Siem Reap is best known for being the gateway to the area's 12th century temple complex. Visitors come here for a deep dive into history, and with good reason -- it's a bucket-list-worthy site. But there are more reasons to visit -- from chic hotels to an impressive dining scene -- and the best part is that you can do it all on a budget. Here are some tips for getting the most bang for your buck in Siem Reap -- and where to spend your hard-earned cash.
Where to Save
There are loads of ways to save in Siem Reap; the American dollar goes far here, and you won't have to cut corners. For example, you can eat incredibly well for just a a dollar or two. The street food in Cambodia is often fresh (think spring rolls, barbecue, and fruit smoothies) and inexpensive. Hit the Old Market, open each evening from 5 p.m. to midnight, and dig into traditional Cambodian street food like prahok (salted and fermented fish) fried in banana leaves with green vegetables and steamed rice. Siem Reap is also home to a couple of upscale cocktail bars. Asana Bar is tough to find (it's hidden in a lane off of Street 07), but it's worth the work to find it. This former traditional Khmer home offers high-end sips for about $5. Try the Little Sweet cocktail made with gin, wild ginger, turmeric, and sugar cane juice. Miss Wong's Cocktail Bar -- located on a lane off the popular Pub Street -- serves up a rose and lemongrass martini made with rose petal syrup and lemongrass-infused vodka for $4.50.
You can also easily save on transportation around town. Instead of taxis or hotel cars, take a tuk tuk. Not only is it a great way to see the city, but you'll catch a breeze as you meander through the steamy streets. Make sure you negotiate the price before hopping in, which should be about $3 to $5 USD.
Finally, hotels come at a bargain. While you can snag a hostel for under $10, high-end hotels offer a luxury experience at a low price. For example, you can book a room at The Aviary hotel for under $90 per night in April. This stylish property has stunning guest rooms, plus plush amenities (think turn-down service and bathrobes), a rooftop pool, and a spa.
Where to Splurge
If you plan to spend your money in one place, do it on the temple tours. Ankor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, can be chaotic and confusing, so a tour is highly recommended. We used ABOUTAsia Travel, which offers tours led by Oxford-affiliated scientists and scholars. At a splurgy $310, it was definitely among the most expensive tours on offer, but it was worth it. Included in the price was a customized, two-day tour of multiple temples including Ta Nei, Ta Keo, and Angkor Wat, where you'll arrive at specific times to avoid crowds (at one point, we were the only people at one of the temples); a breakfast picnic; a water blessing ceremony from the monks; a boat ride on the moat of Angkor Thom; a coffee table book; and transportation in an air-conditioned van that was equipped with cold lemongrass-infused towels and plenty of bottled water.