Luxury for less in Siem Reap means a 5-course gastronomic tasting menu at a fine dining restaurant for as little as US$24, a three-hour spa package priced at US$65, and chic boutique hotels starting from as little as US$50 in low season.
Our Luxury for Less in Siem Reap guide is the first in a new series of posts on Luxury for Less in Southeast Asia aimed at showcasing destinations in Southeast Asia where you can pamper yourself silly with a proper luxury holiday for far less than you’d pay in Paris, London or New York.
My inspiration was a recent New York Times Travel piece on How to Have a Luxury Trip for Much Less Than You Think (see the link above) which suggested US$400 a night hotels and $32 museum tickets and recommended making savings by walking everywhere, skipping dinner and eating lunch instead, cooking in, and even eating at food courts.
Fortunately, you can experience luxury for less in Siem Reap, Cambodia, without having to sacrifice dinner and you’ll be doing it in a destination that needs your dollars. Here’s how to do it…
Luxury for Less in Siem Reap from $24 Gourmet Menus to $70 Boutique Hotels
The prices below are based on booking site search results for a weekend from a month from now, on Friday 14 September 2018. Siem Reap is in the midst of low season, from May to October, which is the cheapest time to visit. While you’ll pay more during high season, which is the dry season, from November to April, you’ll still pay far less than you would for luxury hotels in Europe, North America or Australia.
Best Time to Visit for Luxury for Less in Siem Reap
The best time of year to experience luxury for less in Siem Reap is low season from May to October. While this is the rainy season in Cambodia, sometimes several days can pass without rain and during the wettest months it never rains all day. When it does, there’s plenty to do indoors. You’ll still find stylish mid-range hotels during the dry/high season from November to April that offer a measure of luxury for less in Siem Reap than you’d pay in Bangkok or Chiang Mai.
Where to Stay for Luxury for Less in Siem Reap
Most hotels include breakfast. For five-star luxury, majestic Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor oozes history, has a huge pool and plush rooms for US$182 next month. At atmospheric Sala Lodges you can have a beautiful traditional timber house to yourself for US$188. Elegant Jaya House River Park, home to two pools and a fine restaurant, has rooms for US$229. Maison Polanka has rooms in two traditional wooden houses in lush gardens for US$183. Templation, in sprawling gardens with an enormous pool, has rooms for US$163 while there are flamboyant rooms at Bill Bensley designed Shinta Mani Shack (and another big pool) for US$133. Chic Viroth’s, named world’s best boutique hotel two years in a row, has gorgeous rooms for US$110. The Aviary, a stylish design hotel is sold out on the dates I checked but has availability in October for US$127.
If you’re a fan of the big global five-star brands, then Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort has spacious rooms for US$186 and Le Meridien Angkor has rooms for as low as US$120; both are located on the road to the temples. For something more centrally located, riverside Belmond La Residence has a gorgeous deep-green swimming pool and rooms for US$271, while another Bill Bensley designed hotel, Park Hyatt Siem Reap, in the heart of the busy commercial centre, is offering rooms for US$192 in September.
For even more affordable luxury, the upper mid-range boutique hotel category is where you’ll really find the luxury for less in Siem Reap bargains for around US$70. The serene Hillocks Hotel and Spa has super-spacious rooms and a stunning pool overlooking a rice paddy for US$66 including breakfast, as does the charming Rambutan Resort, which has a Mediterranean vibe. On the riverside, sleek Lynnaya Urban River Resort offers rooms with breakfast (and has a lovely rooftop bar) for US$68.
A little out of town, the stylish rooms at Anjali by Syphon are US$72 while Navutu Dreams Resort, which has two pools, a spa and wellness programme, has spacious rooms for US$82. In a serene village set amongst the rice fields, Sojourn Boutique Villas has garden accommodation around the pool for US$94. Drop another category and you’ll find plenty of perfectly comfortable and cute little hotels in the US$40-50 bracket.
Book a Luxury for Less in Siem Reap Package
While you can book a room at the five-star Anantara Angkor Resort on the same date for US$298 a night on booking.com, there’s a better deal on Luxury Escapes for A$999 (US$729) for 2 people for 4 nights (which works out to A$249/US$ 182 per night) including private airport transfers, daily breakfast, dinner for two at their Cambodian restaurant, daily happy hour drinks and canapés, two 15-minute foot spas and two 60-minute massages, full-day tour to Angkor Wat and other temples in a private car with an archaeological guide, complimentary mini bar, including icy cold beers and snacks, your own mobile phone with international calls, and complimentary tuk-tuk from 7am-11pm. Note that this deal expires in 5 days but Luxury Escapes frequently offers fantastic Siem Reap packages.
Siem Reap Airport Transfers
For a comfortable airport transfer, the first thing you should do is ask your hotel what they can offer, especially during low season when many will throw in complimentary transfers. Some of the hotels, above, include airport transfers, while others charge an additional fee of $15-25. Always check the price, as some of the big brand hotels charge as much as US$110 for a one-way airport transfer. Hotels such as Viroths send luxurious vintage vehicles. Otherwise, transport can easily be arranged at the glass booth at airport arrivals for US$10-15 (depending on vehicle size and where you’re going) or you can book an airport transfer online (US$14) before you leave home for peace of mind.
Experience Angkor Wat and the Temples in Style
I adore trundling through Angkor Archaeological Park on a breezy tuk tuk, but if you’re looking for luxury for less in Siem Reap you will probably want more comfortable transport, freedom and flexibility so book a private air-conditioned car and driver (US$38 for 8 hours). For an organised programme, you could book a full day private temple tour by jeep with an English speaking archaeological guide, and pick-up and drop-off at your hotel from US$48 per person.
Note that you will also have to purchase a one-day Angkor Pass for US$37 per person, although better value is the 3-day pass at US$62. You can also arrange a private tour with an archaeological guide and comfortable air-conditioned car or charming tuk tuk through your hotels. (We can also recommend excellent guides and drivers.)
For some added luxury, ask the hotel to pack a breakfast, morning tea or lunch hamper (with a bottle of bubbly perhaps), which you could enjoy on the lawn overlooking the Angkor Wat moat. Or ask your guide to take you to one of the empty, lesser-known temples that are often devoid of tourists. Good hotels will ensure drivers have iced water, cold scented towels and umbrellas for shade as much as rain, but take fans for extra comfort.
Another way of experiencing Angkor is on the water, with a serene sunset cruise on the still moat around Angkor Thom on a replica of an ancient gondola. While you can book a boat ride only (90 minutes) for US$35 per person including pick up and drop off from your hotel, Kongkear Angkor offers cruises with lunch, high tea, or canapes and cocktails.
For a breathtaking birds-eye-view of Angkor Wat and the other Angkor temples, take a scenic helicopter flight with Helistar Cambodia, which starts at US$99 for an 8-minute flight, US$165 for a 14-minute flight, and US$240 for a 20-minute flight. Helicopters Cambodia offers a ‘Grand’ 30-minute flight which also includes the Rolous Group of temples and the floating villages for US$335.
Savour Lunch and Dinner at Siem Reap’s Best Restaurants
When it comes to dining, you can easily experience luxury for less in Siem Reap without having to forego dinner as the New York Times experts suggested you’d need to do to experience luxury for less in some destinations. Siem Reap hosts some of the country’s best Cambodian Restaurants, including fine dining restaurants experimenting with what we’ve called New Cambodian Cuisine.
Meals for two with creative cocktails can cost as little as US$40 at one of the lovely hospitality training restaurants such as Spoons or Marum, while the bill for a feast for two of home-style Cambodian cooking and a bottle of wine at Sugar Palm need not be more than US$60. An array of dishes at celebrity chef Luu Meng’s Malis restaurant and a good bottle of wine (they have one of the best wine lists in the city) might come close to US$100 but it could just be your best meal in Cambodia.
For a gourmand’s experience of luxury for less in Siem Reap, you need to savour a multi-course gourmet tasting menu at one of Siem Reap’s most creative restaurants, such as Mie Cafe, where chef Pola is serving an elegant Euro-Cambo fusion cuisine; Embassy, where female head chefs Pol and Sok are experimenting with contemporary local cuisine; Mahob Khmer, where chef Sothea’s team are dishing up Modern Cambodian takes on traditional dishes; and French-helmed Cuisine Wat Damnak, named Cambodia’s Best Restaurant by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants two years in a row. You’ll pay US$24-28 for 5-6 course tasting menus with an amuse bouche at these restaurants.
Luxuriate at a Siem Reap Spa
There’s perhaps no better example of how well you can experience luxury for less in Siem Reap than a spa package. The city is home to scores of serene spas – both independent and at hotels and resorts – that rival any in Thailand or Bali and they’re amazingly affordable. A massage by a qualified masseuse starts at as little as US$24, while body treatments such as scrubs and wraps start at US$32. At Bodia Spa, considered to be Cambodia’s best by many, you can indulge in a 3-hour Tropical Moisturising Package for US$66 including a foot cleansing, massage, mango wrap, fruit facial, and body hydrating. Serene Sokkhak Spa offers a 60-minute Khmer Herbal Compress Massage for US$32 or a 3-hour Khmer Inspiration Package with a traditional Khmer massage and natural rice scrub among other aromatic treatments.
Book Siem Reap Tours and Experiences
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