A trip to Cambodia wouldn’t be complete without going to Angkor Wat…and actually, a trip to Angkor Wat might be what entices you to go to Cambodia in the first place. Located in Siem Reap, the temple complex is a massive outstretch of buildings, monasteries, temples—you name it—just waiting to be explored. And if you’re like me, you may just underestimate this place if you haven’t done your research. So here’s a breakdown of everything (I could think of) that you need to know.
Angkor Wat Tickets:
Your driver will ask you if you have bought a ticket already and if you haven’t, he will stop by the office first. The complex is open from 5:00am to 5:30pm relatively. By that, I mean that sometimes the time is a bit lenient for sunrise/sunset seekers.
1-day ticket: $20
3-day ticket: $40
7-day ticket: $60 (I think this is more for the die-hard researchers, photographers etc. You can definitely see everything you want to in less than 3 days)
Something to note: IF you buy your ticket after 4pm (for the next day) you will have access to the temples that evening for sunset. You DO NOT have to buy a 3-day ticket like I did and gift the complex an extra $20.
What to wear:
Some parts of the complex don’t have strict requirements, which is nice when it’s blazing hot outside. But you definitely want to bring a pair of lightweight pants (sarongs won’t always cut it) and wear a top that covers your shoulders.
What to Bring:
Apart from the right attire, you may also want to bring a poncho or rain coat if you visit during rainy season, sunblock because it gets HOT, water so you don’t faint and lunch/snacks (though there are places to buy food).
How to get around:
In short, Angkor Wat is comprised of over 1,000 temples. So can you walk around it? No. Unless you want to wreak unnecessary pain on your unsuspecting body.
Rent a bicycle, but only if you want to wreak pain on your unsuspecting body. Just kidding. Some people actually do rent bicycles and I’m sure it’s a nice leisurely way to see the temples, but so is riding in the back of a tuk-tuk. If you wanted to bike around the temples, you would probably need a longer time to explore as you wouldn’t be able to cover as much in 1 day. BUT, it’s also cheaper. You can rent a bike for $1-3.
*I was also dropped off and picked up at different locations at some of the temples. If you choose to ride a bicycle, I think you would have to back track at times.
Hire a motorbike taxi for $6-10 (that would probably get you to just a few main temples). Also, this is really only an option if you are traveling solo.
Hire a tuk-tuk. $15 for one circuit or about $25 for both circuits. I opted for the tuk-tuk, which was a great option. My driver was very flexible to how long I wanted to stay and gave me great tour-guide-like information. Plus, I always knew which tuk-tuk was mine since it said HONEYMOON TUK TUK on the side (did I mention I was traveling solo?).
Hire a taxi for about $20-30 a day, maybe more. The upside to this is comfort, maybe AC and a quicker ride.
*If you hire a guide, it would probably be an additional cost of $20-30. But like I said, my tuk-tuk driver gave me a brief overview before I pulled up to each place.
There is a big and small circuit that will take you around to most of the main temples and then some. And if there happens to be some that aren’t included in the circuits, I’m sure you could bargain for the inclusion.
The circuits include:
Small Circuit (17km long)- Angkor Thom, Ta Phrohm, Banteay Kdei, Baphuon Temple, The Terrace of the Leper King, The Terrace of the Elephants, The Twelve Prasats, Spean Thma, Sras Srang and Ta Nei.
Big Circuit (an extension of the small circuit at 26 km long)- Preah Khan, Preah Neak Pean, Ta Som, Preah Rup and East Mebon.
I chose to do both circuits combined in one day that started at 4:45am. Some temples I spent a lot of time at and others I simply walked through and walked back. The entire day lasted until about 3pm and I felt as if I had seen everything I wanted to.
Sunset and Sunrise Tips:
I was told to leave for the main temple at 4:30 and actually left at about 4:45am. I made it to the temple complex in pitch dark and JUST managed to get a front row spot at the lake. Had I of come a few minutes later, I would have been standing behind several rows of people. But regardless of if you are a morning person or not, GO. You can afford one early morning for a shot like this:
For sunrise: Angkor Wat main temple.
Likewise, if you want to see the sunset, go early. They close access at 5:30pm and some of the temples have a line that will only let a certain number of people up at a time. I waited in line for at least 45 minutes, got in right before the cut off and had to sprint up several flights of stairs to see the sun disappear in 4 seconds.
For Sunset: Ta Keo has 5 levels perfect for catching the sunset or Phnom Bakheng, which has panoramic views of the surrounding temples.
In an attempt to avoid information overload…
stay tuned for a comprehensive guide on the Temples of Angkor Wat!