Siem Reap is one of the most bike-friendly destinations I’ve visited in Southeast Asia. In fact, biking has become a very popular way for tourists to visit the temples around the Angkor Archaeological Park, the main tourist draw in Cambodia. The roads between the main temples are paved and the distances are just right for bicycle touring. If you’re into biking at all, I think this is the best way to explore the temples.
WHERE TO RENT BIKES:
Many hotels and guesthouses in Siem Reap offer bicycles for rent for as little as $2 to $6/a day depending on the type and quality of bike. There are also numerous bike rental shops scattered around Siem Reap town. Bike rental shops will ask you to leave your passport and the address of your guest house. They’ll also issue you bike locks so that you can park and lock your bike anywhere.
TYPES OF BIKES:
City bikes cost $2-3 a day to rent, while mountain bikes cost $5-6 a day. There are even tandem bicycles for rent in shops. If you’re after speed or plan to visit remote temples like Beng Melea (63 km east of Siem Reap), you’ll want to rent mountain bikes for better performance.
However, the terrain around Siem Reap is very flat, so city bikes are good enough if you just plan to go around the main temple circuit. The good thing about the vintage commuter bikes is that the seats are more comfortable, some come with automatic lights (that turn on once it starts getting dark) and they come with baskets, which can be useful for carrying heavy stuff like SLR cameras and bottles of water. They’re also cheaper to rent. You can haggle for discounts if you’re renting one for several days.
WHAT TO WEAR:
- It can get very hot and humid in Cambodia, especially during the summer months. Wear comfortable clothes that can breathe easily in the weather and that you can bike comfortably in.
- Women can not enter some temples if they are dressed in sleeveless shirts, strapless or spaghetti strap blouses and shorts.
- To be safe, bring a light jacket, scarf or cover up. Scarves are sold in many stalls around the temple complex in case you forgot to bring one.
- Helmets don’t seem to be widely used by bikers and were not required or issued when we rented bikes.
- A cap or hat with a wide brim will save your face from getting too sunburned.
- Aside from biking, you’ll be walking and climbing stairs a lot inside temples so wear comfortable and practical footwear.
- Many trails are hot and dusty, so closed rubber shoes are good. Slippers and flip flops are also ok if you don’t mind getting your feet getting dirty.
WHAT TO BRING:
To maximize your biking trip, you should buy entrance tickets a day before you plan to bike. Tickets are usually sold 5:30 pm the previous day. You can enter the park and watch the sunset for free the day you buy your ticket. You need to bring your ticket/entrance pass at all times. Get a map when you buy your ticket to plan your route.
Water and cold drinks are available in many stalls around the temples. But if you want to save some cash, bring your own drinking bottle or a hydration bag with lots of water to last you for the day. If you can refill your water bottles when you stop for lunch, do so. Bring small bills for your meals on the road, water, and souvenir items. Don’t forget your camera and fully charged phones.
During the we season (May-October), you may want to bring a raincoat though you will probably only need it in the afternoon. Mosquito repellent is also recommended for sunrise and sunset hours.
WHERE TO GO:
Numerous temples and remains of several capitals of the Khmer Empire can be found in the Angkor Archaeological Park, which stretches over some 400 square kilometers so going around can be quite overwhelming. The main temple circuit is just 6 km from the town proper and is very easy to bike to. Here are some suggested itineraries according to the Siem Reap Angkor Visitor’s Guide:
South Gate of Angkor Thom, Central Angkor Thom (Bayon, Terrace of the Elephants, Terrace of the Leper King), Ta Prohm, Angkor Wat
One or Two Day Visit:
- Morning: South Gate of Angkor Thom, Central Angkor Thom (Bayon, Phimeanakas, Terrace of the Elephants, Terrace of the Leper King). (Single day visitors: Old market/souvenir shops in Siem Reap at lunch).
- Afternoon: Ta Prohm, Pre Rup (optional), Angkor Wat, Phnom Bakheng for sunset, Traditional dance show in the evening
Day 2 options:
- Option A: Banteay Srey – Angkor Wat for sunrise, Pre Rup, Bateay Srey, Banteay Samre (optional), Thommanon, Old market area/souvenir shops in Siem Reap at lunch. Afternoon: Roluos Group
- Option B: Variety of temples – Angkor Wat for sunrise, Preah Kahn, Victory Gate, Thommanon, Pre Rup (optional), Prasat Kravan, Old market area/souvenir. Afternoon: Roluos Group
- Option C: Grand circuit – Angkor wat for sunrise, Preah Kahan, Neak Pean, Ta Som, Pre Rup (optional), Prasat Kravan (optional), Old market/souvenirs hops in Siem Reap at lunch. Afternoon: Roluos Group
Three Day Visit:
- Day 1 morning: South Gate of Angkor Thom, Central Angkor Thom (Bayon, Baphuon, Phimeanakas, Terrace of the Elephants, Terrace of the Leper King). Lunch at restaurant near Angkor Wat. Afternoon: Victory Gate, Thommanon, Ta Keo (short visit), Ta Prohm, Angkor Wat, sunset at Angkor Wat, Traditional dance show in the evening
- Day 2 morning: Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Baksei Chamkrong, Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Som, Pre Rup, Visit to Old Market area in Siem Reap at lunch. Afternoon: Roluos Group, Sunset at Phnom Bakheng
- Day 3 morning: Banteay Srey, Banteay Samre, East Mebon, Visit to craft/silk workshop after lunch. Afternoon: Prasat Kravan, Banteay Kdei, Srah Srang (optional), Sunset at Angkor Wat
- Sunrise: Angkor Wat (alternative: Srah Srang)
- Sunset: The traditional sunset spot is Phnom Bakheng, but the temple has become over-touristed. Consider an alternative temple such as Angkor Wat, Phimenakas, Bakong, Tonle Sap.
- Trees growing from temple ruins: Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei, Ta Som, Preah Khan
- Giant carvings of faces: Bayon, the gates of Angkor Thom, Banteay Kdrei
- Notable artistry/carvings: Angkor Wat, Banteay Srey, Bayon, Bakong, Terrace of the Leper King, Terrace of the Elephants, Preah Khan
WHERE/WHAT TO EAT & DRINK:
After a long day of biking, it’s always good to sample the local cuisine and kick back with ice-cold beers. The Old Market and Pub Street offer the best places to eat and drink. You can park your bikes near the street stalls. Check out these separate guides:
WHERE TO STAY:
Bou Savvy Guesthouse Bed & Breakfast
- Address: Ta Phul Village, Khum Svaydangkum, Siem Reap, Cambodia
- We booked this because they offered free pick-up from the airport. They’re located just 2 minutes off the main road. Rooms were spacious and comfortable. Good WiFi & internet shop. Has its own open-air cafe. Very friendly & helpful staff. Can arrange tours. Bikes for rent available in hotel.
- Rates: $12 (single fan) to $22 (Twin A/C)/night
- Website: www.bousavyguesthouse.com
Oral D’ Angkor Guesthouse
- Address: #327 Tepvong Street, Stung Thmey Village, Svay Dangkum Commune, Siem Reap, Cambodia
- We had to move here because the rooms at Bou Savy were full. Simple guesthouse located in a quiet part of town. Basic but comfortable rooms. WiFi. Has its own restaurant. Walking distance from several bike rental shops in the old market area.
- Rates: $8 (single) to $20 (suite room)/night
- Website: http://www.oraldangkor.com/
Krorma Yamato Guesthouse
- Address: Taphul Village Area, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Japanese-inspired budget hotel good for backpackers. Basic but comfortable rooms. WiFi. Has its own indoor climbing wall and cafe serving Japanese food. They let us store our luggage and shower here for free even after check-out time. Located right next to a bike rental shop along the main road.
- Rates: $10 (single) to $16 (twin) /per night
- Website: www.krormayamato.com
TRAVEL TIPS & USEFUL INFO:
- If you only have a day to go around, make sure to visit Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm, which are the most impressive temples.
- Be warned that the most popular temples are also the most crowded. Getting a clean shot without any other people in it is a challenge.
- Head to these temples during off peak hours, or bike to another further vantage point (like the back entrance of Angkor Wat at sunset) to get the most of the experience.
- Unless you don’t mind waking up at 4:00 in the morning and waiting with hordes of other tourists to get exactly the same cliche shot of Angkor Wat, skip the sunrise tour.
- You can get a one-day ($20), three-day ($40), or seven-day ($60) pass to Angkor Archaeological Park. We opted for the 3-day pass so that we could take our time and appreciate the main temples at a leisurely pace.
- You don’t have to visit 3 days consecutively. The 3-day pass is valid for a week, while the 7-day pass is valid for a month, so it’s good to mix in some other activities in between your biking and visiting temples.
- Plan your route depending on what temples interest you the most and their proximity to each other.