13
May

Top 10 Things To Do in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Posted By Trav

Angkor-Wat-picture

Siem Reap, nestled deep in the heart of Cambodia, is home to one of the most magnificent wonders of the world, Angkor Wat.

And while Angkor Wat alone makes a trip to Siem Reap worth it, there are tons of other incredible things to do in this tourist hotspot.

Here are the top 10 things to do in Siem Reap, Cambodia in under 2 minutes!

Want more details, including recommendations on where to eat, where to stay, and who to hire as your driver?

Below are the top 10 things to do in Siem Reap:

1.  Explore the Angkor Wat Temple Complex

Like this list would start with anything else!

You can buy one, three, or seven day passes and if you’re on a time crunch, you can see all the major temples in one day.

But if you are taking it more leisurely, the three day pass will give you the chance to dive a little deeper, even if you do just use it for two days.

No matter how many days you spend, don’t miss the any of the three main temples – Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm (the “Tomb Raider” temple).

I’d also highly suggest stopping at Pre Rub, which doesn’t get as much publicity but is one of my favorites, specifically because there aren’t hordes of other people.

2.  Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Yes, you’ll have to set that alarm for 5 o’clock, but no amount of extra sleep can rival the beauty of Angkor Wat at sunrise.

You certainly won’t be the only person there, but if you head inside right after the sun has risen – and while everyone else is still snapping pictures – you can have the temple complex almost all to yourself.

It’s worth it, as you’ll then be able to stay a step ahead of the masses for the entire day.

3.  Hire a Driver (and make sure it’s Bunthy)

You can choose a variety of methods to get around Angkor Wat – bike, tuk tuk, or car and driver.

If it’s hot, you want want a little bit of luxury, or you want to see some of the temples that are further out, I recommend getting a car and driver.

Not only will you have air conditioning, but you’ll also have a built in tour guide.

And if you want the best driver in all of Siem Reap, you’ve got to contact my good friend Bunthy.

There is no kinder, nicer, or more genuine person in this world, and his knowledge of Cambodian history, past and present, is a treat.

Hundreds of people have hired Bunthy as their driver based on our post from three years ago, and every single one has raved about him.

You can email him at bunthyme.bm@gmail.com or call or WhatsApp him at (855) 12 972 469.

And don’t forget to tell him Trav from Extra Pack of Peanuts sent you!

4.  Stay at a Local Guesthouse

As the tourism industry in Siem Reap explodes, so does the available accommodation options.

Over the last five years, numerous hotel chains have sunk their teeth into Siem Reap, and while the properties are world class, I always prefer to stay at a local guesthouse.

This not only gives you a more authentic experience, but also makes sure that your money goes back into the pockets of people from the local community, not hotel conglomerates.

Each time we’ve been to Siem Reap, we’ve stayed at the Golden Mango Inn, and each time, we’ve loved it.  It’s got free (good) breakfast, a nice pool, and an incredible staff.

It’s a little bit out of downtown – about 5-7 minutes – but they offer a free tuk-tuk service.

And just like Bunthy, don’t forget to tell the staff at Golden Mango Inn that Trav from Extra Pack of Peanuts sent you and says hi!

Bonus Tip:  If you do stay at the Golden Mango, make sure to check out the Svay Mearas Beer Garden that is right next to it.  You’ll be the only foreigner there (unless another Golden Mango guest follows you over) and one person MAY speak English, but you’ll get as authentic an experience as possible and the draft beers are only 50 cents.

5.  Get a Fish Massage

Fish massages, which are now ubiquitous in Southeast Asia, apparently started right here in Siem Reap.

It’s weird, especially if you go to the places with the huge fish, but certainly unique to the region.  And if you find a place that offers you a free beer with your fish massage, then you’re really in luck!

6.  Go Shopping at the Old Market

Siem Reap has some of the cheapest prices in the world when it comes to market goodies, from clothing to food to souvenirs.

Of course, the first price they give you won’t be cheap, but if you haggle like a local, you can get some amazing deals.

My “haggling” rule of thumb:  Always start my price at 25% of their original price (I know, crazy, but it works) and then work your way up towards 50%.

And don’t forget, always have fun with it!  Haggling is part of the culture, but approach it with a good-natured attitude.

Remember, the locals need the money more than you, so haggle the price down, have fun, and in the end, if it’s the difference of fifty cents or a dollar, don’t be too much of a stickler.

7.  Go for a Swim

Siem Reap can get hot….really hot (especially March-May).

And after trekking around Angkor Wat all day, you’re going to be dying for a chance to go swimming, so you better stay at a place with a pool.

One of the best things about the Golden Mango Inn is that the pool never closes!

Nothing beats those late night and early morning swims under the stars – except maybe jumping in right after Angkor Wat!

8.  Eat Fish Amok

While Cambodian food isn’t as “knock your socks off” delicious as it’s neighbors like Thailand and Vietnam, it’s still pretty good.

And one of the best and most famous Cambodian dishes is fish amok.

Give it a try, and make sure you’re getting it at a traditional Khmer restaurant – Khmer Kitchen on Pub Street is an easy place for starters.

9.  Get a Drink On Pub Street

Speaking of Pub Street…nothing beats the all day, every day happy hour that many of the restaurants here run.

Is it touristy? Sure!

Does it get crowded and noisy at night?  Definitely!

But if you head there during the day, it’s a great place to walk around, relax, grab a drink (or three) and people watch.  And at 50 cents a beer or $1.50 a margarita, it’s easy on your wallet.

A few of our favorite places include:

  • Viva Mexican– average food (what do you expect, it’s Mexican in Cambodia) but home to the aforementioned $1.50 margaritas.
  • Il Forno- If you’re looking for pretty good rendition of an Italian meal, this is the place to go.
  • Khmer Kitchen- Traditional Khmer restaurant right on Pub Street with pretty good fish amok.
  • Cambodian Soup-  (hold that thought)

10.  Eat a Frog (or two)

If you’ve never eaten a frog in Cambodia, you are truly missing out.  And no, not mean frog legs – the whole frog.

And THE place to get frog – trust me, I’ve done my fair share of “research” – is Cambodian Soup on Pub Street in Siem Reap.

They are slowly bbq’ed over a fire and absolutely divine.  At a $1 a piece, do yourself a favor and order a few.  You’ll be glad you did!

Final Word(s)

For anyone who is thinking about visiting Southeast Asia, Siem Reap is truly a can’t miss destination.

And for anyone who isn’t thinking about visiting Southeast Asia….what’s wrong with you!

Angkor Wat is one of the most incredible places on the planet, and because it’s only starting to become more popular, you’re still allowed to have free reign around most of the ruins, something that may change in the future.

In the three years between my visits (2012 and 2015) I noticed a massive difference in the number of tourists, so I’d highly recommend getting to Siem Reap sooner rather than later.

And when you do, don’t forget to contact Bunthy.

As amazing as Angkor Wat is, the people are what really makes the travel experience special, and I’ve yet to find anyone with whom I’ve felt such a strong connection as Bunthy.

He even took me to his barber to get a haircut and insisted on paying for me (although I slipped the money in his glove compartment when he wasn’t looking…shhhh….don’t tell him).

 Have you been to Siem Reap before?  If so, what were some of your top 10 things to do there?

FURTHER READING (POSTS HANDPICKED FOR YOU…BY US!)

None of that automatic “read more” stuff you’ll see everywhere else on the internet!

If you liked this post, then you’ll love these as well:

(photo courtesy of Chi King)

42 comments

  1. Robb says:

    Bunthy!!! I love that you included him in the video, hiring him was one of the best tips you’ve ever given me, and seeing him again put a smile on my face.

    Also that place on Pub Street where you were having margaritas with your parents had great burritos. I wanna go back to Cambodia now!

    1. Sabine says:

      We used Sithol (friend of Bunthy) and he took us (family of 5) in his van to the floating villages and he gave us a tour in the beautiful temple of Beng Mealea. We have had a great day with him and his is very knowledgeable about Cambodia’s past and present. He also advised us to a nice, good located hotel in Siem reap: the side walk hotel. Besides enjoying Sithols stories, we all fell in love with Siem Reap (we already fell for Phnom Penh:-))

      1. Trav says:

        @Sabine- So glad you had such an awesome time with Sithol, Bunthy’s friend. That group of 3 is really special (Sithol, Bunthy, Puthy). Bunthy will only recommend the best people if he can’t take you!

        Siem Reap is an awesome town, that’s for sure. I’ve never tried out the Sidewalk Hotel, but maybe next time I’m there I’ll give it a go.

  2. LarryInNYC says:

    In Siem Reap we enjoyed the Rithy Rin guesthouse which is a short walk from Pub Street in a quiet neighborhood across the river. About $20 per night double with A/C, pool, and breakfast.

    Wish we’d had the Bunthy recommendation when we there. The fellow who drove us around was nice enough, but not exactly a font of information.

    1. Trav says:

      @LarryinNYC- That does sound nice. And $20, can’t argue with that…as long as it has a pool, I’m set!

  3. Tina says:

    There is more here than just the temples at Angkor … it’s actually a great place to live for a while!

    1. Trav says:

      @Tina- So I’ve heard. Cheap, friendly people, stuff to do. I could see myself being there for a bit. How long have you lived there?

  4. Gerry says:

    Hi Trav! Great information here. Thanks!

    my wife and I will be visiting Siem Reap for 4 days this August with our two girls — 10 and 13. We’ve hired Bunthy for the duration of our stay. Thanks for the tip!

    Bunthy pointed out in an email that he is not a tour guide, “just” a driver. Do you recommend hiring a separate tour guide for our days visiting the temples?

    Also, I’m worried about temple-fatigue with the kids. Any suggestions?

    Thanks!! Gerry.

    1. Trav says:

      @Gerry – You’ll LOVE Bunthy. Please tell him I said hi and to tell his family that I’m thinking of them!

      I didn’t hire a separate tour guide for my tours. There are options, and you could maybe even ask Bunthy for suggestions if he has friends who do it. I don’t personally know any tour guides to recommend though.

      Yeah, temple fatigue…it does get pretty tiring. I’d do one of two things:

      1. Go for two days, and only do the morning on each day. It’s usually not as hot and less crowded.
      2. Go full bore for 1 day, and then spend the other day totally relaxing.

      It will be a long day, but you can climb all over the place, so the kids should love it. But yes, it does get H-O-T!

  5. Charlene says:

    Hi Trav and Heather, I’ve enjoyed reading your tips on Siem Reap :)

    I am going to cambodia with my boyfriend in Feb 2016, and excluding travelling to and from Bangkok, we will have approx 13/14 days to play with.. I know it’s not really a lot but that’s all we can manage with time off from work.
    So we were going to flu into Siem Reap first from Bangkok.. How long do you think is a good amount of time there to be able to see and experience it? 4 days?
    From there we’d like to get a night bus go Phnom Penh, perhaps stay there for 2 nights and then head to the south.. Sihanoukville for a couple of nights and visit koh rong for a 2/3 nights.

    Do you think that this is doable and realistic? And any tips? Sorry for the hoads of questions!

    I really hope Cambodia doesn’t change too much more from now until Feb!

    Thanks for your help in advance,
    Charlene

    1. Trav says:

      4 days in Siem Reap is doable. 5-6 would be better. You can get a pass to the temple complex based on the number of days you want to explore. It is a huge complex so you could easily spent 3 separate days seeing different areas. The actual town of Siem Reap is great as well. There are lots of great accommodations, including our favorite – the Golden Mango Inn, really fun restaurants and other activities. We have never been to Phnom Penh, but we haven’t heard great things about it, so less time there is probably better.

      Your total amount of time seems perfect for exploring Angkor Wat and the South.

      The only other tips we would recommend is to hire a good driver with air conditioning (obviously Bunthy is our favorite and he books up quite quickly so I would contact him asap). Make sure you have modest clothing for exploring the temples but everywhere else you can where basically anything.

      Have a great trip!

  6. Pub Street is great – so many cool little spots to choose from! Also agree that the fish massage is a must-do (super weird, but super cool!)

    1. Trav says:

      @Courtney Jones- Yeah, it is weird. And if you get the big fish….super strange!

  7. Shannon says:

    Hi All! Will be heading to Siem Reap in October and am so excited! If Bunthy is available (reached out to him and am waiting for a response), do we also need to hire a tour guide for when we’re in the sites? Thank you for your advice!

    1. Shannon says:

      Saw your response to a similar question above – no need to respond! Thanks :) Got Bunthy booked for two days!

      1. Trav says:

        @Shannon- Awesome! Please tell him I said hi and to give my love to his family!

  8. Nice post! You can actually go hunting and fishing with a local too while you’re in the countryside of Siem Reap.

    https://www.backstreetacademy.com/siem-reap/798/hunting-and-fishing-tour

    1. Trav says:

      @anil_traveller- That’s a cool experience…did you do that?

      1. I actually help run these experiences, and haven’t done it myself but my friends in Siem Reap who have. We would love to host you if you’re back in Siem Reap.:)

  9. Ed says:

    Eat an insect. There are a few pushcart vendors on Pub Street that sell fried insect snacks. For a gourmet full meal experience try Bugs Cafe that is rated very highly on TripAdvisor.

    https://www.facebook.com/bugscafesr

    1. Trav says:

      @Ed- Good to know for when I go back!

  10. T.Ranita says:

    How much do I have to pay to hire Bunthy?

    1. Trav says:

      @T. Ranita- I’m not sure what his rates are these days, but it is comparable to all the other drivers in Siem Reap, and by Western standards, very cheap. I’d suggest contacting him directly and asking. He will be very open and honest, and tell him Travis sent you!

  11. Ranj says:

    Very helpful information. we are planning to go next month and ill remember to say extra pack of peanut there. Thank you so much

    1. Trav says:

      @Ranj- Yep, and get a hold of Bunthy. He rules!

  12. Anthea says:

    Hi Travis -I’ll be heading to Siem this Aug. It’ll be my first solo trip. I’m super exciting! I was planning on heading straight to Phnom Penh but now that I’ve read your post, I think I’ll stay in Siem. I have limited time there (4 days) and if I would of known all these things I would of booked a longer trip. Seems like there’s plenty to do there! and I’m definitely contacting your friend Bunthy!

    This post was super helpful. Keep on doing what you’re doing! Any other tips and recommendations would be greatly appreciated!

    Best,
    Anthea-

    1. Trav says:

      @Anthea- You’ll love it, and 4 days is enough, for sure. Definitely enjoy Angkor Wat for 1-2 days, and take the other two days to explore the town, sit by the pool, and hang out!

  13. Monika says:

    Thanks for this great information and ideas about Siem Reap. This info will be helpful for the new traveler like us and we are planning to go Siem Reap next year. So, it’s great to find your article.

    1. Trav says:

      @Monika – So glad you like it. Enjoy Siem Reap!

  14. Charlene Ambrose says:

    i have booked Bunthy for an upcoming trip to Siem Reap this month. Thanks for the tip! We are looking forward to our time there.

    1. Trav says:

      @Charlene Ambrose – You’ll LOVE him. Can you do me a favor and tell him Happy Birthday from Trav and Heather? It won’t be his birthday then, but it is his birthday today (Feb 3rd) when I’m writing this to you!

  15. Mohd Saufi says:

    hi…its is conveniet to rent a bike to tour Siem Rep…i just did at Ho chi minh..and i want to tru at Siem Rep…

    1. Trav says:

      @Mohd – Yeah, it is super easy to do.

  16. Alexis Rodriguez says:

    Thank you, Travis and Heather!! Bunthy is the man! And your advice to hire him was by far the best travel tip we’ve ever found on a travel blog.

    1. Trav says:

      @Alexis Rodriguez – AWESOME! I’ll definitely take being “The best travel you’ve ever found”! He is such an amazing guy, glad you got to experience him.

  17. Polina says:

    Thanks for the information.
    Taking your advice we booked Bunthy for the trip and it was a pleasant experience.
    Highly recommend.
    Very easy and amazing time.

    1. Trav says:

      @Polina – Yep, he certainly is the best!

  18. Margaret says:

    Bunthy is simply THE BEST driver – he’s extremely knowledgeable, punctual, honest, and a lovely, kind, and gentle man; he also speaks English really well. I travel a lot on my own and really appreciate spending time with people as special as Bunthy! Upon request, he recommended Dom, a tour guide, to accompany me at the Angkor temples; Dom is a great, personable, English-speaking local who really knows his temples :)

    1. Trav says:

      @Margaret – Yep, he really, really he is. I miss Bunthy – so glad you had such a great time!

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