Siem Reap is Cambodia’s main hub of tourism, visited by around one million travellers per year and for one good reason…
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!
Places to Stay in Siem Reap:
There is a huge choice here, 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.
The 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! Here are some of our favourites:
Siem Reap Backpackers Hostels – The Best Of
Mad Monkey Hostel: Great atmosphere, well equipped, helpful staff and a dandy location; just a short walk to Pub Street. The perfect backpacker’s hideout and the number one place in town if you want to party! Check availability here on Booking.com.
Oasis Capsules (Recently renamed the SnoozePod!) An excellently located bright and cheerful hostel with modern capsule style beds and all the amenities a backpacker could ask for. Beds from $6 USD, this hostel gets great reviews!
OUR PICK! The Hideout: Recommended 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.
Siem Reap Pub Hostel – The clue is in the name! This clean and friendly hostel is located walking distance from Siem Reap’s famous pub street and has a great social vibe where travellers like to meet and mingle. Complete with a swimming pool, bar, restaurant, pool table, dorm beds or privates this hostel is a favourite amongst backpackers.
Lub D Hostel: The 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.
Funky Flashpacker Hostel: An orgy of fluorescence, neon lights sleek surfaces, pool shenanigans and hip-hoppity music. Cheap food, cheap booze and plenty of drinks promotions to keep you poolside. Atrocious and sublime.
Rosy Guesthouse: A South East Asia Backpacker favourite, we discovered Rosy Guesthouse over 5 years ago and have been back to visit a few times. A lovely, clean friendly guesthouse with bright rooms and spacious relaxing balconies, overlooking Siem Reap river.
Great for couples and families…
Golden Gecko Villa: Recommended by a member of our community as a place to have a giggle with the friendly staff, this slightly more upmarket accommodation, complete with a swimming pool gets superb reviews, mainly for the level of service offered by the two Aussie owners, Paul and Keith. Perfect for couples or if you’re wanting to treat yourself to a more relaxing environment and not bad value for money at $20 US/night.
Golden Temple Villa: If you’re looking for something more upmarket, this beautiful and traditional villa located in the Old Market area might be your cup of tea. Very accommodating and suspiciously friendly staff. The villa even offers a complimentary massage to guests! Go on, treat yourself!
Things to do in Siem Reap:
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
- 3-Day $62 (valid for 10 days)
- 7-Day $72 (valid for 1 month)
Many people visit Angkor Wat in the early morning, with the site opening at 5 am to allow visitors to watch the sun rise over the temples. Be warned though you’ll watch the sunrise with hundreds of other people too! It is recommended to get a tuk-tuk or moto driver, especially if you only have a shorter pass as the Angkor area is vast, so plan a route before you set off!
Walk the walls of Angkor Thom:
While 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!
Trips & Day Tours in Siem Reap:
Visit a village on stilts:
Kampong Phluk Floating Village located on the Tonle Sap Lake can be reached by tuk-tuk or motorbike from Siem Reap and provides a real insight into traditional lake-life. It’s a 62km round trip from Siem Reap. There’s also Chong Kneas Floating Village which just an hour to get reach and will cost you around $10 US return (including waiting time for the driver) depending on how good you are at haggling. Remember you’ll need to negotiate a boat ride when you get there.
If you fancy doing a one-day countryside tour that takes in the floating village, this cycling and floating village trip is great value for money.
Beware, don’t get scammed into buying hundreds of exercise books for the local school!
The 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. It’s 30km from Siem Reap located in the Bantey Srei District.
One 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.
Right 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 many of the goods sold here in Thailand also.
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… it’s a tickly experience, to say the least.
Party the night away on Pub Street
Don’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 Reap
FROM 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.
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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