Angkor Wat is, without question, one of the crown jewels of Southeast Asia. It is the most famous of the dozens of temples in the Angkor temple complex, which is located just outside of the city of Siem Reap, Cambodia (which, ironically, in Khmer translates to “Defeat of Siam”). Siem Reap has a major airport into which you can fly from almost any city in Southeast Asia, with most hotels in town arranging private transfer for $7 US for the 15-20 minute ride.
The temples, however, are somewhat remote. The closest temple (Angkor Wat) is about 7 miles from the center of town, with the remainder spread out amongst dozens of square miles of Cambodian forest. So then the question beckons – given their location, size, and scope, along with the fact that there is no public transportation link to the temples from the city, how do you get out to see the temples from Siem Reap? There are a few options, with these being the most popular:
- Hire a tuk-tuk. Many hotels have drivers who work specifically for them, and you can arrange this directly through your hotel. For those who don’t stay in a hotel which employs one, you literally can’t walk for 30 seconds in Siem Reap without being accosted by tuk-tuk drivers looking to take you to the temples. This is a great way to survey the area, get the lay of the land, and see some highlights. The driver will drop you off at a temple, and then wait for you on the other side. Just be sure you remember who your driver is, as there will be dozens of drivers waiting when you emerge on the other side. Negotiate the price beforehand ($15 US is pretty standard for 4-6 hours, and anything under $20 is acceptable), but make sure the driver agrees to accept payment at the end of the day. I met a Canadian gentleman who paid his driver up front upon request, and then his driver abandoned him after dropping him off at the first temple. The vast majority of the drivers are hard-working Cambodians just doing what they can to provide for their family, and this is certainly the exception and not the rule. Still, however, it is something about which to be aware.
- Rent your own car or motorbike. You can rent a motorbike for the day in Siem Reap for $7 or a car for $50, and go at it on your own. This allows for the maximum in flexibility and autonomy, but you’ll somewhat need to know the main sites and what you want to see ahead of time. The signage on the temple roads is excellent, so as long as you know which temples you want to see, finding them will be easy.
- Rent a bike. Many hotels offer free bicycle usage, or if yours does not, you can rent one in Siem Reap for $3 for a day. This will be a very long day of exercise if you choose this route, however, as a simple return trip to Angkor Wat will be a 16+ mile ride, and you can easily get up to 30-40 miles if you go to a few other temples. In addition to that, plan on taking 5,000+ steps per temple to explore their vast grounds and rooms. Another thing to consider regarding this option is the weather. It is hot in Cambodia. Very hot. Unlike Vietnam and Laos, it did not even cool down at night. The temp in Siem Reap was over 100 degrees with heat indices of 125, and the temp remained in the 90s until very late at night.
Another key factor to your decision here will be how many days you want to spend exploring the temples, as you need to purchase an entry ticket to get into the Angkor complex. The ticketing is strictly enforced, as your tickets are checked at checkpoints on the road into the complex, at the entry to every temple, and at other random intervals as well. While Cambodia is very cheap, Angkor is not, with the tickets clocking in at $37 for 1 day, $62 for 3 days, and $72 for 7 days, payable in cash only in US dollars. Additionally, your ticket has your photograph on it, to protect against one person buying the weeklong pass and giving it to someone else. The fine for going ticketless, or for using someone else’s ticket starts at $250. If you only go one day, you will want to make the best decision for that. If you are planning on multiple days, you can try varied ways of getting out to and exploring the temple complex.
In tomorrow’s post I’ll discuss my decision, and how I went about seeing and touring the temples.
Michael Prodanovich is a contributor to Point Me to the Plane, and author of The Ultimate Guide to Free Travel