Siem Reap, literally "Siam Defeated", commemorates a Khmer victory over the neighboring kingdom of Thailand. These days, however, the only rampaging hordes are the tourists heading to Angkor and this once quaint village has become the largest boomtown and construction site in Cambodia. It's quite laid-back and all in all a pleasant place to stay while touring the temples. It's a nice compromise between observing Cambodian life and enjoying the amenities of modern services and entertainment, thanks to the large expatriate community in Siem Reap. As business has increased, so have the numbers of people wanting your custom. Expect to receive almost constant offers for motodop and tuk-tuk rides, along with everything else which drivers may be able to offer to you.
Be sure to pick up your free Siem Reap Angkor Visitors Guide from your hotel/guesthouse. It contains lots of info on Siem Reap and Angkor, including hotel/bar/restaurant/shop info, travel info, maps, etc.
Visa on Arrival costs US$25 (children US$10), US$2 more if you've forgotten to bring a colour photo. The airport is less than 15 minutes from the town centre by car (US$5) or motodop (US$4 or less).
There are separate terminals for international and domestic flights. International departure tax is a steep US$25 (children US$13), payable after check-in and before clearing immigration. Often this can only be paid in cash, as the credit card facility is unreliable. Airport fee upon departure on national flights, to Phnom Penh, is US$6.
Cambodian highways have improved considerably in the last few years (although there's still plenty of room for further improvement) and some routes that were once epic adventures are now sealed roads. For most routes you have the basic options of chartering or sharing a Toyota Camry taxi, sharing a ride in a pickup truck, or if it's a sealed road, taking the bus.
Street between Siem Reap and the border town Poipet (March 2006)
The fastest and most comfortable way to get from Poipet to Siem Reap is by share taxi - US$40-45 for the whole car - in which case the entire trip from Poipet to Siem Reap could take less than 3.5 hours on an good day. If the car is shared between 3 or 4 people this is not as expensive as it sounds.
If US$40 is too much, you can take the official bus for a fixed US$10/person. Take the Free Transport (it really is free) to the remote bus terminal about 2 km away. The bus leaves when full and can take about 15 people in a large minibus, with all the bags on the back seat. Extra people will be squeezed onto the back seat if necessary which might not be so comfortable. Two fold down seats in the centre isle are also not so comfortable. The trip is advertised as taking 3-5 hours, but in reality it takes at least 6 hours when the road is not too bad. An enforced stop after 2 hours at a restaurant can add to the time of the trip, depending on how long people want to stay. There is the possibility of additional delays (mechanical faults developing which become suddenly fixed) and it is sad to say that these might be due to the same reasons as the Khao San scam-bus. Ultimately you will be delivered to a guest house in Siem Reap, but there is no pressure to stay.
If even this is too much, you can try to hop on the back of a pick-up truck for a fraction of the price, but this will be more uncomfortable, take longer and probably require a change of vehicle at Sisophon.
Alternatively, you could join the backpacking masses and pay a couple of hundred baht for an uncomfortable bus ride directly from Khao San Road all the way to Siem Reap; any travel agent in Bangkok will be happy to sell you a ticket. Buses leave Khao San Road around 8am and arrive in Siem Reap between 5pm and 3am. How long it takes exactly does not really depend on road conditions, but on the mood of the driver. Because he can "sell" you to a guesthouse in Siem Reap he will try to arrive there as late as possible, because if you are tired and afraid of walking around in Siem Reap late at night, his chances increase that you will stay at the guesthouse of his choice. Even if you start in Bangkok on a big aircon bus, you will almost certainly find yourself in the back of a pickup or stuffed minibus for the Cambodian part of the journey. For the return trip, expect to pay around US$11.
Whichever route you take, beware of scams, touts and pickpockets at the Poipet border crossing. Visa on Arrival costs US$20, require one color picture, and you do not need anybody's assistance to complete the process. If you arrive with the Khao San Road busses the chances are high that they will charge you 1000 baht or even more for the visa. Try to bargain!
From Phnom Penh
Roadside Petrol Cambodia-style
There are several bus companies that you can take to get from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. The most popular bus companies with tourists include Capitol Transport, GST, and Mekong Express. Each bus company leaves from a different location, although there are many located around the Central Market. Nearly all of the bus companies have buses leaving at 7:30am and 12:30pm, and the trip costs US$3-6. Expect to get to Siem Reap in 5-7 hours. In contrast to the Siem Reap-Poipet road, the entire road is paved, making for a much more comfortable ride. If you're driving yourself, watch out for the make-shift patrol pertol stations next to the road, selling petrol in olg 2 litre Coke bottles. Much cheaper than the real thing, but who knows what the quality is...
Fast, Soviet style Hydrofoils also make the journey from Phnom Penh across the Tonle Sap lake. Asking price for a "foreigner" ticket is typically US$20-25, US$15 is a good price to pay. There are also services between Siem Reap and Battambang (asking price US$15, pay US$10).
These can be fantastic trips which give travellers the opportunity to view life on the lake, floating houses, fishermen going about their work, and to get a sun tan if you choose to sit on the roof of the boat. However if you travel on a windy day and you have not kept waterproofs and sunscreen out of your luggage you could be in trouble. These journeys take anywhere from five to eight hours and without waterproofs and sunscreen you will become incredibly cold and will be burned by the sun at the same time. As the boat is generally packed with travellers, those on the roof will have to stay up there, and once your bags are in the hold, they stay there.
If you are planning a week long trip in Siem Reap, the boat journey is fine, but if you are only planning two to three days, I would advise taking the bus. If you are specifically taking the boat to see the floating village, don't. The floating village is at the very end of the boat journey. You could ride the bus from Phnom Penh, get a guest house, take a tuk-tuk to the port, tour the floating village, and be back in Siem Reap before your friends arrive from Phnom Penh by boat.
A word of caution: If you find yourself taking the boat/bus and person asks for your name to have his friend pick you up, he is in actuality selling your name to a tuk-tuk driver in Siem Reap. This is a fairly convenient way to get from the port to Siem Reap, just be prepared for an extremely hard sell to one of his select guest houses, restaurants, etc. If you just "roll with it" he will take you to a guest house and you will quoted US$10 for a normally priced US$6-8 room. Since the tuk-tuk driver has now pinned you for a "sucker", he will try to sell you on his services to the temples for about US$20-25 a day. Be firm, and negotiate, they will bend towards the market rate. You'll never really be ripped off, but keep in mind that if you are staying for longer than four days, that tuk-tuk surplus would be much better served through a charitable donation.
Along the Siem Reap River
Most of the sights in Siem Reap can be seen on foot. For the foot-sore and sun-weary, you'll have plenty of offers from locals on motorbikes. Only the longest rides should be more than US$1 though prices go up at night. Simply agree a price and hop on the back.
Another excellent way to see Siem Reap is by bicycle. Most guesthouses have bicycles, often free for "round town" use, or US$1 (single speed) - US$2 (with gears) per day. It's also a good way to see Angkor Wat, but leave early to avoid the mid-day heat.
Guesthouses can usually arrange a driver and car for you; this works out at about US$20 per day and is a good way to visit the temples if time is short. Ask for Mith Bundy (Tel: 012 942 561) for a very friendly driver with excellent English skills.
Alternatively, you can rent a motorbike with driver for a full day for US$6 or so. Wear a handkerchief across the mouth / nose as the roads can be very dusty!
Note: The rental of motorbikes to tourists (expatriates, however, are allowed) in Siem Reap is prohibited, however foreigners can ride motorbikes they've rented elsewhere (eg Phnom Penh).
Tuk tuk drivers can be hired for US$10-15/day to take you wherever you like, they will arrange meeting places with you or wait where you tell them to. They are a great way of see the surrounds without the barrier of a car window! A word of advice, pay them for their services after everything you have arranged is completed. For example, if you arrange for a later trip to the airport and pay them, chances are that you will have to find another ride.
An additional and very convenient way to get around the area, and also get to and from the airport, is to use an 'official taxi', which are available at the airport for the fee of US$7 to the city and payable to the counter at the airport. Whilst in the taxi you will be offered the services of the car and the driver for US$25/day, which is very good value if you want to visit several temples in one day. They also have the added luxury of air conditioning, which you will be craving after walking around temples for a couple of hours The US$25/day is payable directly to the driver, who will speak English, have had training, will have a proper driving license and also have knowledge of the temples and surrounding area. The Tourist Transport Association  also have an office just behind the tourist information office in Siem Reap, which you can contact if you have any questions or queries. All other services and prices are listed on the back of the receipt you receive when you pay the US$5 at the airport for the trip into town.
Landmine Museum, . Located a bumpy 15-min ride from the main road to Angkor (any motodop or tuk-tuk driver will know), this jungle shack was set up by local deminer Aki Ra to educate locals and tourists about the dangers of land mines. Piles of defused mines and UXO lie around the site and the guides are mostly teenagers who were orphaned or injured by mines, all now living nearby. A very worthwhile trip that brings home the scale of the problem and shows you a slice of "real" Cambodia. Free entry, but donations very welcome — everything will be used for mine clearance.
An alternative trip when you are feeling 'templed out' is to visit the Tonle Sap lake a few miles from town and take a boat trip past the floating villages. The fast hydrofoil to Phnom Penh also passes this way.
The silk worm farm, is worth the hike. Take a tuk tuk and drive through the local surrounding villages for a better idea of how the locals live.
Kampong Phluck, off the Highway to Phnom Penh, is only reachable by motorbike and then boat, and is a much more authentic 'floating village experience' than the one close to the Tonlé Sap-ferry harbour. Enquire at your local hotel for a day trip to this fascinating village on stilts. This day trip should cost around US$30 and it takes about 2 hours to reach the village, depending on the road conditions and water level.
Hidden Cambodia Dirt Bike Tours, Tel. + 855 (0)12 934 412 or (0)12 655 201, . HCDBT offers once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to explore the countryside of Cambodia in a safe yet exciting way, by motorbike or 4-WD.
Apsara Theatre, tel. +855-63-963-363. . The only air-conditioned theater in town presents various traditional popular and classical dances and serves a set of local specialties. Booking recommanded !
As usual in Cambodia, dollars and even Thai baht are preferred over riel for all purchases except the very smallest. There are a number of large, flashy souvenir shops around town, complete with temple-style decorations and a surplus of staff, which happily charge 2-5x the going price elsewhere in town and are best avoided.
Despite what you may be told at the Thai border, international ATMs in Siem Reap are plentiful, and banks can do cash advances from credit cards.
Angkor Market, Sivatha Blvd. Siem Reap's closest thing to a supermarket, offering a good range of food, snacks, alcohol and even some souvenirs. Clearly marked, non-negotiable but reasonable prices.
Psar Chas (Old Market), to the south of town. Sells a reasonably attractive collection of artifacts and tourist junk. Please don't buy anything purporting to be antique; it probably isn't, but it's stolen if it is.
Central Market, at the corner of Sivatha Blvd and Achamean Street. Offers an eclectic collection of clothes and trinkets for good prices. Don't forget to bargain down the price. Most stalls carry the same selection so you can shop around and find the cheapest price. Many of the goods here cannot be found in Thailand.
Red Piano restaurant, Pub Street
There are many hundreds of restaurants in Siem Reap, and you will have no trouble finding something which suits your tastes and your budget. If you don't want to go out, most guesthouses have a basic restaurant attached, and can quickly whip up a decent fried rice.
For something a bit more special, head into town. There are whole streets catering for the travellers tastes, with pizzas, hamburgers, or tasty westernised offerings such as Amok and 'Khmer curry'. Many of the most authentic Karaoke-style restaurants are hidden in the backstreets, though your moto or tuk-tuk driver will no doubt know where to take you. He will be happy to wait (or join you) if you are really out in the boonies.
The street directly west of Pub Street is lined with lots of stalls offering simple yet filling meals for about a dollar apiece. The food is clean.
Chiang Mai and Chivat Thai 2 on Wat Bo Rd offer basic Thai fare. Lunch sets start at US$1.50, dinner costs a bit more.
The Markets - If you get tired of paying US$3 and up for just an ordnary lunch/dinner you may try one of the markets. You can get a whole meal for US$1 and below there.
Pub Street is best known as a watering hole, but it has also many nice restaurants that won't break the bank. Nearby you'll also find a whole range of pizzerias, including the original Happy Herbs Pizza, which depending on how the police are feeling that day either may or may not sell you cannabis-laced "happy" pizza. Don't try the "extra happy" unless you know what you're doing, and note that they will not sell you any herb without the pizza.
Blue Pumpkin, Pub Street. Upscale, clean, air conditioned, wifi connection, need I say more.
Khmer Family (formerly The Temple). Tasty and cheap local grub, although it's rather toned down for the foreign palate and often tastes like Thai food without the chillis. Pleasant, breezy second-floor balcony. Mains US$2-4.
Khmer Kitchen, located in the alley behind bar street. Good value and very popular.
Kama Sutra, Pub Street (opposite D's book shop). Authentic, yet slightly upmarket Indian food. Expect to pay around US$4-5 for a main course.
Maharajah Next to CAB Bank, Old Market area, Tel: 092-506622 email@example.com Royal Indian Cuisine - excellent new Indian restaurant just in the Old Market area just one street over from Pub Street. Very nicely prepared, very reasonably priced, 100% Halal Royal Indian dishes - uniquely spiced north Indian dishes with an emphasis on meat (chicken, beef, mutton, fish) dishes. There's also plenty of veg dishes to choose from. The Indian breads are excellent. 10:00-23:00
Red Piano, Pub St. It has a well-known "Tomb Raider" cocktail and a good selection of Khmer as well as international dishes for US$3-5.
Viva, Pub St. Siem Reap's first and only Mexican restaurant, with a menu containing just about everything you'd expect in your local TexMex restaurant. Good food, reasonable prices.
There are a few good options elsewhere in town. The numerous Karaoke restaurants offer a real authentic experience of modern Khmer dining. Try to sit far from the speakers, and prepare for mozzies. There is often no english menu, but one of the staff will no doubt be happy to help you order. Try phnom pleurng, a delicious cook-it-yourself beef barbecue. Another sensational dish, which is only available at these types of restaurants, is the trei bung gancheyt - a whole fish bubbling in a tasty peanuty sauce with green veggies.
Café Moi Moi, Angkor Rd (to the left, after Meridien, before ticket booth). An unpretentious alfresco restaurant with a delightful little garden, serving up Khmer dishes, some traditional, some with a Japanese twist. Their version of amok, the classic dish of fish stewed in coconut milk, is cheap and tasty (US$3.50), while more adventurous diners can opt for minced pork mixed with the pungent Cambodian fish sauce prahok (US$3) and served with sliced raw onion to ease the pain. Nibble some pickles and sweet peanuts, try their famous pumpkin pudding for dessert and wash it all down with a large beer.
Samapheap is a large and popular restaurant pleasantly located on the eastern riverbank a short hop down from Route 6, catering to both Khmers and tour groups. The menu is extensive, service is quick, prices are reasonable (most mains US$2-5) and the food is good.
Abacus. Beautiful garden setting and a temple-stone bar. Renauld, the Maitre 'd, adds flair and style, and the excellent menu is a real treat. At around US$10 for a main, you might not be eating here every night, but it is well worth splashing out at least once.
L'Angelo, Le Meridien. Probably Siem Reap's most daring restaurant, serving fusionesque Italian cuisine like foie gras on a bed of white asparagus and balsamic vinegar ice cream in a setting so achingly modern that the only decoration is a cloud of black dots on the white wall. There's a price to pay though: a full meal with a glass or two of wine on the side can easily set you back around US$100 for two.
Meric, Hotel de la Paix. Acclaimed by some as the best Khmer restaurant in all Cambodia, it is set in a chic hotel with a minimalist modern feel. You are liable to forget where you are. The chefs here painstakingly source out the freshest (and strangest) ingredients to build their multi-course seasonal menu (US$28). A typical set will have you dining on dried snake salad and grilled frog, but rest assured, it all actually tastes good. Arrive before 9.15 for the four course prix-fixe Khmer meal with wine selection. Sit in airconditioned comfort, or outside tables and lounge furniture. The hotel also has a modern bar with local art displayed.
Most of Siem Reap's watering holes are concentrated in a few lanes north of Psar Chas (the old market), mainly on a street known appropiately as "Bar Street" or "Pub Street". Drinks usually US$2 and up, although most if not all bars have happy hours before 8 PM and draft Angkor often goes for as little as US$.50.
The Art House
Angkor What?, Pub St. The pub that started it all, still going strong after ten years and covered in years of scribbled notes from travellers to prove it.
Temple Club, Pub St. A popular western-orienated (But Khmer owned) nightclub featuring Angkorian decor, three free pool tables, and a rocking dance floor, it's not uncommon for this place to be open until sunrise. Inexpensive drinks
FCC Angkor, (west river bank next to post office), . Opened in October 2002, this is far and away Siem Reap's hippest place for a bite and a drink. A branch of the legendary Phnom Penh Foreign Correspondents' Club, the FCC offers food (~US$5) and drink (~US$3) in a marvelous blend of modern style and colonial architecture... if at a fairly steep price, at least by Cambodian standards.
Le Tigre du Papier, Pub St. Free movies most evenings, a huge selection of used books upstairs and cheap shots of the aniseed liquor pastis. French-run.
Linga Bar, the only officially gay-friendly bar in the village that attracts gay and straights alike. In the words of the owner, your grandmother would feel comfortable here. Great drinks opposite the markets, parallel to the "bar" street.
Soup Dragon, Pub St. A restaurant/bar on one of the corners of the "bar" street in the old part of town. Great sunset vista from their rooftop with the added bonus being it is the same time as happy hour - two for one cocktails, drinks range from US$2-4. The food is mostly vietnamese, good and cheap plus they make their own ice cream.
Warehouse/The Art House. Two bars for the price of one: downstairs has an appropriately warehouse-y feel with lots of red brick and a "Service Entrance", while upstairs is a clean white art gallery that also happens to serve drinks. Free draft beer offered at various times on Friday, though courtesy dictates you have a drink or two before or afterwards or dine from the food menu.
Laundry Bar A popular French-owned expat hangout with a sophisticated setting and chilled atmosphere, this is definitely a late-night bar. It features a huge selection of music albums for sale at US$5 for 7 albums (On one MP3 disk). Free pool table.
Accommodations range from towering air-conditioned hotels by the airport (mostly for get-in-get-out all-inclusive tours) to local rooms-for-rent and a range of modest guesthouses in town, particular on and around Wat Bo road.
If you arrive with a tour bus or van you will be taken to a "suggested" guesthouse. Usually these are not too bad and you'll probably be too tired to argue.
If you arrive by plane, you may wish to contact a guest house in advance. They will then usually arrange for free transportation to their place. Otherwise just take a motorbike (US$1) or a taxi (US$2) to town. If you don't know any place to go to, they will ask for your budget and will then 'suggest' one.
Earthwalkers, Sala Kanseng Village, 1,5 km from city centre just of Highway 6, tel. + 855 (0) 12 967 901, . High quality budget accommodation with comfortable rooms with fan or A/C from US$4-17 with full en suite facilities.
Two Dragons Guesthouse, Wat Bo, . Guesthouse run by Gordon Sharpless of Tales of Asia fame. A/C, hot water, cable TV, and the self-proclaimed cleanest rooms in Cambodia, from US$7.
Rosy Guesthouse, Slar Kram Village, tel. 012 916 930, 012 951 692. Rooms with fans, satellite TV and shower with hot water inside. Rates are US$5.
Home Sweet Home Guesthouse, No. 0111 Wat Bo, tel. 063 760 279, . Rooms with fans and shower inside are US$8, shared shower US$5.
The Queen House Villa, No. 0209 Wat Damnak Street, Tel. 011221838, . Big, clean rooms with fan, hot water, A/C, start from US$6. Free breakfast and bicycles. Just 2 Minutes from the center!
Family Guest House, No. 019 Mondoul 2, Svay Dangkum, tel. +855 (0)12 841 864. Newly built concrete building with aircon and fan only rooms, TV and hot water available. Restaurant with good Khmer and western food. Start at US$6 (main season).
The LyLy Guest House, No. 547, Svay Dangkum, tel. 012705959, email has rooms from 3 to 6 US$ and is run by a friendly family (speaking French and English).
Mom's Guesthouse, #0099, Phom Wat Bo, . One of the longer-running guesthouses in Siem Reap, now in a new if somewhat characterless building. Mom will be happy to make all sorts of travel and transport arrangements. Rates US$15/20/30 for air-con singles/doubles/triples with breakfast, hot water and airport transfers included.
Molly Malone's, . Irish Bar and Restaurant has a number of air conditioned rooms, starting from US$20. Family-sized rooms available. Friendly staff and good food, located in the center of town.
Golden Banana B&B, . 5 minutes walk from market/bar area, quiet garden setting. Free-standing a/c rooms with hot shower, swimming pool. Breakfast included, Khmer style lunch/dinner. Gay-friendly. Transports and temple guides can be arranged. US$23/25/28 for single/double/twin. Recently opened (08/2006) Golden Banana Boutique Hotel, . Same owner, same location, better rooms. US$45/50/55 for single/double/twin.
Auberge Mont Royal d'Angkor,  Just off the main strip sits this charming little hotel with brilliant staff, great service, beautiful a/c rooms, new pool and spa and a good restaurant. They will pick you up at the airport and will arrange day-trips, guides and anything you might need while in Siem Reap. US$25-50 per room.
Angkor Village Hotel & Resort, tel. +855-63-963-361. . The architecture of both hotels is directly inspired from cambodian traditional villages. Built in true khmer tradition, the wooden houses nestled among tropical ponds and gardens, secluded from the hustle of the town, offer peace and serenity . From US$147.
Prince D'Angkor, Sivatha Blvd, tel. +855-63-763-888. . Upmarket hotel and spa. Fairly central location a 10-minute stroll from the center of town. From US$180.
Amansara, . Prince Sihanouk's former guesthouse, close to the main entrance to Angkor Wat. Rates from US$650 up.
Casa Angkor, Oum Chhay / Oum Khun Street, tel. +855-63-963658, . Former boutique hotel now expanded to three times its previous size and trying to claw its way upmarket. It looks pretty from the outside, the miniature pool is nice and the polished cycle-rickshaws add a cute touch, but at heart it's still a thoroughly generic mid-range concrete barracks that doesn't deserve the price tag. From US$80.
Hôtel de la Paix, Sivatha Boulevard, tel. +855-63-966000, . The newest and, just maybe, the best five-star in town. Tastefully done in a colonial-modern fusion style, with pool, spa and very good restaurants. Location is very central. From US$200.
Le Meridien Angkor, Vithei Charles de Gaulle (the road to Angkor), tel. +855-63-963900, . Opened in 2004, the ordinary-looking exterior hides what feels like a slick, modern big city hotel. The large pool/spa complex, set off from the main building, is particularly remarkable. From US$150.
The One Hotel, Angkor, The Passage, tel. +855-12-755-311. . Located in a charming central side street in a freestanding French colonial building, this hotel has only one (1) suite for one or two guests. Street view balconies and a private roof top jacuzzi garden. US$250.
Raffles Grand Hotel D'Angkor, . Siem Reap's grand old hotel, originally built by the French. Subject to a boycott in some quarters as, when their waiters and bartenders had the audacity to ask to keep their tips, they fired the lot.
Internet cafés abound in Siem Reap, prices being US$.75-1.50 per hour. Speed of connection, and speed of PC, very much depends from place to place.
E-Café, on Sivatha St north of Psar Chas, . A cut above the rest in connection and service quality, as well as price at US$1.50/hour.
Figo's cafe's food is a bit more expensive, but offers free wireless internet to its customers.
Generally the Siem Reap area and the temples of Angkor are relatively safe, however the usual cautions still apply as with any town or city. Whilst visiting the temples, however, beware of off duty police officers, who are in uniform, that start walking beside you and start showing you around the temples. At this point either say that you would like to see the temples yourself, or agree on a price at the start. Several people have been requested for a fee of over US$10 at the end of the temple tour and you are not going to argue with a member of the police force! The official wage for a police office is very low, so they can easily double their salary by being tourist guides.
Siem Reap and the Angkor temples have long since been thoroughly demined.
If you haven't seen enough temples yet, the ancient capital of Koh Ker and the commanding hilltop ruins of Preah Vihear next to the Thai border might be worth a trip.
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