Siem Reap, in Cambodia is most well known for it's famous Angkor Wat Temple Complex, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Due to it's proximity to the temples it's a fast growing tourist hub, which also attracts many expats and more recently digital nomads and remote workers.
Being relatively new in this town I enlisted the help of some other Digital Nomads in town when researching this post to ensure it's as well informed and rounded as possible.
If you're considering of somewhere a bit different, with a very low cost of living for a stop on your digital nomad journey, then read on to learn all about this buzzing South East Asian town.
Where is it and why should you go?
Siem Reap is located in Northwest Cambodia in South East Asia. The airport is less than a 20-minute taxi or tuk-tuk ride from the town center. Aside from the Angkor temples, this small bustling resort town is full of tempting restaurants, nightlife, accommodation, and activities to suit all budgets. It's friendly and welcoming to both those who visit for a short time and those who fall in love with it and stay for many months and even years.
What is the weather like?
Cambodia has a tropical climate, meaning it is generally warm and humid. The average temperature is about 27 degrees Celsius with a minimum of about 16 degrees Celsius.
There are 3 seasons: cool season which runs from November to March with temperatures reaching 29 C; hot season which runs from March to May when temperatures can reach 40, and rainy or monsoon season which runs from May to October when temperatures reach about 33 Cand humidity is as high as 90%. There can be A LOT of rain during this season.
The best thing about Siem Reap is:
The weather which is generally lovely (albeit humid at times), means you can get lots of pool time in. There's also plenty of places to socialize, with something always going on, and due to the small size of the town, you soon get to know a lot of people.
The worst thing about Siem Reap is:
It does get extremely hot and humid in April and May, which can be uncomfortable when walking or cycling around, and at times you find yourself without air-con. It can also be difficult to find things to do outside of the temples, bars, and restaurants...but a bit of research and adventure and you can find enough to do to amuse yourself.
Is English spoken?
Yes, but mainly by young Cambodians living in Siem Reap, those working in the tourist industry, expats, and Western tourists. Some of the tuk-tuk drivers also speak some English and few excellently.
Older Cambodians and those living in the more remote countryside around Siem Reap tend to mainly speak Khmer and you may struggle to communicate with these, similarly many stall holders in the traditional markets in town also converse mainly in Khmer.
Is Siem Reap safe?
Yes, it's relatively safe. You do hear stories of a few opportunist bag snatches and house robberies (especially around festival times), however, there isn't a lot of violent crime. As you find in most towns and cities there are some areas to avoid at night, especially as a solo female traveler, such as Wat Polanka. However providing you take the normal precautions you should be fine.
The other thing to be careful of is the traffic; it's pretty much a free for all and there doesn't seem to be many rules. You just need to keep your wits about you and be extra careful of the tuk-tuks and moto's when crossing the road or cycling/ motorcycling around.
Best areas to live in?
This really does depend on what you're after. The center can be very busy and touristy, not to mention extremely loud around Pub Street at night. However, if you're too far out in the sticks you may find it difficult not being near the amenities. Personally, I prefer the area around Wat Bo Road, it's a little bit out from the main tourist area around Old Market and Pub Street but still within easy walking distance of everything.
What is the internet like in Siem Reap?
The internet is actually quite good which was quite a surprise, the only times you may struggle is if there's a power outage which does happen from time to time.
Most of the cafes, restaurants, and hotels have good speed internet as do the co-working spaces (which is to be expected of course).
Rental accommodation often comes with some sort of internet but if it doesn't or it's not quick enough you can easily arrange for it to be installed or upgraded.
Do you need a car to get around?
No, not at all. In fact, due to the traffic here, it's often not using a car is quicker.Day to day I use a bicycle to get around or I walk, a lot of other people use motorbikes! If I'm out drinking or going somewhere at night, I'll I use a tuk-tuk. You can get most places in town by tuk-tuk for 1 or 2 dollars.
FAVORITE CAFÉS TO WORK FROM
There are many, many cafes in Siem Reap and I've by no means sampled them all. However, a selection of favorites amongst Digital Nomads and Expats alike are as follows:
- Rosy Guesthouse is a combination between a guest house, cafe, restaurant, and bar, in a fairly quiet (when there are no festivals going on) riverside location. A real home from home with great Western and Khmer food, good wifi, and friendly, helpful owners and staff.
- The Little Red Fox Espresso located in Kandal Village amongst other cafes and artisan shops. One of the best cafes in town serving what is probably the finest coffee here. It has a relaxed atmosphere, nice air-conditioned seating areas upstairs and downstairs, and a small terrace, all with high-quality wifi. The music is good and the walls display trendy artwork. In addition to the coffee, there is a short but quality menu of tasty food, including a fantastic carrot cake and unlimited complimentary water.
- New Leaf Eatery Located in a quiet side street a short way from Old Market this relaxed, airy space has good coffee delicious juices and also a good stock of books you can swap or buy. The wifi is also pretty reliable, making it a nice place to spend an afternoon working.
- Cafe Artillery is a lovely bright space where you can sit inside or in the courtyard to work using their good wifi. They pride themselves on being eco-conscious and use ingredients and products that are chemical free, organic, and fair-trade when at all possible. They serve a whole range interesting healthy, fresh foods which suit all kinds of dietary requirements, they also only serve purified water.
- BioLAB Cafe - Located in Wat Bo Village this has only recently opened but is set to become a favorite amongst Digital Nomads and Expats. It has an original, quirky interior and is well set up for working online with tables, power points, and excellent wifi. It even has a co-working area if you want to use that.
GREAT CO-WORKING SPACES
- AngkorHUB With a very central location, located less than 5 minutes from Pub Street this open space offers hot desks, fast internet, comfortable chairs and air-conditioning. It's a great place to meet other people and also has skype booths are also available for those who need to make private calls. Jeff the founder is always trying to do something new and to provide value and contribute back to the community.
This co-working space is open daily 8am-8pm for guests, but monthly members get 24/7 access, along with members-only monthly networking events. Added bonuses are there is a generator to back up when there is a power outage (which happens on occasions here) and 4G internet. There's also a garden with coconut and banana trees and a hut where you can skype from that has a hammock.
- 1961 Co-working and Art Space This is situated on the riverside to the north of town and is made up of air-conditioned open working space and private offices. They also have spaces that can be used for events and an art gallery. Prices range from $10 per day up to $1,400 for an unlimited annual pass. It is probably geared more towards creative Digital Nomads but anyone could happily and comfortably work here. In addition to being a co-working space, they also offer a selection of regular events, including movie nights and a book club!
OTHER FAVORITE HOTSPOTS
Siem Reap is a very sociable place so it's almost inevitable to spend a lot of time (especially on weekends) out and about in the bars and restaurants in town. There's often great happy hours on drinks, food offers, and events going on.
These are some of the favorite places amongst digital nomads and expats here:
- Viva – Just outside Pub Street this is great for an after work drink and perfect for people watching. It's only $1.5 for a margarita or $5 for a jug (and those prices are ALL the time...not just in happy hour)!
- The Hangout - part hostel/ part bar is located in the Sok San Road area and is the perfect place to go for a relaxed evening. The food here is amazing for a bar, better than many restaurants, especially their Thursday unlimited chicken wings. They also do regular cinema nights, which make for a perfect chilled out evening.
- The Harbour metal bar and tattoo shop has really friendly staff and often put on events such as games nights, stand-up comedy shows and speed dating. They also have a new homemade sandwich, which is delicious.
- The Ivy Guesthouse Found very near to Old Market I mention it here as they have a weekly $1 Friday Tapas night. All tapas is $1 as is their ice cold beer, the perfect place to start a Friday night out!
- The Food Co-op does a boozy brunch and sangria Saturday. Just $1 for a delicious sangria in shaded garden surroundings with several healthy food choices on offer too. A lovely way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon.
- Jungle Burger has the best burgers in town and also come with a free beer or soft drink.
TEMPLES - It goes without saying if you're in Siem Reap for a couple of days or an extended period you will at some point visit the main temples. I'd highly recommend taking the time and try to explore some of the more off the beaten track, lesser known ones such as Koh Ker, Banteay Srei, Beng Mealea, and Kbal Spean.
LOTUS FIELDS + TONLE SAP LAKE - I love getting out of the center of town on my bicycle, it's lovely to ride out towards Tonle Sap lake past the lotus fields. There several hammock bars on the roadside where you can stop for a rest, refreshing drink or a bite to eat.
You can also go on a boat trip on Tonle Sap lake and visit Khmer and Vietnamese floating villages.
WEST BARAY - This man-made reservoir is lovely for relaxing in a hammock with a book, drink or local food. It's also good for people watching as there's often locals there having lunch with their families and jumping and swimming in the water.
PHNOM KULEN NATIONAL PARK About 50km from Siem Reap this is definitely worth a day trip. Whilst there you can hike to the top of Kulen mountain to visit the reclining Buddha, along with the locals praying there. There is also a nice jungle and forest view from the top. Around the bottom of the mountain, there are several stalls where you can buy food (although it may be safer to bring your own) and also refreshing waterfalls to cool off in. At the weekends and on public holidays it is also very popular with local families.
BATTAMBANG - At around 170 km away in far West Cambodia this isn't exactly close to Siem Reap but worth a mention as a destination for a short break from the hustle and bustle of Siem Reap. It's been named by UNESCO as a City of Performing Arts, because of it's numerous ancient Khmer, Thai, and French colonial buildings and the temples and pagodas dotted around. You'll find plenty of accommodation and eateries in and around the city. Getting out to explore the green surrounding countryside by bicycle, moto or tuk-tuk is wonderful.
Local Tuk-Tuk - $1- $3
$1 - $4
Main Course + Drink: $3 - $20
Many places have happy hours when prices are lower
Beer: $0.50 - $3
Wine: $2 - $5
Cocktails: $1.50 - $6
Depends on number of rooms, location and length of rental agreement.
Western style apartments/ houses - $200 - $1,500
Khmer style house - $180 - $700
Temple Pass - 1-Day ($20), 3-Day ($40), + 7-Day ($60)
Museums - $5 - $12
Bicycle hire - $2 - $5
Swimming Pools – Free (if drinks/ food purchased $0 - $10
Dorm Bed - $3+
Hotel Room - $9+
Obviously, high-end hotels will be much more than this.
RECOMMENDED HOSTELS + HOTELS
This is difficult as there are just so many hostels, guesthouses, and hotels in and around town, with more and more are popping up every day, not to mention those that close. It also very much depends on what you're looking for so doing some research before arriving is best.
If you're looking for something and bit more personal and quiet to enable you to work there are many guest houses.
Until we rented our house we've always stayed at Rosy Guesthouse every time we've visited (5 times) and can't sing their praises highly enough. Other recommended guesthouses are Eureka Villas, Maison 557, and Sweet Dreams Guesthouse.
FACEBOOK GROUP FOR DIGITAL NOMADS IN SIEM REAP
There aren't any specific Facebook groups for digital nomads in Siem Reap but there are some expat groups which are a goldmine for useful information hints and tips. The main ones are Expats and locals living in Siem Reap, Cambodia and Siem Reap Expats & Locals.
For the ladies, we've recently just set up Reaper Bitches, which is an offshoot of Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine (LMBDW) which is very popular n Australia and Singapore and get ladies together to collaborate and share ideas, socialize, and drink wine.
There is also Wat's Up! - Events in Siem Reap which has listings on all events, happy hours and deals/ offers in town.
Hi, I'm Tanya Korteling. I'm a qualified Data Scientist and Chartered Marketer from Norwich, Norfolk in the UK. In September 2016 my husband, Andy, and I decided to up-sticks to travel, live, and work abroad. We traveled for 8 weeks until we reached Cambodia which is where we'll base ourselves until at least late 2017. I have a part time job here in Siem Reap, Cambodia using my data, analysis and marketing skills to add value to a luxury tour operator. The rest of my time I'm concentrating on my travel blog Can Travel Will Travel and the online company Gifts For Overseas that I've just launched in partnership with my husband and a friend. I'm also in the process of setting myself up as a Digital Nomad using my skills enabling me to work from anywhere. I'm passionate about travel, food, and wildlife and hope to incorporate all of those in our upcoming travel adventures.
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