It is not a walk in the park. While for some people, setting foot on the grounds of Angkor Wat is scratching off the top items on my bucket list, exploring the site is anything but dreamy. Angkor Wat can be overwhelming. It is huge, even bigger than you probably imagine. And it is JUST ONE of the many structures at the Angkor Archaeological Park. There are several other temples peppering the jungles of this part of Cambodia, and — trust me — you will want to visit most of them.
If anything, it can suck out all the energy in you and make the experience less enjoyable if you come unprepared. Thus, here are some tips to help you make your trip hassle-free.
1. Tuktuk is the most popular means of transportation within Angkor and for a reason. It is cheap and comfortable. The usual cost is USD12 but if you’re a group of 3 or bigger, you can save a lot more. If you have made friends at your hotel who will also be touring around Angkor, you can form a group with them. If you’re alone and you have the stamina, biking is a great option (although very tiring). Bike rental shops usually charge USD1 per day.
2. Don’t lose your tuktuk driver. There are so many tuktuks swarming in front of major structures that it can be difficult to find the one you hired. It’s a lot harder when it gets darker around sunset. Before leaving the vehicle, you and your driver should agree on where you should find them or ask where he will be parking.
3. Use a good pair of shoes. Your shoes should have a good grip because the ground can be uneven and, when raining, slippery. Also, pick the most comfortable pair. Rubber shoes for hiking or running are ideal because you will be walking the entire day.
4. Don’t buy from kids selling souvenirs. At Angkor Wat alone, you’ll find many children selling postcards. I personally think they should not be working and buying from them will just allow them to stay that way. There are many other ways of helping.
5. Bring a hat or an umbrella. The sun and the rain can be such a damper sometimes.
6. Bring a bottle of water. Or two. You’ll probably finish both bottles after Angkor Wat alone.
7. Read up on Angkor and Khmer history in general before your trip. This will allow you to appreciate the temples and its many features better. This is especially true if you don’t have a guide.
8. Be wary of “guides” offering to tour you around the temple. As in many other major tourist destinations, there are many scams in Siem Reap and the last thing you want is to fall victim into one of them. At some temples, there are people who approach tourists and present themselves as guides. Some of them are children. They will tour you around for a short time but they will charge you or ask for a big, big donation after.
9. Buy tickets at 5pm. Weird tip, huh? It’s because at 5pm, the Ticketing office already sells admission passes for the next day. But the best thing about it is that you can already use the pass on the day itself. Although this will give you only a few additional hours, you can use the time to view the sunset (and perhaps view the sunset again the next day but at another temple) or already start exploring some parts of Angkor Wat. And oh, don’t ever lose your pass.
10. Pace yourself. At first you’ll be like, “Oh! So many temples! I’m gonna see them ALL!” But when you’re actually doing it, the temple fatigue kicks in and you might find yourself not wanting to visit any other temple anymore. The key is to just take your time and not rush. Take a break and “recharge” every time you feel tired. This is also a good reason why you should read up on the temples before going there — it’s not that tiring when the many features of the places you visit actually mean something to you. Not only will it give you more things to look forward to, it also manages your expectations. So, on the way to the next temple and you spotted an eatery and you want to try it, go ahead. Don’t jump from one temple to another like you’re gonna see them ALL in one day because it’s just not gonna happen.
That’s about it! Like I said before, exploring Angkor is a mind-blowing experience but it can be a test of stamina as well. It would be best if you come prepared. If you’ve been to Angkor and you have other tips, please post them using the comment form below!
Planning on seeing Angkor Wat for your next trip? You will find more tips and more information that can help you plan your trip in my SIEM REAP TRAVEL GUIDE here.