting a foot massage afterward is a lifesaver!
13. Visit Battambang on a day trip
You can also visit Battambang on a day trip from Siem Reap, ride the iconic bamboo train, visit the killing caves, and watch millions of bats coming out of the cave of Phnom Sampov.
While it’s a long day out and about, it’s worth including in your time in Siem Reap.
The bats flying out of the caves at sunset is a fascinating spectacle. And while we haven’t seen it in Battambang, we did see it near Bangkok. You can watch our Thailand Bat Caves YouTube video to see what it looks like.
14. Day trip to Kulen National Park
While there aren’t many waterfalls around Siem Reap, the one worth visiting is the Kulen Waterfall, about 2 hours of drive to the north in the Phnom Kulen National Park.
You can get a tuk-tuk driver to get you there for a half-day or join one of the organized tours that include a few other attractions there, like the reclining Buddha and the river of 1000 lingas.
Among its many highlights is the 1000 Lingas River at Kbal Spean – an archaeological site with incredibly intricate Linga carvings adorning its riverbed.
15. Do a Khmer cuisine cooking class
While you can experience Khmer cuisine by eating at restaurants, the best way to explore Cambodian cuisine is by joining a Khmer Cooking Class.
We highly recommend checking cooking classes in Siem Reap on Cookly, the best platform for finding cooking classes worldwide.
16. Bike around the countryside
Siem Reap’s countryside is beautiful, and you can enjoy it on a bike ride around.
There are many bike shops in the city where you can rent a bicycle for about 5 USD per day.
And there are also plenty of Siem Reap biking tours heading out every day that you can join if you’d like a bit more organized schedule and want to see some things you might not know of yourself.
17. Watch a show at Phare, The Cambodian Circus
Admire the fascinating choreography of Phare, The Cambodian Circus, a musical, acrobatic, and dance spectacle telling unique Cambodian stories.
What’s great about The Cambodian Circus in Siem Reap is that they don’t use any animals in their performances, which we highly support!
The Cambodian Circus is open every day from 5:30 pm, with shows starting at 8 pm.
Other things to do in Siem Reap
Now that you know all the top things to do in and around Siem Reap, we want to show you some other things worth doing if you have extra time.
Best time to visit Siem Reap
Siem Reap is a year-round destination, but the best time to visit is in December and January, when it’s dry, you have clear blue skies, and it’s still not too hot.
The months between November and February are the driest and coolest, but they are also the high season and when the biggest crowds are found in Siem Reap and Angkor.
The hottest months in Siem Reap are April and May, when it’s scorching hot, with temperatures regularly over 40 degrees Celsius.
And the wettest months in Siem Reap are September and October, while the monsoon with more frequent rains runs between May and November.
Where to stay in Siem Reap
Siem Reap is not a big city, and the downtown attractions are all within walking distance from one another, so anywhere you stay should be fine.
No matter where you stay in Siem Reap, going around on foot or by tuk-tuk is easy.
We stayed in the Wat Bo area of Siem Reap, in the beautiful Nary Villa with a fantastic pool.
The streets around Wat Bo are full of great coffee shops, restaurants, coworking spaces, and many great places to stay.
Top-rated hotels in Siem Reap
Luxury: Anansaya La Maison
Mid-range: Khmer House Resort
Budget: Long Night Hotel
Where to eat in Siem Reap
You won’t have trouble finding great places to eat in Siem Reap, as there are a lot of local Khmer restaurants and many foreign cuisines like Italian, Mexican, Greek, and more.
We ate a fantastic lunch at the famous Banlle vegetarian restaurant, which we can highly recommend.
For some amazing ice cream, check out Gelato Lab, and if you dare, try the pepper-chocolate one!
And finally, don’t skip the night markets!
How to get to Siem Reap
The fastest way to get to Siem Reap for most travelers is to fly into Siem Reap International Airport.
If you’re arriving by plane, we recommend you book your private airport transfer in advance. But getting a taxi or tuk-tuk at the airport shouldn’t be a problem either, and it will cost you between 10 and 15 USD.
But the most comfortable way to get to Siem Reap from Phnom Penh is with a Phnom Penh to Siem Reap Private Car service.
How to get around Siem Reap
In Siem Reap’s downtown, you can get around easily on foot, as most attractions are within walking distance from one another.
Otherwise, we highly recommend renting a bicycle or going around with the tuk-tuks.
In Cambodia, you can even call a tuk-tuk on Grab (Asian Uber) and Pass App. Otherwise, just hail down an empty one in the street, and negotiate the price before driving away.
We were staying in the Wat Bo area, and there were always a few tuk-tuks somewhere around in the streets close to us, and it would cost us about 1 USD to get a 10-minute ride to the downtown near Old Market.
Tuk Tuk is the best way to get around Siem Reap, and we can only dream of having a similar mode of transport elsewhere in the world.
It’s affordable, comfortable, quick, and great for cooling off during the ride.
Of course, if you want the most comfortable way to get around and have air conditioning, then hiring a private car is the best choice.
How many days in Siem Reap is enough?
For most travelers, 3 nights in Siem Reap are enough to see the main temples in the Angkor complex, enjoy a night at the night market and pub street, and go to the lake or waterfall.
The length of your stay in Siem Reap primarily depends on how many days you want to spend exploring the Angkor Archeological Park.
Of course, you can see the highlights of Angkor in a day, but if you want to see more of it, especially at a more relaxed pace, then the three-day ticket is ideal.
Prices in Siem Reap
Siem Reap is generally cheaper than Phnom Penh, but the admission tickets and transport can add up. And in the high season, the hotels have higher prices.
But a few-day visit to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat shouldn’t set you back more than 200 USD per person.
|Hotel: $35 – $150 / night||Inexpensive meal: $2 – $4||Taxi 1km: $1 – $2|
|Hostel: $5 – $10 / night||Mid-range meal: $7 – $10||Bike rental: $10 – $20|
Is Siem Reap a safe destination?
Much like all of Cambodia, Siem Reap is a very safe destination for all travelers.
What to pack for your visit to Siem Reap
Siem Reap is always hot, so we highly recommend packing some lighter, breathable clothes and long pants, as you will need them for visiting Angkor temples.
Don’t forget to bring some mosquito repellant (natural if possible) because the Angkor complex is surrounded by a moat, as well as a few lakes where mosquitos breed. And a river runs through Siem Reap, so there are plenty of mosquitos there as well.
Don’t forget to take plenty of sunscreen, as your visit to Siem Reap will involve being in the sun a lot, especially at Angkor. We highly recommend buying a reef-safe sunscreen if you plan to combine your trip to Siem Reap with other destinations like Koh Rong, Kampot, and similar.
Read more: Environmental effects of sunscreen (Wikipedia)
Reusable water bottle
We highly recommend taking a reusable water bottle so you can refill it with fresh cold water. On your Angkor visit, if you’re taking a tuk-tuk, your driver will likely have cold bottles of water with him. And for us, it was very convenient to just fill our bigger bottle from them and take it with us, as the water stayed cold longer.
Take some light clothes that dry fast for your visit to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat.
We traveled with our favorite travel clothes from Unbound Merino. The shirts were great as they dried super fast after getting sweaty (which you will), and unlike other clothes, they don’t stink up after one wear, so you can reuse them a lot.
Heads up: Our readers get 10% off Unbound Merino clothing (code: SHIPPEDAWAY). ♥
And lastly, a hat would be a great idea, as again, you will be in the sun often.
Is Siem Reap worth visiting?
Siem Reap is absolutely worth visiting, not only for Angkor Wat and the other temples but for many other fun, exciting things to do.
We enjoyed our visit to Siem Reap and will definitely return on our next Cambodia visit. It’s a cool city that seems to be growing quite nicely.