Find out all you need to know about backpacking Siem Reap on a budget in Cambodia. I will let you know everything there is so you have an amazing time exploring this city such as prices, transport, where to stay, the best things to do and so much more!
Honestly, Siem Reap has got to be one of my favorite budget-friendly cities, certainly number one for me in Cambodia. This is an awesome place with so much history to explore, delicious spots to try, and plenty of shopping to be done at the numerous markets. If you are in Cambodia you need to make sure backpacking Siem Reap is on your itinerary!
In this backpacking Siem Reap travel guide, I will let you in on all the top things to do, where to sleep, eat, and more!
I have spent a good few weeks of my life exploring the incredible city which is Siem Reap. One of my favorite things about it is when you are exploring it seriously doesn’t feel like a huge sprawling place. There aren’t any huge skyscrapers to be found in the main touristy area, and it reminds me of the digital nomad hub of Chiang Mai in Thailand. Though you no doubt have less time to spend there, perhaps only a few days to fill on your Siem Reap itinerary.
So let’s get into everything you need to know about backpacking Siem Reap so you can have the best trip. This includes finding out budgets, where to stay, top spots to eat, staying safe, things to do, and more!
All You Need To Know About Backpacking Siem Reap In Cambodia
- How Many Days To Spend Backpacking Siem Reap
- Cost Per Day To Travel Siem Reap
- Where To Stay In Siem Reap
- Getting Around Siem Reap
- Things To Do While Backpacking Siem Reap
- Where To Eat In Siem Reap
- Safety While Backpacking Siem Reap
- Where To After Backpacking Siem Reap
How Many Days To Spend Backpacking Siem Reap
As you may have already read, I have actually spent quite a few weeks in Siem Reap throughout my travels around Southeast Asia. Though, that is because I simply love it there. Oh plus the fact I got quite sick so I had to bunker up there for extra time. Nevertheless, unless you are a digital nomad, I understand that you likely don’t want nor need to spend so much time in Siem Reap.
As a result, I recommend spending at least 3 full days in Siem Reap. This will allow you to explore the best of Angkor Archeological Park with those early morning starts, spend some afternoons relaxing and recovering, as well as discover some of Cambodia’s history, food scene, and incredible shopping opportunities.
Cost Per Day To Travel Siem Reap
One of the best things about traveling Cambodia, and Southeast Asia as a whole is how affordable it is. Seriously you can have some incredible experiences, stay in decent hostels, and make memories on a pretty strict budget. I actually recorded my entire costs while traveling in Cambodia so that other backpackers could use them to budget their future travels. The average cost came out to $29.00 per day.
Though if we want to look specifically at Siem Reap then unfortunately it will be a bit more pricey than other spots around the country. Be aware that this is essentially a result of the quite pricey Angkor Archeological Park tickets. Luckily it is pretty cheap in other areas such as food, where you can get a decent stirfry for a few dollars. Accommodation is also surprisingly affordable, especially if you stay in hostels, and there will even be plenty of free activities provided. I recommend budgeting around $9.00 for a dorm room and $20.00 for a private air-conditioned room.
Overall I recommend budgeting $33.00 per day when backpacking Siem Reap. This will allow you a decent place to sleep, some delicious meals, and a daily activity to keep you entertained.
Where To Stay In Siem Reap
Honestly, one of my favorite parts of Siem Reap is how affordable accommodation is here. Trust me it is amazing how much bang for your buck you get here. So no matter what type of traveler you are you will find accommodation for all budgets. Whether you are looking for a taste of 5-star luxe, an affordable guesthouse, or a hostel where you can meet other travelers, there is something here for everyone.
Though in my eyes, there are two things you need to be aware of when booking accommodation in Siem Reap. So before you start booking hotels or hostels, remember this. The first is I highly HIGHLY recommend booking a room with air conditioning. My partner and I traveled Southeast Asia the first time without staying in air-conditioned rooms. Now there are only a few places we struggled, but one of them was Siem Reap. The daytime heat is just next level.
Secondly is that there are a heap of power cuts in Siem Reap, like A LOT. Therefore depending on where you book, if the power goes out, there goes your air conditioning. Now I don’t mean to sound like a princess, but I have had the power go out here for 24 hours. Also if you book a hotel with air conditioning it is unlikely they will have fans to cool off. Though nicer hotels will have generators that will boost into action in a power cut, guesthouses and more affordable choices will not.
My personal favorite place to stay in Siem Reap is called the Royal Crown Hotel & Spa. They have two different pools you can use, a quick 5-minute walk from the Old Market, beautiful rooms, and delicious food options on-site. Though if you are looking for a budget-friendly option I recommend checking out my best hostels in Siem Reap guide.
We have also stayed in a couple of guesthouses and more affordable hotels in Siem Reap. Seriously you can find decent hotels here with a pool and air conditioning for as little as $20.00 per night. If you have someone else to share the room with this works out to $10.00 per person, for a place you would pay $100.00+ a night for out of Southeast Asia.
A fun and social hostel with a rooftop pool. Prices start from $5.00 per night for a dorm room.BOOK NOW
A chill hostel with a co-working space as well. Prices start from $7.00 per night.BOOK NOW
My top choice. Rooms start from $45.00 per night with two pools and breakfast included.BOOK NOW
A Luxe Hotel with modern rooms and a pool. Prices start from $70.00 per night.BOOK NOW
Getting Around Siem Reap
There are quite a few things to do and explore around Siem Reap so no doubt you will need to take some sort of transport during your backpacking Siem Reap adventures. Whether you need to get to the market, airport, bus station, Angkor Archeological Park, or just to your favorite restaurant.
Siem Reap International Airport To City Centre
Let’s get into all the ways you can travel from Siem Reap International Airport to the City Centre. This is for those arriving by plane, though if you are arriving by bus from Bangkok they will generally drop you off in the city center anyway.
Be aware that many hotels you book in Siem Reap actually include free airport transfers when you book your stay. Make sure to check whether this is an option for you.
You can find a taxi stand right outside the airport which will take you to the city center. Here you can book a ride for $10 which will take you around 20 minutes.
If you are traveling in a larger group of 4 people or more it is recommended to instead take a van. This is simply because you will be tight on space and may struggle to fit the suitcases and bags in the boot. The van costs $15.00 and can fit up to 6 passengers.
What better introduction to Siem Reap than taking a tuk-tuk? These can be found near the taxi stand at the airport. They are a tiny bit cheaper than a standard taxi charging a fixed fare of $9.00 to the city center.
Grab or PassApp
Another choice rather than taking a taxi is by taking the ever-popular Grab cars. This is an app commonly used in Southeast Asia and PassApp is a Cambodian version. It is super similar to Uber making it easy to use.
The travel time will be the same as if taking a taxi. Though what makes it more appealing is that it is actually cheaper than taking a regular taxi. On the grab app, you can expect to pay around $6.00. Though be aware fares can surge depending on the time of day.
Traveling Within Siem Reap
The main tourist area of Siem Reap is super easy to travel around. This is thanks to the fact that it isn’t too far spread out so you will be able to find numerous options for restaurants, cafes, and activities that are a short walk away from where you are staying.
Though be aware there will no doubt be some things you want to check out a bit further afield. Luckily enough tuk tuk drivers seem to be around every corner and will be more than happy to take you. Just remember to negotiate a rate in advance. Places like this include the ever-popular Angkor Archeological Park.
I highly recommend downloading the offline map of Siem Reap on the Maps.Me app for your cell phone. It’ll be super helpful in navigating your way around if you do not have data. This is one thing I always make sure I have before arriving at a new destination.
Siem Reap is a relatively flat city and is pretty easy to walk around. Though for exploring further afield this is not a reasonable mode of transport, especially when there are plenty of other affordable choices available.
My main note will be to remember to walk on the footpaths and be careful crossing the road. With motorbikes and speedy tuk-tuks around it can feel a bit daunting. Though you just need to remember to look straight ahead and just keep walking.
You will also find some restaurants spread onto the footpath or sometimes it’ll be blocked. It is okay to walk on the side of the road in this case. Just make sure you are aware of your surroundings.
Grab or PassApp
This is my personal favorite way to travel around many cities in Southeast Asia, including Siem Reap. Download the Grab or PassApp app on your phone and then you are all good to go. It provides the cost before you book which is a great tool to use to keep you on budget. Because you also enter your location before the journey starts by dropping a pin, there are no communication issues, and ending up in the wrong place. The drivers are always super friendly, with a nice and clean car as well as having air conditioning blasting.
Grab is available all around Vietnam and Southeast Asia as well. If you are traveling around different countries this is a must-have app! It will also keep you safe from falling for local taxi scams.
Things To Do While Backpacking Siem Reap
There are so many things in Siem Reap to keep all types of travelers entertained. Whether you enjoy a spot of shopping, experience a different religion, or want to discover the history of the country, and more!
Angkor National Museum
Learn about the history of the Khmer Kingdom. The Angkor National Museum focuses on the collection, preservation, and education of Angkorian artifacts. Inside the museum is wonderfully air-conditioned so you can spend as long as you like here without struggling in the Cambodian heat. You can also hire an audio guide if you want to learn a bit more for $5.00.
It is located 1.5 kilometers from the center of town, so up to you whether you would like to walk or pay a couple of dollars for a tuk-tuk.
Cambodia Landmine Museum
At the Cambodia Landmine Museum, you may find it surprising to learn that this country has nearly the most landmines in the world. This is from decades of civil war, the Khmer Rouge, and US bombings. Here you will learn about how this has affected the country and its people. There are a lot of unexploded ordinances in rural Siem Reap and further afield around Cambodia.
At the APOPO Center, you can find all about HeroRATs. This is certainly a unique experience, so prepare to be amazed by the incredible skills these rats have. Here you will learn about a creative solution to this, the incredible HeroRATs that have been trained to detect TNT under the soil.
Angkor Archeological Park
The Small Circuit Of Angkor Archeological Park: The small circuit takes you around the most popular temples in Siem Reap, so be prepared for a lot of tourists. This includes Angkor Wat, Phnom Bakheng, Bayon, Baphuon, Terrace Of Elephants, Thommanon & Chau Say Tevoda, Ta Keo, Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei, and Srah Srang.
This is undoubtedly a party spot, with bars playing loud music and offering many different types of drinking games. Try out some deep-fried bugs from one of the street food sellers, and dance the night away. You will also be able to find some super cheap beers here for 50 cents or $1.00!
Siem Reap has an assortment of excellent spas. Whether you are looking for a comfortable and modern 5-star service or something that will be easy on the wallet. There is something here for everyone.
A full body massage will generally set you back about $20.00+ whereas a 30-minute foot massage generally costs only a couple of dollars. Be aware the closer you are to the touristy area, the more the prices will be. Though this is Southeast Asia where you can get some of the cheapest massages in the world, so an affordable choice is never too far away.
Even if you are not a shopper, spending an evening at one of the night markets here in Siem Reap is an excellent chance to see some beautiful local artworks, and clothing, and also try delicious food. In Siem Reap, there are quite a few night markets on offer, though one of the best ones is called Angkor Night Market. Here you can find souvenirs and handicrafts made by the local Khmer community.
Tonle Sap Lake Tour
There are plenty of tours you can choose from to book with. Though this one on Klook is highly recommended and a super affordable option for travelers on a budget.
On the tour, you will be taken to the floating village called Mechrey checking out the floating market and floating houses. You will have the experience to witness how these people live in Siem Reap and at one with the lake. The money from the tour directly goes towards the community in Mechrey.
Phare Cambodian Circus
Lastly, it is the Phare Cambodian Circus. This is a Cirque du Soliel-like production by local performers. The circus is actually a social enterprise designed to encourage performance art in the country and provide opportunities to the youth from low socioeconomic areas.
There are two different show timings per night so you can decide what best fits your schedule, and there are three different seating areas, with the best costing around $38.00. The show lasts around 1 hour and showcases Khmer theater, dance, music, juggling, and contortionism.
Where To Eat In Siem Reap
One of my favorite things about Siem Reap is the crazy delicious cafes and restaurants that seem to be around every corner. These are my top picks for your backpacking Siem Reap travel guide.
Western Food To Eat While Backpacking Siem Reap
Since Siem Reap is such a foodie destination for Western Food thanks in part to it also being a big digital nomad hotspot. There are so many options available and something which caters to everyone. Whether you are a meat-eater or vegan. A lot of restaurants and cafes operate as social enterprises where part of their profits are donated to communities, they train locals and provide education.
Siem Reap is a melting pot of cultures and the restaurants available really reflect this. Whether you are looking for something healthy, Italian, Indian, or a steakhouse there will be the perfect one not too far away from where you are staying.
Local Spots To Try While Backpacking Siem Reap
I know you don’t hear about Cambodian food too much on the international circuit, especially when compared with its neighbors Vietnam and Thailand. Though while you are in the country, and in Siem Reap, where you can find lots of variety, there is no better place than to try it.
Top dishes include:
Khmer Stream Fish Curry (Amok): This is one of the dishes the country is famous for therefore you can find it on a lot of restaurant menus. Though the top places to try it are Khmer Kitchen and Amok Restaurant.
Green mango salad (Nhoam Svay Kchai): This dish is made from tart green mangos and is a favorite among both locals and travelers. The best places to try this are Haven Training Restaurant and Sala Bai Restaurant.
Other popular things include Cambodian BBQ, fried insects, Khmer cakes, and Nom Banh Cho, known as the best noodles in Cambodia. If you are interested in learning more about Khmer cuisine a cooking class is definitely a good way to try a few of the dishes and pick up some new culinary skills.
Safety While Backpacking Siem Reap
Siem Reap is a relatively safe place. Of course, there is the exception of the many scams you will find in Southeast Asian countries. Sure there won’t be people waiting to steal your bag or a gang ready to snatch you away. But Siem Reap is actually one of the poorest areas in Cambodia so you still need to be cautious and have your wits about you.
The main thing I will say is to be careful of snatch thieves. Basically, this is someone who will drive past you on a motorbike and snatch your phone/wallet/handbag away. These people are opportunistic and act when the opportunity presents itself. Since they are on a motorbike and you are on foot there is no way you can catch them. Whether you are looking at your phone for directions, opening up your wallet to pay for a cold drink, or simply walking down the road with your bag over your shoulder, be extra careful and pay attention to your surroundings.
Don’t drink the water out of the tap. It is easy to find bottled water here through the local corner store or hostels will often do free refills.
Where To After Backpacking Siem Reap
When you have finished up your adventures in Siem Reap it is super easy to continue your travels, or perhaps even pass into one of the neighboring countries. You can find an international airport here in Siem Reap with plenty of connections to other Southeast Asian backpacking spots.
Domestic: Unless you are planning on flying it isn’t super easy to get to the islands in Cambodia from Siem Reap. Instead, Battambang is an up-and-coming city on the tourist trail thanks to the bamboo train. Alternatively, you can travel to Phnom Penh and then to other parts of Cambodia from there.
International: If you are wanting to get to other neighboring countries from Siem Reap it is super easy to travel to Bangkok. There are plenty of bus connections available. Another option is Pakse in Laos, though bus connections are a lot less common as it is a less frequented route. This one may take a bit more planning.
Any Questions? Let me know in the comments!
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Photo credit: “Phare Circus” (CC BY 2.0) by Austin Adventures. “APOPO Visitor Center” (CC BY 2.0) by Hotel Kaesong .