Angkor Wat Travel Guide

Angkor Wat is an ancient city in Cambodia that was the center of the Khmer empire that once ruled most of Southeast Asia.

This civilization went extinct, but not before building amazing temples and buildings that were reclaimed by the jungle for hundreds of years. Though this place is always packed with tourists, the area and ruins are still breathtaking to see.

The most popular temples are Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Phrom, and Angkor Thom. I would recommend getting a multi-day pass so you can visit some of the outer temples where there are fewer visitors.

The closest major city and launching pad for tours here is Siem Reap.

Use this guide to plan your trip to traveling to Angkor Wat and making the most of your days here.

Angkor Wat in Cambodia is one of the most dreamed about travel destinations

Top 5 Things to See and Do in Angkor Wat

1. Angkor Wat This temple was built by Suryavarman and is considered the biggest Asian pyramid. It is over 200 feet high and divided into several layers. This temple is the largest in the whole complex and is where the historic site gets its name. The central temple complex has 2,600 feet of bas-reliefs.

2. The Bayon Built by Jayavarman VII, the temple stands in the center of Angkor Thom. With its 54 towers and 216 faces of Avalokiteshvara, this temple looks best in the morning just after sunrise or at the end of the afternoon. The temple was built on 3 levels: the first 2 are rectangular, while the 3rd is circular.

3. Ta Prohm Still covered by the jungle, this place is exactly as they found it. Ta Prohm makes it easy to imagine how the whole complex looked when it was re-discovered in the 19th-century. If you come early, you can avoid the crowds who arrive mid-day. It’s the second best complex behind Bayon.

4. Banteay Srei This temple is located about 12 miles north of Angkor. The name means “Citadel of the Women” and refers to the size and delicacy of the decoration. Unlike the major sites at Angkor, this was not a royal temple. There are exquisite decorative carvings in pink sandstone with miniature proportions.

This temple has the same style, structure, and founder as Ta Phrom. It is almost like its little brother. The major feature that sets it apart is a huge tree that grows atop the eastern Gopura. It is slowly destroying the building, but it makes for amazing photo opportunities.

Other Things to See and Do in Angkor Wat

1. Elephant Terrace

A 1000 foot terrace of elephants. It was used as a giant viewing stand during public ceremonies, royal ceremonies, and so on. Many lions decorate this enormous path as well. Now it’s surrounded by camera-wielding tourists, and I found it to be one of the busiest sites here. I suggest visiting late or early to avoid the crowds, which get overwhelming.

2. East Mebon

A huge baray surrounded this temple complex during its prime. Because it was encircled by water, there was no need for enclosures or moats that became customary for temples in Angkor. East Mebon has five towers — make sure to climb the central platform to the towers and check out the intricate stonework.

3. Preah Khan

Preah Khan is one of the largest sites in the Angkor temple complex. Not only was this site an important temple, but it also appears to have been a large Buddhist university with over one thousand teachers at one time. It has remained largely unrestored, as evidenced by the many trees growing around the ruins and mossy stones left laying everywhere. The site was a previous palace of Yasovarman II and Tribhuvanadityavarman, and historians believe a famous battle was fought on this site.

4. Pre Rup

About 2,000 feet south of the East Baray lies Pre Rup, built by Rajendravarman as his capital after re-establishing Angkor once he took over as king. Pre Rup was at the center of a city that has long since vanished. You can climb the steep steps up to the three tiers of the pyramid.

5. Preah Ko (Sacred Bull)

This was the first temple to be built in the ancient city of Hariharalaya. It lies about 10 miles southeast of the main temples at Angkor. Today, there are six small brick towers that sit atop a sandstone base.

6. Srah Srang

Commonly known as ‘The Royal Baths’, this spot was once a major bathing spot for every living thing, elephants aside, in the area. Today it is the most popular place for local children to swim.

7. Baksei Chamkrong

On the road between Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, you can find a single tower that was built by Harshavarman I (910-923 CE). It’s one of the few ruins accredited to him, and he had it built to honor his father who was responsible for the construction of Phnom Bakheng.

8. Terrace of the Leper King

This seven-layer terrace was built in the 13th century and was named after the god of the underworld, whose naked statue perches on top. Keep an eye out for the secret passageway that runs from the southwest to northwest side of the structure.

Angkor Wat Travel Costs

Note: Cambodia uses USD. There’s no real need to carry the local currency, Cambodian Riels (KHR), unless you paying for really small things on the street, but for the most part, use USD.

Hostel prices – Dorm rooms in Siem Reap start around $2 USD per night for a basic room with a fan and cold shower room. For a private bathroom with hot water, expect to pay closer to $15 USD per night. Free WiFi is generally standard, and a few hostels also include free breakfast.

Budget hotel prices – A room in a guesthouse with air-con, hot water, and TV will cost around $12.50 USD per night for a twin, $15 USD for a double. For a hotel/guesthouse with a pool, expect to pay closer to $20 USD. Airbnb is available in the city, though the prices aren’t cheap. Expect to pay $15 USD per night for shared accommodation and at least $25 USD per night for an entire home/apartment.

Average cost of food – There are tons of food options within the temple complex (though prices are higher than in the city). You can easily find restaurant meals in the $5-7 USD price range. And, around the temples, you will find little stands with cheap meals for about $2-3 USD. There are also lots of vendors selling fresh fruit and juices for as little as $1.50 USD.

How much does it cost to visit Angkok Wat?

On a backpacking budget you can expect to pay $50 USD per day. This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, cooking most of your meals or eating cheap street food, and using a bike to get around. This also includes a day entry to the Angkor Wat site.

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For a mid-range budget of $92 USD you can eat at restaurants, stay in a private room, and hire a private driver to see Angkor Wat.

On a luxury budget of $225+ USD per day, you can stay in a nice hotel or on a resort, eat out for every meal, and opt for a full guided tour of the site.

Angkor Wat Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips

Looking to save money in Angkor Wat?

Angkor Wat permit – Everyone needs a permit to enter the Angkor temples unless you are Cambodian or related to a Cambodian. A 1-day pass is $37 USD, 3-day is $62 USD, and 7-day is $72 USD.

Rent a tuk-tuk – It’s best to rent a tuk-tuk for an entire day to get around. They know how to get you in and out of each temple and know the best routes for the complex. It will let you see more places in a day and is very affordable, generally around $25 USD for the day. If you split this between a group of 3-4 it becomes quite affordable. Getting a driver in Siem Reap is cheaper than renting one inside the park.

See the sunset the night before – If you buy your ticket after 5pm you can legally enter the park without using up your allotted days. This means you can technically enter the park and explore before it closes, and still have your 1-, 3-, or 7-days remaining. The best way to spend this extra time is to watch the sunset, saving the temples for the following day(s).

Where to Stay in Angkor Wat

Travelers stay in Siem Reap when they’re visiting Angkor Wat. My suggested places are:

The Siem Reap Hostel (It even has a pool!)

Onederz Hostel Siem Reap

Mad Monkey Siem Reap

Funky Flashpacker Siem Reap

How to Get Around Angkor Wat

There are two ways for you to and from Angkor Wat (and around the complex):

Bicycle Rental – Bicycles are a great way to explore the complex, and you can find rentals for about $2 USD per day. If you choose this method though be prepared for long hours cycling in the heat.

Tuks-Tuks and Hired Drivers – These can be found all over the place and your hostel or hotel should be able to help you find one if you can’t (though they really are everywhere). Drivers cost $25 USD per day.

When to Go to Angkor Wat

There’s a toss up no matter when you visit Angkor Wat: you’ll either have to choose between a rainy, muddy visit with less people around or great weather and crazy tourist hordes. But if you’re concerned mainly with weather, the best time to visit during the dry season (from late November to early April). Angkor Wat is open year-round.

December and January are best for weather, but they’re also busiest. April and May can be unbearably hot, with tons of humidity. The average daily temperature in April is 88°F (31°C). Monsoon season lasts from late May/June to the end of October, with September and October being the hottest months. If you can time your visit to one of the shoulder months, do so!

How to Stay Safe in Angkor Wat

Cambodia is an incredibly safe place to backpack and travel. Petty theft (including bag snatching) is the most common type of crime in Cambodia and at the Angkor Wat temple complex. You may encounter persistent children trying to sell you stuff and they may even become more aggressive if you don’t shop with them.

Just walk away from them.

Make sure you bring lots of water to keep hydrated during the hot days too.

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