12 Top Tips & Things to Do in Siem Reap Before the Temples

Siem Reap Cambodia

Many travelers visiting Cambodia will make their way to the famous temples, but know very little about Siem Reap! Despite being the most popular tourist destination in the country, it’s a melting pot for so many different foods, cultures, and history. Join us as we breakdown the best things to do in Siem Reap, some great restaurants, plus all about the night market and pub street. 

Siem Reap General Information

Location: Siem Reap Cambodia
Official Language: Khmer
Currency: USD & Cambodian Riel
How Long to Visit: 3+ Days
Airport: Siem Reap International Airport (REP)
Best Time to Visit: December to February for Less Rain and Cooler Weather
Book Recommendation: First They Killed My Father

Angkor Wat Guide Tour

12 Tips & Things to Do in Siem Reap Cambodia

1. How to Get to Siem Reap

Flight: The Siem Reap airport is a 20-30 minute tuk tuk ride away from the city center. While it appears to be small, it’s actually the busiest airport in Cambodia with 70+ flights arriving daily. Many hotels in Siem Reap offer a free pickup service if you let them know your flight information in advance!

Bus: This option is more popular than flights with international buses arriving daily from Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. Depending on what company you come in on there will be different drop off locations around the city center. Don’t worry though! You can always grab a tuk tuk taxi for $1-2 dollars to get you to your accommodation.

→ Checkout 12go when traveling in Asia to compare different bus companies and find the right route for your trip!  

Siem Reap Cambodia Flight

2. Stay Near the Siem Reap River

When arriving in a new city we always face the same question. Where is the best place to stay? Choosing the right accommodation can be vital having a great experience, and that’s especially true in Siem Reap!

We ended up staying on the other side of the river from Siem Reap Pub Street and all the action of the city. This gave us a quick walk into the center, but also was in a quiet neighborhood that had great street food nearby.

Try to be within a 10 minute walk of Pub Street to be close to all the best things to do in Siem Ream.

Luxury – Park Hyatt Siem Reap – Ultra luxury in the heart of Siem Reap. We’ve recommended a lot of Park Hyatt’s over the years as they’re one of the nicest hotel chains in Asia. 

Fun Chateau d’Angkor La Residence – Stay near all the action, but still have the ability to escape the craziness of Siem Reap and Pub street. Upscale hotel with traditional amenities and a beautiful pool to cool down.

Budget – Chamraoen’s Home – Quick walk to the Siem Reap Night Market, and amazing local food in the area. Great wifi, clean rooms, and owned by a very helpful family. They can easily set up a tuk tuk driver for Angkor Wat!

HostelMad Monkey Hostel Siem Reap – There’s plenty of hostels in Siem Reap as it’s a huge backpacker haven. Mad Monkey is a popular chain in SEA with travelers who like to socialize.  You can pick form dorm as well as twin beds and there is a large pool.

Siem Reap Cambodia Guide

3. Eat Traditional Khmer Food

You will see traditional Cambodian meals labeled as “Khmer food” on menus around the city. Trying these dishes and flavors turned out to be one of our favorite things to do in Siem Reap! 

Some items to lookout for are amok, khmer curry, kuy teav (pork soup), and beef skewers. Also, make sure not to miss the crab and Kampot pepper from the south!

While there are many great Siem Reap restaurants, the best Khmer food is found near the central market. At night is when the street food scene explodes in the city. Keep a lookout for the street carts lined up along the river and around the market.

Additionally, there are a few small stands that you’ll see pop up and grill meats openly on the streets. You won’t regret eating local as it’s both the cheapest and best food to experience during in Siem Reap Cambodia.

If this is a little out of your comfort zone there are more western-style Siem Reap restaurants to enjoy. Check out a few of our favorites below!

Siem Reap Restaurants 

Khmer Grill Restaurant: Traditional and vegetarian menu. Massive plates and good food. Try to go for breakfast or lunch as at night the line can be around the block!

Madam Moch Khmer Restaurant: Traditional, vegetarian, and vegan meals available. The veggie curry and pork ribs are two of the favorites on the menu!

The Brothers: Western and classic Cambodian dishes served in an open air restaurant. We loved the mixed veggie curry and Amok at this Siem Reap restaurant!

ROHATT Cafe: An upscale khmer cuisine restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. The bottom floor acts as a cafe while full meals and dining is served upstairs.

Best Food in Siem Reap

4. Wear Sturdy Shoes

Once you’re in the city center along the river everything is within walking distance. You can work your way though the maze of Siem Reap Pub Street (which is actually made up of several smaller streets), cut through the central market, and check out all the different food stalls on the water with ease.

With your time at Angkor Wat and Siem Reap you’ll be doing a ton of walking. Definitely wear some good shoes for this trip! The central area of Siem Reap Cambodia is actually quite small so you wont have a problem getting anywhere. Just watch out for the crazy traffic when crossing the streets.

Things to do in Siem Reap Cambodia

5. Explore Siem Reap By Tuk Tuk

Tuk tuk taxis run the transportation game in Siem Reap Cambodia. From the moment we arrived at the airport to exploring the Angkor Temples, we always utilized the tuk tuks!

Thinking back on it, we don’t even know if actual taxis or cars are available unless you’re staying at an elite hotel. Rides around town will cost $1-3 US dollars depending on your bartering skills, and a trip to the airport should cost $5. 

The best thing to use a tuk tuk for is to visit Angkor Wat! You can hire a driver for around $20 for an entire day of exploring all the temples.

Siem Reap Cambodia Tuk Tuk

6. Relax At a Siem Reap Spa

Siem Reap Cambodia is known for having some of the cheapest spas in the world. From fish tanks that will clean your feet to high end luxury day spas, there’s really something for every type of traveler.

Manicures and pedicures will only set you back a few dollars, while hour long massages can be as cheap as $6 USD. Relaxing at a spa is one of the best things to do in Siem Reap… Especially before or after your long days at Angkor Wat.

Things to do in Siem Reap

7. Shop At Siem Reap Central Market

Right around the corner from Siem Reap Pub Street, the central market was our favorite in the city. There is a clothing and souvenirs section, and also a local part with fruits, meats, and seafood. Around the outer edge food stalls line the streets, and there are some Siem Reap restaurants built into it as well.

It’s not just filled with souvenirs and goods like the other markets though! The entire back section is filled with meats, fruits, and sauces while restaurants line the outside. Take some time to snake your way though the different isles to really see everything it has to offer.

If you have time, also make sure to check out the various night markets around Siem Reap. Across the river from the main area you can even find a more high end craft market.

Siem Reap Central Market

8. Experience the Cambodian Circus

Really, a circus? That’s right! Phare, the Cambodian Circus is one of the top things to do in Siem Reap. However, this is not the traditional Circus you are thinking of! It runs more as a talent show with different acts displaying the best tricks and skills. The acrobatics are amazing, and the traditional music makes for a fun backdrop during the show.

9. Jump on a Bike Tour

If you’re looking to explore this area of Cambodia then a popular option is on a bike tour. You’ll spend your afternoon cruising through the countryside and seeing a part of the city that you never have before.

Still, we wouldn’t recommend just renting one and cruising around because there aren’t exactly designated bike routes. Pay the extra money to take a tour and have a guide show you some of the best areas!

Siem Reap Bike Tour

10. Have a Beer on Siem Reap Pub Street

At night, the main street is shut down to traffic and Siem Reap Pub Street becomes one big party. Every restaurant spills onto the street blasting music and the cheap beers flow freely.

Pull up on the street, grab a fifty cent beer, and watch the action of the night pass you by! Oh, and did we mention the beers are only .50 cents?

Yes, you’re reading that correctly! You might think that more tourists means higher prices, but not when it comes to beer in Siem Reap.

When Angkor draft is literally cheaper than water, there’s no reason not to throw back some cold ones on Siem Reap Pub Street after a day of temple hopping!

Siem Reap Pub Street

11. Know How the Money Works

While we’re on the topic, money is a strange thing in Cambodia and something to be aware of. Everything is listed in U.S. Dollars as that is the preferred currency. 

The interesting thing to keep in mind is that when dealing with change you will sometimes be given the local Cambodian Riel back. Where it gets stranger is that only bills in perfect condition will be accepted. Make sure to keep your dollars straight and don’t crumple them. 

If there is the littlest tear, mark, or imperfection it’s almost useless. Breaking a $100 bill is a whole task on it’s own. When going to the ATM try to take out $80 USD or $180 for example instead of multiples of $100. This way you can at least have some $20’s which are easier to get change with.

Siem Reap Cambodia Tips

12. Day Trip From Siem Reap to the Floating Village

Not far from Siem Reap Cambodia is the massive Tonle Sap Lake which is home to several floating villages. It is important to know that there are two ways to make the trip.

You can hire a tuk tuk for around $15 USD to take you, wait, and then bring you back to Siem Reap. From there, you will have to pay for your own boat trip onto the lake. Your other choice is to book a Tonle Sap Lake tour that has everything combined.

It may not be worth going during dry season in Cambodia, as the there’s little to no water in the lake! Yet, this can be a super fun day trip if you have some extra days.

Planning Your Visit to Angkor Wat

Okay you made it! Now that you know all the best things to do in Siem Reap it’s time to do what you actually came here for. We had an amazing week in the city, but would be lying if we didn’t say the famous temples were the highlight of our trip.

Angkor Wat is the reason everyone comes to this city, but Pub Street and the Siem Reap restaurants certainly make for an awesome addition! 

→ How to Visit Angkor Wat: Dress Code, Top Tips, & Information

→ Angkor Wat Sunrise: How to See the Famous Temples by Tuk Tuk

→ 18 Amazing Angkor Wat Facts That You Won’t Believe Are Real

Angkor Wat in Siem Reap Cambodia

Traveling Around Cambodia

If Siem Reap is only your first stop in Cambodia there’s no reason to leave yet. Far too many travelers just visit Cambodia for Angkor Wat, and don’t stay to discover everything else this country has to offer.

After experiencing all the best things to do in Siem Reap, travel to the south and spend a few days eating your way though the capital of Phnom Penh. Then you can explore the southern cities like Kampot and Kep, and eventually make your way to the stunning Cambodian Islands.

From Siem Reap you can take a 12 hour overnight bus, or a 45 minute flight to paradise! Koh Rong is known as the party island, but our personal favorite is it’s quieter neighbor of Koh Rong Sanloem.

→ 2 to 3 Week Cambodia Itinerary: Best Places to Go and See Now

Cambodia Travel

Have any questions about this article or want to share your own favorite things to do in Siem Reap Cambodia? Leave us a comment!

Safe Travels,
Brigitte & Jake

Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar

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Siem Reap Cambodia

Cambodia Travel Planning 

 Flights: We always find deals using Skyscanner and Kayak. That’s how we got flights from Thailand to Siem Reap Cambodia for under $50 USD!

 Transportation: 12Go is what we use to book ferries, trains, buses, and private transfers while traveling through Southeast Asia. 

 Accommodation: Compare competitive sites for hotels such as Booking.com and Agoda. Also, Hostelworld should be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget. 

Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for activities all over Cambodia. You can book everything from an Angkor Wat small group sunrise tour to visiting the Kompong Phluk floating village, and even take a Cambodian pottery class

 Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.

 Packing Lists: Here’s all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists! Including electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials

Cambodia Travel

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