Gap Year in Siem Reap, Cambodia

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Siem Reap is the most popular destination in Cambodia. In daytime it sits quietly in the shadow of what most say is one of the most amazing ancient temple complexes in the world, at night however it becomes alive with it’s amazing night market, restaurants and bars offering local drinks and cuisine to satisfy you after a long day of sightseeing. Angkor Wat being the main destination draws everyone in with its magnetic force. Make sure you give yourself enough time to explore the city itself, as you never know what gem you may stumble upon while wandering around.

Photo credit: Dave_B_

Backpacking

Siem Reap is the main Cambodian destination for most backpackers. A few days in the city will provide a great night entertainment with its local bars and restaurants together with the ancient ‘temple fix’ of visiting the UNESCO heritage site.

Teaching Volunteering

Cambodia is one of the main destinations for those thinking of volunteering in SE Asia with Phom Penh being the main city together with Siem Reap. There are many options available with most of them focused on teaching English, helping local children get into education, supporting local communities and improving medical sector. For more information visit Go Overseas volunteering in Cambodia

Adventure Travel

Despite Siem Reap being the gateway to Angkor Wat, there are a lot of other exciting adventures to be had in the nearby area. There are dedicated companies providing all thrill seekers with motorbike and quad bike tours. From group tours to private escapades with your guide you can pick and chose what suits you best. There is also the first nature conservation centre in Cambodia located in the area if interacting with wildlife is your thing.

Cost of Living

Siem Reap, together with the rest of Cambodia and SE Asia is a relatively cheap place to visit for all Western tourists. US dollars are widely used and all menus and accommodation prices will be quoted in dollars. Small change (less than $1) is usually given in local currency notes. There are no coins in Cambodia.

Siem Reap offers a wide range of accommodation from basic backpacker guesthouses to high standard villas and hotels. Being a backpacker, on average you’ll spend around $16-18 a night for a double room with en suite and air conditioning

Food in Siem Reap is lovely and inexpensive. Breakfast for two will cost between $3-6 and lunches and dinners for two will be around $10-15. Street food is always cheaper.

You can grab a bargain on Siem Reap’s Night Market and stock up on souvenirs for family and friends for anything between $1-3 for bracelets, bangles, scarves and so on. While visiting local souvenir shops and markets, haggling is essential and part of the culture as anywhere else in SE Asia.

Anything touristy will always be highly overpriced in Cambodia so if you visit Siem Reap for sight seeing prepare yourself to significantly increase your budget. A one day pass to visit Angkor Wat and surrounding temples was $20 in 2011. A half day trip to Floating Villages of Tonle Sap $25.

Must Do / Must Visit

Grand and small temple circuit – either a single day or a multiple day adventure visiting the famous Angkor Wat and surrounding temples. Most of guesthouses and hotels can organise a trip for you with a private tuk tuk driver to take you round. You can also rent a bike or a motorbike if a self guided tour is your thing.

Angkor National Museum – if visiting the temples wasn’t enough for you, you must visit the museum covering history of the Angkor complex and the Khmer culture.

Old Market – a great flea market offering abundance of souvenirs and other knick knacks for you to take home.

Night Market – one of many popular SE Asian night markets, fantastic place to rest after busy day sightseeing. Plenty of stalls with local craft, bars and cafes, fish spas and Khmer massage to name but a few are there to entertain you.

Contributed by Marta Napierala

Health and Safety

Siem Reap being Cambodia’s main tourist destination will always attract occasional pickpockets or motorbike bag snatchers. Be aware of your surroundings and keep your valuables safe. All street vendors, tuk tuk and taxi drivers are really intense and will follow you down the street hoping for business. Politely decline and keep walking, they will eventually leave you alone.

Do not buy souvenirs from street children! Although initially it may feel like helping them, it keeps kids on the street and away from education. Be wise and donate to local charities helping street children instead.

Cambodia being a tropical country tends to get hot and uncomfortable. Make sure you have sun cream and a strong insect repellent with you. Any serious medical emergencies should be dealt with in Bangkok or Singapore.There are local private medical clinics however they will only be able to deal with minor incidents.

Malaria protection is advised but mainly outside Phnom Penh in the rural areas. Bottled water is available everywhere and most restaurants serve drinks with ice made from filtered water.

Contributed by Marta Napierala

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