Home to the biggest religious monument in the world, Siem Reap has so much more to offer than what you first think. Despite being so developed for tourism, Siem Reap is a beautiful, quiet town with a great atmosphere throughout the day and night.
When is the best time to go?
Similarly to Thailand, Cambodia has two seasons. The dry season is from November to April and the wet season lasts from May to October. November to February are the most popular months to visit but it is also the most crowded time of year. We went in July and despite it being in wet season, Siem Reap was the hottest and sunniest weather we had so far on our trip. For a good balance of weather and a small amount of tourists, we would recommend going between June and August.
How long should you stay?
Whether you plan on getting the 1-day or 3-day Angkor pass, 3-4 nights would be the right amount of time to do everything. We stayed for 4 nights and bought the 1-day Angkor pass and we had plenty of time to do everything else but if you want to see all the temples at Angkor Wat, we suggest you spend a few days there!
Things to do
Angkor Wat Geological Park
If you plan on visiting the Angkor temples, you’ll need to buy an Angkor pass for either one day, three days or seven days. Here are the prices:
One day: $37
Three days: $62
Seven days: $72
If you plan on buying the one-day pass, we recommend buying it at 5pm the day before. This way, you can watch the sunset from Phnom Bakheng temple that night for free (get there early because there is only a certain amount of people allowed on the temple at a time). We bought the one-day pass, which enabled us to see about five temples including the main Angkor Wat temple. Here’s a bit of information about our three favourite temples:
Angkor Wat is the largest Hindu temple complex in the world surrounded on all sides by a moat. Angkor Wat is best at sunrise, which means getting picked up at 4:30-4:45am. However, the temple is packed with tourists at this time. We watched the sun rise from behind the temple from across the moat and it was beautiful.
Ta Phrom was one of our favourite temples with giant roots growing in amongst the ruins. The massive tree roots throughout the temple looked so cool. This temple is actually where Tomb Raider was filmed as well.
Bayon Temple is home to huge, carved stone heads. In total, there are over 11,000 carved figures along 1.2km of wall.
APOPO Hero Rats Tour
APOPO work together with Cambodian Mine Action Centre in the landmine clearance project. They target the villages in the north of Siem Reap province who are most affected by land mines in order to give back safe, productive land back to the locals. Being light weight and having a good sense of smell, the ‘HeroRats’ are perfect detectors of landmines and tuberculosis. In 2017, APOPO’s new visitor centre opened, allowing tourists the chance to see how the HeroRats work. The tour is about 40 minutes long and consists of a short talk at the start by one of the guides. You then watch and learn how the rats detect the mines (without being on a dangerous minefield). The tour finishes by watching a video about the history and new facts about the project. We thought the tour was very interesting and would definitely recommend ding it. It opens your eyes into the struggles the small, Cambodian villages have to deal with.
Pub Street is the heart of Siem Reap, similar to Khao San Road in Bangkok. It’s a great atmosphere with a lot of tourists and locals.
Many of the restaurants here are touristy but they have a great variety of food and it’s a great place to hang out in the evening. Cambodian BBQ’s are advertised everywhere, which consists of different meats such as kangaroo, crocodile, snake, chicken, beef, etc. You get a small burner on your table where you can cook your meat and sides by yourself with help of the waiters.
The temple of Phnom Krom is just outside of Siem Reap and is the perfect spot for sunset watching.
It is located on a hill overlooking Tonle Sap lake and is a lot quieter than watching it from one of the temples in Angkor Wat. We hired a Remorque driver to take us, wait and then take us back, which we would recommend as the below the hill is a small town with no taxis, etc.
Once you get there, you have to climb up a lot of steps and then walk up the hill to the temple but it’s definitely worth it!
How to get around Siem Reap
If you don’t fancy walking or cycling anywhere, download the Grab app (works in Cambodia and most of South East Asia) or the Pass app (specifically for Cambodia). It is a lot cheaper than asking drivers on the street or even ordering a taxi. As long as you have wifi, you can order different types of Remorques/Tuk-Tuks and they’ll be there within minutes. We used it nearly every day. Most journeys will cost around $2-3 within the town and if you plan on hiring one for the day, it would cost around $15 – $20. If you’re like us and enjoy a nice walk or like to cycle, Siem Reap is great to explore on foot or on bike. You can hire a bike for around $1 – $10 per day depending on whether you want the newest mountain bike model or not but if you ask your hotel, they may have some for you to use for free.
We hope you found this small guide useful and enjoy your trip to Cambodia!
~ Megan and Rowan ~