Typical Costs in Siem Reap
Accommodation: Hostels are extremely cheap here and won’t even feel like hostels at all if you spend a little extra. But for as little as $3 you can have a private room in Siem Reap. On my last trip I paid $12.50 for a private room at the Golden Temple Villa Guest House. They also offer a hotel which offers a little nicer stay but I do not feel it’s necessary. The Golden Temple has free wifi, cheap breakfast, nice areas to relax, common area, and AC in all the rooms with private bathrooms. Most of your time will be spent exploring the amazing temples so this is suitable for a place to sleep.
The Location is most important for being able to walk to town for dinner. Golden Temple is just a 2 min. walk to town full of shops and restaurants. Search by location and rating when making your decision. All of the resorts are on the outside of town which is nice because it keeps the large tour groups from disrupting the great city of Siem Reap.
Transportation is cheap in Siem Reap. The best way to see the sites is to hire a Tuk Tuk driver for the day. Golden Temple has a group of drivers all day outside who will take you anywhere all day for $15 USD which is more than fair. I paid $15 for 9 hours of transportation. A lot of people will try to sell you a taxi with A/C or or bus but you do not need this. Sure it is hot but as soon as the breeze from the moving Tuk Tuk hits your face you cool right off. Plus our Tuk Tuk driver even brought us a cooler of bottled water for free. Nicest guy in town.
If you are traveling alone you can ask your Tuk Tuk driver to take the cab off and just ride on the back of his motor bike. This is a less comfortable ride but you will be able to travel much faster than you would with the full Tuk Tuk in tow. I also opted for this method when I asked my driver to take me to the shooting range since its about 30mins outside of town.
Eating in Siem Reap is a wonderful experience. Don’t expect to pay more than $2 USD for any meal. And beer, depending on the bar, can range from 50 cents to $1. The beers of Cambodia are great so be sure to try them all. Kingdom beer is the most expensive but worth a try. Of course there are nicer places to eat and you can spend a lot more. But if you sit down at a cafe you can eat and have a few beers for 2 for under $10 USD.
You can surely try plenty of things you have never had before in Cambodia. I tried snake and crocodile. Crocodile is available at home but snake was something new for me. Locals I met said that they really enjoyed it but I felt it was good enough to try.
If you are sick of eating food in SE Asia(possible if you’ve been away for a while) you do have options in Siem Reap. There are pizza restaurants and a surprisingly great Mexican food place, ¡Viva!. I usually always try to eat locally but sometimes you just crave other tastes and mexican food is my favorite food on the planet so I checked out Viva! and was not disappointed.
The local currency is Cambodian Riels which is about 4,000:1 USD. That makes it fairly easy to convert but all of Siem Reap takes US Dollars. This is good and bad. First of all, if you are coming from another country or you did not originate in the US this may be annoying or difficult but they take their own currency as well. If you are prepared and bring about $100 USD it would be helpful. You can use $1 bills for buying and negotiating in the markets and paying Tuk Tuk drivers. Use Riels to pay for dinner and your hotel. However, many things can be bought for less than $1 and they will not take US change. So having 500 and 1000 Riel bills is very helpful as well. I found a combination of both was best depending on the situation.
The Angkor Temples are the reason you came to Siem Reap. They are some of the most amazing things I have ever seen in my life. Now you can go through your guide book and tell your driver which ones you want to see and in what order.
Passes are $20/day, $40/3 days or $60 for the week. Most people can get by with the 3 day pass which is what I purchased.
Everyone wants to see a sunrise over one of the temples. I would recommend seeing more than one. Since you have to get picked up at about 5am to see the sunrise it may be a long day. So you could arrange to see the sunrise and return to your hotel for a nap and breakfast if needed.
What I recommend. Angkor Wat, the most famous temple, also the most crowded. If you wan to see the sunrise here do it first thing. Take your pictures and move on to see the rest of the temple. Everyone will just keeping taking pictures for hours or not even venture to the rest of the temple since they may have come just for the sunrise. I went to Angkor Wat twice and learned this the hard way. First, I went there at 9am and it was packed with tours. However, after I got some great shots of the temple at sunrise (my second visit) I ventured inside while it was still dark. I had the place almost to myself. And it was a lot cooler and I was able to see the sun come up over the trees on the backside of the temple.
For the second sunrise I would suggest asking your driver to take you to the lesser known spots. You have already seen what Angkor Wat is all about so now go see one and have it more to yourself so you can really enjoy the sunrise.
Sometimes there are areas of the temple that are blocked off (for seemingly no reason). Good news is the guards/temple staff also feel this way. I made an offer of $10 USD (probably a little high but I was excited) to climb over the blockade to the next and highest level of the temple. The guard parted ways and helped me up to the top. I had the whole place to myself and he gave me 15 mins to explore. A little cash goes a long way and its another good reason to carry small bills. I was out of 5s and 1s. But I would happily pay $10 USD again and again for that view.
Here is a list and map of all the temples but these can be found anywhere once you arrive. The further away from Angkor Wat you go the more it feels like you have the temple to yourself. Temple List and Map
Other things to do in Siem Reap
Learn more about the Khmer culture including the Khmer Rouge and how they devastated their own country and people. The big museums about Pol Pot and his horrible destruction of a people may be in Phnom Penh but there is still evidence in Siem Reap. Take some time to read about the Khmer Rouge if you have not and get a closer look at what they did to their people.
Check out the local markets to get some cheap things to bring home. As always carry small bills. Directly cutting the price they offer in half if the most you should pay. Keep in mind all that name brand stuff you see is fake but it can be useful. I needed an extra bag to take to Vietnam so I bought a fake Northface bag for few bucks. I think she asked for $15 but don’t settle.
Ride an Elephant to the Sunset
This was a lot of fun and something I needed to do once and you may feel the same way. These elephants may not have the best living conditions but at least they aren’t wearing chains as many are in Thailand. They elephant (for a steep fee of $20/person) will take you to the top of the temple to see the sunset. It is about a 10-15 min climb and once to the top be prepared to see a mass of people waiting to do the same thing. The sunset on top of the temple was fun but the elephant ride was the highlight for me. If this is not for you just walk to the top. Get their early for a front row spot.
Something very fun and different is checking out the shooting range just outside of town. Now this place is not cheap for travel hacking but it is definitely an experience. Prices start at $50 USD and go all the way up in the hundreds. I was the only tourist there which was great but I also went at about 8am. Bring cash.
It is on a military training site and a couple of guys will meet you when you arrive to help you pick a gun to shoot. They range from AK47s to rocket launchers. I went with a PKM and you can take a look at the video below. Keep in mind they may offer you “live targets” but you can politely say no thanks. There is no pressure here even if it seems a little intimidating. They will show you how to shoot and get you all set up, military jacket and all. It took me longer to get there then it did to shoot my 100 rounds but I would do it again, every time.
There is a whole wall of guns to choose from. Not every option is always available. Have fun.
My choice. The PKM.
I was doing everything I could to look the part here.