Angkor Wat 101 – The Basics that you Need to Know Before You Go
Chances are if you are visiting Cambodia you are planning to spend some time at Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is the world’s largest complex of temples. These stunning and archaeologically important Khmer Empire ruins are the highlight of many travelers’ trips to Southeast Asia. This is a truly wondrous experience.
While you are likely filled with excitement and anticipation about the prospect of visiting Angkor Wat, you might find yourself feeling inundated with information about the experience.
Countless blogs, travel guides, books, and forums exist solely to help you plan your ‘once in a lifetime’ holiday. While this amount of information is certainly interesting, it can also be overwhelming and even frustrating.
If you want to start with the basics; all of the information that you absolutely NEED to know, read ahead for our Angkor Wat 101 guide.
This is a vast site
The Angkor Heritage Complex is the world’s largest religious site. A series of temples spread over 200 hectares (500 acres) of jungle and countryside. As a result, you need to plan ahead and book at least 3 days in and around Siem Reap (and even up to one week).
Buying your tickets
Visitors to Siem Reap can buy their Angkor tickets at the Apsara Authority. It is open daily from 5 am to 6am and located at the Angkor Archaeological Park entrance. It is imperative that you present your passport. Prepare to have your photo taken, as your tickets and passes are non-transferable. The passes cost USD $20 for one day’s entrance, USD $40 for any 3 days over the course of a week, and USD $60 for any seven days (valid for one month). If you choose to buy your tickets after 5pm (ideal for a sunset visit) they will also be valid for the next day.
Hire a Cyclo Driver
Hire a local guide
For at least one of your days at Angkor Wat, you should hire a local guide to accompany you to the main temples and explain their historical, religious and architectural significance. Qualified local guides are an affordable necessity if you truly want to understand the temples. Your hotel can help you to arrange their services.
There is so much more to the area than Angkor Wat
The name Angkor Wat actually refers to only one of the main temples. There are dozens of other amazing sites to see. After Angkor Wat (the temple most often depicted in photos), the most impressive sites is Angkor Thom, the temple city that includes Bayon (marked by colossal carved faces) and Ta Prohm (the temple choked by massive trees and twisted roots featured in Tomb Raider). If you go further afield, ensure you visit Banteay Srey (known for ornate carvings), Beng Melea (covered in vegetation) and Bakong (surrounded by a scenic moat).
High and low seasons
Many people plan their trips in order to avoid the hottest weather and the monsoon rains, and as a result, the high tourist season is from November to April. That said, the low season (during the monsoon) may be soggy, but it is also the prettiest time of year! The area is lush, green and verdant – and with far fewer tourists.
Take some breathtaking photos
If you want to take some truly amazing photos, the best times of day to visit the sites are sunrise and in the later afternoon. Many people choose to spend the mid-morning and early afternoon back in Siem Reap, taking advantage of affordable massages, delicious food, and naps back in their AC rooms!