Ankgor What? (To Expect When You Go)

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Sunrise over Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

First off, I just couldn’t resist the pun. Second, if you haven’t been to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat in Cambodia yet, I hope you will find this post helpful. I just recently visited there for the first time and these are all things I wish I had known in advance.

1. It’s a huge temple complex.

Angkor Wat is just one of the hundreds of temples which comprise the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor. In fact, the Angkor Archeological Park stretches over an area of approx. 400 square kilometers—it’s HUGE. What makes Angkor Wat so famous is that it’s the largest temple and one of the best preserved.

Ta Prohm (“Tomb Raider“) temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia

2. You’ll need a ride.

Since the site is so large and lies about seven kilometers outside of Siem Reap, it’s not possible to get there, or even from one temple to the next, on foot. For those who don’t want to take a tour that includes transport, one option for independent exploration is renting a bike or scooter for the day. However, the most popular option seems to be hiring a tuk-tuk driver for the day, who waits for you at the entrance of each temple while you explore at your own pace (that’s what my husband and I did). Agree on a price in advance and pay the driver at the end of the day when you’re dropped off at your hotel/hostel. A roundtrip to only Angkor Wat, which is the closest temple to the city, should currently cost you around US$10. However, if you want to see multiple temples in one day, US$20 is a fair price to pay, although some drivers will begrudgingly agree to take you for US$15.

Tuk-tuk ride in the Angkor Archeological Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia

3. It’ll cost you a pretty penny.

Cambodia is no longer the ultimate budget destination it once was and, as the country’s premiere attraction, this is especially true for Angkor. The current admission prices to the Archeological Park per person are:

  • 1 day – US$37
  • 3 days – US$62
  • 7 days – US$72

If you really want to get the full Angkor experience, you’ll need a multi-day pass. Once you factor in the cost of getting there and around, you can see how the costs can add up quickly. In saying that, the multi-day passes are worth it—trust me.

Preah Khan temple, Angkor Archeological Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia

4. You won’t be alone.

The Angkor temples are now undeniably an on-the-beaten-path destination. Expect to be surrounded by hordes of tourists, especially at the most popular temples of Angkor Wat, Bayon in Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm (aka the “Tomb Raider temple”). To be perfectly honest, the huge crowds during high season have even tainted the experience of watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat (or at least they did for us). But instead of this deterring you, I hope it will motivate you to get a multi-day pass, so that you can take the time to seek out the lesser-known temples and find moments of tranquility, as we were able to. This will allow you to truly experience the magic of these spectacular temple ruins and their beautiful surroundings.

Natural landscape near Preah Neak Poan, Angkor Archeological Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Despite how pricey and popular the Angkor temples have become, I still believe they are a must-see destination for everyone, including backpackers and independent budget travellers. The site is so huge that there are still many corners left to be explored by the more curious and adventurous of us.

As always, happy travels!

– Ala

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Preah Khan temple, Angkor Archeological Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia

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