One of the more unique and underrated things to do in Siem Reap is biking through the countryside or through rural villages with a local guide. It was one of the most unexpectedly enjoyable and underrated activities I did while traveling in Southeast Asia.
Here, I share tips on doing a bike tour in Siem Reap and what you can expect and pack for it.
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Why Bike in Siem Reap?
Some reasons why Siem Reap is a great place to cycle through include:
- Siem Reap is small. You can cover a lot of ground by pedaling for 2-4 hours around the city. Wat Athvear on Siem Reap’s southern border and Angkor Wat in the north are only ~6.5 miles apart. In between them are 50+ other temples within biking distance.
- Siem Reap is flat. Siem Reap doesn’t have any hills in the city or in the rural areas, making it a great place to cycle.
- Siem Reap’s dirt roads become accessible on a bike. Many of the roads are inaccessible to vehicles like tuk-tuks or buses since they go through jungles or around temples, but you can access these roads on a bike.
This Siem Reap travel guide outlines more travel tips for the city.
Why Bike in Siem Reap With a Local Guide?
If you decide to bike in Siem Reap, you can rent a bike and do it on your own, or you can hire a local guide. Some reasons why you might want to do the latter include:
- The local guide knows the area. With 50+ temples in Siem Reap and biking access to both the city and countryside, it can be overwhelming to plan your own biking path.
My guide was familiar with two biking routes that had different sceneries and stopping points, and he let us choose between the two options (heading north vs. south). There’s a chance your guide will do the same if you have a small group.
Note that a common bike route is to head south to Tonlé Sap Lake. When I researched biking routes, many reviewers said that tourist stops there were not pleasant (e.g., kids begging for money, taking your picture and demanding money). My guide also said heading south would be biking on more roads with cars instead of dirt with no cars.
- The local guide knows the traffic patterns that you might not be accustomed to. Regardless if you’re an inexperienced or seasoned biker, Southeast Asia is known for road patterns and norms that are overwhelming and confusing to visitors. Cambodia is not an exception. A local guide will help direct traffic and keep you safe. I’m comfortable biking in certain US cities, but would have had a hard time navigating around Siem Reap.
- You’re supporting a local. Despite Siem Reap getting over 2 million visitors annually, 45% of the population lives under the poverty line. Siem Reap is consistently one of the poorest areas in Cambodia. The pandemic hit the city particularly hard and a vast number of tour workers didn’t have work for years.
If you decide to bike in Siem Reap with a local guide, make sure you have some biking experience since the roads can get hectic and bumpy.
Siem Reap’s Bike Tours at a Glance
Here are general information on bike tours you’ll find in Siem Reap.
🚲 The two types of bike tours offered are:
- Angkor Wat sunrise and/or other temple bike tours. The focus of the bike tour is Angkor Wat and other nearby temples. Here’s an example of a highly-rated temple bike tour.
- Countryside bike tours. The focus of the bike tour are the backroads, often featuring rice fields and rural villages. Here’s an example of a highly-rated countryside bike tour.
I took a chance on this countryside bike tour that had less than 5 reviews at the time and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience. I highly recommend this tour. The rest of this article will focus on countryside bike tours.
⏳ Tour duration: Most Siem Reap bike tours will take half a day (~4-5 hours) and you can find some that will take a full day (~8 hours). My bike tour was marketed as taking ~5 hours, but since it became a private tour (only my partner and I signed up), the guide, Samnang, was generous and extended it to a full day (~8 hours).
🚵🏻♀️ Miles covered: Half-day tours in the countryside will cover 8-10 miles, depending on the guide’s assessment of the group’s wants and fitness level. There are full-day tours that will cover over 20 miles (here’s an example of one). I biked ~12 miles during my tour.
💰 Tour cost: Siem Reap bike tours will mostly be in the $30-$60 range. The tour I took was $30 and I added a 25% tip since the guide extended the hours.
This Siem Reap trip cost breakdown shows all my travel expense details.
What to Expect on Siem Reap’s Bike Tour
Here’s what you can expect from a typical countryside or rural village bike tour:
- Early start time. Most tours, regardless if they are half-day or full-day, will have an early 7:30am or 8am start time. Meetup locations will vary. My guide met me at my accommodation with bikes and helmets based on my stated height.
- Red dirt roads passing through rural villages. You’ll bike on red dirt roads, some which will be flat and some that can be very bumpy. Sections of the bike ride will be flanked by local homes, schools and markets, giving you perspective on how some locals live.
- Lunch or snack stop. Expect a lunch or snack stop along the way. Bring extra water if you can (see what to pack below).
- Rice fields. Most, if not all, tours will include biking through peaceful rice fields while the guide explains how rice harvesting works. My guide even gave me the opportunity to harvest some rice with the farmers.
- Some interaction with locals. If your tour guide is connected to the village, you’ll have the opportunity to have some interactions with locals (e.g., shop owners, basket weavers, farmers), translated through the guide.
- Cultural stopping point. Most tours will feature certain stopping points (e.g., floating villages, temples, etc). My tour stopped at a temple and at the home of a basket-weaving family, where we got to learn about their family history.
One bonus about booking a small tour is that the guide invited us into his home to meet his family at the end of the tour. We got some drinks and had an eye-opening and humbling conversation with his French wife.
What to Pack and Wear on Siem Reap’s Bike Tour
- Sunscreen. You’ll be out in the sun with little to no cover for 4+ hours, so make sure to wear sunscreen. I use and recommend this highly-rated sports sunscreen that applies easily.
- Mosquito repellent. Disease-carrying mosquitos are not uncommon in Siem Reap and mosquito activity is high in this area. As someone who gets bitten a lot, I find that this insect repellent lotion works better than spray alternatives I’ve tried.
- An accessible small bag. You’ll want your phone to be accessible for photos or at the very least, protected from rain in case it rains. I brought this waterproof, crossbody phone pouch, which was helpful because it did rain on us briefly.
- Rain jacket (optional). If you’re traveling during the rainy season in Siem Reap, which runs from May to November, you might want to consider bringing a light rain jacket. I didn’t need one for my bike ride, but I traveled with this rain jacket for Southeast Asia.
- Closed-toe shoes. Your shoes will get dusty, sandy and potentially muddy, so keep that in mind. I wore my running shoes to give you an idea of what types of shoes is appropriate.
- Shorts. Siem Riep is humid, especially during the wet season. If you want a bit more mosquito protection, consider wearing leggings or athletic pants.
- Athletic top. Same advice as above.
- Water (optional). The guide will have water for you and there will be beverage stops along the way, but if you want to bring extra water, they don’t discourage that.
- Cash. Bring some cash for tipping and buying snacks along the way.
If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below.
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