Ways to wonders
With so many temples to explore, it’s vital you choose the right way to go see them to make the most out of your trip to Angkor. Here, we give you tips and pointers to guide your through your adventure.
The time-honoured way of a temple trek is by tuk-tuk. For about $20 a day, the driver will take you to all the main sites, often offering an overview of them and their legends as you drive.
Tourists are not allowed to rent motorbikes in Siem Reap, so hiring a motodop and driver is your next best bet. A moto allows you to travel quickly and skirt the traffic that stacks up during evenings and holidays. Wearing a helmet is a legal requirement. Alternatively, starting at $1 a day, it is possible to cycle throughout Angkor at a leisurely pace.
There are scores of stranger ways to explore the temples. If you’re with a group, why not try an electric car? Carrying up to 16 people, these carts provide a quiet, shady ride, and at just $3 per person are a great way to go. You can find tickets outside the south gate of Angkor Thom.
Renting a whole taxi costs from about $25 a day and can take up to four passengers. Meanwhile, the fun and environmentally friendly electric Green e-bikes cost just $10 per day to rent. The battery lasts for around 40-50km, and they’re remarkably quiet.
See the temples in all their glory from the sky. There are a series of companies offering visitors the chance to see Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples by helicopter. Flights start from around $90.
Elephant riding at Bayon temple is available, but we encourage you not to do this, as it is cruel and very stressful for the elephants. Not long ago one female elephant died from exhaustion, she was literally worked to death. Wild elephants won’t let humans ride on top of them. So in order to tame a wild elephant, it is tortured as a baby to completely break its spirit. If you want to get close to these gentle giants without harming them then check out the Elephant Valley Project in Mondulkiri.
Plan to spend $20 to $25 to hire a guide for taxi or tuk-tuk travel. Guides provide an overview of what you are about to see, and give you a walking tour of the temples. Always agree on prices in advance, charge your camera and bring plenty of bottled water!
Professional temple tour guides can be hired for $30+ a day and can speak most major languages. There will be many people approaching you at the temple gates claiming to be guides. Many aren’t, so it’s worth checking their credentials or pre-booking from a reputable agent.
All professional guides must be licensed with the Ministry of Tourism and they should carry identification cards. To book a guide, contact the Khmer Angkor Tour Guide Association on +855 (0)12 866 914. KATGA offers a list of Ministry of Tourism and UNESCO trained guides.
Travel website TripAdvisor is another good source of information and a simple search will flag up a series of highly recommended guides and their contact details, as well as tour companies offering a range of packages to suit all needs and schedules.
Now it’s time to decide what you’re going to see, and with more than 45 temples scattered across the 400 square km Angkor Archaeological Park, it will take up to one week to see it all. Visitors can buy one-day passes for $37, three-day for $62 or week-long for $72 (prices were a fair bit cheaper before February this year, but let’s try not dwell on that).
Plan your route carefully in order to try and avoid hordes of tourists getting in the way of that perfect photograph. This is where an experienced guide can be a real help. A handy tool to guide you through the treasures of this massive archeological complex and help you plan your route is the Siem Reap Tourist Map from Pocket Guide Cambodia, freely available at your guesthouse.
The most popular temples of the park are Angkor Wat, the “Great City” of Angkor Thom, which contains The Bayon temple, as well as Ta Prohm, the jungle-covered temple made famous by Angelina Jolie in the 2001 Hollywood blockbuster Tomb Raider.
All of these temples can be taken in over the course of a day, if you have the energy to keep going from dusk to dawn – just be sure to keep cool and hydrated during hot and humid weather, and pack a coat or umbrella to cope with the frequent thunderstorms.