When we went: november 2022

We spent 3 days in Siem Reap, Cambodia in between our longer stays in Vietnam and Thailand. The primary reason we went was to see the famous Angkor Wat temple, but there ended up being so much more to see and do, too. 

Cambodia and the Khmer people broke my heart into a million pieces. Not long before we went I had read Loung Ung’s memoir First They Killed My Father, which was the first I had learned of the Cambodia genocide that killed half of their population less than 50 years ago. The ripple effect of that devastation remains today. (And I highly recommend that book). 

where we stayed

We stayed at the Rambutan Hotel & Resort and loved it! It was more boutiquey and rustic but still really nice with all the bells & whistles—AC, good wifi, a tub on our balcony that I wish I could say I used(!), a saltwater pool, super helpful staff.

what to do

Angkor Wat + the temples

The main reason most come to Siem Reap is to see Angkor Wat and the surrounding templates. There is an option to get a multi-day pass so that you can keep going back (and go back at different times of day, like at sunrise or sunset) but we opted to just do them all in one go. It was a long day but it was worth it to see and learn about everything through a guide. We booked this Airbnb exprience. Note for the ladies – there is a strict dress code requiring you to cover the shoulders and knees. Men can wear shorts that cover their knees but ladies have to be extra careful with the rules (can you feel my eyeballs rolling into the back of my head?). 

Take a food tour

The food tour we did isn’t up on Airbnb Experience anymore, but it was a fun way to see the town through the eyes of locals and learn about their local cuisine. Siem Reap is a tourist town with people mainly coming to see the templates, so it was nice to learn about the more hidden local spots. 

Get a massage

Like a lot of places in Southeast Asia, massages are excellent and extremely inexpensive. We went to Khmer Wellness Spa near our hotel. A 60 minute full body massage is literally $12. 

Ryan’s bike tour 

I was working on this trip so there were some things I had to opt out of. When I was catching up on work one day, Ryan hired the same guy from our food tour to take him on a bike tour outside the city where he was able to learn and see a bit more. Ask him about the time he told the tourguide he didn’t eat seafood and got a big plate of “lakefood” instead. 

Pub Street

I wouldn’t say this is really something to do, but this is the central street in Siem Reap. It’s pure tourists. Most of the good spots we found were a bit away from it, but good to have on your radar as the central part of the city. 

what we ate 

  • We went to a bunch of amazing spots on the food tour but I didn’t mark them down! So take a food tour 🙂 
  • WILD – this was a creative spring roll place next to our hotel that I went to basically everyday. They were sooo good and it was such a cute vibe. 
  • Sambo – Khmer/Thai spot near our hotel that was low key and good
  • JOMNO for a nicer dinner
  • The Source Cafe was a really cute coffee shop



It was HOT when we were there! Check the weather and pack accordingly. Make sure you have some flowly, full coverage items for the temples.


You need a visa to enter Cambodia, and you can either get it online ahead of time (eVisa) or on arrival. We opted for a visa on arrival because you need several business days to get the eVisa and we were planning our itinerary as we went. It cost $30 USD (in cash) and took less than 10 minutes to get right when we landed, before we went through customs. 


The TLDR is that before you go to Cambodia, you should go to your bank at home and get a bunch of CRISP, CLEAN, NEW small bills in USD ($1, $5, maybe a few $10). Literally tell the teller you need them to be crisp, with no tears or stains, and from after 1996. 

We were there in November 2022, so this rule of thumb may change as the Cambodian currency continues to become more widely used and credit cards become more widely accepted. But in the  meantime, here’s the longer reason why: 

The Cambodian riel is slowly becoming more popular, but USD is actually what is most widely used. USD is even what most ATMs will dispense. It’s also a cash country and credit cards are not widely accepted. Because we were only there for 3 days and it’s far easier for us to carry USD than end up with a bunch of extra riel, we decided it was easier to use USD the whole time. Small bills are important so that you avoid needing change as much as possible (because you may end up with your change in riel instead of USD, but you never know). 

Now why you need to crisp, clean, new, small bills from home: 

  • They will not accept the most slightly flawed USD. Nothing with a tear, stain or mark, and nothing from before 1996. Apparently the banks charge a 50% commission on any “unfit” bills. When you pay at a restaurant, store, etc. they will check to make sure, and they will turn down your bills. 
  • If you use an ATM in Cambodia and get a larger amount of cash, you’ll end up with $100 bills. That’s, of course, a lose-lose because absolutely nobody will break $100.

next up:

(or click here to go back to blog home)