An essential part of any visit to Cambodia is heading to the local and tourist markets to pick up souvenirs, haggle with the vendors and soak up the atmosphere.
The two main markets in Siem Reap city centre are the Old Market (Psar Chaa) and the Night Market.
The Old Market is quite large and you will see both tourists and locals shopping here. The outer stalls of the market are mostly food stalls and souvenir stands, and working your way from the outside to the inside, you can find anything from manicure booths, jewellery and precious gems, silverware, household goods and clothes.
In the centre of the Old Market, tourists will find the crazy hustle bustle of the wet market where haphazard stands and stalls sell fish, meat, vegetables and fruit. The smell is quite pungent and the sights are rather visceral, with bunches of raw chicken hanging off most stalls, fish being gutted and of course, the notably strong stench of shrimp paste. Of course, there always is the satisfaction of finding strange vegetables and fruit and witnessing the locals haggling, but the smell is off-putting for travellers with sensitive noses.
The Night Market is targeted towards tourists and is the most fun you can have after a few drinks, which are conveniently supplied by The Island Bar towards the back of the market. While you will only find the same souvenir tat at most stands, it only makes it easier to pick up the right item at the right price.
I 100% recommend haggling for the best price as the prices are often bumped up for tourists, and it is so much fun to walk away with an item that you got at the price you were willing to pay for it. Even a language barrier shouldn’t stop you, as I picked up some of the best bargains using a calculator or fingers to negotiate the price.
Dos and Don’ts
Do haggle- it’s expected and pretty much required at the markets.
Do buy in bulk to get the best price- buy 3 scarves and get a much lower price per item.
Do smile and be friendly, even when you’re saying no or being swarmed by sellers.
Don’t be afraid to walk away, especially if you’re not getting the price you’re willing to pay. You will probably find the same thing on another stall for a better price.
Don’t expect to win every time you haggle, and do remember that the difference in price is often a couple of dollars. Sometimes it’s not worth haggling for a couple of dollars in the roasting midday sun.