3 Days Itinerary for Siem Reap - The Ultimate Backpacking Travel Guide for Siem Reap, Cambodia

3 Days Itinerary for Siem Reap

The Ultimate Backpacking Travel Guide for Siem Reap, Cambodia

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Angkor Wat has a special place in my heart. Siem Reap was the first place I traveled solo, kickstarting my entire life and career as a travel blogger of this blog, and completely changed the way I travel forever.

Siem Reap is a small city surrounded by ancient ruins, including Angkor Wat of the once prosperous Khmer empire that stretches over 500 acres (200 hectares). The temples itself sure were impressive but what caught my attention was the intricate water system of the Angkor Wat they built to facilitated the life of, possibly over 1 million people living around Angkor Wat.

It is by far, the largest religious monument ever constructed, and it is considered to be one of the 7th wonders of the ancient world.

Years before my trip, I watched a documentary called "Angkor Wat: City Of The God Kings" and as a history buff, I was so intrigued by what I learned from the documentary that I made a promise to myself that one day I'd see Angkor Wat with my own eyes.

Driven by my curiosity and determination, I chose Siem Reap as my first destination because of the sheer amount of history I can learn about, explore them at my own pace and see them with my own eyes.

If you are interested to see Siem Reap, the Angkor Wat, and all its stunning temples, I can assure you that you will find this travel guide particularly useful.

Within this guide, I will provide you with all the information you need to travel to Siem Reap, and see all the cool temples, some even a little off-the-beaten-path. Without further ado, let's begin with a 3 days itinerary map for Siem Reap.

3 Days in Siem Reap Itinerary Map

3 Days in Siem Reap Itinerary Map

Southeast Asia Travel Video

When to Visit Siem Reap

Me escaping the heat of Cambodia under a tree at Angkor Wat.

The best time to visit Siem Reap and the Angkor Wat is from November to March where the weather is cool and dry, unlike in April where the humidity can be unbearable or during the as rainy and cloudy June - August.

That said, like in most of Southeast Asia lowlands, rain often comes in small short bursts that don't usually last long, so if you can not align your days to November - March, don't worry, you will enjoy Siem Reap as much as during the recommended period.

Where to Stay in Siem Reap

Budget - Bokre Angkor Hostel - 5 USD/Night (Dorm)

Mid-Range - Hello Cambodia Boutique - 22 USD / Night (Double Room with Private Bathroom and Free Breakfast)

How to Get to Siem Reap

Cambodia may be a small country, and not exactly a travel hub, Siem Reap is still a popular travel destination and so there should be plenty of flights flying into the city from neighboring airport hub such as Bangkok, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur.

First and foremost, you will have to get yourself to these neighboring hubs and then we can fly with a low-cost airline directly into Siem Reap.

From the US, you can fly to one of these cities via either Japan on ANA Airways or via the Middle East with airlines like Emirates and Qatar, etc.

From Europe, you can fly with KLM, AirFrance, or Lufthansa to one of the popular Southeast Asia hubs and transit to Siem Reap via a low-cost airline.

From Asia, or if you flew in from your home country to one of the hubs in Southeast Asia, you can fly cheaply to Siem Reap via AirAsia. They operate multiple flights per day (3 times) and only cost around 35 USD.

For more information on which flights to buy from your home country to these hubs, I would recommend you browse through Skyscanner or Momondo to find the best affordable flight that fits your itinerary for Cambodia.

If you are already in Southeast Asia, you can book your bus and train ticket online here.: Book a bus & train ticket for Siem Reap.

How to Get Around Siem Reap

A tuk-tuk is a great way to explore Siem Reap.

Tuk-tuk is the easiest way to explore all the temples nearby Siem Reap like the Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, and Bayon temple. For half a day, it will cost you 15 USD whereas for a full-day it will cost you 20 - 25 USD. For an extra 5 USD, the driver can pick you up at 4:30 AM to go see the majestic sunrise at the Angkor Wat.

You can often find tuk-tuk drivers near your hotel/hostel or in a touristy area like Pub Street or you can ask your hotel and they will find one for you. After you get your driver, negotiate the route you will want to take and finally, the price.

For going further away from Siem Reap, I would recommend you get a taxi instead as the road can be quite bumpy and extremely dusty. For example, it can take over 1.5 hours to get to Banteay Srei and Beng Mealea, and you would be covered in dust if you were traveling with a tuk-tuk.

What I would recommend is to hire a tuk-tuk for your first day to see the temples nearby and Banteay Srei temple 20 km away and hire a taxi for the second day to take you to Beng Mealea.

What to Wear at Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat recently enforces a strict new dress code and you are expected to wear appropriate attire when visiting Angkor Wat as follows:

  • Long pants that cover your knees.
  • Shirts that cover your shoulder.
  • Shorts, tank-tops, or revealing clothes of any kind are not allowed on the temple ground.

What Currency Do They Use in Cambodia

Cambodia has its own currency called Riel (KHR, ៛) but due to the Khmer Rouge abolishing the currency when they took power and Cambodia had no monetary currency for 5 years from 1975 - 1980 until it was reinstated again after the Vietnamese invasion, the locals adopted USD instead and it is still being used today in most big cities and touristic areas.

During the Khmer Rouge reign, the country has faced severe economic recession, resulting in an over 170% inflation and a complete erosion of confidence in the KHR so much that the UN intervened in 1992, bringing with them USD to restart the economy. Since then the locals have adopted USD and it is still being used today, you will find that most shops in Siem Reap accept both KHR and USD and you can easily travel around Siem Reap without carrying a single KHR.

Keep in mind though that when it comes to changes, you will be receiving KHR bank notes instead of US penny so be sure to exchange your KHR back when you leave Cambodia.

USD in Cambodia is the main currency in big cities and touristic areas but in rural areas, people use KHR exclusively so if you are planning to visit more rural areas in Cambodia, be sure to have KHR with you.

Angkor Wat Entrance Fee

Lovely local helping foreigners buy the right Angkor Pass.

In order to see the Angkor Wat, you will have to buy the Angkor Wat Pass which will give you access to all the main temples and sites around Angkor Wat including the Angkor Wat itself, all the temples and ruins in and around Angkor Thom (Bayon Temple, Baphuon, etc.) and Banteay Srei, 20 km away from Angkor Wat.

As of 2019, the Admission fees are as follow:

  • 1-Day Pass: 37 USD
  • 3-Days Pass: 62 USD
  • 7-Days Pass: 72 USD

The 3-days pass lasts for 10 days after purchase whereas the 7-days pass last for one month. You can get the ticket at the ticket office which is where you tuk-tuk driver will drop you off first before continuing.

The Angkor Pass, unfortunately, doesn't include access to Beng Mealea, one of the temples included in this itinerary. You will have to pay 5 USD separately for the Beng Mealea entrance fee at the entrance of the Beng Mealea temple.

Where to Buy Angkor Wat Entrance Ticket

The Angkor Pass can only be purchased at the official ticket office so do not believe anyone that said they can get it cheaper for you.

If you are hiring a taxi or a tuk-tuk, the driver will drop you off here first things first so you don't have to come to the ticket office and buy it beforehand.

The ticket office opens at 5:00 AM and closes at 5:30 PM every day. You can pay the ticket in cash (USD, EUR, THB, and KHR) or credit cards.

Which Angkor Wat Tickets to Buy

For this itinerary, I would recommend you buy 1-day pass and visit Banteay Srei, and all the other temples near Angkor Wat (Bayon temple, Ta Prohm, Angkor Thom, etc.) and visit Beng Mealea the second day. That way, you don't have to pay for 3-days pass and you will get to see Beng Mealea.

Angkor Wat Opening Hours

Angkor Wat opens at 5 AM for the sunrise and closes at 5:30 PM. Some parts of Angkor Wat are closed until 8 AM such as the upper part of the temple.

All the other temples around Angkor Wat are open at 7.30 AM and closes at 5:30 PM.

How Long to Stay in Siem Reap

Well, since this is a 3 days itinerary travel guide, I would say 3 days is good enough to see plenty of temples while having one day to relax at your own leisure. This will also allow us to pass by with only 1-day Angkor Pass instead of 3-days one.

On the other hand, if you are planning to explore Siem Reap thoroughly with your own vehicle, say, a motorcycle, you would need at least 5 days to a week and at least get a 3-days Angkor Pass to see all the temples in the area. There are a ton of them I was unable to fit in this 3 days itinerary so if you can spare a few days, definitely go further and explore the temples like West and East Mebon, Preah Khan Temple, and many more.

How Much Money Do I Need in Siem Reap

It's quite cheap to travel in Siem Reap and on average, you can expect to spend around 25 - 50 USD per day depending on your travel style. That said, there are certain things that you should keep in mind as it can get quite pricey if you are not careful, for example, the Angkor Wat Pass ticket, and the taxis. Here's a breakdown of how much you would spend on this itinerary:

  • Flight Ticket to Siem Reap: 36 USD (Optional) x 1 Ticket (low Cost from within Southeast Asia)
  • Accommodation: 5 USD/Night (Dorm) or 22 USD/Night (Double Room) x 3 Nights
  • Ticket Entrance (Angkor Pass): 37 USD for one-day pass x 1 Person
  • Tuk-tuk Driver around Angkor Wat: 20 USD for one full day + 5 USD for sunrise
  • Driver to Beng Mealea: 30 - 40 USD for tuk-tuk or 55 - 65 USD for a taxi + 5 USD for the ticket
  • Food: 10 - 20 USD per day (3 meals)
  • Optional Activities:
    • Massages: 1 - 5 USD x 1 person
    • Angkor National Museum: 12 USD x 1 person
    • Cooking Class: 50 USD x 1 person
    • Phare Circus Show: 18 USD x person
    • Phare Circus Show: 18 USD x person

Minimum Total (without optional activities): 137 USD (dorm room, Angkor Wat without sunrise, a tuk-tuk to Beng Mealea, and 10 USD per day for food)

Maximum Total (without optional activities): 294 USD (Double room, a flight to Siem Reap from cities like Bangkok, Angkor Wat + sunrise, a car to Beng Mealea, and 20 USD per day for food)

As you can see from the cost breakdown above, the cost of travel for 3 days in Siem Reap is around 137 - 294 USD, depending on how you want to travel. The majority of the cost goes to the Angkor Wat ticket and the taxis. You can save even more money in Siem Reap if you are willing to share the taxi or tuk-tuk with someone.

Is Siem Reap Safe?

Siem Reap is generally safe but like most Southeast Asian countries, petty thefts can happen if you are not careful, so exercise common sense, do not leave your belongings unattended, do not put your bags near a window of a tuk-tuk where one can grab easily, and watch what you eat. Not all street food is clean and not all water is drinkable.

Internet in Siem Reap

WIFI availability is getting better every day especially in places like Siem Reap and so you should have to trouble finding a hotel/hostel/restaurant that comes with free WIFI.

Reliable fast internet? That's another story. If you need to be reliably connected most of the time, I would recommend you get a local sim card instead. It's cheap, has good 4G coverage in cities (although, maybe not in places like Beng Mealea temple) and easily accessible through official phone shops at the airport and the cities.

I personally used Smart by Axiata and I had no problem with it. Got 4G connection most of the time, and it was lightning fast with good coverage, except in Beng Mealea.

For more information on local sim cards in Cambodia: Cambodia Prepaid Data Sim Card.

Travel Insurance

If you are looking for travel insurance to go along with your trip to Cambodia, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure.

3 Days Itinerary for Siem Reap, Cambodia

Day 1: Sunrise at the Angkor Wat

Sunrise at Angkor Wat sure is touristy but it is still quite a sight to behold.

One of the most touristy things you can do in Siem Reap is to go watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat and you will see a ton, and I mean a sh*t ton of tourists in front of a pond, trying to get that stunning sunrise photo.

It was definitely not my cup of tea to be around so many tourists, all eager to get that one magical shot but I gotta admit, it's pretty damn stunning when the pond reflected the Angkor Wat giving an image of a perfectly symmetrical structure. That is why I still recommend you to go see it for yourself.

The perfect symmetry of Angkor Wat at sunrise.

I often face a dilemma of to-do or not-to-do when it comes to touristy things, and I always tell myself this: "I got myself all the way here, so might as well just do it." and this is definitely the case.

I know the number of tourists will annoy me to no end, but it is popular for a reason, and that reason transcended my pity hate for touristy things. Keep your mind open when visiting Angkor Wat and sunrise, look away from the tourists and experience Angkor Wat at sunrise as it is. You will enjoy it more. 😉

Sunrise view of the Angkor Wat from the right pond.

I also got tipped by a friend that there are actually 2 ponds, the left one where everyone goes by default and the right one that may not be known by many. You can try your luck and go straight to the right pond, and maybe you might be able to see fewer tourists.

Day 1 (cont): Go for a morning stroll in Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei temple and the monkey statues in the morning

After watching Angkor Wat at sunrise, hop on the tuk-tuk and go visit Banteay Srei, a stunning 10th-century Cambodian temple built with red sandstone, giving it a completely unique look compared to what you just saw at Angkor Wat.

Banteay Srei is smaller than most temples in Siem Reap but it is packed with intricate detail.

The reason why I would recommend you visit Banteay Srei early in the morning is that this place is mostly exposed and you will enjoy strolling around the temple more when the sun is not completely up, and the weather is cooler.

Banteay Srei from the outer wall of the temple.

There will also be fewer tourists in the morning before 9 AM when the tour buses arrive, which should give you some time to enjoy the temple in peace, at your own pace, and explore all the intricate detail of the temple.

The amount of detail that goes into the carvings in Banteay Srei is mind-boggling.

And boy, is it extremely detail. The elaborate decorative wall carvings on the temple of Banteay Srei shows just how much of an expert in carvings the Angkorians were. They were really at the top of their game.

Mythical

Almost all of the surface you find in Banteay Srei are all covered in intricate carvings, which mostly depict the mystical creatures, protectors and gods and goddesses of Hindu

Every corner of Banteay Srei is worth observing carefully so that you don't miss any detail.

You can spend almost an hour or 2, walking around the temple, discovering all the details of the carvings in walls and doors of Banteay Srei. You might also be there at the same time as when a local band performing traditional music, adding even more immersion to your experience.

Day 1 (cont): Visit all the Temples in and around the Walled City of Angkor Thom

One of the Gates near Angkor Thom.

After Banteay Srei, head back to Siem Reap and start exploring the many temples in the area, beginning with Banteay Kdei, a Bayon style architecture built in the 12th - 13th-century AD, initially as a Buddhist temple.

A lot of temples in Siem Reap were converted multiple times between Hinduism and Buddhism depending on who ruled the empire at that time.

You may be wondering why this is a Buddhist temple whereas the Angkor Wat nearby is a Hindu temple complex. You see, the Khmer Empire had ruled this land from 8th to 14th-century AD and its capital city, the Angkor Wat was initially under Hindu religious beliefs until 12th-century AD where the empire shifted towards Buddhist religious practice.

Beautiful carvings on walls of Banteay Kdei

During the time, Buddhist temples were built left and right by the ruler of the empire all over Siem Reap and you will be able to see the remaining of this ambitious projects, all scattered around here.

Ta Promh tree or the Tomb Raider tree that took over the temple long after people abandoned it.

Just north of Banteay Kdei, there is also another Buddhist temple built around the same time in Bayon style architecture that is even bigger and more impressive. It's the Ta Prohm temple, or as some of you may know the Tomb Raider's tree.

The Ta Promh tree from a different perspective.

It's amazing how a movie one would consider mediocre released in 2003 put Cambodia and Siem Reap on the map for so many people and it is even more surprising that 15 years later, it is still known as that, even to the locals.

You can see many overgrown trees at Ta Prohm temple due to the decision to leave the temple as it was discovered.

Unlike most Angkor temples in the area, Ta Prohm temple is one of the few temples that was not renovated and is left as it had been found allowing it to maintain its picturesque nature. Also, it is one of the few temples with which merged with nature beautifully but not yet part of the jungle.

View from the top of Ta Keo temple.

Once you are done with Ta Prohm temple, you can walk north towards a mountain-looking temple, the Ta Keo temple, one of the first temples that were built entirely of sandstone.

5-tier pyramid-like temple is an easier climb than it sounds.

Its pyramid-like shape, five-tier terraces, and steep stone stairs make Ta Keo a great viewpoint to climb up and see the landscape, or mostly jungles around the area.

My tuk-tuk driver driving me through the Angkor Thom gate.

After you have visited Ta Keo temple, head west through the Victory Gate into the walled city of Angkor Thom, where you will be exploring the Bayon temple, Baphuon and you will exit through the photogenic south gate of Angkor Thom.

The Bayon temple may not look like much from the outside, but it packs a punch when you start climbing up the temple.

One of my favorite structure in Angkor Thom walled city is the Bayon temple, a 12th-century AD Buddhist temple that is known for its many serene and smiling stone faces scattered all over the towers of the temples.

There are a ton of these smiling face stones all over the top-level of the temple.

With over 216 smiling face stones, many have theorized that these stones depict the king, Jayavarman VII himself which is quite common for a king to depict himself as god-king during the time, but some believe it's a depiction of Bodhisattva, a person on the path to Buddhahood.

One of the smiley stone face of Bayon temple in front of a massive tree in Angkor Wat.

We can't know for sure but it is always interesting to think of what it would be like to be at the Bayon temple when it was at its height.

Even I got confused at times to realize if the temple was built as a Buddhist temple of a Hindu temple.

After you are done exploring the Bayon temple, ask your driver to drive you south through the photogenic South Gate of Angkor Thom where the 54 stone figures are lined up on both sides. Maybe ask your driver to stop and get a photo from the road.

Fewer people at Angkor Wat during the day than during sunrise.

After the South Gate, go back to Angkor Wat and spend the rest of your day, walking around the temple complex. There is a ton to see in Angkor Wat alone, and since we were only able to see parts of it during sunrise, it's time to thoroughly explore the complex at your own pace.

A horse in front of the Angkor Wat as crowds of tourists flooded the temple ground.

By now, the tourist crowds should finally be dispersed and scattered all around inside the temple complex hiding from the sun, which is the perfect time to get the photo of the exterior of Angkor Wat without anyone.

Be sure to climb up one of these spires to the top of Angkor Wat.

You can also climb up to the top part of the Angkor Wat and sit there for a while and enjoy the breeze. You may have to line up to get to the top though, but if you are looking for a place to see the Angkor Wat from above, it's definitely worth waiting in line.

View from the top of Angkor Wat.

After a long dusty day, climbing temples, it's time to retreat to your hotel and spend your evening finding a taxi to drive you to Beng Mealea tomorrow. The price of a taxi to Beng Mealea is around 55 - 65 USD for a car and 30 - 40 USD for a tuk-tuk and so it would be ideal if you are traveling as a couple or if you can find someone to share the cost with. It should take around 1.5 hours to get to Beng Mealea.

Day 2: Visit Beng Mealea

Me walking along of the structure in Beng Mealea temple.

With a taxi driver you hire yesterday, you can start your second day a little bit late since you have already woken up at 4 AM the day before. The trip will take around 1.5 hours on a dusty road to get to Beng Mealea from Siem Reap.

Beng Mealea is like Ta Promh but bigger and less touristy.

Once you arrived, the taxi will drop you off at the ticket office where you will have to buy an entrance ticket for 5 USD. That is why I recommend you visit all those temples on your first day so that you don't have to pay 3 days pass and then pay another 5 on top. It is cheaper this way 😉.

The typical window design found in many of the Hindu temples around Siem Reap

Beng Mealea is a large Hindu temple complex 40 km away from Siem Reap. The place definitely see fewer travelers than the main cluster of temples in Siem Reap and is left unrestored, giving you the feeling of actually being an explorer discovering this temple in the middle of a jungle for the first time.

A Large tree is overgrow on Beng Mealea wall.

There are large trees overgrowing over the structures, I dare say, even more impressive than what we saw at Ta Prohm, and a large pile of stones, almost as if someone knocked a structure down on purpose.

One of the many rooms in Beng Mealea waiting for you to explore.

The history of Beng Mealea is a mystery as nothing is known about the place except that it was built in a similar style as the Angkor Wat and assumed it was built around 12th-century AD.

No one knows how and why these stones are piled up here in Beng Mealea.

The temple itself was left abandoned and untouched for a long time due to how hard it was to get to it. Thankfully, a road was built to the temple, allowing us travelers to get a glimpse of how far reaching the Khmer Empire was back then.

More ruins of Beng Mealea temple.

There is a lot to see in the temple, and the taxi to get here isn't cheap so spend as long as you like here and explore all the rooms and corners of Beng Mealea at your leisure before heading back to Siem Reap and end your day with a stroll around Pub Street.

Pub Street in Siem Reap during the day.

Photos by ND Strupler

Pub Street is the main tourist street where you can find overpriced drinks and western food that you can indulge yourself in. It's touristy, sure, but if you look around the area carefully, you will be able to find small pockets of interesting things to do like the Made in Cambodia market where they sell locally-made handicrafts.

Even if you don't plan to buy anything, it is still quite interesting to walk around the market and Pub Street to find a nice cool restaurant with a great view or a bar to enjoy the rest of your night.

Day 3: Relax Day

Smiling locals in Siem Reap

Last but not least, our third day in Siem Reap. After 2 days action-packed full of temple-hopping activities, I think it is best that we leave our third day to be a day to "treat yo self".

There are several things you can in Siem Reap that doesn't include seeing temples like going for a massage, which you can find a ton of places on Pub Street that will cost you from 1 - 5 USD.

If you are looking for something more interactive, you can also go to a cooking class and learn how to cook their Hor-Mok dish. You can book your cooking class activity here.

Maybe you want to learn more about the history of the Khmer Empire? You can visit the Angkor National Museum, an expansive museum full of artifacts and religious icons during the Khmer empire. It's a great way to gain insight on the history of all those temples you have just visited a day ago.

Last but not least, if you want to see local art performers performing Cambodian-style theater, music, dance, and acrobatics you will love the 1-hour Phare Circus Show where modern artists come together to perform a blend of all those things, and more. You can book your ticket to see the Phare Circus Show here.

And that is it for 3 days itinerary on things to do, which temples to see and how to travel around Siem Reap and the Angkor Wat. I hope you enjoy this travel guide. If you have any question about Cambodia, do not hesitate to ask me anytime.

Further Reading for Backpacking in Cambodia

Looking for more information for your trip to Cambodia? Here is a selection of articles that might help you with your trip planning:

The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.


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