Planning Your Visit to the Angkor Temple Complex

Timing

You can see most of the significant temples and monuments in a one-day sprint, although a three-day visit is recommended. If you have just one day, stick to a 17-km (11-mile) route that takes in the south gate of Angkor Thom, Bayon, Baphuon, the Elephant Terrace and the Terrace of the Leper King, and Ta Prohm, ending with a visit to Angkor Wat itself in time to catch the sunset. Leave the most time for the Bayon and Angkor Wat. If you have two or three days, cover ground at a more leisurely pace. You can also tack on additional sites such as Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Pre Rup (a good sunset spot), Phnom Bakheng, or farther-flung Banteay Srei. Another option is East Mebon, a 10th-century ruin in the East Baray, a former reservoir. Alternatively, visit the West Baray, once Angkor’s largest reservoir—it still fills with water during the rainy season (June to October). The best way to experience Angkor is with a guide, who can help you decode the bas-reliefs and architectural styles.

When to Go

Most people visit the east-facing temples of Bayon and Baphuon in the morning—the earlier you arrive, the better the light and the smaller the crowd. West-facing Angkor Wat gets the best light in the late afternoon, though these temples can also be stunning at sunrise. You can visit the woodland-surrounded Ta Prohm at any time, though photos will turn out best on cloudy days; the distant Banteay Srei is prettiest in late-afternoon light. If quiet is your priority, beat the crowds by visiting sunset spots in the morning and east-facing temples in the afternoon.

Getting Around

The entrance to the complex is 4 km (2½ miles) north of Siem Reap; you’ll need to arrange transportation to get here and around. Most independent travelers hire a car and driver ($35–$50 per day), moto (motorcycle) driver ($12–$18), or tuk-tuk ($20–$35, seats up to four). Renting bicycles ($3–$5) or electric bikes ($5–$8) is also an option if you’re up for the exertion in the heat. Tourists may not drive motorized vehicles in the park. If you hire a driver, he’ll stick with you for the whole day, ferrying you between the sites. However, going with a guide is strongly recommended.

Admission

The Angkor complex is open from 5:30 am to 6 pm. Admission is $20 for one day, $40 for three consecutive days, and $60 for a week. You’ll receive a ticket with your photo on it. Don’t lose the ticket—you’ll need it at each site and to access the restrooms. If you buy your ticket at 5 pm, you'll be admitted for the remaining open hour, in time to see the sunset from Phnom Bakeng to catch the last rays setting Angkor Wat aglow. Your ticket will also count for the following day.

What to Wear

Skimpy clothes, such as short shorts and backless tops, violate the park’s dress code. Shield yourself from the sun with light fabrics, and bring a wide-brimmed hat or even a shade umbrella. Note, however, that those wearing Vietnamese-style conical hats will be turned away since they cause offence. Drivers remain with the vehicle so you can leave items you don’t want to carry.

On the Ground

You’ll find food and souvenir stalls inside the park near the temples; children also roam the sites selling trinkets and guidebooks. But you’ll get templed out if you don’t take a break from sightseeing; consider breaking up the day by swinging back to Siem Reap for lunch or to your hotel for an afternoon rest. Make sure to drink plenty of water, which you can buy inside the park.

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