Siem Reap in Cambodia is a popular destinations for both tourists and expats. Most famous for Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples, it’s a fantastic place to base yourself as a digital nomad and a great location for culture vultures and history buffs to explore. If you want an affordable and sunny Southeast Asian country with plenty to keep you occupied then head to Siem Reap. Read on for my top tips on what to do in Siem Reap.
Angkor Wat should be at the top of everyones list for Cambodia. It’s the largest religious monument in the world and was originally constructed as a temple to the Hindu God Vishnu and then later used as a Buddhist temple. Instantly recognisable by its five peaks, Angkor Wat is the symbol used on Cambodia’s national flag. My best advice for visiting Angkor Wat is to get your ticket the day before you visit so that t you can head straight there and miss the crowds that are all at the ticket office. Alternatively, go at around 3pm in the afternoon and see the temple complex after the heat of the day. Follow this link for a full Angkor Wat Guide.
Surrounding temples of Angkor Archaeological Park
As well as visiting Angkor Wat I would recommend that you spend at least 3 days exploring the surrounding temples of Angkor Archaeological Park. Other temples not to miss include Bayon, Baphuon, Ta Prom, Pre Rup and Preah Khan. It’s usual to spend one day doing the inner circuit (Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prom) and one day doing the outer circuit (with east Mebon, Pre Rup and Ta Som). On your third temple day you could explore Banteay Srei and Banteay Samre or maybe the Roluos Group temples.
If you feel like having a good night out and being social then head to Pub Street Siem Reap where you will meet with expats and locals and grab a beer for as cheap as 50c during happy hour. It’s Cambodia’s equivalent of Bangkok’s Khao San Road! My favourite bars are Angkor What? Temple Club and YOLO.
Chill ou in West Baray
Grab a taxi or tuk-tuk to West Baray where you will find plenty of hammock bars to chill out. There’s also fantastic evidence of the Angkor Wat Irrigation system to admire in this area. Please note that East Mebon temple is difficult to access (you will need to charter a vessel!) and under extensive reconstruction at the moment (correct at the time of writing – January 2020) so its not advisable to visit West Baray for the temple currently.
APOPO Demining Rats
Due to the history of conflict in Cambodia there have been extensive problems with landmines since 1991. It is estimated that there are still in excess of 4 million landmines and unexploded ordnance in Cambodia today. This is horrific for local farmers particularly near the border of Thailand and Laos as the result of stepping on exploded landmines for locals is amputation or even death. Sadly many of the victims are children.
In order to help to clear areas of landmines, non-government organisation APOPO have brought in trained rats who can sniff out unexploded landmines and still be light enough not to set them off. The fully trained African pouched rats detect the landmine location through the scent and then the bomb squad come in and detonate the device.
Shopping in Siem Reap
I’d highly recommend shopping in Siem Reap. The city offers a diverse selection of night markets, malls and galleries. If you are shopping for souvenirs to take home Angkor Night Market is perfect with its array of handicrafts. Head to Angkor Fashion Plaza on the river for designer brands.
Angkor Wat Putt
Fancy a chilled out afternoon of crazy golf? Angkor Wat Putt is crazy golf with a temple theme. Early morning or late afternoon is a good time to go – avoid the heat of the day and the bugs and frogs of the evening! Strike your ball through Angkor Wat and Preah Vihear temples. Get a free beer if you get a hole in one!
Take a trip to Battambang
If you are not short on time then a trip to Battambang is totally worth it. Although it’s apparently possible to do Battambang as a day trip from Siem Reap, I wouldn’t recommend it. Take at least two or three days as there are plenty of things to do in Battambang. Check out the amazing temples, visit Sampeau Mountain and the Battambang bat cave and ride on the Battambang Bamboo train. It’s one of my favourite places in Cambodia.
What to do in Siem Reap – Further Reading
- Angkor Wat Ticket Guide
- Best time to visit Cambodia
- Shopping in Siem Reap
- The Ultimate Angkor Wat Guide
- Pub Street Siem Reap
What to Pack for Cambodia
Take light cotton tops, long comfortable trousers and maxi dresses that cover your shoulders. Thailand is a conservative Buddhist county and you are likely to be refused entry to top sites like the Phnom Penh Royal Palace and Angkor Wat with shoulders showing and shorts or short skirts. You can pack shorts and vest tops for hanging around your hotel or the pool.
Pack a water bottle because many guest houses are eco friendly and have a refill and reuse policy to cut down on plastic waste. The drinking water is fine and many hotels supply cold purified drinking water.
Bugs bite particularly in the evenings in Cambodia and so a bug repellant is essential. Also the sun can get hot – this Christmas and New Year temperatures were exceeding 32 degrees and so sun screen is another essential.