I have traveled to Siem Reap, Cambodia on 3 separate occasions and every time I visit I fall in love all over again. Siem Reap is my favorite city in South East Asia because I’m a serious sucker for ancient ruins, jungles, and getting pampered on the cheap. The definition of how I like to travel Adventure Luxury. Plus, Angkor Wat is a magical place and one of my favorite places on Earth. If you only have 3 days,this is what you should see and do to get the most out of your time. Now that you’ve booked your trip, let’s get the basics out of the way.
BEFORE YOU GO:
- VISA: A Visa is required by most countries to enter Cambodia. You can get an E-Visa here before you go or get one on arrival. I always get one on arrival, it costs $20 and there are ATM’s that dispense USD at the borders. Just make sure you have at least 6 months validity on your passport and a blank page for the Visa.
- I always choose safe over sorry and I never travel without World Nomad’s Travel Insurance. You can never be too prepared.
- CURRENCY: The Cambodian Riel is the currency of Cambodia but USD is widely accepted. 4,000 Riel is about 1 USD. Most things will be priced in USD and that is the main source of currency that you’ll be using. The Riel’s are used as change, if you pay for something that is $2.50 with $3.00 you will get 2,000 Riel back in change.
- LANGUAGE: Khmer is the official language of Cambodia but English is widely spoken especially Siem Reap.
- RELIGION: Theravada Buddhism is the official religion in Cambodia.
AVERAGE DAILY BUDGET:
Budget – $15-20
- Dorm bed
- Street food
- Scraping your change to get into the temples
Mid Range – $60-70
- Average for a couple
- Double bed w A/C and a pool
- Enternace to the temples
- Occasional happy hour
Luxury – $100 and up
- Staying in the swankiest hotels
- Dining in restaraunts
- Private tour guides
- Private transportation
HOW TO GET THERE:
- Siem Reap has an international airport that is close to town which makes it easy to fly into.
- There are also lots of bus companies so finding something in your price range and on the days you want to travel will not be a problem.
WHERE TO STAY:
- Green Village Guesthouse – located less than a 10 minute walk from pub street but tucked away enough that you’ll get a good nights sleep. The Green Village Guesthouse has dorm rooms up to a pool suite. We stayed in the pool suite with our own balcony and the pool and bar were 10 steps away and it was only $16 a night! The pool was nice to lounge by and the bar had a fun environment with a pool table. There was also a comfortable lounge area.
- Two Dragons – Clean, comfortable, and incredible value for your money. Excellent wifi. On site restaurant and bike rental. Prices start at $15 a night.
- Bou Savy Villa – The villas are a great option do to location and quality. It has a lovely outdoor pool, on sight restaurant, and daily continental breakfast. A balcony with pool views is offered in every unit with air conditioning. There are only 12 rooms so plan in advance if you want to stay here. Prices start at $22 a night.
- Chhay Long Angkor Boutique Hotel Siem Reap – Excellent location 3 blocks away from Pub Street. Close but quiet area. Spacious rooms with a king size bed. Prices start at $33 a night.
- The Night Hotel – This hotel has a beautiful outdoor pool and landscaped garden. Located in the heart of Siem Reap but tucked back so it offers privacy. Superb staff and beautiful design and decor. It also offers an excellent on site restaurant, a bit pricier but worth the extra couple of dollars. Try the amok or lemongrass soup. Rooms start at $55 a night.
- Golden Temple Retreat – Offers accommodations away from the hustle and bustle of Siem Reap. It features an outdoor swimming pool and in-house restaurant and bar. The rooms are spacious with good facilities and comfortable beds. The Gold Temple Retreat also offers complimentary two-way airport transfers. Prices start at $85 a night.
Saem Siem Reap Hotel – Hands down Seriously one of my favorite hotels, I stay here every time I visit Siem Reap. Located only 15 minutes from the Angkor Temples and 5 minutes from pub street via tuk tuk this hotel has the perfection location for luxury and relaxation. The breakfast buffet offering anything everyday should be reason enough to stay here if the amazing pool doesn’t sell you first. It’s a hidden gem. The staff who are polite and proper only add to the elegance of the hotel. Prices are very affordable and you will not be disappointed. We stayed in a pool level suite for only $39 a night. #Goals!
- Park Hyatt Siem Reap – Located in the heart of Siem Reap, walking distance to the French Colonial Quarters, the Old Market and Pub streets. The Park Hyatt offers luxurious 5 star accommodations. The hotel Features the largest collection of modern and traditional Cambodian Art, has indoor and outdoor pools and 3 on site dining options that use local ingredients for the environmental conscious. If you want luxury and location then Park Hyatt Siem Reap is where you should stay. Rooms start at $175 a night.
- Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor – Elegant accommodations in the heart of Siem Reap. It features a lap pool, fitness center, and spa. It has 4 on site dining options and offers activities like yoga and khmer dance. If you’re looking for celebrity accommodations and services this is the perfect place for you. Prices start at $275 per night.
Siem Reap does not have a shortage of hotels so finding one that suits your needs will not be a problem. For a bigger selection of hotels, prices, and reviews click here.
You’ll probably be tired from the journey to get to Siem Reap so relax by the pool for a couple hours after breakfast. (Most hotels, guesthouses, and hostels have a pool in Siem Reap.)
When you’re ready, explore Pub Street, do some shopping and catch brunch at Easy Speaking: located in the heart of it all. They serve a bomb breakfast from 7-12, perfect food to cure a hangover. They also offer Cambodian barbecue where you choose your meats and sauces and Cambodian favorites. They also offer western foods such as burgers, salads and a large pasta selection that you can create yourself. A full page of desserts and a drink menu to match. It’s a bit more expensive than most but your paying for the location and vibes. Perfect place to people watch and enjoy the all day happy hour!
Pub Street has a lot of restaurants to choose from. If you want something more cost effective but not sacrifice taste, eat at Khmer Taste. Located on a street perpendicular to Pub Street, it has a large menu with a variety of options like curries, western food, and classic Khmer dishes. I ate the Amok which is a classic Khmer dish, curry like with coconut milk, vegetables and your choice of beef, chicken, or fish. It also came with steamed rice and only cost $2.50.
Dance the night away at Temple Bar. If the dance floor is too loud for you, head to the rooftop to listen to live music and a DJ that will play any request in between sets.
Go on a day trip to Beng Melea temple. Beng Melea Temple is located 65 kilometers or an hour and a half southeast of Siem Reap. The ruin is that similar to Thom Phrom (the tomb raider temple) as there are trees carving through the walls and mossy green rocks. No restoration has been done to the temple so if you’re looking for a crumbled down temple hidden in the middle of the jungle, look no further because you’ve found it. In 1992 Beng Melea was given UNESCO heritage status.
You can arrange a tuk tuk which will take an hour longer to get there, go with a tour, or book your own car. You’re guesthouse will able to help you with arranging your own private tour for about 25$ which is worth it in my opinion. You may also want to pair this tour with Tonsle Lake to see the needy villages built on stilts over the water. But if you’re only into exploring ruins and temples head back to Siem Reap to explore a few of the outer temples that get missed more often than not. Prae Roup is a good one for sunset, Near Pean is a small temple is surrounded by a lake, or Ta Som which has a tree overgrown on the east entrance.
Your third day is the day that you’ve been waiting for. Exploring Angkor Wat and it’s surrounding temples. You’ll want to arrange a tuk tuk driver for the day so he can drive you around to all the temples. Your guesthouse will be able to help with this or you can find one on the street. You can get one anywhere from 20- 45$ for the whole day.
Wake up early to experience sunrise over Angkor Wat. Yes it’s touristy and Yes it’s crowded and Yes it’s totally worth it! No matter how crowded, it IS a breathtakingly beautiful sight. If you stay long enough, you’ll be able to get a shot without people in it.
Once you’ve got your sunrise shots, instead of going inside to explore Angkor Wat, have your tuk tuk drive you to Thom Phrom or as most people know it, the Tomb Raider temple. This is a very popolar temple because of the movie and for good reason. Trees are over grown around the temple ruins and the sight instantly transforms you into a bad ass like Indiana Joes or Lara Croft. So when everybody you rose with for sunrise is at Angkor Thom (typically the next stop on the ‘typical’ route), you are at Thom Phrom exploring these ruins and avoiding all the crowds.
Next temple you’ll go to is Tak Keo. This is the tallest temple standing over 70 feet tall. Stairs are steep and narrow but the views are worth it.
Next you’ll go to Preach Khan a small temple close to the side of the road. Quick and easy to explore.
Next stop. Angkor Thom the largest complex of Khmer ruins. Angkor Thom contains the iconic Bayon Temple with hundreds of faces covering the pillars. Make sure keep a look out for the face that you can get up close and personal with. It’s located on the top level.
After Bayon, continue across the street and follow the path through the woods that will take you to the elephant terraces. Hardly anyone goes there so that’s always a plus.
Don’t forget to stop at the South Gate of Angkor Thom when you are leaving as it’s one of the most instagramable spots in Cambodia.
Finally, since you’ve taken the backwards route and saved the best for last…Angkor Wat. The most famous complex of all. Crowds should be thinned out by now cause it’s the hottest part of the day and it will probably look like it’s about to rain in an hour especially if you’re traveling here during monsoon season. Take your time and explore every nook that Angkor Wat has to offer. Imagine what it looked like when it was most thriving and how powerful that it used to be and still is. My favorite part are the south side walls.
After a full day of temple hopping you’re gonna be exhausted. Get a must needed massage. Splurge the extra 3$ and get a 90 minute one.
If you’re only here for 3 days, sadly you’re time is up and you’ll be hitting the road tomorrow. I recommend staying at least 5 days if you took the time and traveled all the way here. It’s truly a beautiful place, from the Cambodian people, to the splendors of Angkor Wat. I think everyone one should experience its wonder at least once in their lives.
- To visit the Temples you must have your knees and shoulders covered. Bring an appropriate dress or buy a sarong to wear over your shorts.
- ATMS are widely available throughout Siem Reap.
- Cambodian overnight sleeper buses are better than most in South East Asia and is a cheap option for traveling around.
- SIM CARD: Get a Sim Card for no more than $10 depending on how many days you’re there. Its cheap and you’ll always have the internet.
- BASIC ITEMS such as sunscreen and bug spray can be purchased for cheap once you are there.
Thanks for reading and if you’ve been to Siem Reap tell me what you love most about it. Follow me along @imjess_traveling as I frolic across the globe!