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Siem Reap Travel Guide


The closest gateway to the world-renowned Angkor Wat, Siem Reap in Northwest Cambodia has grown into a major tourist hub of the country which welcomes over 2 million travelers every year. Angkor Wat, the brilliant ancient temple complex, is the main reason most people visit Siem Reap and the highlight of any Cambodia tour.

But traveling to Siem Reap is more than just an opportunity to see the ancient temple ruins. Once served as the capital of the Khmer Empire during the 9th – 15th centuries, Siem Reap also offers a wealth of chances to explore fascinating history and culture. And its thriving nightlife, interesting architecture, and charming floating villages in the nearby Tonle Sap Lake all together help to make the Siem Reap tour an outstanding experience.

The following Siem Reap Travel Guide is prepared to help you make the most out of a trip to Siem Reap, covering ideas of what to do and see, recommended duration to stay, the best time to visit and weather information, and a general transportation guide.

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Top Things to Do in Siem Reap

Explore Angkor Wat (Angkor Archaeological Park)

Coming face to face with the largest religious structure on earth is sure to be deserving a thing on everyone’s bucket list. Spanning about 400 acres (160 hectares), the vast temple complex of Angkor Wat was once the center of Angkor (the capital city of the Khmer empire and the world’s largest city during the medieval age) and is now the best-preserved temple complex (with hundreds of temples) in this area which have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage in 1992.

Being built by a succession of kings of the Khmer empire, the temples of Angkor Wat are in classical Khmer architecture style, and standout for their harmonious design and extremely large number of temples, offering tourists a glimpse into the ancient Angkorian Period’s lost civilizations through the extensive bas-reliefs, sculptures, and depictions.

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Visit Angkor National Museum

As the only world-class museum in Siem Reap dedicating itself to exhibiting the history and civilization of the ancient Khmer Kingdom systematically, the Angkor National Museum fully introduces the culture, art, customs, traditions, and beliefs of the ancient empire through interactive exhibits, multimedia presentation, information boards, and over 1,000 artifacts, etc. Of the 8 galleries in the museum, the entry gallery housing hundreds of Buddha sculptures of different sizes and materials is the best highlight.

It is recommended to visit the museum before you head to Angkor Wat, so you can gain a better understanding of the history and background behind the time-honored temples.

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Enjoy Apsara Dance Performance

Apsara dance is a traditional dance performance that is said to be inspired by the apsara carvings and sculptures of Angkor, playing an important role in Khmer culture. Most of the apsara dances are about Cambodian daily life or historical legend and are only performed for the royal family in Angkorian times.

Now, in Siem Reap, it is easy to experience royalty life by booking an Apsara dance performance ticket (usually with dinner included). Most performances will mix classical and theatrical folk dances, and in a few venues, the audience can also expect the shadow puppet theater and Lakhon Khol to be included.

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Take a Boat to Tour Floating Villages on Tonle Sap Lake

Located in the lower Mekong Basin, Tonle Sap is a perfect place for a day trip from Siem Reap. As the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, it is where over 3 million people reside. Taking a boat on the gorgeous lake offers a great chance to get close to many scattered floating villages, look into their life and customs, and also encounter local wildlife and bird-life.  

It is a unique experience in Cambodia to see people live in the floating houses, study in the floating schools, and enjoy food in the floating restaurants. Four main villages that can be easily accessed from Siem Reap are Chong Kneas, Mechrey, Kampong Phluk, and Kampong Khleang.

Cycle around the Countryside

If you are not limited in time after temple viewing in Siem Reap, we highly recommend planning a half-day cycle tour to enjoy its serene countryside life and scenery. It is a leisure way to head outside the downtown area and explore the authentic rural life, snacks, and living experience of the city. Immerse yourself in the scenery as you ride through jungles, and rice paddies, and meet with hospitality villagers.

Embark on a Street Food Journey

Don’t miss a local food experience if you want a better understanding of the new culture. In Siem Reap, going on a street food adventure is the best way to discover its food culture as well as savor the best flavors of Cambodian cuisine. Modern Cambodian cuisine shares many similarities with the neighboring Thai, Vietnamese and Lao cuisines. Pho Langka Market and Pub Street are two popular places to seek out the best Cambodian food, and the best street food you should try in Siem Reap includes Lort Cha, Num Pang, Bamboo Sticky Rice, and Chive Cakes.

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How Many Days to Stay in Siem Reap?

Generally, we suggest spending 2-3 days in Siem Reap to cover its best highlights. Most people come to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat which will need 1 day to explore if you rent a bike or hail a tuk-tuk. Other featured attractions in the city center like Bayon Temple, Ta Som Temple, Ta Prohm Temple, Apsara Dance, and Angkor National Museum will also need one day. If time permits, set aside a day to visit the floating villages on Tonle Sap Lake and the countryside areas.

Siem Reap Weather: Best Time to Visit Siem Reap

Siem Reap enjoys a tropical climate with warm and comfortable weather all year round. The average temperature hovers around 32-37°C (89.6-98.6F). Its dry season lasts from December to April, and the rainy season is from May to November.

The best time to visit Siem Reap is from December to January when the city undergoes dry season and sees more sunny days. It is also the peak season of the city, resulting in large crowds and higher hotel prices.

April and May are the hottest months in the city, avoid this period if you want to escape the scorching heat.

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Siem Reap Transportation: How to Get to and Get around

How to Get to Siem Reap?

By Air

The most popular way to get to Siem Reap is by flying into the city through Siem Reap International Airport. The airport is about 7 km west of the city center and serves direct flights to Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Guangzhou, Singapore, and Phnom Penh.

To get to Siem Reap city center from the airport, you can take a taxi, motorbike, tuk-tuk, or van taxi. There is a taxi stand at the airport, from where you can take a taxi to the city center by spending about 10 USD, or a van taxi by spending about 9 USD. A tuk-tuk ride or a motorbike ride will also cost about 9 USD.

By Bus

There are direct buses connecting Siem Reap with Phnom Penh and Bangkok, the cost is about 10 USD from Phnom Penh, and about 23 USD from Bangkok.

By Cruise

If you want to travel with luxury and at a slow pace, a multi-day cruise along the Mekong River should be your ideal choice which will transfer you to Siem Reap from Vietnam. Just keep in mind that the cruises may not available during the dry season.

How to Get around Siem Reap

Tips: As most transport in Sien Reap only take cash, you’d better prepare some low denominations in advance. Reil and USD are two widely used currencies in Cambodia.

Once you have reached Siem Reap, the best options to travel around include tuk-tuk (costing around 2-3 USD for a short distance), taxi (not easy to hail one off the street), and bike (bike rental costs about 1-2 USD per day).

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