Siem Reap

The town of Siem Reap (សៀមរាប), in northern Cambodia, is the primary access point for the Angkor Archaeological Park.

Understand

French colonial architecture still dominates the streetscape.

The name Siem Reap literally means "Siam Defeated". These days, however, the only rampaging hordes are the tourists heading to the Angkor Archaeological Park. This once quaint village has become the largest boom town and construction site in Cambodia. It is quite laid-back and a pleasant place to stay while touring the temples. It is a nice compromise between observing Cambodian life and enjoying the amenities of modern services and entertainment, thanks to a large expatriate community. Since Siem Reap is a major tourist destination, prices in some instances are higher than elsewhere in Cambodia. Expect to receive almost constant offers for motodop and tuk-tuk rides, along with everything else which drivers may be able to offer to you.

Be sure to pick up your free Siem Reap Angkor Visitors Guide and the equally free and useful Siem Reap Pocket Guide from your hotel/guesthouse. It contains lots of info on Siem Reap and the Angkor Archaeological Park, including hotel/bar/restaurant/shop info, travel info, and maps. For the eco-sensitive tourist, check out Stay Another Day: Cambodia, a detailed guide with local spots that support the environment and community. Another address is the ConCERT tourist office, a local NGO committed to raising the standards of responsible tourism and eco-tourism activities and providing information on the causes and effects of poverty in Cambodia, volunteering opportunities and eco-tours.

Get in

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 32.0 33.3 34.6 35.5 35.2 33.5 32.7 32.0 32.2 31.3 30.6 31.0
Nightly lows (°C) 19.7 20.8 26.1 25.1 25.4 24.8 24.8 25.0 24.5 23.9 22.4 20.3
Precipitation (mm) 0.7 3.5 28.0 61.2 175.9 221.3 236.6 151.0 276.1 248.0 81.7 10.1

Source:w:Siem_Reap#Climate

By plane

Siem Reap International Airport (IATA: REP) is the second largest airport in Cambodia. Its modern architecture is based on the traditional Khmer-style. Its facilities are limited. There are separate terminals for international and domestic flights.

The airport is served by:

The airport is around 7 km from the town centre. Prepaid taxis cost USD7, see the prepaid booth just outside the terminal. Prepaid tuk-tuk rides for slightly less are also available. Thrill seeking solo travellers without much baggage can save money by opting for back of a motodop for USD2. Most hotels offer a free airport pick-up if you've booked in advance.

By bus

Major companies include Phnom Penh Sorya Transport Capitol Tours, and GST Express.

Try to book at least the day before travel. Travel agents and guesthouses will do this for a USD1-2 fee. Buses tend to leave in the morning or early afternoon. There are also night buses on some routes.

Many buses terminate at an out-of-town bus station to the east of Siem Reap, from where travellers will need to take a tuk-tuk into town. This should cost no more than USD2, or maybe USD3 if you're not keen to drive a hard bargain. Anything more will have your driver thinking you are a weak-willed idiot, rather than the generous, naive optimist you perhaps consider yourself to be.

If arriving from the west, consider getting off the bus as it passes through town on Hwy 6, say as it crosses the bridge over the river, before it reaches the bus station. If arriving from the east you have little choice but to face the touts.

Capitol Tours buses, however, terminate at the company's office in the centre of town, near old market, making them the most sensible choice.

Domestic services

International services

Laos

Be wary of the sleeper bus from Siem Reap to Vientiane. A second payment may be sought for travel onward after stopping for the border crossing. Unscheduled trip delays and an unexpected change to a different service may occur on-route. Be alert to issues of personal security and watchful concerning your possessions and luggage, especially whilst sleeping.

Thailand

If travelling independently to the Aranyaprathet/Poipet border, see those towns' articles for advice on how to reach the border, survive immigration and avoid the "Government" bus scam.

Vietnam

By boat

A more expensive and more time consuming option from Phnom Penh (USD35, 6 hr) or Battambang (USD20-25, 5 hr) is to take a Soviet-style hydrofoil across Tonle Sap Lake. These can be fantastic trips giving you the opportunity to view life on the lake, floating houses, working fishermen, and to get a suntan if you choose to sit on the roof of the boat. However, the trip can be ruined due to bad weather. Remember to use sunscreen and take a waterproof jacket. You may not be able to access your luggage during the journey (sometimes the baggage is available, sometimes it is not). If you have the time, it is better to visit the floating villages as day trips from Siem Reap rather than see them from the boat.

The port you arrive at is about 20 minutes south of Siem Reap by tuk-tuk. The drivers will try to charge you USD5 per person but the trip should not cost more than USD5 in total.

By shared taxi

The quickest method of getting from the Poipet border to Siem Reap is a shared car. A four seater car costs USD25-45, depending on your bargaining prowess, and takes 2-3 hr. Even if you're travelling solo, it shouldn't be too hard to find others to share the expense.

By helicopter

Helicopters can be chartered to go nearly anywhere in the country. They seat 5-6 people. Prices start at USD1,000 for trips to some of the temples north of Angkor Wat. Companies include Helicopters Cambodia and Helistar Cambodia.

Get around

Travel to and around the Angkor Archaeological Park is extensively covered in its own article. The following is a discussion of travel with Siem Reap.

On foot

The city centre is fairly compact and flat.

By bicycle

Many guesthouses will lend you bicycles either for free or cheaply (USD1-3).

By motorbike

Motodops (motorbike taxi) abound and will make sure you know where they are. Rides within town should only cost USD0.50 or 2,000 riel, although prices can double at night or during bad weather. Agree a price first. Full day can be arranged for ~USD10. Helmets for passengers are rare though may materialize if requested in advance.

Renting a motorbike is prohibited for foreign travellers in Siem Reap, though motorbikes rented elsewhere are permitted.

Petrol stations vary from first world forecourts to roadside stalls selling fuel of dubious quality in drinks bottles.

By tuk-tuk

Tuk-tuks, like motodops, will call at tourists from nearly any street corner.

A trip within Siem Reap should cost USD1 regardless of how many people pile on. Most tuk-tuks can convey four people comfortably though the extra weight can make the low-powered bikes laboriously slow. Prices can double at night or during bad weather.

Ensure both you and the driver are in crystal clear agreement on the destination and total fare before departure. Payment is made on arrival and doesn't increase if the driver got lost or had to take a circuitous route.

By car

Cars with drivers can be hired for single or multiple days. While all drivers are familiar with the area and happy to suggest good routes, most speak little English and are not actual tour guides. Licensed tour guides charge USD45-50 per day for a driver and English speaking guide. Drivers will likely ask for USD5-10 extra for trips to further temples such as the those of the Big Circuit, Banteay Srey and more for remote sites like Beng Mealea.

The taxis (USD7 fixed cost) from the airport to Siem Reap proper may provide a full day of touring for USD25-30.

See

Most people come to visit Angkor Archaeological Park, which is thoroughly covered in its own article. The town itself has some worthwhile attractions and a number of beautiful modern Buddhist temples.

The reclining Buddha at Wat Preah Prom Rath
Piles of mines, Landmine Museum

Do

Activities

Adventure

Cooking classes

Cultural performances

Festivals

Massage

The Khmer believe that Thai massage is derived from Khmer massage and that it is more relaxing as it requires less twisting and turning. The numerous Khmer-style massage shops mostly offer genuine massage and are not a front for sexual services. If you feel unsure what type they will give you, a safe bet is to opt for one of the blind massage services. The trained masseurs are the real deal. Some are inside the night market. Contrary to common belief, blind massage services DO OFFER special massages too.

Orphanage visits

Some travellers feel visiting an orphanage is a good way to make a positive contribution to Cambodia, while others feel that orphanage tours do more harm than good. The largest child protection group in the country has asked that tourists not visit orphanages--the great majority of Cambodian children in orphanages have living parents, but the tourist demand for orphans results in these children being separated from their parents. Whichever view you hold, orphanages and the aid organisations that support them are a significant feature of the Siem Reap economy. Many are scams, so it's worth doing a bit of research on them beforehand.

Some long running orphanages that have a good reputation are:

Buy

As elsewhere in Cambodia, US dollars, and to a lesser extent, Thai baht are preferred over Cambodian riel except for the very smallest purchase. Using riel for small purchases can be better than using dollars as retailers tend to round up USD prices.

The Heritage Watch non-profit organisation supports business that promote Cambodia's arts, culture, heritage and development. Certified businesses display either a gold or silver Heritage Friendly logo.

International ATMs in Siem Reap are plentiful and most banks will do cash advances from credit cards.

Arts and crafts

Beverages

Markets

Other

Eat

Eating options span the full spectrum of tastes and budgets from the rudimentary Asian staples and pizza to authentic Khmer and sophisticated fine-dining featuring exotic local ingredients. The highest assortment of restaurants are in few blocks north of the old market, but there are appetizing alternatives along Wat Bo Rd and hidden in the surrounding neighbourhoods.

Old Market area

Though Pub St is better known for its bars, a handful of places serve great food, many with seating upstairs so you can escape the partying milieu on the street below. Crammed along The Alley is a wider selection of restaurants that offer a generally quieter and more intimate experience. The local restaurants lining Phsar Chas have extensive, yet near identical, menus of cheap fried rice and Westernised approximations of Khmer dishes. At dusk the Kindergarten on the corner of Street 8 and 11 becomes a jumble of small BBQ stalls, replete with billowing smoke, noise, and the persistently entreating peddlers. The phnom pleurng here is the cheapest you will find.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Wat Bo Rd and environs

Outside of the main part of town in the sometimes dusty neighbourhood streets and area along Wat Bo Rd are some trendy restaurants and small local places serving the most authentic Khmer food.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

The distinction between eating and drinking establishments is fairly blurry as even the most humble of restaurants can have an extensive cocktail list on their menu. Nonetheless, a vibrant drinking scene concentrated along Street 8, aptly dubbed Pub St, is where serious drinkers head for cheap beer, loud music and the sweaty backpacking hubbub scene akin to Bangkok's Khao San Road. The biggest and most well-known Pub St bars, Angkor What?, The Red Piano, Temple Club and Le Tigre du Papier, are easy to find, with Angkor What? and Temple Club engaged in a running battle playing pop music across the street at very loud volumes.

Travelers looking for more subdued place to appreciate a quiet drink can seek out some of the smaller places along The Alley, The Lane and the adjoining streets. A few drinking holes offer a bit more than cheap drunkenness.

Most places have draught Angkor beer for USD0.50 and cans of other beers for USD1-2. Cocktails and spirits go for as little as USD2. Imported red and white wine, generally from the less prestigious wine producing countries, is widely available and cheaper than you would expect. Better quality Australian and French wines are available in more upmarket establishments at a correspondingly premium price.

KTV

These are hostess clubs popular with the locals, room charges are about $5-10 per hour, beer is $2-4. And the girls are about $5-$10. Most of these places are fronts for prostitution, but it's up to the girl if she's willing to go home with you. It will cost you anywhere from $45 - $100 for that. Many of these places are two menus. One for Cambodians, which has cheaper prices, and one for foreigners, which have higher prices. If you see that the beer is $4, they probably gave you the foreigner price.

Bars

The Alley

Pub Street

Pub St features two main late night bars, Angkor What? and Temple Club which are directly across from each other. Commonly late night bar-goers will also congregate and drink in the street between the two bars and consume their own alcohol there, which is readily bought at stalls or shops in the immediate area.

The Lane

Around town

Sleep

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget USD5-30
Mid-range USD30-$100
Splurge USD100+

A seemingly inexhaustible range of sleeping options from upmarket hotels to grubby backpacker hostels, with many guest houses, boutique rooms, bungalows, concrete cells, wood huts and French villas in between, make finding a place to sleep one of the easiest things you will do on your trip.

Hotels are spread over the entire city but most larger hotels line the national highway to the airport, cheap backpacker hostels tend to surround the old market area and stylish boutique hotels a nestled in the trees along Wat Bo Rd. Small Khmer run hotels and guest houses, especially in the low season, can be surprisingly good value if you are willing to do a bit of hunting for one that hasn't been overrun by the guidebook toting hoards.

Accommodations at every price point generally offer hot showers, cable TV, Internet and airport or bus pickup. Some may include free breakfast, though don't expect much more than an egg on toast and a coffee.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

Scams

Most locals are decent people just trying to make an honest living, but a few shady characters try every trick to take advantage of travellers' good will. Be alert to deceptive dealers but don't let suspicion ruin your trip.

Convenience stores have been known to give incorrect change and pocket the rest. Check your change before you walk out of the store and point out any short changing. Most likely they will admit to their "mistake" and give you the right change.

Street vendors and beggars in competition for generous travellers' handouts have developed cunning, if underhanded, techniques to get your attention (and money). The "beggar army" of young children will come up to you in the crowd and grab your hands, leading you to a shop where they will then try and have you buy food/baby milk/water for them. Baby milk powder seems to be a popular one. It might sound like a more humanitarian way to help than simply giving them money, but once you leave the store the goods you bought for them are sold back to the shop owners or to other locals and the cash goes to an adult. Young women with babies cradled in a krama perform a similar trick.

Donation-collectors for orphanages may approach you in the street claiming to be volunteer workers, showing you convincing photos of themselves in the orphanage and a clip board listing the generous donations made by foreign visitors. Though these young adults may be well groomed and speak excellent English it's possible that your donation will go directly into their pockets. A donation (either of money, or your time) to a recognised charity might be a better way to help.

Baby-milk scams may be encountered in the centre of town, outside supermarkets. A very poor looking woman will beg for some milk powder, pointing to her baby. If one cracks and buys the milk, she later returns it to the shop, and the money is split half-half.

Dollar bills need to be checked, as you will find out that you won't be able to change bills with any tiny cut. Fake dollar bills are also wide spread, and can even be issued from ATMs.

NGO safari should be avoided. Do not schedule any orphanage visit unless this is the main purpose of your trip.

Paedopilia scam is a danger for any Western male travelling alone to Siem Reap. Crooked NGO APLE ("Agir pour les enfants"), is trapping individuals with child-abuse related false allegations. Do not stay alone with young people (room, temple, school, countryside, stadium, car) and do not respond to any favour they ask of you (transport, phone call, help, use your toilet or a glass of water)

Stay healthy

For general information on health in Cambodia, see the article on Cambodia.

Connect

Internet

The numerous Internet cafés charge anywhere USD0.50-1.50/hr. Speed of connection, and speed of PC, very much depends from place to place. A free public Wi-Fi network covers the Pub St and Alley areas but it can sometimes be spotty and always terribly slow.

Most hotels will have cable TV with many international channels such as BBC and CNN as well as those from surrounding countries. There are several FM radio stations, which include international broadcaster Radio France International on 92.0MHz.

Cope

Laundry

Go next


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, February 08, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.