Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious building dubbed as the most magnificent piece of architecture ever built by man. Heralded as the ‘Eighth Wonder’ of the world, it is a must-visit site for all backpackers to Cambodia. And when you’re all templed out, you can explore the actual town of Siem Reap, a lovely place in its own right with friendly people, some great restaurants and lively bars. Sample local delicious dishes such as ‘Fish Amok’ ‘Beef Lok Lak,’ then wander down the aptly named ‘Pub Street’ and have a drink at any one of the lively bars like the popular Angkor What? Bar. Read our full guide to backpacking in Cambodia here!  Siem Reap is Cambodia’s main hub of tourism, visited by around one million travellers per year and for one good reason…
Where to Stay in Siem ReapThere is a huge choice of accommodation in Siem Reap, every other building seems to be a guesthouse or hotel! It’s true to say that you will definitely get a lot for your money everywhere that you travel in Cambodia, and Siem Reap is no exception!
Siem Reap Backpackers Hostels – Top 5The majority of the backpacker hostels can be found near the famous ‘Pub Street’ and lining the river. However, wherever you stay will never be far from the hustle and bustle, with one dollar rickshaws available for the lazy ones amongst us! Check out our list of the best hostels in Siem Reap or check out the following top 5 picks…
2. The HideoutRecommended by a member of our Facebook community, The Hideout gets super good reviews all around. Maybe it has something to do with the free beer every night from 8-9pm, or the swimming pool, or the fact that it costs $6 USD per night for a bed in a 6-bed dorm! Expect 5-star facilities at backpacker prices.
4. Lub d HostelThe Lub d chain of hostels started in Bangkok, Thailand, which is where we first encountered them. The hostel is top quality with superb cleanliness, comfort, modern dorm rooms, relaxing common areas, a bar and restaurant, clean bright bathrooms, power showers, swimming pool (of course) and just fantastic attention to detail across the whole hostel. A dorm bed here costs $8 USD. They also have a great on-site travel agency, Adventure Travel Co. which is a Cambodian youth-run initiative organising great eco-friendly local tours in Siem Reap. (More details below)
Great places to stay in Siem Reap for couples and families…Find more accommodation in Siem Reap here.
Things to do in Siem Reap, Cambodia
1. MUST DO: Explore the temples of Angkor Wat!The main reason tourists and backpackers alike flock to this city is to visit one of the most famous and important archaeological sites in southeast Asia. As a result, whatever time of day you go, you will not be alone! You will need to buy a pass to get into the Angkor area. These can be bought en-route to the temples and your driver will stop for you. There are three choices, the 1-day pass, 3-day pass or the 7-day pass. The prices changed in February 2017 and now the cost is:
- 1-Day $37 USD
- 3-Day $62 USD (valid for 10 days)
- 7-Day $72 USD (valid for 1 month)
2. Walk the walls of Angkor ThomWhile Angkor Wat Temples are visited by almost every tourist who sets foot in Siem Reap, the hidden 12km wall along the splendid walls of Angkor Thom is a little-known attraction. It’s a circular route that’s steeped in art and history and a must do for any culture vultures. Take plenty of water and a hat – it gets super hot! Read more about taking the Angkor Thom Trail here.
3. Visit the Floating VillagesThe amazing Tonlé Sap Lake lies just outside of Siem reap and is the largest freshwater lake in Asia. The size of the lake change drastically between the dry season and rainy season in Cambodia. Due to the ever-changing nature of the lake, local people have learnt to adapt and have built their homes right on the water, in stilted houses (up to size metres high) or floating raft houses that literally move with the tides. Several of the floating village of the Tonle Sap Lake can be reached on a day tour from Siem Reap. However, depending on which floating village that you decide to visit, your experience will be very different. For example, the closest village, Chong Kneas, has a terrible reputation for travel scams and unethical tourism; think crocodile farms and monkeys in cages. Kompong Phluk is another popular village to visit, that’s not recommended as the money spent on tours here does not benefit the local villagers in any way. A much better option for those wanting to visit the floating villages are the villages of Kompong Khleang (actually the largest villages on the lake) and the smaller, little-visited, Mechrey Floating Village. (Click the links for recommended ethical tour companies.) At these two villages, the local boat services are owned by the village, so your tourist dollar directly benefits the local community. While they are both more difficult to reach than the closer villages, your experience here will be much more genuine and rewarding. Read more here about Siem Reap’s Floating Villages.
3. Siem Reap’s MuseumsThe War Museum in Siem Reap town is worth a visit as is the Landmine Museum in Banteay Srei District. Set up as an attempt to educate locals and tourists about the dangers of landmines, this tiny museum gives a real insight into the recent tragedy of Cambodian life. Most of the guides are either orphans due to landmine accidents, or have been disabled by them. The museum is 30km from Siem Reap located in the Bantey Srei District.
4. Phare CircusOne of the most interesting evenings you can have in Siem Reap is at the Phare Circus, an inspiring social enterprise and entertaining theatrical performance. All profits generated by ticket sales go to supporting free education and social programs for disadvantaged youths of Cambodia. The performance is culturally very interesting as live actors tell stories of Cambodia through dance, music and theatre. The artists are all graduates from the school Phare Ponleu Selpak. Founded in 2013, it’s a professional arts training centre and NGO based in Battambang, Cambodia. Over 1200 students are currently being trained here and their successes are changing their lives and the lives of local communities.
5. Siem Reap Old Market and theRight next to Pub Street, this is a popular market for travellers to grab a bargain and pick up souvenirs and trinkets galore. It’s a little different to other Southeast Asian markets as you won’t find the usual touristy trash. A popular spa treatment popping up all over southeast Asia is the ‘fish massage’. Walk along Pub Street or head to the Central Market and you’ll know just what we mean…
6. Visit Trav Kot ReservoirTrav Kot is a lake and eco-tourism community located 30km outside of Sim Reap. The area is very picturesque with beautiful views of Phnom Kulen and the Phnom Bok mountain range. A great wat to explore the lake (which is often nicknamed ‘Lotus Lake’) is by kayak. Adventure Travel Co. have a half day Trav Kot Kayak Trip for $25 US which you can book on this website.
7. Party the night away on Pub StreetDon’t miss the famous Angkor What? Bar on Pub Street! Stick to the 50 cent draft Angkor beer or get a free t-shirt if you buy three buckets… need we say more. If you’re looking for a more sophisticated evening, head to Siem Reap Brewpub for a delicious selection of unique homemade craft beers and excellent food!
Getting to Siem ReapFROM PHNOM PENH: Bus: Buses leave from the early hours until 3 pm for about $10 and can be easily arranged by your guesthouse (who may charge a $1-2 fee). There is also a night bus if you prefer not to waste a day. However, be warned that buses stop at a tiny bus station in what seems to be the middle of nowhere, so it’ll cost you an extra $3 tuk-tuk far to reach the centre. Boat: A boat to Siem Reap from Phnom Penh is a popular way to make the journey. A little bit pricey at around $35, this leisurely mode of transport will take around 6 hours but will give you the chance to get a taste of lake-life and even do a spot of sunbathing…unless it rains! Pack a waterproof. FROM ELSEWHERE: Fly: If you’re coming from another country, then the flashpackers amongst may want to get a cheap flight with AirAsia or Bangkok Air straight to Siem Reap, saving you all the hassle of the notoriously bad border. If you book in advance, you’ll save loads. Bus: Regular buses leave daily from Bangkok, costing around $10 and taking anywhere from three to five hours to reach the border. Beware of being dropped off at a nearby restaurant, who’s ‘helpful’ staff will offer to arrange your VISA for a small fee… don’t do it! It’ll be cheaper at the border. Shared car: If you’re travelling from Bangkok then this can be easier and often more comfortable than getting the public bus, but will cost a little more. Find some travel buddies and then a four-seater can cost $25-$45, and only takes 2-3 hours.
Where to go next?Sihanoukville: The largest (and some would say sleaziest) beach town in Cambodia, Sihanoukville is often the next onwards step for those backpackers who like to party. Phnom Penh: Grab a bus (run daily from the early hours) back up to the capital Phnom Penh.
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