Discover Siem Reap
The name of the city literally means ‘Defeat of Siam’, in testament to the warmongering history between the Siamese kingdoms (modern Thailand) and the Khmer Empire (centred on modern Cambodia). Now, Siem Reap is a laid-back and pleasant town known for its status as the gateway to the Angkor Archaeological Park, which houses the fascinating Angkor Wat.
Siem Reap owes much of its contemporary existence to the ‘re-discovery’ of Angkor by the French, during the 19th century. Once the area was ceded to the French in 1907, the once-tiny town began to expand rapidly up until 1975, when most of the population, as in other Cambodian towns and cities affected by Khmer Rouge policies, was driven into the countryside. Now in a stable and secure period of growth, the town continues to preserve its old traditions while adapting to the present.
As in the rest of Cambodia, Siem Reap predominantly practices Theravada Buddhism. One sacred site representative of those beliefs is Wat Athvea, located five kilometres south of Siem Reap. This contemporary pagoda is built right next to an ancient Hindu temple (Prasat Wat Athvea), believed to have been constructed in the late eleventh century.
Cambodian culture is very much evident in several places around Siem Reap. The most obvious example is Angkor Wat, which contains the magnificent remains of the Khmer Empire. However it is also possible to learn more about other aspects of the culture, such as its craftsmanship, through the Cambodian Culture Village and the crafts store Artisans Angkor.
- Belief in the concept of face
- Women should wear modest clothing
- Greet Cambodians with a short bow
The city is located in northwestern Cambodia, within Siem Reap province. Siem Reap has a tropical wet and dry climate, and lengthy wet seasons is from April to November, while the rest of the year remains dry. Average temperatures always at least 30 degrees Celsius every month.
The Siem Reap cityscape is a dizzying mix of architectural styles—a blend of old Chinese and French buildings predominate in the old quarter.
Less than 50km from Siem Reap is the Phnom Kulen National Park, which hosts several attractions such as two waterfalls and the Kbal Spean River. The Tonle Sap (or great lake) is also a huge part of Cambodian nature and can be observed just 30 minutes away from downtown Siem Reap.
Before you go
- Language: Khmer
- Currency: Cambodian riel (khr)
- Time Zone: Indochina Time, gmt+7
- Voltage: 220
- Electric Socket: Type A/C/G
Mobile SIM can be purchased for a few U.S. dollars at any phone shop as well as at the airport
Cambodian riels and U.S. dollars are used interchangeably, with riel usually used only for small transactions.
atms are quite prevalent in bigger cities, charging a fee of around $5 per withdrawal, and are compatible with Cirrus, Plus, Maestro and Visa cards
some atms may only dispense U.S. dollars and no riels at all.
If you receive banknotes in poor condition, exchange them for others as soon as possible as many businesses will not accept these banknotes.
Lok lak: cubed beef that has been stir-fried, then marinated, nestled on a bed of lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers with onions on the side and dipped in a sauce of lime, sea salt, and Kampot peppers.
Kuy teav: noodle soup made from pork or beef bones, with rice vermicelli later added together with green onions, bean sprouts and fried shallots.
Trey aing: grilled fish served upon a heap of fresh greens, including lemongrass, cucumbers, spinach and bean sprouts.
There is no tipping culture in Cambodia
Taxis: If a taxi driver went out of his way to help you, then feel free to leave a few U.S. dollars on top of the fare. It may also be kind to simply let the driver keep the change after rounding up the fare to the nearest dollar.
Restaurants: 10% on top of the bill is already a good tip
Hotels: Try to give the bellman about $1 per bag that he helps you carry to your room, and leave a dollar, daily, as well for the maid who helps clean up your room.
Suggested vaccinations: Hepatitis A and Typhoid
Avoid untreated water or ice made from it, as well as any fruits or vegetables that might have been washed in it.
Cambodia’s health system is still developing, as such if you encounter serious medical situations it may be a better option to be treated in Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, or Singapore.
Emergency Line: 117
Doctors Rithy Kong and Sok Leng (private): they can provide reliable basic care for non-major medical issues. Address: Behind Akira Electrical, #11, National Route 6, Siem Reap, Tel: (+855) 12 832 152
Royal Angkor International Hospital (private): Address: National Route 6, Phum Kasekam, Khum Sra Ngea, Tel: (+855) 63 761 888
Tourist police (english language): Address: Mondul 3 Village, Slorkram Commune, Siem Reap District, Siem Reap, Tel: (+855) 63 760 215
Hello (in general): Soos-da-ee
Excuse me. / Sorry: Sohmd-toh
Thank you: Aw kohn
You’re welcome: Moon ay-teh
Good morning/ Good evening: Ah-roon soos da-ee/ ដី Sah-yan soos da-ee
Goodbye: Leah sihn hao-wy
How much is this?: Tlay bon-mah-n?
Cheers! (Toasts when drinking): Jul mwoy!
Bon appetit!: Ahnjoe-in pisah ao-y bahn ch'nga-in
Where’s the toilet?: Boung-kohn nuh-ee ai naa?
Help!: Chewy kh'nyohm pawng!
I understand: You-l dta-ee
I don’t understand: Mihn you-l dta-ee
How to get into this area, and how to get around it!
Siem Reap International Airport is the second largest in the country, featuring a unique architectural style centred on Khmer influences. To get to town centre, you may pay at a booth for a prepaid taxi (costing around $7), or try your luck with a tuk-tuk for a dollar or two less.
Several direct bus routes run from around the rest to Cambodia to Siem Reap. For the best deals, try to book at least a day before travel via an agent or guest house (who will usually charge a commission of $1-2). Most buses stop just outside Siem Reap to the east, and you’ll need to take a tuk-tuk (costing no more than $2-3) to get into town.
If you’ve got extra time on your hands, taking a Soviet-style hydrofoil from Phnom Penh (at $35 for a 6-hour trip) or Battambang (about $25 for a 5 hour trip) is a fun option to get to Siem Reap while at the same time experiencing life on the Tonle Sap lake—everything from fishermen to floating villages can be viewed here.
These converted cabin-dragging motorcycles are everywhere in Siem Reap, and you should pay no more than $1-2 for trips around the city. Make sure to be in full agreement with the driver about destination and price before getting on.
Always a reliable and cheap option for getting around Cambodia, note that rides around town should never cost more than 50¢ (or 2,000 riel), unless at night or during bad weather, when prices normally double. Always agree on a price before getting on a motorbike taxi, and be aware that you may not always be able to get a helmet.
Things to see
The top locations to visit in this destination.