I am realllly stretching out these Asia posts. Sorry about that!!
I loved Cambodia so, so much.
The second I got off of the plane from Bangkok I felt a wave of relief. You may remember from my post about it that Bangkok was pretty intense, and the airport experience leaving was such a nightmare. I got off the plane, breathed in the warm evening air and immediately felt so much better. The big reason to visit Siem Reap is to see the temples. We already covered that in this post!
Here is a little video which will give you a feel for Siem Reap + my hotel, and then we will dive into everything you need to know about planning a trip here.
Visiting Cambodia is a little bit more complicated than visiting Thailand so just keep the below things in mind!
What to know before you go!
- You need a Visa! You can buy it at the airport when you land – it costs $30. Before you leave, get a passport photo taken as you will need that. (You can do that at most drugstores – I got mine at CVS.)
- Cambodia operates almost exclusively on the dollar. So take out a lot of cash at home (if you’re American) in advance of the trip.
- Be really careful. I had all very positive experiences but petty crime is common in Cambodia and I have friends who have had bad experiences with theft and having their phones nearly snatched. Keep an eye on your things at all times and be smart. Do not leave your cell phone out on the table while you are eating.
- Don’t drink the water. Like, not even to brush your teeth. It’s safe to brush your teeth with but I personally found that it tasted really bad. Bottled water is cheap – buy a few extra bottles and keep ‘em in the bathroom.
- Don’t eat the street food. I will admit that I had some ice cream from a street vendor and was immediately scolded on social media for it. Oops. I was fine though. But generally, don’t do it. My friend’s husband got e coli – not worth it!
- Take a tuk tuk! They are everywhere (there were several parked outside my hotel) and make getting around super easy. I rarely saw actual taxis, and my hotel coordinated airport pickup + drop off.
- Tip well. This goes without saying but Cambodia is beautiful but very poor. My tuk tuk driver insisted on waiting for me to take me home after dinner… for $5 round trip. I was shocked that he wanted to wait two hours for me while I was at dinner. I gave him $20 and he was so grateful.
Where to stay!
I loved, loved, loved my hotel, Central Suites. It’s in a great part of town and very nice. My room was huge with a big king sized bed and fluffy white bedding (and a gorgeous bathroom with a rain shower) and it was only $70 a night. They also have a really beautiful pool area and bar (where you can order $3 cocktails). I was definitely impressed. They had a great (complimentary) breakfast every morning and also provided free transfers to and from the airport. I was a little nervous about getting around so it was comforting to get picked up and not have to worry about taking a taxi.
It was very inexpensive and they also have a great laundry service. I had a white blouse that was covered in self tanner and sunscreen – they got every single bit of that out. And my pants were a wreck after a day at the temples and getting caught in the rain… they got all the clay out of the bottoms – miraculous!
We also heard really amazing things about Viroth’s + the Sofitel. Viroth’s had been our first choice but it was fully booked.
What to do!
- Take a tour of Angkor Wat, Angkor Tom and the other temples. Refer to my whole blog post about Angkor Wat and Cambodia’s temples. I cannot say enough good things about Poy Pines and his tours… he was amazing: so nice, so knowledgable, and an amazing Instagram husband for the day. 😉
- Get a massage! I heard good things about Lemongrass Spa but I ended up going to Real Spa (it’s right next to Central Suites) as it looked a bit nicer. There are so many good spas and the prices are amazing. I really treated myself – had a four hour spa day… getting a body scrub, body wrap, and massage. It was $65, for everything. Real Spa was incredibly nice, more like a Western spa (you have your own room, etc).
Khmer Angkor Kitchen is a very basic, simple Cambodian restaurant but the food is good. Poy (my tour guide) brought us here for lunch and I loved it. I had fresh spring rolls to start and then he introduced me to something called Amok, which (to my understanding) is the Cambodian equivalent to curry, though it isn’t as spicy as a curry. It was divine. I ordered the Chicken Amok (over rice) and ate a LOT. It probably helped that we got up so early and I was HUNGRY but I really loved it!!!
Red Piano is very famous (and was Angelina Jolie’s favorite place to eat when she was there, filming Tomb Raider). I went for lunch and had a delicious beef dish (I forget what it’s called but it’s one of Cambodia’s signature dishes. YUM. The drinks were just so so (I had a strawberry margarita and it was just meh) but maybe I should have ordered something else. The food though was very very good.
Cuisne Wat Damnat was one of the best meals I had over the entire trip. And the 6 course tasting menu is just $31. It’s French-Cambodian fusion and absolutely delicious. The chef greets you at the entrance, the service + atmosphere is also really good (for Cambodia – we’re not talking white linens etc… it’s rustic and charming). I had a turmeric margarita and the most delicious food – shrimp, this amazing duck soup, a few other delicious things and a black bean crème brulee which sounds like it could be disgusting but is anything but.
What I Wish I did!
There is actually SO much more to Siem Reap/Cambodia than the temples and historical stuff. There’s quite a bit I would have done if we had more time.
- Bars! My hotel was right off of Pub Street – which looked very fun. Every night I would get home around 10 from dinner and just read but if I’d been with friends I would have gone out out. Miss Wong’s and Angkor What are both very famous.
- The Silk Farm sounds incredible!
- Floating Village
- Phare Circus
Love your travel posts, I feel like I’m living through you! I love a good ol’ massage when I’m visiting SE Asia, they’re always so affordable! 😛
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
Thank you so much Charmaine! And yes they are so affordable!
Siem Reap is great!! I would recommend the Kompong Kleang floating village (as you mentioned), an ATV or 4-wheeler ride (they refer to them as “quads”) through the rice fields at sunset, and visiting ankor artisans for local silks. We stayed at the Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa and it had a lovely little spa, a great pool, and a nice bar with a “happy hour” every night 🙂 Also we got our Cambodia visas online beforehand. Not sure if that is still an option but it was super easy and we had no issues upon arrival! Great post, thanks for sharing!
So many good tips. Next time I am going for longer!!!
I wish I read this before I went to Siem Reap!
Aw! Isn’t it so amazing?
Really not impressed with the $20 tip you gave the tuk tuk… a rather foolish move… then they expect that of all tourists and some are on a lot less budget than yours… the average Cambodian makes $6-8 a day so giving 2.5 days worth of salary for 2 hrs is ridiculous.
It’s never a bad thing to tip generously.
haha I agree. The poor guy drove me twenty minutes to dinner, waited over two hours for me to finish my meal, and brought me back to my hotel safe and sound. I highly doubt he now expects it from everyone else.
That’s actually not true. Tipping too generously in developing countries is NOT the right thing to do. Let me explain:
Overpaying when you’re traveling can hurt an economy if the tourism industry is big enough because it can end up driving up prices for the locals, too. It exacerbates price increases that naturally occur in an economy when an influx of tourists increase demand for products.
There’s a reason things cost what they do in different countries. Prices are determined by tons of different variables, including GDP, wages, exchange rates and, of course, supply and demand. A $5 meal is a result of the interaction of all those variables and should be a fair price. You should pay what’s asked, tip whatever the custom is and enjoy every last bite and experience. To sum it up, overpaying increases the odds of inflation. Chances are, local wages can’t keep up and these goods become unaffordable for local residents, long after you’ve left.
Support local economies in a way that also respects them. I have traveled extensively and I know it’s hard to wrap your brain around it. But just because you can afford it, and $20 doesn’t seem a lot to you, doesn’t mean you should.
This is really helpful, thank you for taking the time to explain that!
Love reading all of your SE Asia recaps! I went to some of the same places a few years ago, and your posts bring me back! I loved Cambodia. The people there were so friendly. We made it to the famous Angkor What bar on Pub Street, and let’s just say, you didn’t miss out on much! haha Your hotel looks lovely! Thanks for sharing all the details!
Thank you! SO happy you are enjoying them!!!!
Still sad I didn’t get out to experience any of the bars – maybe next trip.
That signature beef dish u ate is “Lok Lak”. 15bucks plus u gave him supposed to be the most smiley day for him to be truth! and welcome to cambodia again ❤
Yes! That’s the one! Thank you 🙂 x
How did you find travelling alone in Cambodia? I’m contemplating it in the autumn but a bit nervous….
It wasn’t bad!!! I think you could totally do it. If you do, I highly recommend a tour with Poy Pines – he was so good at being my instagram husband for the tour, taking my photo for me at all the best spots!