Without question, the temples at Angkor Wat in Cambodia are among the most amazing tourist attractions anywhere in the world. If you are anywhere near them you’d be well advised to at least make a side trip to see them with your own eyes.
The launching point for the temple visit is the small and very pleasant town of Siem Reap, but even if you are just heading to Bangkok, the Angkor Wat complex is either a short (expensive) flight or a cheap (long) bus ride away.
Staying a few days in Siem Reap is highly recommended on its own. Outdoor hostel beds start at US$1, and hotel rooms start at $4 per night. You can get some luxury by spending $10 on a hotel, full meals are easy to find at $2 or $3 each, and happy hour beers are available all over town for 50 cents.
Full photo gallery is below
Admission prices for Angkor Wat
- One day: US$20
- Three days (can be non-consecutive): US$40
- One week: US$60
Note: Cambodia does have its own currency, but most things are priced in US dollars, and the ATMs dispense US dollars as well.
Which ticket should you buy?
If you are a budding archaeologist with a lot of time on your hands, then get the one-week pass, or at the very least the three-day pass, which can be used on any three days in a seven-day period. The complex is huge and it’s kind of like the Louvre or Metropolitan museum in that you can never really see and appreciate it all.
But, if you are like most travelers, those longer passes might honestly be overkill. As beautiful and fascinating as the complex is, things do tend to look alike after a while, and more, of course, isn’t always better. I’m quite sure that many of the people who get the 3-day pass are reasonably satisfied after one long day, and only go another day to make it feel like you are getting your money’s worth.
The best compromise option
The one-day pass is unique in that is allows you to enter starting at 5pm on the day before, which allows you to see the sunset at the temples and then spend as much of the following day as you like, including the sunrise and sunset for the hardcore.
To do this you hire a driver in Siem Reap on the sunset day. They are all familiar with the sunset visit, so they’ll pick you up at your hotel around 4pm, which gets you to the gate where you buy your ticket about 4:15pm. By around 4:30pm they begin selling the passes, which are all personalized with a photo they take on the spot. If you are near the front of the fast-moving line you can be at the main Angkor Wat temple at least a few minutes before 5pm.
The sun sets between 5:45 and 6:30 depending on the time of year, but still you’ll have plenty of time to take some amazing photos during the “golden hour” and wander around for 60 to 90 minutes. This is enough time to see the main Angkor Wat temple, and have the option of moving on to the next complex the following day.
The next day you can get there as early as 5am, even though sunrise ranges between 5:40am and 6:20am, so you can get another shot at amazing photos if you like. You hire a driver for the whole day, and most will have no problem with a morning visit then a rest back in town, and then taking you back for an afternoon visit.
Transportation prices for Angkor Wat
The temples cover a huge area so walking is pretty much out of the question, and also very slow and inefficient. You’ll want to arrange your transportation option in Siem Reap at least a half day or so in advance of going. There is plenty of supply though, so there is no chance everything will be booked.
Bicycles: $0 to $3 per day
Many guesthouses and hotels either allow free use of bicycles, or charge no more than $2 or $3 per day to rent them. This is probably a lot of fun for some people, but honestly it’s an inefficient way to see the temples. Riding from your hotel and then doing the full circuit and then riding back probably means about 25 miles of riding in what is usually extreme heat and humidity. Still, if you are up for it, it’s the cheapest way.
Motorbike taxi: $6 to $10 per day
Motorcycle taxis are the next step up, and if you don’t mind riding on the back of one you can do it for between $6 and $10 for the day, or around $2 or $3 for the sunset visit.
Tuk-tuk: $10 to $15 per day
The best budget option for groups of 2 people is a tuk-tuk, which in Siem Reap means a trailer pulled behind a motorbike. All-day prices (including a driver, of course) run from $10 to $15. In other words, you can probably bargain a driver down to $10 if you try hard enough, but many people feel that $15 is still a great bargain and very worthwhile.
Taxi: $20 to $30 per day
Taxis in Siem Reap are all late-model Toyota Camrys with air conditioning and room for 4 passengers. This is obviously the most luxurious and least traditional form of transportation. Again, if you bargain hard you can get the price down to $20 in the slow season, but $25 is more common and still a great deal.
HDR photo gallery of Angkor Wat
Below are some HDR photos we took in 2010, which show the various temples with more realistic lighting and colors compared to normal photographs. It’s really a stunning place, and very clean and well organized.