If visiting Cambodia has been on your bucket list for some time, this is the best place to find out more about this stunning country. Every year, millions of tourists troupe to Cambodia to experience the unique culture and captivating historical sites – mostly found in Phnom Penh (the capital of Cambodia) and Siem Reap (the city that houses the world-famous Angkor Wat).
If you’re planning a trip to Cambodia, without a proper Siem Reap and Phnom Penh itinerary, you are almost guaranteed to miss some of the countries most incredible offerings.
In this article, we are going to cover the two iconic locations, including what to consider before leaving, the critical things to pack, and finally, a 7-day travel itinerary. Now, let’s uncover the spectacular world of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.
Where is Siem Reap and Phnom Penh?
First, let’s take a look at a brief history of Phnom Penh. It is located in the south-central region of the country, at the confluence of three rivers, the great Tonle Sap, the Bassac, and the mighty Mekong. It’s equally surrounded by the Kandal Province, with approximately 376 square kilometers, known to be the largest and wealthiest city in Cambodia.
This vibrant, bustling capital is home to about 2,009,264 inhabitants with a dual tropical climate – warm and humid. When visiting, you are sure to see French colonial mansions and tree-lined boulevards exuding Angkorian architecture.
Altogether, there are many exciting places to visit, such as the Silver Pagoda, the National Museum, the Royal Palace, and the local markets if you want some stunning antiques and souvenirs.
Siem Reap, on the other hand, is a province located in northwest Cambodia. It is described as the central tourist hub in Cambodia because it is the closest city to Angkor’s world-renowned temples. Its capital is also named Siem Reap and is located in the south of the province by the Tonle Sap Lake’s shores, the largest sweet water reserve in Southeast Asia.
Tourism in Cambodia previously came to a grinding halt during the Khmer Rouge Regime. Thankfully, it is currently back as one of the hotspots on the tourist map, with most visitors staying in Siem Reap. This makes it one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. With a diverse collection of lively restaurants, bars, and luxurious boutique hotels.
Is One Week Enough to visit Siem Reap and Phnom Penh?
Even though we get asked this question frequently, our answer always remains the same: No! Visiting great tourist sites in Siem Reap, such as the Angkor Wat, the Bug Café, the Crocodile Farm, the Phare (Cambodian Circus), and the Floating Village (just to name a few) can take you close to a month!
As for Phnom Penh’s tourist sites such as the Phnom Tamao Zoo, the Royal Palace, and the National Museum, that may take you even longer. But we understand that not all tourists have the luxury of spending more than two weeks in a particular country or city.
Therefore, if you are visiting for just a week, do your research and pick out specific places you want to see before arriving so you don’t waste any precious time.
Things to Consider Before you Leave
Before traveling to any country, you have to do your research to know what to expect. This ensures that you enjoy your visit to the maximum and create an unforgettable experience. Here are a few things to consider before heading to these cities:
1. There is a dress code to respect
The people of Cambodia’s dress code is ordinarily modest and covered up in nature. Regardless of where you are from, it’s best to respect it. It’s not the destination to wear string tops and short shorts. We understand it is very humid, but you’ll receive many glaring stares from the locals.
Note that shorts and sleeveless attire are also prohibited when visiting the temples. Wearing appropriate clothing is regarded as a form of reverence to the Gods, so remember to pack up some t-shirts and breathable trousers if you plan on visiting the temples.
2. Petty theft is an issue
Snatching bags, phones, and cameras are a real problem in Phnom Penh. So, remember to hold onto these items while going about your tourist duties. Thieves usually ride on motorbikes, which seem to appear out of nowhere. If you don’t keep an eye out they will make away with your valuables before you even realise what happened.
3. Prepare for ATM fees
Unfortunately, most of the ATMs don’t offer charge-free withdrawals. Withdrawals charges typically range from $5 – $6, which may be quite steep for some tourists. So remember to have cash on you and try to take out enough cash for a few days or a week, so you don’t waste money on charges when in Cambodia.
4. The easiest way to get around is with a tuk-tuk driver
We’ve mentioned safety in Cambodia, but that should not deter you from riding in a tuk-tuk. Not only is quite exhilarating, but it’s an easy way to get around the city. Believe it or not, they’re actually pretty safe, too. You can hire a tuk-tuk for the entire day for as little as $15. Yup, you heard that right!
5. Hungry, hungry mosquitoes
The mosquitoes in Cambodia have got to be the most savage little creatures we’ve ever experienced. Constantly buzzing in your ear and looking for ways to suck you dry, and sometimes even even bite you through your clothing. Pack some heavy-duty bug spray or lotion and use it liberally and regularly.
6. Prepare for some questionable toilets
Since public toilets are used by hundreds of tourists daily, don’t expect them to be in pristine condition. Remember to pack and carry around tissues, in case there is no toilet paper, sanitizers, or sanitizing wipes.
Siem Reap and Phnom Penh Itinerary
Now for the part you have been waiting for! The perfect one-week guide to touring Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Since most tourists spend anything from a few days to a few weeks, this itinerary will come in handy. Now join us, and let’s begin the tour from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap.
The Royal Palace, the seat and residence of the Cambodian royal family since the 1860s, is regarded as one of the tourist highlights of Phnom Penh. It drips with Cambodian architecture, from the spired-roof pavilions to the interior ceiling murals.
The Silver Pagoda is set adjacent to the Royal Palace and is famed for hosting the Emerald Buddha statue and a ginormous 90 kilogram Gold Buddha adorned with Baccarat diamonds.
Visitors can tour several buildings within the palace grounds from US$6.50, and for about $10, you can have a guided tour. After, you should head over to the Cambodian National Museum to learn about Cambodian history that dates back to the 4th century. It is housed within a striking red sandstone structure with more than 14,000 artifacts on display.
The museum’s significant highlights include the eight-armed statues of Lord Vishnu, the Angkorian collection with statues from the temple of Koh Ker, and ethnographic items and stone articles.
On the second day, you should visit the Phnom Tamao Zoo, the largest zoo and wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia. It serves as more of a rescue center than a zoo for rare and endangered animals rescued from poachers, traffickers, and illegal wildlife traders. With over 1,000 animals, including tigers, bears, elephants, birds, crocodiles, and pythons, it is a beautiful animal heaven enclosure.
After the zoo, you should see the Aspara and traditional Khmer dance performances at the National Museum of Cambodia. These dance performances date back to the 18th century and is an integral part of the Cambodian culture.
This culture was almost lost forever during the Khmer Rouge regime, but surviving dance masters trained and passed on their knowledge to the younger generations. Tickets are priced from $15 with shows held on Monday, Wednesday, and on weekends from 7 pm.
You can’t visit Cambodia without visiting The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. These fields were aptly named due to the Khmer Rouge Empire’s terror, who ruled Cambodia between 1975 and 1979.
In just those four years, it is said that over millions of Cambodians lost their lives. This was due to famine and disease that ravaged the country. Also, thousands were executed because they were suspected of being part of the opposing regime.
Over 15,000 people are estimated to have been murdered, with mass graves discovered after the Khmer Rouge left the city. A Buddhist memorial was constructed in the victims’ honor and serves as a reminder of Cambodian history’s darkest times. Now head over to Psar Tuol Tom Pong, aka “the Russian market.”
This chaotic but lively market is one of the best places to get your souvenirs, handicrafts, and even indigenous clothes. Put your haggling skills to test, and if successful, you can leave the market with some fantastic bargains. We would advise you hit this market in the morning as the temperature can skyrocket in the afternoon.
We head over to Siem Reap on the fourth day to start our tour; beginning with a visit to the Angkor Archaeological Park. This iconic park not only houses the world-famous Angkor Wat, but also 50 Buddhist and Hindu temple sites – constructed mainly during the 9th and 12th centuries. If you don’t necessarily spend the whole day there, you can visit these four places and call it a day.
- Ta Prohm (famous for being featured in Tomb Raider).
- Bayon (the temple with all the faces).
- Angkor Tom (the largest site in the park).
- Terrace of Elephants (a beautiful 300-meter long wall adorned with stunning sculptures of elephants, a 5-headed horse, Khmer warriors, and dancers).
A single day pass can cost you about $37 and up to $72 for seven days. Now kick up your feet and move to the Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre. This butterfly center is the largest butterfly exhibition in Southeast Asia.
Situated about 25 km from Siem Reap, the butterfly species here include the Lime Butterfly, 5-Barred Swordtail, Great Mormom, Blue Glassy Tiger, and Tailed Jay.
The Tonle Sap Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, is our next destination. Situated in a portion of this area is the Floating Village. This area is a natural flood zone where locals live in houses on stilts.
Visiting is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture by traveling in traditional wooden boats through the floating communities, seeing the fish farm and the local markets.
Are you ready for a world-famous circus performance? Yup, you heard us right. Phare, the Cambodian circus, occurs in a small and intimate setting. From the death-defying stunts to unbelievable gymnastics, each performance tells a unique Cambodian folk tale.
The sixth day is for binging on local cuisine. Go on your very own street food tour, sampling the diverse, and honestly weird, Siem Reap cuisine. If you feel a little daring, you can step into the Bug café, where an assortment of insect-inspired meals awaits your palate. From scorpion salads to bug burgers and ant spring rolls, these meals are considered a delicacy there.
Since you may be tired after your tour, top that with some massages and pedicures. Siem Reap offers some of the cheapest massages; $6 for a full body massage! Imagine that! You can also throw in a fish pedicure. Skin eating fish feed on your dead skin cells and leave your feet looking great and feeling refreshed.
On the last day, why not take a hot air balloon ride around the city? Enjoy breathtaking views as you float over the Angkor complex either at sunrise or sunset. Don’t forget to bring your camera!
Then, it’s time to party! Pub Street is perfect for those who want to dance, play drinking games, or enjoy a brew with friends. Socialize with the locals and party the night away!
Siem Reap and Phnom Penh Itinerary: Summary
Well, our globe trotters, there you have it! You should be ready for your adventure to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap once you hit Cambodia’s grounds. Just keep in mind the things to consider before leaving, and our recommended best places to visit in one week. The Bug Café, the Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre, the Royal palace, the Angkor Wat, and the Phnom Tamao Zoo are waiting for you.
Remember that it’s not mandatory to stay for only a week; you can stay longer if you realize there is more you want want to see. We can’t wait to hear about your trip when you return. Remember to leave a comment if you have any questions for us, and share this article if you found it helpful.