Can you hear the pounding bassline or shout of Batman tuk tuk yet?! This is Pub Street in Siem Reap – home to a legendary nightlife scene which has been enticing backpackers since 2008. Officially called Street 8, Pub Street sits at the heart of Siem Reap’s nighttime economy and is arguably the best-known party destination in the whole of Cambodia.
You don’t have to get messy to enjoy Pub Street though. With some of the cheapest beers around, Street 8 is a great place to go to enjoy bargain booze, Khmer cuisine, people-watching and Cambodian culture. I go back every time I visit Cambodia and the novelty still hasn’t worn off!
Get ready to eat, drink and be merry – we’re taking you on a whirlwind tour of Siem Reap’s Pub Street!
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A Guide to Pub Street, Siem Reap 🍺🍷🍸🍹
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History of Pub Street ⏳
Previously just a humble dirt road with a couple of restaurants, the opening of Angkor What? Bar was the catalyst for the transformation we see before us on Pub Street today. After it opened, several other bars followed suit including Red Piano, Le Tigre de Papier and Temple Club.
However, it was the movie Tomb Raider and its star Angelina Jolie that brought Pub Street into the mainstream. Jolie’s favourite hangout during filming was said to be Red Piano, a claim they’ve been dining out on ever since, even creating a cocktail in her honour!
As the backpacking scene grew in Cambodia and more people found themselves on Pub Street, word spread. After all, who doesn’t want to grab a beer for under a dollar?! It has since become one of the city’s most popular attractions.
Sadly, the businesses along Pub Street suffered hugely during the pandemic, with many locals likening the street to a ghost town. Luckily though, the tourists have returned and the street is awash with energy once.
Where to Drink on Pub Street 🍻
COVID-19 – The Aftermath
Angkor What? Bar
The first bar to spring up down Pub Street, Angkor What? has been a mainstay of Street 8 since it opened back in 1998. Famous for its graffitied walls (which you can leave your own tag on), it has long been a backpacker favourite for its epic happy hour deals!
This bar is a great choice for couples looking to chill on Pub Street without a rowdy atmosphere. The drinks are more expensive than some of the surrounding places but it is worth it to escape to their upstairs seating area and enjoy the views down onto Pub Street. Don’t miss their legendary Tomb Raider cocktail!
Miss Wong Cocktail Bar
If you prefer sipping cocktails to downing pints, Miss Wong is the bar for you! This stylish watering hole brings Chinese speakeasy vibes with an essence of class. There’s a large variety of cocktails on offer, from the classics to more unusual options. It’s a great place to start a night out on Pub Street!
Opposite the famous Angkor What? Bar, Temple Club is Pub Street’s best dance venue. They host an apsara dance show upstairs but those looking for a cultural experience are likely to be put off by the strobe lighting and thudding bassline pumping out from the ground floor. It gets very busy after 11 pm – this is the place to get messy!
Where to Eat on Pub Street 🍛
Khmer Family Restaurant
If you’re looking for Cambodian fare along Pub Street, look no further than Khmer Family Restaurant. You can try all the classics here, from lok lak to fish amok. And if you don’t know where to start with the menu, just ask the friendly staff for their recommendations!
You Beetle Listen Up! 🪲
The Banana Leaf
A long-established restaurant on Pub Street, the Banana Leaf caters to a range of tastes with Khmer, Asian and Western dishes. If you’re looking to try something a wee bit different, opt for their famous crocodile burger! They are the only place to serve Jungle Cocktails too, complete with spiders and scorpions!
Le Tigre de Papier
One of the original restaurants to pop up on Pub Street, Le Tigre de Papier serves a range of Western and Khmer dishes. It is particularly popular with those looking for an authentic Cambodian cooking experience – classes include a visit to the market to buy ingredients and teach you how to make some of Cambodia’s most famous dishes.
Open throughout the day as well as in the evening, Red Piano is a good place to get some grub. They offer a large selection of Western and Khmer options meaning you can even take your fussy boyfriend! The cornerside location is a great place to people watch from.
Fish Massage? 🐟
Cambodian BBQ – CLOSED
The very first time that I went to Pub Street, there were BBQ restaurants everywhere. They specialise in hot coal barbecues, with exotic meats such as kangaroo, snake, frog and crocodile on offer. The most famous of all of them was Cambodian BBQ but unfortunately, this restaurant didn’t survive the pandemic.
Is Pub Street Safe? ⚠️
Pub Street is generally safe. However, the sheer number of people, loud music, flashing lights and constant offers of drugs can mean it’s a little overwhelming. Much like at any tourist attraction in Southeast Asia, there is always a risk of falling victim to a scam or petty crime.
“I get offered drugs everywhere I go in the world. I’m a white guy with dreadlocks, so people see me as a guaranteed sale. On Pub Street, this happened more than anywhere else in Cambodia – more than anywhere else in Southeast Asia even! But unlike in other places, people wouldn’t accept no as the answer. They continued to follow me, whispering conspiratorially about the range of drugs they had on offer. Not too much of a big deal for me but some people might find it intimidating.”Tim Ashdown – Writer at South East Asia Backpacker
As with any busy tourist area, you should avoid flashing your belongings and be aware of those around you. Pickpocketing is the most common act of petty crime that occurs in Pub Street. If you’re drinking in the bars, always keep an eye on your drink and don’t wander around alone, especially if you’ve been drinking. Hail a tuk tuk rather than walking back to your accommodation.
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Begging happens around Pub Street and can be intimidating. Most of the time, a firm no will be enough for the person to move on. Instead of giving money to those begging, consider donating to a local NGO instead.
One common scam around the Pub Street area is the baby milk scam. I fell victim to this when I first visited Cambodia back in 2015. In the scam, a child or mother will approach you and ask you to buy baby formula for them. You’ll go to the shop, convinced you’re doing a good deed, purchase the formula and hand it over. As soon as you’ve left, the scammer will return the formula to the shop. A store manager will pocket most of the refund, giving the original beggar as little as 10%!
“Before I visited Cambodia, I had never heard of the baby milk scam. I was sitting in a bar with my boyfriend, watching this small kid approach foreigners on the street. We’d seen some people offer him money which he turned down. This piqued our interest and led us to believe he really needed help. When he eventually approached us, we agreed to buy the formula that he asked for. It was around a day after our interaction with him that we saw posters from the charity ChildSafe warning tourists about this very scam.”Sheree, Editor at South East Asia Backpacker
How to Get to Pub Street 🚘
If you are staying in the centre of Siem Reap, you may be able to walk to Pub Street. If your accommodation is a little further out, any PassApp driver will be able to take you for a couple of dollars.
When it comes to getting back from Pub Street, you should book a tuk tuk on PassApp for the best price. You can also approach one of the drivers waiting in the street but remember to haggle – the initial price is overinflated to account for this.
Make sure that you have a copy of your hotel address saved offline. It is always a good idea to grab a business card from your accommodation to show taxi drivers. Sometimes these will even have the address written in Khmer.
Places to Stay Near Pub Street 🏨
Just 300 metres from Pub Street, this cheap and cheerful hostel is a great base for shoestring backpackers on a mission to have a good time! Relax by the swimming pool or get to know your fellow travellers over a drink at the bar.
If you want a mid-range option in the thick of the action, this is a great choice. Steps from Pub Street and the Old Market, it is a great base in the centre of the city. With a generous-sized family suite on offer, it is a good choice for those travelling with the kids in tow.
An oasis of calm, a stone’s throw from the night market and Pub Street, Central Suite Residence is a great place to go for a luxury stay (at a fraction of European prices). The staff are super friendly and can recommend things to do in the area.