Renting an Apartment in Siem Reap
The rise of holiday rental websites such as HomeAway and rent-a-room sites like Airbnb and Roomorama have made it easy to rent short term properties and rooms in private homes around the world. Not so in Cambodia.
While it’s easy to get on to any number of holiday and apartment rental websites and make a booking to stay in a property almost anywhere in the world, from anything from three nights to three months, it’s almost next to impossible in Cambodia, which is why we’re providing this guide to renting an apartment in Siem Reap, arguably the country’s most livable city.
As you know, when we’re not testing out hotels for stories we’re writing, our preference will always be to try to learn to live like locals and we’ll always rent some local digs, whether it’s an apartment in a town or city or a house by the beach or in the country.
In Southeast Asia, we’ve rented apartments in Bangkok countless times and in Vietnam last year we had no problem finding an apartment to rent in Hanoi for two months. However, after we returned to Cambodia in June we found the task of finding a short-term rental apartment in Siem Reap a real challenge.
Initially, we had to do our usual hotel hopping for stories we were working on, but after we’d tried out some 40 boutique hotels in Cambodia – and having spent six months in hotels here and in Vietnam – we were well and truly ready to settle into an apartment with a kitchen.
We were keen on renting an apartment in Siem Reap for a month at first, as we weren’t sure whether we wanted to make Siem Reap or Phnom Penh our base for bouncing around Asia, so we were eager to test out both cities before committing to a long-term lease. We had rented a serviced apartment in Phnom Penh in 2012, but we didn’t love the apartment or the area, so we also wanted to give the Cambodian capital another shot.
In the end, after we spent six months searching – both online and in person, looking at serviced apartments, long-term apartment rentals and a house – and deciding we preferred Siem Reap to Phnom Penh as a base, we found a lovely light-filled apartment with a nice kitchen and balcony near the riverside in Temple Town that we’re already calling ‘home‘.
After trying two Siem Reap real estate agents, we ended up finding our little dream home on our own, online, and, jumping into a long-term lease. Ironically, it was another larger unit in the first apartment building we ever looked at, where we’d rejected a unit because it didn’t have a balcony. In hindsight, we should have contacted the owner directly to find out when other leases were due to expire and something might become available.
The problem with short-term apartments in Siem Reap is that of the two options typically available in most cities, serviced apartments and holiday rentals, the range is extremely limited and they’re expensive compared to other Asian cities. In most destinations around the world, it’s cheaper to rent an apartment for an extended holiday than stay in a hotel, but that’s not the case in Siem Reap. Long-term apartment rentals are an entirely different situation and more on those below.
You might also find this post on Our Tips to Renting Holiday Apartments – A Checklist useful.
Short-Term Apartment Rentals in Siem Reap
Serviced apartments in Siem Reap such as Karavansara Residences, Steung Siem Reap, Chateau d’Angkor La Residence, and Thavy Angkor Apartments are central, comfortable, spacious, and secure, however, they’re expensive compared to serviced apartments of a similar standard elsewhere.
Some of them feel more like hotels than serviced apartments, which is not what people who prefer to stay in apartments want, otherwise they’d just stay in hotels. The kitchens in most aren’t very well equipped when compared to apartments in other Asian cities. You’d be hard pressed to cook decent meals with the utensils available.
Chateau d’Angkor is lovely, in a colonial-inspired building near the Shinta Mani Hotel. It operates more like a hotel, however, with greater interest in higher-paying guests staying a few nights than people wanting to settle in for a while. Likewise, Steung Siem Reap, which is comfortable, if a little old-fashioned looking, and in a good location on Wat Bo Road, a block from the river, and handy to Old Market. They both have swimming pools.
Our favourite is Karavansara Residence, pictured above. It’s the most stylish and contemporary, with balconies overlooking the river and smart kitchens that are reasonably well equipped, although to do real cooking you’d still need to borrow, bring or buy additional utensils.
Karavansara feels more like a residential apartment building, which we like, but it’s attached to a hotel across the street so you have access to two pools and restaurant. We could have easily extended our two-night stay to two months.
The inclusion of utilities like electricity, water, Wi-Fi, and cable TV varies at each property, with some properties including some services in the rent but not others, so ask questions about what’s included and what the average costs are when you enquire so there are no nasty surprises at the end of your stay.
Rent for one-bedroom serviced apartments at the properties above averages at around US$145-180 per night or US$1,200-1,600 per month during high season. Rates are lower during the monsoonal low season.
Most properties only discount on their nightly rate if you stay a month, whereas Steung Siem Reap discounts for a weekly stay, so their one-bedroom apartment, which is $145 a night, is $650 for a week and $1,300 for a month. If you take out a 6-month lease, Steung Siem Reap reduces the rent to US$1,100 a month.
Still, while those prices might be fine for business travellers on expense accounts, they’re high for the average traveller, especially when compared to other cities in the region. The prices are on the high side for families and couples. In some cases, families and groups of foodie friends travelling together would be best booking a 2- or 3-bedroom apartment and splitting the rent.
There are a handful of slightly more affordable serviced apartments, such as Prestige Palace and Yanathyna, but they’re not the same level of quality or aren’t in as convenient a location. Prestige Palace, for instance, while close to the centre, is situated on Siem Reap’s busiest road, while Yanathyna much further from the centre, is on another of the busiest routes, Airport Road.
Steung Siem Reap
Chateau d’Angkor La Residence
Holiday Rentals and Rooms to Rent in Siem Reap
You only have to do a quick Cambodia search on sites such as HomeAway, FlipKey, Roomorama, and Airbnb and scan the results to see that the majority of properties on holiday rental and rent-a-room sites aren’t apartment rentals, houses or even rooms in private homes at all. While there are some on those sites, you’ll have to read the fine print to identify them.
The majority of properties on the sites are actually rooms in hotels, like these ‘holiday rentals’ in Phnom Penh on HomeAway and many of these short-term rentals in Siem Reap on Roomorama, and these on Airbnb. On Flipkey, this Siem Reap search result revealed hotel rooms, a homestay, one apartment, and a handful of expensive luxury villas.
When I first started looking for holiday rentals in Cambodia I would get so excited thinking I’d found a fabulous place with a stunning swimming pool for $60 a night – a great deal compared to what the serviced apartments charge – only to look more closely and find they were hotel rooms. Most that advertise ‘kitchens’ turn out to have little more than a mini bar and microwave, while ‘kitchenettes’ are often just mini bars with sinks.
Roomorama has several apartments listed in Kruos village off Airport Road as short-term rentals, such as these apartments for just $15-20 a night. The price looked too good to be true, but the owner never responded to my query.
A quick Google search revealed it was The Crystal Apartments and we happened to be staying nearby at the Anantara so we dropped by. They only had one apartment available – on a minimum six-month lease (their shortest rental period is 3 months) – and the manager didn’t even realize they were listed and said they had no relationship to Roomorama. I pointed this out to Roomorama, however, they declined to respond and the property was bewilderingly still listed at the time of writing this.
As you would have seen if you clicked through to any of those links above, there are very few affordable traditional holiday rentals, as in privately-owned apartments or houses, in Siem Reap. There were only a few expensive luxury villas when I researched this post.
Do see our post on How to Avoid Holiday Rental Scams too.
Long-Term Apartment and House Rentals
There are plenty of long-term rentals around in Siem Reap depending on the season. There are fewer rentals available during the cooler, winter high season and more available during the low monsoonal season. This is because many expats on short-term contracts, from NGO workers to archaeologists, skip town during the quieter, and often very wet, wet season.
Most landlords require that you commit to either a 6-month or 12-month lease, although some (few in our experience) will consider a 3-month lease. The longer you commit for the cheaper it will be. You will generally be required to pay a deposit/bond of 1- to 2-months rent plus one month’s rent in advance.
Some long-term rental properties come furnished, just like a serviced apartment, and might even include a television, washing machine, and fans if there is no air-conditioning. Others come empty but owners might be prepared to provide furniture if you take out a long lease. Some include services like cleaning and garbage collection, while others don’t, and utilities, such as satellite TV and WiFi, but not, say, electricity and water.
Landlords generally require utility bills to be paid monthly when you pay the rent. As with serviced apartments, ask lots of questions before you sign a lease about what utilities are included and what aren’t and how much they cost other tenants.
If anything is not up to scratch, chat to the owner about what you’d like fixed, changed or added, and begin negotiating. We found owners to be willing to add amenities or fixtures – even to put doorways in walls – to lock a tenant into a long-term lease.
Apartments in Siem Reap can rent from anything from US$350-500 per month for something basic and compact, but it probably won’t be centrally located. US$500-800 will get you something nicer, that’s furnished more tastefully, and is larger, with a balcony or terrace, and well located.
The cheaper apartments will probably be painted in candy colours, have a very rustic kitchen (i.e. a concrete bench with a small portable gas stove), and be decorated with elaborately carved, heavy wooden furniture and older fixtures. The more expensive apartments are generally more Western in style, with cleaner lines, and a higher quality finish.
Pay from US$800-$1,000 and you’ll get a big, modern, centrally-located apartment or a large, new, several-bedroom house, while up to $1,500 will get you a massive multi-bedroom modern villa or beautifully renovated, traditional-style Khmer house with lovely gardens and a swimming pool.
You may also be lucky to find an un-renovated traditional Khmer timber house on stilts for as little as US$300 a month, however, these may not have air-conditioning (although there will be fans) and will have very rustic kitchens or kitchenettes, generally located downstairs and sometimes outside the house. For US$500-700 a month, they will have air-conditioning, better kitchens and a nicer finish.
If you’re after a real bargain, you can sometimes find Cambodian owners renting out their first floor for around $150 and they will live downstairs.
Houses come with their own set of challenges. They aren’t as secure, so you’ll probably need to hire a security guard and the maintenance/cleaning will require a handyman or cleaner, if the family doesn’t live on site. The houses may come with or without furniture, but one thing is for certain, the more you pay the better the kitchens will be.
We tried two different Siem Reap real estate agents as they generally had different listings, although there was occasionally overlap. We tried Samuel White from Independent Property Services and Fabien Lesecq from Siem Reap Properties. Both are available by email or phone via their website and will meet you and drive you around to look at properties.
Independent Property Services
Siem Reap Properties
Alternative Search Options
Expats have told us that they also had success putting the word out amongst tuk tuk (remork) drivers or hiring a driver to go looking for properties for them and then drive them around to inspect them once they identified a few. Some people have also found rental properties by checking noticeboards such as that outside Angkor Market, expat forums and Facebook pages, which are handy if you only want a room in a shared house.
For serviced apartments, the standard one-month visa will suffice, however, for short-term and longer-term rentals you will need to have a one-year business visa. To obtain the one-year extension, make sure that when you get your Cambodian visa at the border, airport or online that you opt for the US$25 Business Visa (Type E), not the usual US$20 Tourist Visa that most travellers obtain.
A travel agent can extend the Tourist Visa by one month for you (ours cost US$44 per person), however, you cannot then transfer from the Tourist Visa to the Cambodian Business Visa, which means if you entered the country on a Tourist Visa you will have to exit the country and re-apply for a Business Visa when you cross the border back into Cambodia again.
With the US$25 Business Visa (Type E) stamp you can hand over your passport to a good travel agent in Cambodia who can arrange your 12-month Business Visa. Ours cost US$284 per person and only took a few days.
There are many travel agents in Siem Reap who can do this for you, however, we’ve been using the sweet Sopheak from Sopheak Na Travel & Tours for the past 18 months. She also arranges a car and driver for us when we need to go to Battambang or Poipet on the border (US$35 one way, US$60 return)
Sopheak Na Travel & Tours
If you have had a different experience to us renting an apartment in Siem Reap or have additional tips to share or questions to ask, we’d love to hear from you in the Comments below. We’re here for a while.
Update Sept 2014: the visas will rise to US$30 and US$35 in October 2014.