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Aside from the Tomb Raider temples, I didn’t know much about Siem Reap, Cambodia. That changed when I visited the city last January. All the way from Cebu to Manila to Clark to Bangkok to Aranyaprathet to Poi Pet to Siem Reap, it took 36 hours of commutes and stops to reach the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Looking back on our trip three months ago, I’ve written so many stories about this quaint city more than any adventure I’ve experienced (so far). In line with my goal to provide insights on the countries I’ve been, I’ve created this definitive guide to share some tips and things to know about Siem Reap based on my experiences.

angkor wat
Angkor Wat Complex

By the way, I’ve interchanged Khmer and Cambodians in my past articles but don’t confuse yourself between the two, they’re one in the same (e.g. Khmer food = Cambodian food).

Tips and Things to Know about Siem Reap, Cambodia

 

Temple Overload

Angkor Wat is the most famous among the lot but Siem Reap has many temples! So many that we weren’t able to tour everything with the three-day pass that we purchased. Angkor Thom Gate, Bayon Temple, Elephant Terrace, Ta Prohm, Pre Rup, Banteay Srei, East Mebon; each of these temples have their own distinction. These were enough to keep our eyes full for the two days that we had available.

siem reap temples
temples with their own characteristics

What I like best about the temples are their rustic feel. How they look aged which shows their rich history. The intricate details of their carvings too. I haven’t really explored how and why they were built but seeing that they’re still standing up to now, it made me realize how important our own churches are in the Philippines. How each place of worship is a vital part of memory of a destination.

east mebon
East Mebon Temple

Always carry your temple passes as every complex has check points that will require you to show your tickets as entrance permits.

Passes are priced at
20 USD for 1 day
40 USD for 3 days and
60 USD for 7 days

US Dollar Currency & Basic Expenses

1 USD = 4000 Riel
Although Khmer people use Cambodian Riel, prices posted in shops and even when negotiating for services, US Dollars are a preferred currency. It’s because the dollars have more value compared to their own. That’s why when we were there, we felt so rich knowing that our purchasing power was high. Khmer (Cambodians) will gladly accept Riel though.

Also, we did not spend a lot during a stay in Siem Reap. Our total budget expense was around 7900 Php or 175 USD excluding air fare. The amount is inclusive of expenses in the Philippines (taxis, buses and travel taxes from Cebu to Manila to Clark – around 3000 Php), transport from Bangkok to Siem Reap and going back to Bangkok, 2-days tour around the temples and some food trips on the side.

  • Food amok khmer

Cheap Khmer food will cost you around 1-2 USD per meal. For medium to upscale, food costs are around 3 USD up.

Amok is their national dish which is anything that is swimming in coconut milk – according to fellow travel blogger AJ.

  • Accommodation

For your accommodation, normal range would be around 8 USD to 12 USD per night. But we really got an excellent package for 3 at our hostel – Bousavy Guesthouse; as per Chyng‘s recommendation. We paid 24 USD each (3 persons) for 3 days and 2 nights with a tuk tuk tour around the temples for 2 days, free breakfast and one free dinner.

  • Transportationcambodia lonely planet books

Bikes are at 1 to 2 USD per day. Tuktuk taxis are at 1 USD per ride.

  • Souvenir Items

As for souvenir items, you can buy Lonely Planet (knock-offs) guides and other books for as low as 6 USD and scarves for 3 USD.

Haggling as a Skill

Planning to buy souvenirs? Haggle!
Choosing over meals in small eateries? Haggle!
Hiring a Tuktuk ride? Haggle!

Really. If there’s a country where you need to learn how to haggle, Cambodia is the place to be. Almost every product sold or service offered, you can haggle to get a cheaper price. It’s as if this trait of negotiating was developed due to the many tourists who flock the area. I couldn’t believe at times when I got a good deal for items I bought at the Angkor Night Markets. I didn’t even have to force the sellers that much. The technique is to walk away if you don’t agree with the prices. Most likely, they’ll give in to your request.

night market angkor
practice your skills in haggling

Word of Caution: Common sense will determine if a good or service can be negotiated. Haggling won’t work in upscale establishments.

Note: Don’t be too much of a cheapskate like me. I felt guilty afterwards when I reviewed how much discount I received from purchasing different merchandise. I realized how hard their life is and it could’ve been my way of contributing to their business if I hadn’t been such a prick and milked whatever I could out of their goods.

Ride a Bike, Exercise! Else Hire a Tuktuk

Bikes and Tuk Tuk Taxis are the main modes of transportation.

I wanted to rent a bike (1 to 2 USD per day) but my friend didn’t know how to ride one and we needed to visit the temples as fast as we could. Besides, it was already part of our hostel’s package so we opted to ride the tuktuk.

But if you have more time on your hands and you would prefer to pass by the different temples at your own pace, you can rent a bicycle from different shops and hostels.

tuktuk bike
bike for exercise or tuktuk if you’re in a hurry

There were a lot of bikes that were available in our guesthouse but we didn’t really bother as we hired tuk tuk taxis (at 1 USD per ride). The most that can fit in the tuk tuk would be around 4 people but 3 is already enough.

Tall Trees and Orange Land

One thing I noticed right when we stepped foot on this city and toured the different sacred monuments were the tall trees and orange soil. orange soilI’ve never seen such huge and tall trees in my life! As for the soil, I already got this notion from one of my companions who’s been there; still I wanted to see it firsthand.

The orange soil made me wonder how Siem Reap looks like when it rains.There was no downpour during our whole stay which was still a good thing.

Dust and Heat

With the sun high up and dust particles around, be sure to bring a bottle of water or two. If your skin is sensitive, apply sunblock too! Wet tissues are going to be your best friends, but I preferred using face towels. After a long and tiring day of walking in the different temples, you definitely want to wipe of the dirt that gathered in your face as well as drink a cold glass of water to appease yourself from the hot climate.

Huge bathrooms are available near the temples so you don’t have to worry about where to take a leak or dump. Just ask the security personnel and there’s no extra cost for you to use them.photo siem reap

Ditch the Pants, Wear Shorts! (Not too Short for the Ladies)

I wore pants on my way to Siem Reap. Other than that, I never got to wear my extra pair during the whole trip. This also applies in Thailand. Unlike Hong Kong and Macau or even Malaysia, I was never pressured to wear fancy clothing because of how rugged the city is. Feel like Indiana Jones or Lara Croft with your adventure gear.

Considering that we were walking around different temples, I didn’t bother checking how I looked so long as I was comfortable with shorts and slippers too. If you’re a lady (or even a guy) who likes to wear skimpy shorts, make sure you have a back up as there are a few areas in the monuments that are not permitted if you dress too sexy.

Take Lots of Photos!

Change your profile pictures in Facebook right away. Like I’ve always said, the temples are beautiful so you can take hundreds (thousands even) of pictures along the way. Be prepared with your camera and make sure the battery is fully charged as every angle of every area is picture-worthy.

If you’re companions are game enough, you might even have a number of crazy shots added to your album.

cambodia
This is NOT an Apsara Dance.
Click here for a legit one. YouTube – Apasara

Laid-back Environment

Siem Reap is unassuming. When you spend a couple of days, it makes you reflect because of how simple life is in this city. It’s the same feeling I’ve felt with Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental. Probably because of how similarly quiet the two places are. You just want to chill out and grab a bottle of beer or sip a fresh fruit shake.

laidback angkor
Take time to pause and read a book.

With its laidback environment, it is best to take time to pause and let the world revolve around you; read a book or let the quiet atmosphere sink in.

Khmer People are Kind

Aside from the temples, the best part about Cambodia is its people. In general, I’ve never met such a good-hearted lot when abroad. I haven’t been to a lot of countries but I can say that the people in Cambodia makes you feel at ease. No pretentions and just pure hearts.

fish massage siem reap
Talking to Suti, a Khmer kid making ends meet.

Of course, it’s natural that there are those who will trick you and you should avoid different scams not only in Siem Reap, but also everywhere you go. However, I can see how genuinely kind these Cambodians are (just like Filipinos) during my short interactions with them.

roti
Banana Pancake vendor teaching Den how to prepare this roti.

One testament was when we were scanning through clothes that were being sold in a Khmer woman’s stall. After going through the pile of shirts, we didn’t buy any and just walked away. “You are a bad person.” was the only statement I heard from the woman. No curses nor FU signs thrown–I could be wrong and maybe they were cursing in their own language but still, I didn’t hear any.

Cambodia Humbles You

From land mine victims to those Khmer children selling merchandise; these people make you appreciate life because of how simple they live theirs. I talked to a Khmer kid and had an insightful conversation over a fish massage. Having these experiences have humbled me in a lot of ways and made me build a more positive perspective on things.

land mine victims
Land mine victims, an aftermath of war.

Those instances when I kept complaining about trivial things that didn’t add to a sum in my normal routine, they vanished when I saw the state of these people. Cambodia makes you realize what’s truly important in life.

haggle
Khmer woman selling water near the temples.

No wonder Angelina Jolie was touched and adopted a Khmer kid after her movie stint. Not that I’m going to get one any time soon; but witnessing how difficult their life is enough to encourage you to do well on your own. Cambodia will inspire angkor barefootyou!

You from Philippines? We SAME SAME!

In their effort to relate, this was the response we received from locals when they found out where we’re from. I’m glad cause I didn’t feel left-out as they were all welcoming. There’s not much difference between our philosophies and theirs. We all want to have a better status in life and we all love Manny Pacquiao as the boxer.

—————–

My journals in Siem Reap have developed my passion for exploring and immersing myself in another country’s culture and way of life. I don’t know how many times I’ve said this but I regret the moment when I initially passed on the opportunity to wander in this beautiful city. I wouldn’t have discovered a lot if it weren’t for this trip.

I’m not sure if this is going to be the last article in my Siem Reap, Cambodia series–probably not. I still have a lot of photos that I haven’t published and there are still a number of scenes that I’d like to highlight. But for now, this will be a temporary end on a sequence of posts.

siem reap soloflight

Special thanks to Chyng, Gael, Ron & Monette, Marcus, Jerik, Nina, and their travel blogs which helped us see Siem Reap in their eyes. Thanks to Doi as well for the itinerary and Den for the company!

Here’s a couple of comprehensive guides about Siem Reap:

Check out my other adventures here:


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soloflightEd.com is a travel blog by Edcel Suyo. He enjoys performing headstands and crazy stunts during his trips in the Philippines, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. Now based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and working to earn a living, he takes time to enjoy the city and travel during weekends.
For updates, Like his page on Facebook or Follow him on Twitter.
For questions, advertising, and other concerns, shoot an email to ed@soloflighted.com.


41 comments… add one

  • haha panalo ang Apsara dance! =) korek! know how to haggle! buti ka pa natapos mu na ang Cambodia, ako after 1 yr  d ko pa din! :D
     

  • A very informative post all I need to know to go to Cambodia. Kulet nung gif animation haha…

  • nawala lahat nung nabasa ko nung nakita ko yung Apsara dance. anu na uli yung mga tips?hhahaha. bat sad si doi sa pic? inaway mo ed?:D

  • doi

    @pusang-kalye, sad ako kasi yung mga isda baka mamatay from the toxins ng mga paa ng kasama ko. LOL

  • AJ

    This is the best blog entry about Siem Reap, not only because extra ako (thanks for the honorable mention, hehe)! You're the only travel blogger I know who actually danced the apsara dance. Blogger na, dancer pa! :D Is that Prasat Suor Prat in the background? Btw, Jericho Rosales lookalike ang tuktuk driver ah. :))

  • soloflightEd

    @thepinaysolobackpacker: sarap balikan ang Cambodia! :D haha. ok lang yan gael, yung Malaysia ko nga, bungy jumping pa lang yung naisulat ko. haha

    @marky: thanks! finally finished this after 3 months! haha, basta bored and in another country, madaling magwala. haha

    @pusang-kalye: haha. re: doi, ano kasi, sad sya kasi di sya makasali samin na magpamassage. matutuluyan na kasi ang mga isda pag sumama pa :D

    @AJ: that Amok was bugging me until you clarified that out. haha. lol, it's not a legitimate Apsara dance! haha. forgot the name of the temple at the background. but this was the field in front of the Elephant terrace. as for Jericho, really gave me a good laugh. hahaha

  • Another introspective post along with tons of great tips. :) Nawa'y mapuntahan ko rin to eventually. :)

  • ed, mali yung link under my name. it was pinoyboyjournal. hehe
    youre welcome! ikaw na ngayon ang super tanungan ng mga peeps sa PEx!

    i remembered the khmer kids, mejo makulit when selling, but they’ll ask you first – where are you from. me: “Philippines” kids: Philippines capital Manila! :)

    amazing, the kids know every capital of each country. what’s most amazing, the khmer tour guides are multi-lingual. kakabilib! =)

  • Hey excellent tips Ed. The photos look really great too. I'm glad to know that folks are pretty friendly. I heard that in some countries like Vietnam that they tend to ignore Filipinos. Not sure if this is true. In any case, I have been wanting to go to Cambodia so I can def use this post!

  • tina

    ang cute ng Apsara dance :) m dying to go to Cambodia din! :)

  • soloflightEd

    @cedric: thanks a lot. you'll get there soon!

    @chyng: oops, sensya, i corrected it na! haha. ok lang yan. refer ko lang rin sila lahat sayo! bwahaha. yeah, amazing yung multi lingual tour guides! no wonder the kid during our fish massage wanted to be one. it takes a lot of learning talaga!

    @grace: thanks a lot! hope this will be a helpful post for your trip! you may want to check the Sole Sisters as they're currently in Vietnam!

    @tina: haha. wag na yan, kahit fake yung Apsara. hehe. 

  • I'm playing the song Waka-Waka while i'm reading your post. When it reached the Apsara dance, napansin ko sabay sa beat LOL =))
    I guess the Cambodia trip is your most memorable trip in terms of being surprised with what you discovered and in life realizations too. Am i right? :D 

  • What a great post! It makes me really want to go to Cambodia. And I love the animated picture!

  • Isa ito sa pinapangarap ko puntahan once magka budget ako to travel out of the country, reminds me so much of tomb raider hehe (adik ako dati dun eh ehhe)

  • Kai

    Hahahahahah! Nakatawa gyud ko sa animated pic. Kyot kyot kyot! :) I really want to visit Cambodia soon. Myta madayon ko. Hahaha;)

  • Love your faux Apsara dance! Haha. Ed!! I haven't written about my Cambodia/SR trip yet and it's been a year already. Argh!!!!

  • soloflightEd

    @micamyx: really now? hahaha. don't mind the dance, walang magawa kasi. haha. Indeed, Cambodia has opened my eyes in more ways than I could imagine. To think that we were only there for 3 days. Although the HK trip was memorable being my first time to step foot on foreign soil, this Cambodia break gave me a new meaning to traveling. I might as well have immersed myself despite the limited time. :D

    @miranda: haha, the animated file was supposed to be just a joke. haha. but you should go there! 

    @christian: punta ka na! it's not that expensive to there! sometimes, it's even more expensive here sa ibang parts ng Pinas! wait ka lang ng Piso Fare. :)

    @kai: sige katawa woi! hahaha. focus and you'll achieve it! :D

    @aleah: thanks aleah! it's alright, we all have backlogs somehow. in due time, matatapos din natin yan! haha

  • ito ang mga malulupit na post. ill definitely get back with this post when i go there. tiyaga gumawa ng guide.

    • soloflightEd

      @dong ho: thanks master! naburned out nga ako sa pag gawa ng post na toh. haha.

  • I love the temple overload and the orange land. Ibang level ang tyaga mo Ed. Ikaw na ang  travel guide ng Cambodia :)

    • soloflightEd

      @lakwatseradeprimera: kakatawa nga, kasi parang nagkasakit ako after sa paggawa nitong post! :D

  • I love the dance hahahaha, mukhang nagrehearse pa kayo para jan ha

  • soloflightEd

    @virgo itinerary: haha, di na namin yan nirehearse! hehe :D thanks!

  • Hi Ed, I'm going to Siem Reap this December and I've been reading a lot of blogs about the place which is why I came across yours hehe. I have become an instant fan! Ito palang ang nabasa ko but it looks like I will be staying around for a few more minutes (or hours) since you have blogged quite extensively about the subject.

    Ang galing mo, idol!

  • @galangpusa: thanks a lot! really appreciate the kind feedback! took me some time to write this as a whole, nagkasakit pa ako pagkatapos. haha. pero I'm really happy that this proved to be useful. Yes, Siem Reap has the most number of articles that I have written about. I hope you enjoy reading! :D

  • Hello Sir Ed. As a beginner (blogging & travelling) , I've learned a lot from your posts and experiences – very helpful indeed. Planning to travel and your work gave me a hint what to expect and what not to in my BKK-SR trip. Thanks a lot. God Bless :)

  • @siWomanLalakbay: ey thanks a lot for dropping by and leaving a comment! I'm happy that you learned something from this blog. makes me want to write even more! congrats on your blogging! :D

  • Ira

    OMG, you're a life saver! Researched on Siem Reap as soon as Cebu Pacific released their direct flight ad and fell in love with the place instantly. Alas, promo tickets were sold out when I checked. Thanks to your blog I discovered a new and interesting route! Thanks so much, Ed!

    By the way, just curious. Why did you not take the Vietnam-Cambodia route? Would you say Bangkok-Siem Reap is better than Ho Chi Minh-Siem Reap?

    • @ira: Hi Ira, we didn’t take the Vietnam-Cambodia route because our tickets were only for Bangkok. We were on a budget and we only booked flights for Thailand. :D

  • I'm so glad to see this site! Very informative! I just booked a flight to Siem Reap an hour ago… and I can't wait to go there!  :-)   I'll definitely get the 3-day pass! Parang bitin kasi ang 2 days exploring the Angkor temples :-)   
    By the way, i'm traveling alone. What precautions should I take?  (I've been traveling alone na rin naman kasi lalo na pag out of the country :-)  Kaya medyo sanay na rin….   

  • Ferdi

    Ed salamat kaayo aning imo information, naa ko gi email sa imo mga pangutana wala na lang nako diri gi post.
    Unta matubag nimo, daghan kaayong salamat ug God Bless.

  • such informative post… pero natagalan ako dun sa animated pic mo.. nakakaaliw… :P

  • thanks for this post…  sobrang laking tulong nito for my upcoming trip this nov.  
     
    happy travel!!!
     
    marie

  • kbg

    Question, we booked a 4-day trip MNL-SR-MNL kaya ba naming isingit ang BKK? medyo nahihirapan akong gumawa ng iti though medyo next year pa naman kaya marami pang time to research :D thanks in advance ed!

    • Hi kbg, kaya naman but amazing race ang dating, if you travel to BKK, it will take about 8-9 hours each trip. I’m not sure about the schedules in BKK but I think there are options. I usually just take the cheapest route, that is the train from BKK to Aranyaprathet and a taxi to Siem Reap. As for SR to BKK, you can take a bus din. and there are buses as early as 2am. It also depends on what you want to see in SR. and in BKK. medyo limited ang time but there are people who have done it. I just don’t know about the stress that comes with it since it’s gonna be hectic.

  • kbg

    @ed wow! grabeng adventure pala yun if ever! I hope we can do it! Thanks for the reply! Still backreading on your Cambodia posts. Nice blog btw! keep it up!

  • Kei

    It's so cool that we have a lot of the same insights on Cambodia! And I have a photo of the land mine victims (the one near Ta Phrom?) from October last year, in case you wanna see how they are: http://readyjetsetgo.blog.com/2012/11/07/6-things-to-remember-when-in-siem-reap/

  • @kbg: yep, you can do it! hope you get more information that you need! :)

    @Kei: i love siem reap talaga. Thanks for the link Kei! :)

  • Chino_nomercy@yahoo.com

    Your Blog is amazing. Keep it up dude!

  • bookmarked. ito na yun. no need for others lol.

    • lol. kaya ko pinost agad sa FB wall mo. lol. nagkasakit kaya ako after writing this post. lol

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