Planning a trip to Angkor Wat can be daunting. There are so many things to consider… which ticket should I get? Tuk-Tuk or Bike? How to avoid the crowds?…. Here are some of our tips to make the most out of your visit to Angkor Wat…
1. Get a room with Aircon
Siem Reap is hot, very hot, and after a long day of wandering around temples a fan blowing hot air in your face will not quite cut it. So do yourself a favour and spend a few extra dollars, it will make all the difference.
2. Choose the right ticket and transport for you
Angkor Wat is big, and unless you have strict time constraints a one day ticket is just not enough. Two days will be sufficient to see everything you want to see, but a third day will allow you to take it easy and avoid getting “templed out”. If you choose to stay a little longer, and want to see more than just Angkor Wat itself, getting a Tuk-Tuk is essential. Siem Reap is around 7km away from Angkor wat, and all the temples are several km apart, so unless you are willing to cycle long distances in the scorching heat a Tuk-Tuk is a must.
3. Choose a good Tuk-Tuk driver
If you choose a tuk-tuk to explore the temples of Angkor, then making sure you get a good driver is a must. There will be drivers everywhere is Siem Reap, but usually you can arrange one through your guesthouse. Talk to your driver before you agree to anything. Throw in a few obscure questions to make sure they can speak at least a little english, and make sure you like them, you will be spending a fair bit of time with them around the temples. Settle on a price for what you want and off you go.
4. Get up early
This tip is probably the most important one we can give. Get up as early as your body will allow and go visit the temples (preferably before sunrise). Not only will you get to see some of the temples in a very nice light, but you will also find that you can have some of the most popular temples all to yourself, allowing you to explore and take pictures without dodging large groups of people. Getting up early also means that you can avoid the worst of the heat. After 9am the temperature really hots up, so the more you can do before then the less you will feel like your melting.
5. Have Cheat Sheets
The temples are wonderful to look at, but without a little help it would be very easy to miss some of the smaller, more intricate carvings and special areas within each. While walking around the temples people will try to sell you books that explain Angkor Wat (ranging in price from $1-$100 depending on how cheeky the seller), however, most guidebooks will have a condensed form that will be easier to follow and won’t be packed with too much information. We printed out the notes from our copy of the Rough Guide to Cambodia, complete with summaries and maps etc. which led us to little gems that even the official guides weren’t showing the tourists… WIN!
6. Do things backwards
There are two main routes that people follow when exploring the temples of Angkor, the grand circuit and the small circuit. Both of these are good routes allowing you to see a lot of the amazing temples, and we highly recommend doing both of them, however, they can get very busy. One simple way to mostly avoid the crowds is to do the loops backwards. In theory you will have the first few temples you visit to yourself and the last few, with maybe a slight crossover in the middle…. it worked for us.
7. Bring water and snacks
It can be along day looking around temples, and it can get very…very hot, so bring plenty of water. Buying it in Siem Reap will save you a few dollars, enough for a few cold beers at the end of the day. One other thing people don’t mention is it can be hard work climbing up and over mountains of rubble and steep steps, so bring some snacks for the journey.
8. Go to Angkor Wat at lunch time
Trying to get Angkor Wat itself to your self is almost impossible, but one way to see it with the least amount of people is to go at lunch time. All the big groups have been and gone in the morning, and everyone else is too hungry to carry on. So have some of your snacks, take plenty of water for the heat and go explore in relative solitude.
9. Say no to the touts
This one is easier said than done. When we visited Angkor Wat we got lucky, it was a national holiday in Cambodia and it seems that even the touts were having a break, but we still encountered a few. It can be hard to say no to a bunch of children, all putting on their cutest faces and selling cheap bracelets or postcards, but the fact of the matter is that these kids aren’t getting the money. There is always an adult behind the scenes collecting the profits, and by buying things off the kids you encourage them not to go to school. So even though its difficult… just say no.
10. Have Fun
It can be very easy to get caught up in the want to see every temple, or how to best lose the crowds and forget to relax and enjoy being in one of the most amazing places in the world. So remember to relax, take you time and enjoy it. If its to hot or you are feeling “templed out”, take a break. Sit under a tree, go have a fruit shake or go back and sit in your air con. You will appreciate them much more afterwards.