Angkor Wat is the most famous landmark in Cambodia. Heck, it might even be the most famous temple complex in the whole world. The Angkor archaeological park is 400 square kilometres large, which makes it twice the size of Tallinn – my home town…that’s just is crazy.
It consists of more than 100 temples from 12 century and some aren’t even found to this day. Although we visited the Angkor park only for one day, I got some pretty good tips on what will make your experience there a whole lot of better. But before sharing the tips, I’ll answer some important questions.
First of all, is Angkor Wat even worth the visit?
Short answer: yes.
Long answer: it’s an impressive place to visit. To be honest, the Angkor Wat itself wasn’t my favourite temple as I found the smaller and less mainstream ones more interesting (like Banteay Kdei and Ta Keo). But all in all, I’d suggest you check it out. And thinking about the size of it is overwhelming, but don’t make it your mission to see everything. After 4-5 temples they all look pretty much the same 😄. PS! If you are not at all into history, sacred places or architecture, you might not find this place that fascinating.
Secondly, how many days you should spend at Angkor Wat?
This is the thing we discussed a lot before going there. At Angkor Wat you can buy 1-day, 3-day and 7-day pass. Markus was sure we need 2 days to see the place, but I was more cheering for only 1 day as neither of us is super into old buildings, but we did want to experience it. And I think we did the right decision – we started before 7 am and got back to our hotel around 13.30. Then we had lunch and rested and around 16.30 we were off to another temple to see the sunset. So all together the temple day was like 10 hours long. Which is enough. Really, as I mentioned before after 4-5 temples they all start to look the same and your enthusiasm replaces with exhaustion and you feel done with temples. At least that’s how it was for me.
Thirdly, how much is the ticket to Angkor Wat?
As I mentioned you can buy 1-day, 3-day and 7-day pass. The prices for these are $37, $62 and $72 (in Oct 2019). You cannot buy tickets online, but at the ticket office you can pay by card. PS! with the one day ticket you can go in and out as many times as you like during the one day.
So let’s go to the tips -> definitely read these before visiting Angkor Wat archaeological park. PS! Number #6 and #8 are especially helpful.
10 tips you must know before visiting Angkor Wat.
#1 Go early. Like real early.
We got on a tuk-tuk at 6.30 and arrived at the Angkor Wat ticket counter a little before 7. To our surprise, we were the only people there. No lines, no people. ZERO. By 7 am we were already at Angkor Wat (and there weren’t a lot of people as well). But when we left the temple around 9 am, we saw the crowds coming in and were soooo relieved that we managed to wake up with the sun and start exploring early.
Also, the earlier you start, the better the temperatures are. It got real hot around 11-12 and by them we had already seen most of the temples we wanted to see.
Honestly, you get such a better experience, when you can look at it peacefully. That’s why we also decided to skip the famous sunrise art Angkor Wat – I’ve heard the crowds and it ain’t pretty. Here’s what Almost Landing blog wrote about this: “be ready for lots of people and no such thing as personal space. I had people try and push in front, despite the fact we got up an hour earlier then them, I had people leaning over the top of me with cameras in front of my face, and peoples second cameras dangling off there arms and hitting me in the head. In the end, all you could do was laugh because it’s as if all social etiquette was left at the gates.”
#2 Go in low season..if possible.
If you can choose the season you’re going, avoid the high season (November to April, the busiest is December and January). The hotels cost more, the tours I guess as well and there are just too many people at Angkor. Although the park is huge as I mentioned, there are a couple of must-visit temples everyone are going to.
So if possible, go in low season as it’s less stressful but if you need to go in high season, pick some alternative temples for your to-go list as well. We visited Angkor Wat in October and I liked it. We got rain during our Cambodia trip, but fortunately it didn’t rain on the day we visited the archaeological park.
#3 Take a tuk-tuk.
There are also an option to go by bicycle, but I don’t recommend it.
First, Angkor Wat is kinda far from the city and you just waste valuable time by going there with a bicycle.
Second, you are honestly so tired and overheated from going around the temples so the small tuk-tuk ride between them gives you a nice rest. I couldn’t have imagined walking 2 hours in a temple (yeah, these are big) and then hopping on a bicycle and driving to next one in the burning sun.
Third, some temples are walk-througable, which means the tuk-tuk driver drop us off at one gate, we walked through the temple, and he picked us up on the other side. If you go by bicycle, you have to walk back to the gate you left your bike to.
Anyway, it’s your decision, but I felt like the tuk-tuk was worth the money. for the small tour (6.30-13.30) we paid $20 and for the sunset viewing we paid an extra $10, as we were again going from the city centre.
#4 Leave excess stuff to your tuk-tuk.
Also, when you have your tuk-tuk with a driver, you can leave extra bottles of water and non-valueable things to tuk-tuk. At first we carried all the 2l of water with us, but then after the first temple, we were like no it would be smart to leave stuff at your tuk-tuk. And the driver is always there. Still, don’t leave anything valuable – just maybe your raincoat, sunscreen, water…etc.
#5 Don’t forget water and snacks.
The day is loooong. And you will get
hungry hangry. We brought our own snacks (fruit, nuts, museli bars) and water, so I don’t really know the prices at the Angkor Wat archaelogical park, but I can imagine, that like in any other touristic place, the prices are double of what they are in the city. So it’s smart to buy some snacks ahead.
PS! You will need at least 1l of water per person.
#6 Don’t wear a sarong (or a top).
This one is for the gals! I didn’t read this from any other travel blog, but I wasn’t allowed to climb one tower in the Angkor Wat temple, just because I had shorts and was wearing a sarong over it. There were signs saying you have to have long skirt or trousers. Don’t get it really, because a sarong is like a skirt. But apparently not.
Also wearing a top with straps and covering your shoulders with a sarong wasn’t acceptable, but a t-shirt was fine. I also saw one guy being not allowed to enter to the tower, because his shorts were too short. So if you wanna explore it all, I suggest you wear long (airy) trousers and a t-shirt.
Oh, and it’s not a bag idea to bring an extra t-shirt if you are a big sweatter as there gets hot.
Markus took these photos as I wasn’t allowed to go to a tower in Angkor Wat because of my sarong.
#7 Flip-flops / sandals are doable
We were told not to wear sandals, because there are rather steep stairs and not so smooth roads to walk on, but we took the chance. We are used to walking long distances in Birkenstocks, so it wasn’t a problem at all. I just don’t like wearing sneakers in 30 degree weathers, but if you are ok with that, you can of course wear these for more comfort. And I guess when it’s muddy and rainy, it could get slippery. So decide for yourself.
#8 Do the tour in opposite side.
This is something Markus read from another blog and I think this was the biggest game-changer for us! So as I mentioned before there are a couple must-see temples everyone goes to. And these are in different tours – the small tour (which we took) and the big tour. Everyone said that if you have one day, take the small tour as these temples are more important to see.
And we started from Angkor Wat llike everyone else BUT after that we did the small tour in opposite side everyone else. This meant that we didn’t move together with the crowds but opposite to them. Where we were at 9am, most people got at 13.00 and other way around.
Honestly, in so many places we were alone or with only a handful of people. Didn’t see or feel the thousands of people who supposedly visit Angkor Wat every single day.
The small tour is the red one and the large tour is the green one. Photo from roadaffairs.com
#9 If everyone is taking a photo, skip it.
There are a lot of photographable spots and it looked like people were kind of gathering to same spots to take a photo, which I didn’t at all understand. Instead of waiting on the stairs to get an empty photo, we just walked around the temple to the other side and there were similar stairs with no single soul. The same applies to hallways, doors, walls etc. The temples are big, so find your own spots.
Also, when we saw big groups of people, we walked the other way. As I mentioned, the temples are huge and you can definitely find quite corners and look around by yourself.
Proof that photos without people are easy to do when you take the alternative way.
#10 Protect yourself from the sun
Most of the temples are ruins, so there are no roofs. And the sun is intensive during the day. So definitely wear a har or take an umbrella with you. And if you get easily sunburnt, don’t forgot the sunscreen as well.
So that’s it! Here is my take on the famous Angkor Wat. I hope this blog post helped you to understand the place a little better and prepare for your next trip. Let me know if you have any questions about Angkor Wat archaeological park. Happy adventures!