Visiting the largest religious monument in the world and not sure where to start? Us too! That’s why after our trip, we decided to make a guide of the hacks you need to know before visiting Angkor Wat.
Visiting Angkor Wat is definitely a bucket list experience for many and should be for you too! The massive complex can be a bit overwhelming, especially given the fact that it is still an active religious site.
If you are anything like us, you are doing tons of research prior to your visit to Cambodia and this post will help you with our top 11 hacks to visiting Angkor Wat that made our trip so much smoother.
This post is all about visiting Angkor Wat.
Visiting Angkor Wat:
1. Go For Sunrise
Sunrise at Angkor Wat is a truly memorable experience and one we highly recommend. The way the sun comes up from behind the temple over the lakes is a serene and calming experience.
We definitely recommend heading to the main Angkor Wat temple to see the sight from out front. Just be prepared as you won’t be the only one thinking this is a good idea. This is usually the busiest part of the day.
Go as early as possible to get a good spot. The temple opens at 5:00 am and we recommend getting there right at that time.
Some alternative temples for sunrise as not all of them open at 5:00 am are:
- Srah Srang – 05:00 – 17:30
- Bakheng Temple – 05:00 – 19:00
- Pre Rup – 05:00 – 19:00
2. Book Your Transport Ahead of Time
Since you will likely be leaving your hotel somewhere around 4:30 am it is best to have your transportation sorted out ahead of time so you don’t spend your first waking moments negotiating a price for a tuk-tuk. Or waking up a tuk-tuk driver. Here are the best options for visiting Angkor Wat.
This is the most popular means of transportation for visiting Angkor Wat. To book a tuk-tuk driver, see your hotel for recommendations. It will likely be about $5 more expensive than if you were to go it alone, but your driver will be reputable and someone you can rely on. We have heard of some tuk-tuk drivers that were late or some that didn’t show up at all.
If you insist on finding your own driver, all you have to do is walk around and talk to tuk-tuk drivers to negotiate the price; just make sure you know what a fair price should be before you wheel and deal.
In the end, securing a tuk-tuk driver for the day will run you $15-$20. If you want to see the sunrise, there is a premium for wanting to get up at such a ridiculous time, but fortunately, it will only run you an extra $5-$10 for the day. Tuk-tuks can carry anywhere from 2-4 people, just be sure you clarify before booking as there are two different kinds of tuk-tuks.
This is like glamping, but for temple visits. We didn’t do it, because honestly, tuk-tuks are just more fun, but it is an option. It might be a better option during monsoon season because believe it or not, yes, people still visit during that time. Definitely going to be easier to wait out the storm in a vehicle versus other modes of transportation. It will run you around $30 – $40 per day, usually up to 4 people. Again, see your hotel for recommendations.
If you are up for the heat and exercise, this can be a great way to see the temples. You can rent one for $2 – $3 per day to go it on your own. Or you can book a bike tour for around $70 per person with breakfast and lunch included.
This is an awesome way to experience the beautiful nature in between this vast complex of temples. However, if you have a one-day pass, don’t waste your time with this. You need a minimum of three days if you plan to set out on a bike to truly see what you want to, and enjoy the experience.
Extra Tip: Clarify What Temples You Want to Visit
With all of these transportation methods, be sure to understand what you are getting. Ensure you will have the vehicle secured from open to close, and if there are any temples that they will not go to. Some drivers will say a temple is too far and it will be a more expensive daily rate, while another, who wants the work more, will take you to any of the temples. It just depends namely on how busy they are, or are not.
Also, if you are going for consecutive days, let the driver know that and you can probably negotiate a few more dollars off of the daily price. All of these drivers are entrepreneurs. Some days, weeks, and months are way better than others, while others are sparse. Consistent work is always welcomed.
3. Be Ready for Tons of Photos and Videos
You will likely want to take lots of photos and videos during your time in Angkor. Be sure to have everything charged and ready to go in the morning. Just be sure to grab the extra batteries and even a phone charger. With the heat of the day, we’ve found our batteries can go faster under the sun.
4. Drink Lots of Water
If you haven’t yet checked the forecast in Cambodia, it is pretty darn hot… all the time. The typical vacationer here gets up at the crack of dawn to explore and comes back midday to take a nap or sit by the pool. It is the only way to see everything but at the same time, beat the heat. So plenty of water is necessary.
If for some reason you forget you can ask your tuk-tuk driver to stop along the way and you can get a massive, ice-cold, bottle of water for about $.50. And if you forgot both of these, there are little mom-and-pop vendors that will greet you within a minute of entry offering you coffee, water, soda, cocktails, breakfast, lunch, snacks, etc.
You can also think ahead and fill up a reusable water bottle at your hotel before going! This water bottle will keep your water cold all day. A much welcome necessity during a long day of exploring.
5. Wear Lightweight but Modest Clothing
Be sure to keep the Angkor dress code in mind. You will need something that covers your shoulders and knees. Women will also need to stay away from showing their midriffs and backs with any backless shirts or dresses. Just be sure to wear light colors and some lightweight material to stay cool in the heat.
Dress conservatively, it is a religious monument. And while we have been to temples in Southeast Asia that don’t enforce these rules, Angkor Wat is not one of those. They will mention it and ensure you fix it and adhere to it. A nice hat and/or sunglasses will be welcomed along the way as well.
6. Don’t Forget the Sunscreen & Bug Spray
You are going to be outside all day so you are going to want to apply both liberally and frequently. Some of the temples are very exposed and don’t have very many places for shade so sunscreen will definitely save you.
And trust us, the mosquitos are crazy in Cambodia, especially in the jungle of Angkor Wat and at sunrise.
7. Bring a Flashlight
Optional of course, because you most likely have a cell phone, but this will save your phone battery for photos, maps, and calling the tuk-tuk. There are no lights in the complex so when you are arriving at 5:00 am, it is pitch black. It is both eerie and cool to traverse the corridors with just a flashlight before sunrise.
8. Carry Small Bills
All of the vendors you interact with to buy food or drink are going to take cash only. This was just an adjustment for us. In the US, if you buy a $1 bottle of water, you can use a credit card. Be sure to carry smaller bills as many mom-and-pop vendors won’t accept larger bills or have the proper change for you.
You may also want to purchase a tour from one of the many guides there so having exact change will only help your negotiating results.
9. Be Prepared for all the Sales People
This is the largest tourist attraction in Cambodia so it only makes sense that there will be tons of locals trying to sell you their services. At the entrance, there will be plenty of tuk-tuk drivers, tour guides, and souvenir vendors. Once inside there will be even more vendors selling magnets, bracelets, and books, and tons of restaurants offering you their menus. These people are doing their best to make a living so be respectful and just say “no, thank you.” They won’t continue to pressure you to buy. Once you are inside the temple, the salespeople will subside.
10. Don’t Buy the One-Day Pass
In our opinion, one day is too little to appreciate these beautiful temples. You can see the main temples, sure, but it would just feel too rushed. It is a bit like hitting up Disneyland for a day. You feel like you have to get on every ride once, some twice, take a picture with every character, buy unreasonable amounts of stuff, and feel guilty for every bathroom and food break. It’s just too much, but hey if it is all the time you have, it is all the time you have.
On the other side of the coin, you have the seven-day pass. You can pretty much see it all with this one. The famed temples, the lesser-known temples, all of it. The nice thing is that you have an entire month to use your ticket. With that said, not too many people are taking month-long trips to Cambodia so more than likely, you will have to use it within your vacation period of a week or two.
It was more than we were interested in, so we opted for what we think strikes the perfect balance, the three-day pass. You can see all of the main temples, you can catch some sunrises and sunsets from different temples, and you can see some of the smaller temples as well if you so choose. The best part is you have some time and can take it all in. It much less rushed than the one-day pass.
Angkor Wat Ticket Cost
This is as of September 2020.
- 1 Day – $37 per person
- Valid only for the same day of purchase up until 5p. If purchased after 5p, it is valid for the following day only.
- 3 Day – $62 per person
- Valid for one calendar month from the date of purchase. Must be used with 7 days of the first visit.
- 7 Day – $72 per person
- Valid for one calendar month from the date of purchase
11. Buy Your Tickets Ahead of Time
This is totally up to you. The ticket office is open from 05:00 – 17:30, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They have over 40 ticket booths set up to sell you tickets, but if you are trying to catch the sunrise at Angkor, it is cutting it a bit close by buying them the morning of. So there are typically three options:
- Purchase your ticket on the first day when the ticket booths open and scramble to sunrise at one of the temples that open at 5:00 am.
- Purchase your ticket on the first day and miss the sunrise. Hit the sunrise on one of the other days of your pass.
- Buy your ticket ahead of time. For 1-Day tickets, be sure to purchase your ticket the day before you are going and only after 5:00 pm so it is valid.
We absolutely recommend purchasing it the day before to reduce any stress the day of exploring. Just be sure to keep them handy as they are checked when you are driving in!
12. Know the Circuits
With so many temples to see and so little time, you will need a solid plan to see all the ones that are on your list. Angkor has two main circuits to see the most popular of the temples.
There are two main circuits as follows:
- Main Small Circuit
- 17 km – Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Ta Keo, Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei, Prasat Kravan
- Main Large Circuit
- 26 km – Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Preah Khan, Neak Poan, Ta Som, East Mebon, Pre Rup
How you decide to explore is entirely up to you. With that said, if you take these traditional circuits in order, you will notice something quickly. You are following and keeping pace with the crowds which means you will all be in the same place at the same time. So while we didn’t do this per se, we would recommend one of two tactics:
- Take the circuits in backward order, ensuring that you are not following the herd; or
- Break up the circuits over a series of days so as to avoid staying together with the collective crowds.
13. Do Not Give Money to the Children Beggars
We came across this all over Southeast Asia but child beggars are everywhere. This is a horrible practice and we cannot put more emphasis on this: DO NOT GIVE THEM MONEY.
They are so adorable and helpless and it seems like giving them money or food will help them but it only further encourages this behavior. Sometimes these children are made to beg by their family as they are more “loveable” than adults when begging. Other times, kids just start doing this to make money. Giving to kids that are asking for money only encourages the fact that making money is more important than going to school or having a job that contributes to society.