Angkor Wat is an ancient city in Cambodia that was the center of the Khmer empire that once ruled most of Southeast Asia.
This civilization went extinct, but not before building amazing temples and buildings that were reclaimed by the jungle for hundreds of years. Though this place is always packed with tourists, the area and ruins are still breathtaking to see.
The most popular temples are Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Phrom, and Angkor Thom. I would recommend getting a multi-day pass so you can visit some of the outer temples where there are fewer visitors.
The closest major city and launching pad for tours here is Siem Reap.
Use this guide to plan your trip to traveling to Angkor Wat and making the most of your days here.
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Angkor Wat
1. Angkor Wat
2. The Bayon
3. Ta Prohm
4. Banteay Srei
5. Ta Som
Other Things to See and Do in Angkor Wat
1. Elephant Terrace
A 1000 foot terrace of elephants. It was used as a giant viewing stand during public ceremonies, royal ceremonies, and so on. Many lions decorate this enormous path as well. Now it’s surrounded by camera-wielding tourists, and I found it to be one of the busiest sites here. I suggest visiting late or early to avoid the crowds, which get overwhelming.
2. East Mebon
A huge baray surrounded this temple complex during its prime. Because it was encircled by water, there was no need for enclosures or moats that became customary for temples in Angkor. East Mebon has five towers — make sure to climb the central platform to the towers and check out the intricate stonework.
3. Preah Khan
Preah Khan is one of the largest sites in the Angkor temple complex. Not only was this site an important temple, but it also appears to have been a large Buddhist university with over one thousand teachers at one time. It has remained largely unrestored, as evidenced by the many trees growing around the ruins and mossy stones left laying everywhere. The site was a previous palace of Yasovarman II and Tribhuvanadityavarman, and historians believe a famous battle was fought on this site.
4. Pre Rup
About 2,000 feet south of the East Baray lies Pre Rup, built by Rajendravarman as his capital after re-establishing Angkor once he took over as king. Pre Rup was at the center of a city that has long since vanished. You can climb the steep steps up to the three tiers of the pyramid.
5. Preah Ko (Sacred Bull)
This was the first temple to be built in the ancient city of Hariharalaya. It lies about 10 miles southeast of the main temples at Angkor. Today, there are six small brick towers that sit atop a sandstone base.
6. Srah Srang
Commonly known as ‘The Royal Baths’, this spot was once a major bathing spot for every living thing, elephants aside, in the area. Today it is the most popular place for local children to swim.
7. Baksei Chamkrong
On the road between Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, you can find a single tower that was built by Harshavarman I (910-923 CE). It’s one of the few ruins accredited to him, and he had it built to honor his father who was responsible for the construction of Phnom Bakheng.
8. Terrace of the Leper King
This seven-layer terrace was built in the 13th century and was named after the god of the underworld, whose naked statue perches on top. Keep an eye out for the secret passageway that runs from the southwest to northwest side of the structure.
Angkor Wat Travel Costs
Note: Cambodia uses USD. There’s no real need to carry the local currency, Cambodian Riels (KHR), unless you paying for really small things on the street, but for the most part, use USD.
Hostel prices – Dorm rooms in Siem Reap start around $2 USD per night for a basic room with a fan and cold shower room. For a private bathroom with hot water, expect to pay closer to $15 USD per night. Free WiFi is generally standard, and a few hostels also include free breakfast.
Budget hotel prices – A room in a guesthouse with air-con, hot water, and TV will cost around $12.50 USD per night for a twin, $15 USD for a double. For a hotel/guesthouse with a pool, expect to pay closer to $20 USD. Airbnb is available in the city, though the prices aren’t cheap. Expect to pay $15 USD per night for shared accommodation and at least $25 USD per night for an entire home/apartment.
Average cost of food – There are tons of food options within the temple complex (though prices are higher than in the city). You can easily find restaurant meals in the $5-7 USD price range. And, around the temples, you will find little stands with cheap meals for about $2-3 USD. There are also lots of vendors selling fresh fruit and juices for as little as $1.50 USD.
Angkor Wat Suggested Budgets
How much does it cost to visit Angkok Wat?
On a backpacking budget you can expect to pay $50 USD per day. This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, cooking most of your meals or eating cheap street food, and using a bike to get around. This also includes a day entry to the Angkor Wat site.
For a mid-range budget of $92 USD you can eat at restaurants, stay in a private room, and hire a private driver to see Angkor Wat.
On a luxury budget of $225+ USD per day, you can stay in a nice hotel or on a resort, eat out for every meal, and opt for a full guided tour of the site.
Angkor Wat Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
Looking to save money in Angkor Wat?
- Angkor Wat permit – Everyone needs a permit to enter the Angkor temples unless you are Cambodian or related to a Cambodian. A 1-day pass is $37 USD, 3-day is $62 USD, and 7-day is $72 USD.
- Rent a tuk-tuk – It’s best to rent a tuk-tuk for an entire day to get around. They know how to get you in and out of each temple and know the best routes for the complex. It will let you see more places in a day and is very affordable, generally around $25 USD for the day. If you split this between a group of 3-4 it becomes quite affordable. Getting a driver in Siem Reap is cheaper than renting one inside the park.
- See the sunset the night before – If you buy your ticket after 5pm you can legally enter the park without using up your allotted days. This means you can technically enter the park and explore before it closes, and still have your 1-, 3-, or 7-days remaining. The best way to spend this extra time is to watch the sunset, saving the temples for the following day(s).
Where to Stay in Angkor Wat
Travelers stay in Siem Reap when they’re visiting Angkor Wat. My suggested places are:
How to Get Around Angkor Wat
There are two ways for you to and from Angkor Wat (and around the complex):
Bicycle Rental – Bicycles are a great way to explore the complex, and you can find rentals for about $2 USD per day. If you choose this method though be prepared for long hours cycling in the heat.
Tuks-Tuks and Hired Drivers – These can be found all over the place and your hostel or hotel should be able to help you find one if you can’t (though they really are everywhere). Drivers cost $25 USD per day.
When to Go to Angkor Wat
There’s a toss up no matter when you visit Angkor Wat: you’ll either have to choose between a rainy, muddy visit with less people around or great weather and crazy tourist hordes. But if you’re concerned mainly with weather, the best time to visit during the dry season (from late November to early April). Angkor Wat is open year-round.
December and January are best for weather, but they’re also busiest. April and May can be unbearably hot, with tons of humidity. The average daily temperature in April is 88°F (31°C). Monsoon season lasts from late May/June to the end of October, with September and October being the hottest months. If you can time your visit to one of the shoulder months, do so!
How to Stay Safe in Angkor Wat
Cambodia is an incredibly safe place to backpack and travel. Petty theft (including bag snatching) is the most common type of crime in Cambodia and at the Angkor Wat temple complex. You may encounter persistent children trying to sell you stuff and they may even become more aggressive if you don’t shop with them.
Just walk away from them.
Make sure you bring lots of water to keep hydrated during the hot days too.
Worried about travel scams? Read about these 14 major travel scams to avoid.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Angkor Wat Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Angkor Wat. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals.
- Momondo – This is my favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engline which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments. The big cities have tons of listings! (If you’re new to Airbnb, get $35 off your first stay!)
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Agoda – Other than Hostelworld an Airbnb, Agoda is the best hotel accommodation site for Asia as it has the largest inventory and offers the best rates. If you want a guesthouse or hotel, book it via this website!
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Cambodia, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get exclusive discounts when you click the link!
- STA Travel – A good company for those under 30 or for students, STA Travel offers discounted airfare as well as travel passes that help you save on attractions.
- Grassroots Volunteering – For volunteering, Grassroots Volunteering compiles a list of good local volunteer organizations that keep the money within the community.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
Angkor Wat Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading to Angkor Wat, here are my suggestions for the best travel backpack and tips on what to pack.
The Best Backpack for Angkor Wat
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Angkor Wat
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Doctor-prescribed antibiotics
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (a water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Angkor Wat Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
First They Killed my Father, by Loung Ung
This is the real life story of Loung Ung, one of seven children of a high-ranking government official living in Phnom Penh until the age of 5. When Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge army invaded the city in 1975, Ung’s family had to flee and eventually separate. Loung became a child soldier while her siblings were sent to work camps, and this book recounts the devastating horrors she encountered along the way. The documentary of the same name (directed by Angelina Jolie!) is also amazing.
In the Shadow of the Banyan, by Vaddey Ratner
Raami is just seven years old when her father comes home early one evening, bringing news of the civil war in the streets of Phnom Penh. Not long after, Raami’s world of guarded royal privilege is turned on its head, as the Khmer Rouge moves in to attempt to strip the entire population of its individual identity. As a method of survival, Raami turns inwards and clings to her childhood stories and poems as told to her by her father. This book has tons of international acclaim. It’s a heartbreaking read, but well worth it.
Survival in the Killing Fields, by Haing Ngor
It’s true that so many of these books are about the Khmer Rouge reign of terror, but some of these reads just can’t be overlooked. This one is the true-life story of Haing Ngor, a survivor of the Cambodian holocaust. Ngor was a doctor, and so he witnessed firsthand his country’s descent into brutality, slavery, squalor, and starvation – all of which are recounted in his book. It can be difficult to read at times. Since having first published this memoir, Ngor’s life ended with his murder. The perpetrator was never found.
A Woman of Angkor, by John Burgess
Here’s one that takes place during the 12th century, right in the middle of the Angkor civilization. Sray is a young woman who lives behind Behind a stone temple in a little village. Sray has a dangerous secret, and so she lives a quiet life away from the spotlight – until she is summoned to the royal court, where her loyalties are tested by the king Suryavarman II. In the background is her husband Nol, struggling to keep her devotion. This is a fun, imaginative piece of historical fiction that will transport you right into the ancient civilization!
My Must Have Guides for Traveling to Cambodia
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Kristin Addis writes our solo female travel column and her detailed guide gives specific advice and tips for women travelers.
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My best-selling book will teach how to master the art of travel so that you’ll save money and have a more local, richer travel experience.
Angkor Wat Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more tips for your trip? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Cambodia and Angkor Wat travel and continue planning your trip: