Angkor has been on my bucket list of places to visit for years. An ancient city of the Khmer empire which once ruled vast parts of Southeast Asia, it is a must-see when in Cambodia.
Angkor was once a sprawling, functioning city although now it’s part of a massive archeological site with dozens of temples and monuments to explore. It is situated right next to Siem Reap where most people stay to visit the historical and mystical temples that were hidden away for so many years.
I was in Siem Reap for 3 full days, which is a good amount of time to take in the main sights of Angkor.Here are my top tips for visiting as well as some general information:
You can get a visa on arrival at the airport in Siem Reap. Just remember to bring a passport photo with you and dollars to pay for the visa ($30 per person). You can also apply for a visa online – more details here.
You have an option to buy either a 1 day ($37), 3 day ($62) or 7 day ($72) pass to explore the sights of Angkor. I would recommend the 3 day pass which will allow you to do both the ‘small’ and ‘grand circuits’ at a leisurely pace as well as allow for time to revisit temples if you so wish. NB: The small and grand circuits are the two round tour options on the Angkor site, usually a full day excursion each. I’d highly recommend doing both if you can – more on this in my next post!
I understand that if you buy your ticket in the evening after 5pm, your ticket will be valid for the next day and, on the same evening, you can also watch the sunset at Angkor Park for free. As I didn’t try this myself, I’d recommend checking with your hotel if you plan to do this.
You must keep your ticket with you at all times as it’s checked by security at various points during the day.How to get around
I’d highly recommend hiring a driver for the duration of your time exploring Angkor. Walking between temples is not easy and is also not desirable due to the distances between the temples + the intense heat. Hiring a driver (for a Tuk Tuk or car) can usually be done through your hotel and, for a car, will cost anywhere between $25-$35 for the small circuit and $35-$45 for the grand circuit. A Tuk Tuk will be cheaper than a car although I’d personally pay that little bit extra for an air conditioned vehicle.
What to wear
Exploring temples in 30+ degree heat can be extremely tiring and there is very little shade in most places. I would therefore recommend wearing a hat as well as light, loose fitting clothes that cover your shoulders and knees, particularly necessary when visiting the temples or you won’t be allowed to enter. A bottle of water, sunglasses, a parasol/umbrella and a fan would also be handy!What time to visit
Early morning starts are essential if you’re going to avoid the heat. I’d recommend starting to catch the sunrise and doing most of your sightseeing by noon. You can then spend the afternoon relaxing in your hotel, away from the midday sun. Most temples open by 7:30am, except for Angkor Wat which opens earlier.
There are a number of well maintained restrooms at different points on both the grand and small circuits. Your driver should know where these are. These are free for tourists with a ticket. There is also a restroom at Angkor Wat though we were told not to use this (they charge for use ($1) and the restrooms are in pretty bad shape).
We didn’t eat until we got back to our hotel but there are also restaurant options within Angkor if you get hungry.
The US dollar is used across Cambodia by tourists. Be sure to bring crisp, clean notes as most places in Cambodia do not accept old or damaged notes, no matter how small the damage might be.
I would recommend bringing lots of small denomination notes so it’s easier to tip, pay for food etc. It also means that there’s less likelihood of you getting back lots of change/notes that could be counterfeit (a problem in Cambodia).
It might be worth converting a small amount of local currency for very small purchases e.g. street food.
Hope this post was helpful – let me know if you have any tips that you’d like to add in the comments section below! For details on what the small and grand circuits include, check out my next post.