So where is Angkor Wat? Other than travelers to Southeast Asia and archaeologists, it's surprising how many people don't know the location of Angkor Wat. The impressive ruins that make up the world's largest religious monument don't get nearly as much world attention as they should.
Angkor Wat is located in Cambodia, just 3.7 miles (six kilometers) north of Siem Reap, a popular tourist town.
To get to Angkor Wat, you'll need to arrive in Siem Reap (by bus, train, or flight), find accommodation, and get an early start on the ruins the following day.
The primary Angkor Wat site is close enough to Siem Reap to reach by bicycle. For those less excited about Cambodia's sticky heat, catch a tuk-tuk or hire a knowledgeable driver for the day to cart you around.
- Read all about visiting Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Angkor Wat Entrance Fees
Being a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as managed by a private company adds to the entrance cost at Angkor Wat. Sadly, not much of the money is put back into Cambodia. Most temple restoration is funded by outside organizations.
With so many remote temples away from the main tourist site and ruins to see, you'll most likely want at least a three-day pass to fully appreciate the monument without rushing around too much.
- One-day pass: US $20
- Three-day pass: US $40
- Seven-day pass: US $60
Hiring a Guide for Angkor Wat
As always, there are advantages and disadvantages to exploring Angkor Wat with a guide or on a tour.
Although you'll probably learn more in an organized tour, finding the magic of the place in a group setting just isn't as easy.
The ideal scenario is to have enough days at Angkor Wat that you can hire an independent guide for one day (don't worry, guide fees are relatively inexpensive) and then return to your favorite spots to enjoy them without someone rushing you along.
Technically, guides are supposed to be officially licensed, but there are plenty of rogue guides hanging around to intercept business. Hire someone recommended by your accommodation or through a travel agency to be safe.
Getting a Visa for Cambodia
Visitors to Cambodia need to get a travel visa either before they enter or upon arrival at the airport in Siem Reap. If traveling overland, you can get a visa on arrival as you cross the border.
A fee of US $20 is charged; paying for the Cambodian visa in U.S. dollars is best. Authorities ask for more money thanks to exchange rates made up on the spot, especially when trying to pay with Thai baht.
Tip: U.S. dollars are often scrutinized by immigration officials and only crisp, new banknotes are accepted. Any bills with tears or defects may be rejected.
You will need one or two passport-sized photos (different entry points have different policies) for the visa application. A tourist visa is typically good for 30 days and can be extended one time.
You can get an E-visa for Cambodia electronically before arrival, however, there is an additional US $7 processing charge and you will need a digital passport-sized photo for the online application. Most overland travelers simply wait until arrival.
If you thought the scams in Thailand were annoying, wait until you get closer to Cambodia! The border crossings between Thailand and Cambodia are rife with petty scams that target new arrivals. Be mindful, don't talk to touts no matter how friendly they appear, and the quicker you get away from the border the better.
Getting to Angkor Wat
Siem Reap International Airport (airport code: REP) is connected to South Korea, China, and major hubs throughout Southeast Asia, including Bangkok. AirAsia operates flights to and from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The airport is around 4.3 miles from the center of Siem Reap. Nicer hotels offer free airport shuttles or you can take a fixed-rate taxi for US $7. Siem Reap has a busy tourist infrastructure, so getting around isn't a problem.
From Bangkok to Angkor Wat
Although the quick flight between Bangkok and Siem Reap is overpriced for the short distance, it does allow you to avoid running a gauntlet of overland scams between Bangkok and Angkor Wat.
Overpriced buses, taxis, and even the potential to be overcharged for your visa by corrupt immigration officials make the otherwise-easy trip more difficult than it should be. Fortunately, the legendary, spine-rattling road between Bangkok and Siem Reap was resurfaced in 2006 and offers a much smoother ride.
Tip: A majority of the direct buses and minibuses offered to backpackers from Khao San Road to Siem Reap are scams. Some have even been known to conveniently "break down" so that you are forced to spend a night in an expensive guesthouse until the border reopens in the morning. That very thing happened to myself, so I can confirm: the choices are pretty slim when you're on the side of a jungle road late at night.
The bus from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet on the Thai side of the border takes around five hours, depending on traffic.
In Aranyaphet, you will need to take a taxi or tuk-tuk a short distance to the actual border with Cambodia. Clearing immigration at the border could take a while, depending upon how busy they are. At all costs avoid being stuck in the area and forced to a nearby guesthouse when the border closes at 8 p.m.
After crossing into Poipet, the border town on the Cambodian side, you'll have to get a bus or taxi onward to Siem Reap; there are many transportation options of varying cost.
The Best Time to Visit Angkor Wat
The weather in Cambodia pretty well follows the climate in Southeast Asia: hot and dry or hot and wet. Humidity is often thick.
The best months to visit Angkor Wat from December to February. After that, heat and humidity build until the rainy season begins sometime in May. You can definitely visit and travel during the monsoon season, although slogging around in the rain to see outdoor temples isn't as enjoyable.