Angkor Wat forms a small but majestic part of the incredible Angkor Archeological Park. When visiting Siem Reap in Cambodia, coming to Angkor Wat is an integral part of the journey but you should make sure to see other equally spectacular areas of the park as well. In the complex you are able to see beautiful old monasteries, forests, city walls, gates and moats, as well as the temple background of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Although Angelina Jolie has been replaced by thousands of camera-weilding tourists, so you will need the know-how to get the most out of your time here. Luckily, Backpacker's Guide To The Galaxy has got your back.
What's the deal with tickets to Angkor Wat?
Tickets to the Angkor Archeological Park do not come cheap, but you can maximise your time there to get the best return for your money.
1 day pass: $20USD
3 day pass: $40USD
7 day pass: $60USD
The multi-day tickets do not have to be used on consecutive days, but your ticket will have a photo of you on it so you cannot swap tickets with your mates. This was obviously devastating for us because wow, that would have been a real money saver.
You cannot just buy a ticket for Angkor Wat, but will need to buy a ticket for the whole complex. Trust us, this is worthwhile though because there is so much to see and the quieter temples are often the most rewarding experiences.
Hack if you get a one-day pass in the late afternoon the day prior to your full-day visit to Angkor Archeological Park, you can enter the park after 5pm to watch the sunset.
How should I get around?
Angkor Wat and the Angkor Archeological Park are quite far out of Siem Reap, so you will need to find a method of transport to get there. Once you are in the Park, there are many temples but they are spaced far from each other so walking is not a practical option.
Tuktuks cost different amounts depending on how much of the Angkor Archeological Park you want to see. These can be arranged from your hotel and hostel (or from the hundreds on the street) and if you get a nice driver they will even tell you some information about the complex and Khmer history.
- Small tour ($15USD) will take you to the main four temples in the complex
- Small tour with sunrise ($17USD) is the same as above but will start around 5:00am
- Big tour ($20USD) takes you further through the park up to Preah Khan and some other quiet temples
- Grand tour ($25USD) will take you through the itinerary of both small and big tours
E-bikes can be rented from Siem Reap and cost $10USD a day, but you will have the flexibility to go to whichever temples you like within the complex (as opposed to an organised tuktuk tour). If you are 1 or 2 people, this option could be cheaper.
Depending on where you rent your bicycle from, prices range from $1-$4USD. This will involve a bit of manpower to see the temples but the roads are flat and you will save a lot of money.
Organised tours run out of Siem Reap and there are a huge variety of companies going at different prices. You can do these organised tours in buses, SUVs, minivans, etc. depending on which one you book.
READ MORE: Cambodia Destination Guide
Which temples to visit?
The busiest and most famous temple. This is where many people arrive for sunrise to capture the famous stone spires with the vibrant dawn colours in the background. Angkor Wat is actually very large and full of amazing stonework, so spend at least an hour wandering around here and looking at the details.
The largest of all archeological complexes making it nearly the size of modern day Siem Reap town! Here Bayon temple with its intricate stone carvings on the outer walls is located. These carvings depict both Khmer lifestyle in the temples hey day and war depictions. To get a quiet and closeup viewing of these carvings, head to the rear of the temple where the tour groups do not visit.
A small but very beautiful and quiet temple. Most people head straight past without stopping, but a walk up the dizzyingly steep steps is worthwhile.
This is the location where Tomb Raider was filmed, so there are still numerous tourists. However there are also large areas of this temple lying in ruins and trees winding their roots throughout various stone structures which is stunning.
The location where large numbers of monks previously lived. Far fewer tourists frequent this temple, making it great to take in the grandeur.
This site remains largely unrestored and far fewer tourists frequent these ruins which makes it a peaceful place to visit and explore for yourself.
Should I get a guide?
Guides are very knowledgeable about the Angkor Archeological Park and seem to charge around $30USD for a day. They are not drivers though, so you will need to also arrange transport for them. It really depends whether you would like more detail about the places you are visiting because there is quite limited signage.
I opted out of getting a guide because the expenses for Angkor were already exceeding my daily budget. Instead I stuck to thoroughly researching the area before and after the visit to understand what I was actually seeing. This guide is a pretty useful summary.
Is getting up for the sunrise worthwhile?
In short, yes.
Watching the sun rise over this majestic temple complex is not something you will soon forget. However, you will be sharing this experience with thousands of others. My tip is instead of heading into the main Angkor Wat complex, find a nice quiet seat along the moat for a more peaceful sunrise. Then grab a takeaway breakfast and head into the complex as many of the tourist hordes are leaving to move on to other places. This leaves Angkor Wat a little emptier for an hour or so and you can explore.
Sunrise from outside the moat (with substantially less people)
Been to Angkor or have questions? Comment below - I would love to hear from you!