Jessica Farrugia is a Canadian/Aussie who's been living down-under since 2002.She loves travel, photography, blogging, yoga, pilates, walking, scuba diving, hot sunny days, lazing on the beach, eating sushi, and reading crime-fiction. ...Find out more!
Got your sights on visiting Angkor Wat? With the political situation in Cambodia finally at peace after the Khmer Rouge in the reign in the 1970s and the civil war in the 1980s, tourists are flocking in record numbers to see the ‘largest religious structure’ in the world. While I’m not going to get into the in’s and out’s of what to see at the complex itself, I would like to offer a few tips on planning your visit based on my own experience in April 2011.
Firstly, buy your passes at the main gate on site in advance. Although 1/3/7 day passes are available, I would strongly discourage from buying just a 1 day pass—there’s simply too much to see and too much ground to cover. A 7-day pass can be used for over a month, and a 3-day pass can be used over a 7 day period and is probably the most popular. Kids under 12yrs old don’t need a ticket. They photograph you at time of purchase (so you need to be present in person) and your picture is then printed onto your ticket, which is not transferrable.
TIP: If you purchase your multi-day pass in the afternoon, you can start using it after 5pm (for sunset) without using up a day!
Secondly, get yourself a good guidebook or download an App. We did both, and had the ‘lite’ version from Travelfish on our iPod while on-site, which worked very well to give us the basics without having to carry a heavy book around all day. Then plan what you want to see in advance.
TIP: Consider seeing the temples in a reverse order than suggested in order to beat the crowds. The downside is that you may miss the optimal natural lighting effects that sunrise and sunset can have on the site.
Thirdly, arrange a tuk tuk driver in advance to take you around the site. The site is very spread out and moving between temples is best done this way. (People do rent bicycles from Siem Reap to ride out to the site, but combined with the heat and the climbing you’ll need to do on-site, you may become exhausted very quickly!) Your guest house/hotel will usually either have a few hanging around out front or will be able to recommend their favourite (the downside to this is that the price may be inflated). Conversely, you can find a driver on the streets of Siem Reap, although their proficiency in English will vary greatly.
TIP: A full day hire of tuk tuk and driver should cost around $12 USD per day—good negotiation skills are a must in order to secure this. Your driver will take you to the sites and wait while you explore before moving on to another. If you want the services of a guide, you should hire a licensed guide on site.
Fourth, don’t forget to drink lots of water as the heat and exertion can take its toll quickly. Water can be readily purchased at the entrances of the temples, but at heavily inflated prices. There are also many restaurants and cafes on offer at Angkor Wat.
TIP: food stalls are a good budget option and are located near the Bayon.
Fifth, be sure you dress sensibly. It can get very hot at Angkor Wat, so natural fibre clothing or tech clothing is ideal. Bare shoulders and shorts may see you turned away from climbing the main tower at Angkor Wat. Don’t forget to bring a hat or an umbrella to give you some shade. And many of the structures need to be climbed in order to be visited, so wear good sturdy shoes as some of the steps can be slippery.
Tip: April is a great month to go, as temperatures can be in the low 20’s celcius.
Lastly, be mindful that while Angkor Wat is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors need to do their part in ensuring its on-going preservation by making sure you take your rubbish away with you, staying on the marked paths, and trying to refrain from touching all the monuments. As recent reports state that visitor numbers are up 45% from that of a year ago, the future of Angkor Wat is apparently in jeopardy from being ‘loved too much’ and future visitor management of the site is currently under review. For now, enjoy your visit, and hopefully many others can too for generations to come.