**Updated : September 2023**
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How to Get to Siem Reap & What to Expect
Siem Reap is put on the map by one key attraction, Angkor Wat. With nearly 3 million visitors each year, there's no wonder Siem Reap is such a popular spot to visit. If you're planning a stop here on your trip through SE Asia, then you might just be wondering how to get to Siem Reap. Truthfully, there are many ways to get here, and our best recommendation would be to fly in. Not only is it 100x's easier and less stressful than taking a bus, but chances are it'll take you less time too. Unfortunately if you're already in SE Asia, or in Cambodia already, your best bet will be to take a bus. The price should be quite a bit cheaper, however, our experience taking a bus from Laos to Cambodia was pretty sketchy - and it'll take about 24 hours depending where you're coming from. If you're coming from somewhere else in Cambodia, like we did from Phnom Penh, it'll probably still take about half a day. Once you do arrive via bus or plane, the next step is taking a private transfer or Tuk-Tuk to your lodging! After this you should be ready to explore the city of Siem Reap, but there's still a few things you might want to know to make your trip as smooth as possible :
Looking for a place to stay in Siem Reap? We loved Apsara Residence Hotel - not only is the hidden pool fantastic (see #10) but it's even within walking distance of Pub Street and the many restaurants nearby!
Best Things to Do in Siem Reap
Angkor Wat is known around the world as one of the most incredible temple complexes to visit, but chances are you haven't heard of many of the other things to do in the surrounding area. Siem Reap, with a population of nearly a quarter million people, has many hidden gems and other things to explore. We encourage you to check them out while in Siem Reap! It's also worth noting that before your visit to any of the temples, you'll need to stop at Angkor Enterprise to get your ticket - this is a large building close to town and any tour or Tuk-Tuk driver in the area knows that if you're heading to Angkor Wat (or any other temples) that you'll need to stop here first. You can purchase a single or multi-day pass to all the main temples in the area and throughout Cambodia - your pass is essential to hold onto and it will have your name and picture printed on it. This ticket will get checked multiple times at various entrances of the temples in the area, and will cover your entrance into all sites listed below. This is the ONLY place you can purchase tickets, and they will not accept any others.
1. Angkor Wat
Expected Time : minimum 3+ hours
Known as the largest temple complex in the entire world, this is one spot you definitely won't want to miss on your visit to Siem Reap - chance are you might even be taking a trip here solely for Angkor Wat. This UNESCO site is incredible, and the property extends over 400 acres large. Built in the 12th century, and took nearly 30 years to complete. Depending on your interests, some people say you can spend entire days here. While the complex is large, it also tends to get extremely hot, and it took us about 3 hours to walk straight through from the West Entrance to the East Entrance where our Tuk-Tuk driver was waiting for us. If you're interested in a guide, you can always book one beforehand or get one at the entrance. People say the best time to go is at sunrise, although we can't imagine the crowds at this time. It's also important to dress respectfully, be aware of monkeys, and respect the complex itself. Unfortunately many parts of the buildings are crumbling and need repairs, so it's important to reduce your impact during your visit as much as possible.
2. Angkor Thom
Expected Time : half a day+
Angkor Wat is actually part of the Angkor Thom city complex, meaning outside of the Angkor Wat area there is so much more to see. Angkor Thom is said to have been the home of the longest lasting capital of the Khmer Empire, and is an astonishing 9 square kilometers big! We recommend focusing on key sites like Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, and the Bayon Temple during your visits, but there are plenty of other sites as well like Bakheng Temple, Banteay Srei Temple, Preah Khan Temple, and Baphuon Temple which might be a little less crowded. If you decide you want to see these other sites and you've hired a Tuk-Tuk driver for the day there might be a small upcharge to visit these other sites. *It is essential to keep your Temple Ticket from Angor Enterprises on you at all times.*
3. Ta Prohm
Expected Time : 2 hours
Ta Prohm, otherwise known as the "Tomb Raider Temple" due to the fact that it was featured in Lara Croft : Tomb Raider, is an incredible sight, and hands down our favorite site in Angkor Thom. Although the main areas were quite a bit crowded (any of the spots with a tree growing through the temple will be) the other areas were eerily quiet, and we enjoyed walking the grounds on our own. We highly encourage you to explore the insides of the ruins as well, just be aware of any damaged areas that may fall.
4. Bayon Temple
Expected Time : 2-3 hours
I'll be honest, by the time we made it to Bayon Temple we were a bit templed out...however we still loved exploring the grounds. Bayon Temple is unique in the fact that this Buddhist temple was dedicated to Lord Vishnu, and it intricately decorated. Unlike some of the other sites like Angkor Wat, this Temple makes you feel like you're truly in the middle of the jungle.
5. Relax with a Khmer Massage
Expected Time : 1 hour
When in Cambodia, one of the best things to do is relax with a traditional Khmer massage. Similar to Thai Massages, these are rooted in stretching you into assisted yoga postures, and although it may be a bit uncomfortable in the moment, we promise afterwards you'll feel amazing. Plus, you can't beat the price - for a full one hour massage we paid about $5 each.
6. Learn About Mine Rats at APOPO
Expected Time : 1.5 hours
Although we had seen this on "Jack Whitehall's Travels With My Father" we really didn't expect to visit an APOPO center ourselves until we drove past the Visitor Center in Siem Reap. For just $5 you get taken on a little tour, taught all about the rats and how they're helping save Cambodia & local peoples, as well as shown a demonstration of the rats in action. The tour ends with an opportunity to hold the rats, which are up to 3 kilograms each (just half their growing size), and watch a movie that goes more in depth on the current land mine situation in Cambodia. Basically, Cambodia is still covered with land mines, and these rats are able to sniff them out (without detonating them) much quicker than any human with a metal detector could. It's truly an eye opening experience, and I 100% think this is something that should be on everyone's list when visiting Siem Reap. If you aren't able to visit in person, you can learn a lot more about the process and donate on their website.
7. Live it Up at Pub Street
Expected Time : 1-2 hours (or all night haha)
Pub Street in Siem Reap is basically party central. If you go before nightfall, it's a great area to find some restaurants and just chill out. Once it gets dark however, the music gets turned way up, drinks are offered for cheap at all the restaurants and bars that line the street, and drugs are offered at every corner. If you're looking for a fun night out this is your spot, but maybe bring the families somewhere else.
8. Walk or Bike the River
Expected Time : 1-2 hours
With a sidewalk following along most the river in downtown Siem Reap, this is a pretty self explanatory activity. You can walk or bike along, take in the sights, explore some of the beaten paths, and people watch. Fun fact, this river is conveniently called the "Siem Reap River."
9. Visit Local Markets
Expected Time : 2+ hours (or shop till you drop haha)
There are multiple markets throughout Siem Reap, and although we weren't able to visit any while we were visiting, we've heard they're a great addition to your adventures in Cambodia! If you're looking for souvenirs and possibly the most popular market, we recommend Phsar Chas (also called the Old Market), if you're looking for a lively night market with massages, food and drinks we recommend the Angkor Night Market, and lastly if you're looking for authentic "Made in Cambodia" items, we recommend the market located on the King's Road Angkor complex - which conveniently only sells items made from locals.
10. Chill at the Pool
Expected Time : as long as you want ;)Chilling at the pool, aka the exact reason we missed our time at the local markets. Truthfully, if you’re only in the area for 48 hours then you could probably skip this one, but if you’ve been on the road for a while then it’s always a good idea to incorporate some kind of self care and relaxation time (trust us). Although not every hotel will have a pool, there were a handful of boutique hotels we found that did, and we would 100% recommend Apsara Residence Hotel if you’re looking for a secluded pool feel (pictured above).
48 Hours in Siem Reap - An Itinerary
As promised...here's how we would recommend you spend your 48 hours in Siem Reap to really make the most of your visit :
Watch our Adventures in Siem Reap!
Other Cambodia Posts :
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We're Deborah & Tyler, a pretty average husband and wife duo from a pretty average state that didn't want to live so averagely. After our *Covid wedding we sold everything that didn't fit into the Jeep and moved to Alaska, then decided to take a gap year!
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