Hello hello! If you are reading this article, it means that you are preparing your visit to the temples of Angkor, or that you intend to go there. I took my courage in both hands to write this guide.
As usual, all my guides are super long, but this allows me to tell you everything and reassure the most stressed among you. To make it easier to understand, this guide will be in the form of Questions/Answers.
How to go to the temples of Angkor?
First of all, you have to go to the town closest to the temples, that is Siem Reap.
How to get to Siem Reap?
- From Phnom Penh, you can take :
- the plane (80$) + tuk-tuk of 5$ from the airport => city center
- a bus (12$, 6 to 7h trip)
- or a boat (35$, 5 to 6 hours trip). The boat option is recommended. More expensive but much more typical and it allows you to see the floating villages. The tuk-tuk that takes you from the boat to downtown costs 5$
- From Bangkok :
- First, remember to ask for an evisa before coming; to avoid being asked for an extra $5 per visa at the border. The less organized among you can apply for a visa on arrival, i.e. when you arrive in Cambodia
- you can take a 12h bus for 800 baths (about 20€). Beware, for the border crossing, it’s hard to resist the corruption/scam fee of 1-2$ just to get a stamp
- you can also take a 45mn flight for 75€ with Air Asia (hold luggage included). No scams/bribery fees when you arrive
How to go from Siem Reap to the Angkor temples?
Most of the Angkor temples (and yes there are many) are located 6.5km from Siem Reap town. As the temples are a bit far from each other, you have to go and stay there with a means of transportation. 3 options are available to you (to be found in Siem Reap, not in front of the temples)
- Illegally renting a scooter for 10$/day (I say illegally because it’s not allowed, but in practice we have done it and have written a guide on it here).
- Rent a bike: between 1$ and 3$/day. It’s better to check the weather forecast beforehand. If it’s too hot (29°C or more), forget this option, you’ll die
- Rent an electric bike: between 6-8$/day. But it’s very small, so you have to rent one per person. I didn’t test it but I was told that the autonomy was limited, as well as the speed limit (20km/h on average to save battery power). There are spaces to recharge them for free in the park though (usually in partner restaurants), and people take the opportunity to have lunch and recharge their bikes at the same time. Green e-bike is a very popular address for renting quality electric bikes.
- Rent a tuk-tuk with driver for the whole day (between 15$ and 20$ per day for 4 adults max, or 2 adults 3 children).
- I have put the rates for the itineraries I recommend below.
- Basically, the tuk tuk will show you a map where there is a big tour and a small tour.
- The big tour costs 5$ more than the small tour. The price is fixed according to the temples you want to visit (if they are on the small or big tour) – but not at all according to the number of people, the length of the visit, or the number of temples.
- To sum up, if you choose temples of the big tour, you will pay the same price to visit 3 or 10 temples, whether for 1 or 10 hours, whether with one or 4 people (I know, it’s not logical).
- The tuk tuk drivers aren’t very proactive, every time we ask them to advise us a tour with few people, they all say “there is all the time of the world anyway”.
Photo: in red the big tour; in purple the small tour . I don’t know if you see it well but the small tour joins the big tour for Bayon, Angkor Wat and Banteay Kdei
Having to get up early for sunrise will cost you $5 more. If you add “off course” places like Kbal Spean (mountain at 1 hour drive) and Banteay Srei (at 25km), it’s another rate (see day 3 below). I also give you the rates charged by inns, low-range hotels. It will be used to you as a guide to negotiate the price with your tuk tuk.
My advice: rent a scooter for the first 2 days then a tuk tuk (with guide if you want) for the 3rd day.
Where to buy the entrance tickets?
Type Angkor Wat Ticket Office on Google Maps. You are obliged to buy your entrance ticket to the Angkor temples there, without fail. It’s the building on the left side of it, open every day from 5am to 5:30pm.
How much do the tickets cost?
Prices Angkor 2019 Temples Tickets
- 1 day – ticket valid for 1 day: 37$
- 3 day visit – ticket valid for 10 days: 62$
- 7 days of visit – ticket valid for one month: 72$
You can pay in cash (in dollars) or by credit card.
There is a camera to take a picture of you, there is no need to bring a passport or a photo of you.
Be careful before you start queuing. There are different counters depending on the length of pass you choose. If you take a 1 or 3 day pass, there will probably be a bit of a queue. If you take the 7 days pass, you have a good chance to go straight to VIP mode – ticket office n°13 🙂
We advise you to buy the 3-day ticket, because visiting the temples of Angkor in one day is really too tiring.
I know you’re screaming about the price scam. But the temples of Angkor are really beautiful and it’s worth paying so much, believe me!
Attention 1: You don’t have to pay an entrance ticket, neither for your guide nor for the tuk tuk driver
Attention 2: this ticket isn’t valid for two distant temples, which are on the way to the floating villages : Beng Mealea (5$) and Phnom Kulen (20$)
What is the validity of the entry ticket?
This is marked above. As you can see, if you buy the 3 or 7 day tickets, you are NOT obliged to visit the temples on 3 (or 7) consecutive days.
If you buy your ticket before 5pm, the ticket can be used from the same day on.
If you buy your ticket after 5pm, you can only use the ticket from the next day on.
What are the opening hours of the temples?
Most temples are open from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm every day. With the exception of :
- Angkor Wat : 5h – 17h30
- Sras Srang : 5h – 17h30
- Pre Rup: 5am – 7pm
- Bakheng: 5am – 7pm
How do I get my ticket stamped?
Before entering the Angkor temples area, there are several Check Point. Locate the panel“Check Point“. Cambodians do not always stop there, but you must stop.
There is another type of sign like this on the Avenue Charles de Gaulle. You must stop to get your ticket stamped on the day of your visit.
This is how they check the validity of your ticket: 1 day of visit = 1 hole. Of course, you can visit in the morning, go back to Siem Reap, then come back in the afternoon of the same day, it will only count for one day.
How should I dress in Angkor?
Shoulders and knees should be covered. Any attempt to cover them with a poor transparent scarf will be refused at Baphuon and Angkor Wat. So come with a short sleeved T-shirt and at least one pair of shorts extending beyond the knees.
As the sun is beating down, I advise you to cover yourself as much as possible and spread sunscreen on your skin. Don’t forget your hat and sunglasses.
Which temples to visit in Angkor?
Here is the recommended itinerary.
- All that is in red is a must. These temples are to be visited, ideally very early in the morning (before 8 am if possible) or between noon and two.
- All that is in blue is strongly recommended.
- Anything in black can be skipped if you don’t have time or if you are tired
Warning : this is only my personal opinion, I am neither archaeologist nor official guide nor Cambodian or travel agency 😀
Day 1: $15 in tuk tuk
- Morning (departure from the hotel at 7:30 am max) :
- Buy the entrance ticket
- Southgate of Angkorthom (south portal of Angkorthom)
- Bayon Temple
- Terrace of Elephant, Phimeanakas, Leper King Terraces
- Thommanon & Chao Sai Tevoda
- Your Keo Temple
- Afternoon :
- Ta Nei Temple
- Ta Prohm Temple (temple appeared in Tomb Raider)
- Banteay Kdei Temple
- Srah Srang Lake
- Kravan Temple
Day 2: $20 in tuk tuk
(Includes $5 bonus as the driver must get up early for sunrise)
- Morning (departure from the hotel at 5am maxi) :
- Angkor Wat Temple (+ sunrise) – temple represented on the Cambodian flag
- Preah Khan Temple
- Neak Pean Temple
- Your Som Temple
Day 3: 35$ in tuk tuk (or 50$ by car)
- Morning (departure from the hotel at 11am maxi) :
- Kbal Spean (river of 1000 lingas)
- Banteay Srei Temple (25km from Angkor)
- Afternoon :
- Banteay Samre
- Mebon Oriental Temple
- Pre Rup (sunset) or Phnom Bakheng (sunset)
Is it necessary to go with a guide?
In Angkor Wat, there are many official guides who will offer you their services. You can take a guide directly at Angkor Wat without reservation ($15 before negotiation). But the temples can be visited very well without a guide.
We still paid a French-speaking guide, who comes with a tuk-tuk, to visit the hidden temples, which we can’t visit even by scooter (because Google Maps tells us every time the wrong way to these temples lost in the jungle). It cost us 60$ in total (guide + tuk tuk for one day).
Check out my first travel diary to the Angkor temples here; and the second article here.
The temples are very large and symmetrical, and the routes are designed so that you enter through one exit and exit through another. When the tuk tuk drops you off in front of the temple, ask which gate you are at. He will answer east/west/north/south gate. Remember this info, or point the location on Google Maps to find it better later. If you get lost, just ask a guardian or an official guide for the gate in question. Beware, the course of the Ta Prohm temple may make you go around in circles so don’t hesitate to ask.
Also take a picture of your tuk tuk and note the driver’s phone number. The trick to easily recognize your tuk tuk is to remember the color of the seat and the name of the ad behind the tuk tuk.
Angkor Thom (south portal)
Do I have to return to Siem Reap for breakfast or lunch?
No, there are plenty of small restaurants and street food outside the temples. The prices are a bit exorbitant compared to Siem Reap (5$ per dish, 3$ per breakfast, 1$ per drink) but the food isn’t too bad.
If you bring food, be careful of monkeys, close your bags tightly. And don’t picnic in the temples, leave the temple to eat, or ask the driver to drop you off at the gates near the swamps at the entrance to the temples to sit and eat.
If you pass near Angkor Wat, look for the women selling Kralan, i.e. sticky rice cooked in pieces of bamboo. It is delicious, consistent and costs only 1$/bamboo.
A very touristic activity is to ride an elephant to the top of the hill to watch the sunset or go around Bayon. I advise you against this practice, which is more of an animal abuse than a traditional walk.
In Cambodia, everything is asked with a smile. The nervousness will not help, on the contrary. When negotiating with the tuk tuk, be firm, but keep smiling. If you ever fail in negotiation, go see another tuk-tuk. There is no point in calling them scammers, they are just trying to make ends meet. According to them, $1 is worthless to you but it means a lot to them. Expect to be constantly solicited for tuk tuks, massages, restaurants… Just say “no, thank you”, and smile, like Cambodians do!
What currency should be used in Cambodia?
Cambodians use both their riel (Cambodian currency) and dollars. It isn’t the government that imposes it, but because of excessive inflation and very limited confidence in the national currency, Cambodians have spontaneously started to use dollars.
The official rate in 2017 is 1 dollar = 4028 riels but in practice, and this has been the case for about ten years, the rate applied everywhere is 1 dollar = 4000 riels. Thus, you can pay in dollars and we can give you change in riels according to this rate.
You can also combine the two. If you have to pay $1.5, you can give $1 and 2000 riels.
The use of dollars means that small prices are quickly rounded up to $1. So be careful with the prices you are given otherwise you may pay more than Thailand or Vietnam.
The small bottle of water costs 1000 riels, the big one 2000 riels. A Coke 2000 riels. The tuk tuk should not cost more than 1$ for a small distance (less than 1km), and not more than 2$ for less than 2km.
Street food costs no more than $1.5. Tourist restaurants are in between 3$ and 5$/flat.
To break $100 bills, go to a tourist restaurant, they will give you change… with a smile
How to withdraw money/exchange money in Siem Reap?
- For withdrawal, VISA cards can withdraw FREE OF CHARGE at: BIDC or Maybank. Mastercards must pay everywhere a minimum of $4 for each withdrawal regardless of the amount. There will be additional fees from your bank in France if you do not have the international option.
- I was able to withdraw $500 at ABA Bank for a $6 fee with my MasterCard.
- For the withdrawal, you can choose either US dollar or Riel (the Cambodian currency). I preferred the US dollar because the biggest bill in riels I have seen is 10 000 riels (only $2.5$)
- To change money, go to banks or exchange in small stores. There is no commission, but the exchange rate is 4% (compared to the normal exchange rate). You can change your euros into dollars without any problem. Check the bills anyway and ask for small denominations ($20 max and many $1 bills for street food and tuk tuk)
Where to stay in Siem Reap?
We highly recommend our Sakun Angkor Boutique hotel (30$/night, Booking link) with swimming pool, free pick up at the airport (for our one month stay, not sure if it’s the case for everybody), nice staff, the hotel is in a very quiet dead end. More info about the hotel and our first days in Siem Reap here.
If you like private jacuzzis, opt for Rei Angkor Boutique at $60 per night, with swimming pool (link Booking). Adorable staff, the plus: a restaurant attached to the hotel.
Both hotels have the advantage of being only a 10-minute walk from the Old Market (or $1 in tuk tuk) and Pub Street – while being surrounded by excellent restaurants. Avoid at all costs the hotels next to Pub Street, which is much too noisy. Also avoid hotels too close to the Angkor temples, you risk dying of boredom in the evening.
Some Tips for Siem Reap
Buy right away a local SIM card (5$) + a 1$ reload card for a week with 1Go of Internet. Find it in any supermarket – or phone store. You will need the Internet to organize your visit (or call the scooter rental company in case you need to rent a scooter) of arrest by the police as we hihihi).
To call a Cambodian number, you have to add +855 in front otherwise it doesn’t work (with my iPhone anyway).
The tuk tuk do not know all the hotels in Siem Reap. And they don’t all know how to read the Latin alphabet written on your Google Maps. So as soon as you arrive at the hotel, ask for the business card of the hotel (where the name and address are written in Khmer). That way, the driver can find the hotel easily, or at worst, call the hotel number shown on the map.
For sightseeing, your hotel may offer cheaper tuk tuk rates than a tuk tuk lambda crossed in the street. So ask your hotel for the rates first. For info, our Sakun Angkor Boutique hotel (Booking link) offers the best rates for tours, tuk tuk … that travel agencies or tuk-tuks found in the street.
For the sunrise, it is mandatory to reserve a tuk tuk for the visit. At 5am, there is no chance to find a tuk tuk unemployed in the street.
Where to eat in Siem Reap?
- Street food: from 6pm, all along the river next to the Old Market. Dishes are at 1$, it’s not extraordinary, but there are a lot of locals. If you find this dish that looks like a bo bun without beef, don’t hesitate, it’s super good!
- Genevieve’s Restaurant : a little more expensive than other Khmer restaurants but worth every penny. Beef lok lak is to die for, curry rice too, banana flower salad too. Yummy yummy!! At lunch time there aren’t many people, book if you go in the evening.
- Molop Wat Damnak Restaurant: restaurant with vegan or non-vegan menu (on request). Dish between 3$ and 5$. The ingredients are organic, the food is delicious even if the service is a bit slow.
- Philippe’s Bistrot: French-Khmer fusion cuisine. It feels like a star restaurant. Everything is of a delicacy… The dishes are within 10$ but it’s worth every penny.
Where to get a massage in Siem Reap?
There are plenty of massage centers in Siem Reap but having tested a lot of them, I can tell you that the masseurs aren’t as well trained as in Thailand. The locals told me that they don’t go there that often, contrary to Thai people for whom it’s a habit.
The quality is quite uneven, in the same center you can find an excellent masseuse one day and a mediocre one the next.
For the high-end, I was advised Bodia Spa (30 to 50$).
For small budgets, I validate one-hour massages (between $4 and $6) at Temple Massage. And the Thai massage with oil at Lotus Spa (next to Retreat Condo) for 14$/hour. I also validate the facial treatment with natural products at Khmer Wellness Spa, and their foot massage for $6/hour. These are my best massage addresses in Siem Reap, but once again, the quality isn’t equal to that of Thailand.
Don’t hesitate to try a massage performed by blind people. Being blind isn’thing to be happy about in a country like Cambodia, some associations do an exceptional job of training them in massage techniques. They are hardly more expensive than the others and you will do a good deed while enjoying a good massage. JB liked very much the Japanese Healthy massage by blind people (6 $/h).
What we liked in Siem Reap
- The temples of Angkor and especially our visit with a French-speaking guide to discover the little known temples
- The kindness and smiles of Cambodians
- The boui boui near the river
What we didn’t like
- Prices in USD
- Not super competent masseurs who do more harm than good
- As everywhere in Asia, you always have to haggle and ask the price before, otherwise everyone tries to rip you off here and there
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Have a good trip to all of you!