Everything you need to know when visiting to Angkor Wat
Appearing on the Nation’s flag, Angkor Wat is the most famous out of the hundreds of surviving temples within the huge complex. Voted the best tourist attraction of 2015 by Lonely Planet, it really is easy to see why.
The temple was the capital of the ancient Khmer civilization, and is the spiritual home of the Hindu god Vishnu. Noone truly knows the exact reason for the empire’s downfall. Althought scientists suggest during the 15th century, intense rains and never-ending droughts caused incorrigible damage to the city’s infrastructure.
Discovered by Henri Mouhot in the middle of the last century, as he explored deep into the rainforests of South East Asia. He was completely dumbstruck the epic scale of the complex. He remarked in his diary, ”It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome”
Things to See and Do
It’s definitely worthwhile dedicating the first day, to exploring Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. The temples are gigantic but you will sufficient time to scale to the top of the temples and admire the incredible artwork. The temples are fully restored and the ancient inscriptions are largest of its kind in the world.
Starting your walk at Anghor Wat, you’ll cross the moat that cocoons the temple. Exploring the different tiers and weaving through the corridors will soon leave you exhausted. There are plenty of areas in which you can relax and have a coffee/food to recharge.
Then make you way to the South Gate and on to the Bayon Temple.
Bayon and Angkor Wat are the busiest of all the temples. It’s a short 2 km between the two and after the movie Tomb Raider, Ta Prohm is a popular spot as well. There are so many other temples within the complex and just because those three temples are where everyone goes, they may not be the best ones. You should explore for yourself and see what you stumble across.
Keep Close to your Driver
Tuk tuk drivers leave you at one side of the temple and pick you up on another side. Just make sure you remember what he looks like, his number plate and his name!
Onwards to Elephant Terrace
A short walk from Bayon is the Elephant terrace, along a pristine route hugged by tree and lake you get the chance to enjoy some nature. Just be careful of the monkeys! They are well accustomed in the trickery of taking food from tourists.
Five other things to enjoy around Anghor Wat
1. East Mebon
What marks this temple out are the five towers. Climbing to the central platform gives you a chance to see stonework murals that decorate the temple’s interior.
2. Preah Khan
Famous for a large Buddhist university, that once stood within the site. Over 1000 teachers are thought to have studied there. One of the largest sites in the complex has been left virtually untouched, as the natural elements have taken hold with trees growing throughout.
3. Pre Rup
Once the centre of a long extinct city that has disappeared. It’s possible to climb the three tiers of the pyramid and let your imagination run wild over how it once would have been. The temple built by King Rajendravarman to commemorate his coronation.
4. Preah Ko (Sacred Bull)
It’s a comparably long distance to get to this one. Situated about 14 km from Anghor Wat. This temple was the first in the city of Hariharalaya.
5. Srah Srang
This is a popular swimming spot, named as ‘The Royal Baths’. An ancient spot where people have come to refresh for centuries.
6. Gate of Taku
Getting there for Sunrise
It may take some effort, but getting to Angkor Wat for sunrise is the most beautiful way to the temple. Besides the fewer people, witnessing the sun piercing through the temple spires gives you feeling of years gone by.
Many people who do the 2 or 3 day pass, leave the temple for the second day. The first day you can dedicate for the temples and it also gives you a good idea of where you want to stand for the morning after to best witness the sunrise.
If you are planning to do a one day visit, it’s enough time to see Angkor Wat. Especially if you start the day early with the sunrise experience!
People start lining up around 4.15 am and at 5 a.m. people start to enter the park. The most popular spot to stand in anticipation of the new day is in front of the lake facing the temple. It is agonizing as with each passing second more of the temples secrets are revealed as the sun slowly rises.
Some people have said, its worth waiting for the second day to watch the sunrise so you know where you need to get to. We watched the sunrise on our first day and not knowing at all what to expect meant more anticipation and appreciation. It’s not hard to find where you need to go, as people congregate in the same place so just follow the people in front.
Once you are at the lake, people jostle for good position. We heard plenty of arguments as people invaded each other’s spaces; Stand your ground!
The reason why people were so keen to get to the lake soon became apparent. The most striking image was the mirror image of the spires that were reflected in the lake.
What Time Does Angkor Wat Open?
The site opens from 5 am to 6pm everyday. The tickets will have your name and photo on them, and at times security will ask to see your tickets. Have them ready to show at the entrance of some of the ruins.
How much does it cost to enter Angkor Wat?
- 1-day pass – $37 USD
- 3-day pass – $62 USD (has to be used within a week)
- 7-day pass – $72 USD (has to be used within a month)
Can I get into Angkor Wat Without Paying?
Travel Costs For Angkor Wat
Note: the local currency real is rarely used, apart for street food and generally cheap things. Dollars ($) are used mostly.
For people on a budget, eating street food or cooking your own meals is the best way to keep costs low. Assuming you are also staying in a hostel and renting a bike, expect to pay $50 for the dollar (includes a ticket for Angkor Wat)
For the medium budget, expect to pay around $90. For this you’ll be able to eat in restaurants, hire your own tuk-tuk driver for the day and have your own private room.
For a high end budget expect to pay over $200 for the day. This would a include a night in a luxury hotel, eating out in nice places and having a full guided tour of the site (this costs $30 for the day)
Check these top rated options on hostelworld.com:
The Siem Reap Hostel ($8 a night)
Onederz Siem Reap ($8 a night)
Mad Monkey Siem Reap (5$ a night)
Lub d Cambodia Siem Reap ($10 a night)
Unity Hostel ($4 a night)
Funky Flashpacker Siem Reap ($5 a night)
Cheap Hotel prices – For a twin room expect to pay around $12, includes air con and hot water. For a double it will be closer to $15. If you fancy a pool, there are a few hotels costing around $20 a night for it. I stayed with someone from couchsurfing but it wasn’t too comfortable. There are also options on airbnb but these aren’t too cheap, costing around $20 for shared accommodation and considerably more for your own house or apartment.
These hotels are top rated on booking.com for this price range
Costings for food
This varies hugely depending on the type of restaurant you go to. Street food (Fruits, rice with veggies and meat) was around 2-3$, it wasn’t too bad. Restaurants were around $5 to 10$. There are lots of different cuisines catering for the tourist’s tastes.
Where To Stay
Siem Reap is the most visited city in Cambodia to its proximity to Angkor Wat. This means plenty of hotels. Mostly all of them are based in the center of the city, close to necessary amenities like restaurants and attractions. The center is very condensed so takes little time getting around.
How to Dress
Dress conservatively. Remember this is primarily a religious site, so make sure you cover your shoulders and don’t show off too much of your legs.
The climate is humid and combined with the walking around, you will get very hot and sweaty. Light clothing is a must.
Money Saving Tips
Quick tip regarding the land border (both with Vietnam and Thailand), make sure you only pay $30 for the visa. There are plenty of scammers asking for another 5$ or 10$ so they can process your application faster. This is really no need to do it.
There are lots of other scams that go on at the border so be aware. Make sure your visa is legit by getting it direct from the main building on the border. Locals will often say they can do it for you for an extra cost and take away your passport whilst you are queuing. Do not listen to them.
Some bus companies will only drop you off at the border, so make completely sure that they are taking you directly to Siem Reap before you get on.
There are plenty of food stalls at Angkor Wat but they are expensive. So if you want to keep food costs low, it’s wise to ask the hotel to prepare your breakfast to go or bring food and water along with you. Hotels also know how much Tuk-Tuk drivers cost, so let them organize it for you.
What is the best way to get around Angkor Wat?
First and foremost the temple complex is humongous. There is no way in you walk around it, let alone in the blistering heat. The government has made it illegal for tourists to drive around the park, so you have to either hire a bicycle for the day or pay for a Tuk Tuk drive to take you around.
If you are thinking about cycling, its exhausting so don’t expect to see everything in one day. Although it’s really fun going down the various paths around the temples. You have more independence as you can stop when and where you want.
The two ways to get around
Bicycle Rental – lot’s of hire shops around the city, expect to pay around $2 for the day.
Tuks-Tuks and Hired Drivers – Providing you are in a group, it is a good option. Expect to pay around $25 for the day for up to 4 people. The day is made easy, as they pick you up from the hotel and drop you off back at the end of the day. The drivers know the park inside out, and providing they speak English maybe able to teach you along the way. Leave it to the hotel to organise, as that way you are less likely to get scammed.
Cycling Around The Huge Temple Complex
Having already arrived in Siem Reap with my bike, I didn’t need to rent one for the day which can be easily done from any hostel. Cycling around Angkor Wat is one of the best things, I’ve ever done. The surrounding grounds of the three temples; Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and the Ta Prohm Temples are full of really interesting alcoves and routes to take which the usual tourist would not see. So even though it’s not possible to enter the main complexes with the bike, you’ll for sure not be disappointed.
Just remember to bring plenty of water and sun cream as the sun gets really strong, especially during the middle of the day. The best place to check out are the ruins near the Bayon temple. Please check out my pictures from the day.
When To Go to Angkor Wat?
To avoid the rainy season, it’s best to visit the temple between November to March. During the other months of the year, the fractionally fewer people and cooler air are good but the frequent monsoons makes it difficult getting around from the temples. April is said to be the hottest month of the year (Average 31°C daily temperature) with high humidity, so best to avoid then.
December and January are the best months to travel, as climate changes from the rainy season into the dry season.
As long as you aren’t planning to see sunrise, getting to the temple for 8 a.m. is a good time to start your day’s exploring. It doesn’t really matter too much though, if you visit during the morning or afternoon it’s still roughly the same experience (although the shadows do look nice, as the sun is going down)
Witnessing the sunset is special experience. As long as you buy your ticket after 5 pm, you are allowed to enter the park without using the days that you have paid for. It would be best to focus on the sunset experience, and leave the real exploring for another day if that’s the case.
Staying Safe at Angkor Wat
South East Asia is safe generally and Cambodia is no exception. The only thing to consider, i guess like any country is petty theft. Bag snatching and pickpockets (scams of distraction often happen) especially. Always keep an eye on your stuff, this isn’t Japan!
Perhaps at times street children can become aggressive if you don’t oblige them by buying something off them. Just steer clear of them.
Lastly, it’s hot and humid so it goes without saying to keep hydrated.
Best Places to Book Your Trip
The only place to get tickets or tours is from the ticket office in town. Do not trust anyone else who says they can book it for you!
Located on the road that connects Siem Reap city to the archeological site, the ticket office is the place where you can also hire guides. If you plan to watch the sunrise, and have only one day planned it’s best to get the ticket the night before. This will make the morning run alot smoother by avoiding the lines.
Make sure to bring your passport, when you buy your pass. You can’t get it without it. You can pay in the following currencies; US$, Cambodian, Thai, Euros. They also accept payment by card (Discover, Visa, Mastercard, Union Pay, JCB, Diners Club).
Gear and Packing List
- Bring mosquito repellent, sunscreen and bottles of water
- Get the hotel to prepare the breakfast to go
- Don’t forget a flashlight for the early morning.