The Kingdom of Wonder. Siem Reap will always hold a special place in my heart. There is something here for every type of traveler from hip backpacker hostels to luxurious spas. With delicious food, iconic temples, plenty of street markets, and a vibrant nightlife, you are guaranteed to find plenty to fill your itinerary.
CURRENCY: Cambodian Riel, Also accept USD many places
CLIMATE: Tropical (warm & humid), Dry season: Nov – April
DRESS CODE: Town: Casual, Temples & Angkor Wat: Conservative, cover shoulders and legs
GETTING AROUND: Tuk-tuks, Local taxis
COST OF VISITING: $ – Hostels start at $2 per night and street food is a little as $2 to $3 (USD) per meal
TIPPING: Tipping is not mandatory but appreciated for restaurants and tuk-tuk/taxi drivers, 10% is average
SAFETY: Siem Reap is generally a safe place even for solo female travelers
Both times I have gone to Siem Reap, I have taken the train from Bangkok. This is the cheapest and most scenic option. All trains are third class which means no AC so try to sit by a window that opens. The entire journey usually takes anywhere from 8 to 10 hours and is fairly easy as long as you know what to expect.
STEP ONE – TRAIN
First you need to take a train from Bangkok (Hua Lamphong) to Aranyaprathet, which is the closest stop to the Cambodia border. This will take around 5 hours and costs around 48 baht ($1.45). Trains leave twice daily at 5:55 am and 1:05 pm.
STEP TWO – TUK-TUK
Once you arrive at the Aranyaprathet stop, there will be tuk-tuks there waiting to bring you to the border at Poipet. The ride should only take 15 minutes. If you do have cell service, I recommend pulling up the map as they take you there to make sure you are headed in the right direction.
BEWARE OF SCAMS
Both times I have went to the border via tuk-tuk they have driven me to an office next to the border saying that is where we needed to get our visa checked and pay a fee. The first time, there were even police standing there agreeing with them. Luckily, we had heard about this scam ahead of time and simply said no and walked toward the border to customs. You can see the border clearly. It is a huge archway over the road. One side is for entering Cambodia and the other side is for leaving Cambodia. Make sure you are on the correct side (both entrances are right next to the road) and keep walking until either a guy with a gun says you can’t walk any farther and points you in the right direction or you can clearly see the customs line.
PRINT OUT YOUR E-VISA
You can obtain a visa on arrival or an e-visa prior to entering. If you have purchased an e-visa beforehand, PRINT IT OUT AND MAKE TWO COPIES! We didn’t know this and spent 4 hours at the border trying to explain to them that we needed to print it out. The first time we had to pay for a new visa. If you forget, you can try going into the casino next to the border and go to the hotel reception desk. They are pretty nice and willing to help but don’t speak English so it may be hard to communicate what you are wanting.
STEP THREE – BUS
After you cross the border and go through customs, keep walking on the same side of the street and you will see a queue where a shuttle bus comes. This shuttle will take you up the road for free to buy a bus ticket to take you the rest of the way to Siem Reap.
There are usually other travelers or people doing a visa run who would be more than happy to help you.
WHERE TO STAY
Tola and his family of three children live in the village next to Siem Reap town. Stay in a bamboo hut and get a real taste of the local culture! My brother and I stayed here for a few nights and it was the highlight of our trip. Spend your time with the animals, exploring the beautiful land they live on, eating with the family, and even dancing with them! Plus, the income from your stay goes to help children to get education, food, and shelter!
If you would prefer to stay somewhere closer to the city, that also has a pool, the Forest King Hotel is great. I stayed there a few years back when it was called the Golden Mango Inn and the staff was super helpful and friendly.
WHAT TO DO
EXPERIENCE LIFE ON A FARM
Siem Reap is a wonderful place to experience a homestay with a local family and see what life is like for the locals. Tola and his family are some of the most genuine people I have ever met. While spending time with the children, we played games, told stories, ate home cooked meals together, and even danced! Their farm is incredibly peaceful and their energy is even more relaxing. Staying with them was definitely the highlight of my trip and I am so glad I got to experience a piece of their lives. I highly encourage you to take a few days to go and meet them. I guarantee you that just reading the AirBnB reviews will convince you enough (I know that is what did it for me!).
SUNRISE AT ANGKOR WAT
Sunrise at Angkor Wat is pretty high on the bucket list for many travelers, thus it can get pretty crowded. Regardless, it is popular for a reason. It is best to arrange for transportation the day prior and even go to the ticket office to purchase a day pass (a one day pass for foreigners is $37) if they will sell it to you a day in advance as the queue in the morning can get pretty long. A tuk-tuk is the best mode of transportation and I would recommend having them pick you up around 4:00am. (We left slightly after this and arrived just as the sun was almost up.) If you do not have a pass for Angkor Wat already, your tuk-tuk driver can bring you by the office on the way to the temple (it is in a separate location) and a one day pass for foreigners is $37. Your driver will usually stay with you all day and drive you around from temple to temple.
There are many opportunities to volunteer and help local children at Siem Reap schools. There are even some where you can volunteer for about 4 hours to help out if you are limited on time. I didn’t have the chance to participate, but if you are interested, there are many non-profit organizations online to fit your interests and schedule. The children in Cambodia are super sweet and I guarantee it will brighten your day to spend time with them.