The city of Siem Reap is actually quite small but the site of Angkor Wat is enormous and with so much to see (in such heat) it’s a challenge to know what to prioritise and how to do it in such a short space of time.
In this post we’ll let you know what we recommend visiting and how you can do it in ONE day.
- 1 Pin this for later
- 2 Cover up those shoulders
- 3 Get your tickets the day before
- 4 Period of validity for Angkor Passes
- 5 How to cope with the heat
- 6 Angkor Wat opening hours
- 7 Best start early
- 8 Hire a tuk-tuk for the day
- 9 Take a break during the day
- 10 20 ways to make Angkor Wat more kid friendly
- 11 My favourite time of day?
- 12 Really can’t be bothered to take the kids?
- 13 Which temples do we recommend?
- 14 Add this post to Pinterest
- 15 Let Cambodia Inspire You
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Cover up those shoulders
You will need to cover up ALL shoulders and knees, irrespective of gender, other wise you may not be able to buy a ticket let alone enter the temple grounds!
The temples are a mix of Hindu and Buddhist and you’ll frequently see monks in their beautiful orange and red robes sitting amongst the ruins.
Get your tickets the day before
The tickets are really fancy and have your photo added to them (do not lose them!). Because of this the process of queing and taking photos can take well over an hour at busy periods. In December 2016, a total of 249,482 people visited the Angkor Temples. Now you can see why the queues get busy!
In order to save time, I would advise getting the tickets the day before you intend to go. You are able to purchase tickets from 5pm the day before if you’re buying a one day ticket.
As of January 2018 ticket prices were: $37 for a single day pass, $62 for a three-day pass and $72 for a weeklong pass. The ticket counters accept cash and payment with Visa, Mastercard, UnionPay, JCB, Discover and Diners Club.
You also need to carry your tickets with you at all times, preferably in a waterproof case of some sort.
Period of validity for Angkor Passes
With a 3 or 7-day pass, the viewing days do not have to be in succession.
- 1 Day: This ticket is valid only on the day of purchase (or if purchased after 5pm the day before).
- 3 Days: This ticket is valid for 10 days from the date of purchase. You can choose which three days you wish to visit the Angkor temples on.
- 7 Days: This ticket is valid for one calendar month from the date of purchase. You have a whole month in which to visit the Angkor temples on the seven days of your choice.
I am desperate to go back to Cambodia and especially as Rich wasn’t with us, we’d love to go back to Angkor wat and spend much longer appreciating the temples.
If you don’t have to cram your visit into one day, DON’T. Really take your time and appreicate the quality of what you’re seeing. If you only have one day, read on and we’ll let you know how we visited in just a day.
How to cope with the heat
If you’ve never experienced the humidity and heat of south-east Asia, you’re in for a treat! We absolutely love it but make no mistake it can be physically draining.
The sun can be incredibly hot, if it’s out, but even in the rainy season where it normally only rains in the late afternoon, the humidity will engulf you. It’s futile wearing rain-coats because you’ll sweat bucket loads and they’ll stick to you and smother your skin.
The best thing to do is acquire very light weight ponchos and to carry them with you. You can pick them up for just a few $ and they take up a tiny amount of room.
You will definitely need drinks and a back-pack to carry them in, so make sure the poncho fits over your bag.
Angkor Wat opening hours
- Angkor Ticket Center: Daily from 5.00am until 5.30pm
- Angkor Wat and Srah Srang: Daily from 5.00am until 5.30pm.
- Phnom Bakheng and Pre Rup: Daily from 5.00am until 7pm.
- All other Temples: Daily from 7.30am until 5.30pm.
Best start early
I started at sunrise – although my kids stayed in bed and they met me in time for an early breakfast.
Sunrise is no less busy than the rest of the day, and for me, it really wasn’t worth getting out of bed at 3:30am for! It was so crowded and people everywhere that I did not manage to get a decent photo and the sunrise wasn’t that spectacular due to the high cloud coverage.
The heat of the day doesn’t start until about 10-11am, so the earlier you can start the better. If you can start at about 7-8am I think you’d appreciate it more with the coolness of the morning.
Hire a tuk-tuk for the day
Negotiate a tuk-tuk for a day price and make sure it’s understood that the tuk-tuk will wait for you whilst you visit temples. I was so glad we hired a man for the day. He was very friendly and helpful and we found him through our locally owned hotel (opens in new window).
Expect to pay anywhere upwards from $40US for a day’s tuk-tuk. All the cash machines give currency in both US $ and Riel. I recommend getting $1 bills before you arrive to give as tips but don’t tip kids during the week as it encourages them to skip education.
Take a break during the day
I definitely recommend that you take a break between 11:30am and 3pm. Go back to your accommoodation, have a swim, take a nap, get something to eat and come back at 3pm all refreshed and raring to go again.
Avoid the main and bigger sites in the morning as they’re very crowded. Any time after 3pm they start to really clear.
20 ways to make Angkor Wat more kid friendly
- It is not stroller friendly so consider taking a hip seat, backpack carry or baby carrier
- Buy child orientated books before arriving. Some examples are: Leap and Hop Cambodia. Explore Vietnam, Cambodia & Laos: A Travel Activity Book for Kids. ABCs for Cambodia; A phonics book. Cambodia Kids Trailblazer Activity Book. Ancient Wonders, then and now. Jack Stalwart: The secret of the sacred temple. If on this earth there are angels (For teens).
- Watch these two minute videos with your younger kids before you go: 1) Angkor Wat Temple History and Facts – Fact or Fiction | Educational Videos by Mocomi Kids. 2) Angkor Wat. The Macro-City of Cambodia. 3) Lost City of Angkor Wat | Lost Temples.
- Watch this forty-five minute video with older kids: Angkor Wat: City of the God Kings. It is a bit West-centric but still insightful.
- Let them touch and climb (rocks, trees, steps etc)
- Given them choices as to what to visit next. “Should we visit here or here next?”
- Walk slowly and watch the ground for insects and bugs
- Take paper and crayons so you can do rubbings
- Consider buying them a cheap point and shoot camera
- Encourage them to map read so they can see where you’re going
- Pack little snacks like dried fruit or take time to buy coconuts and fruit from the locals. They’re usually $1
- Consider journaling and allowing time to make notes or draw pictures
- Find monks or people offering blessings and exchange time or gifts
- Challenge your kids to find the biggest tree roots and estimate how tall they are
- See how many monkeys they can spot
- Roll on the grass banks
- Take time to sit and breathe and experience some of the peacfulness of the lesser known temples. One of my favourites is Chau Say Tevoda and we sat here for 30 minutes watching locals fish with nets whilst standing in the water
- Count the steps up to the top. Many temples have lots of steps up and up!
- If your children enjoy stories, consider hiring a knowledgeable guide who will be able to tell ancient Khmer legends and myths, like the storey of the Churning of the Oceans of Milk and the storey of the Leper King.
- Negotiate, compromise and don’t get angry.
My favourite time of day?
The best time of day for me was the period between 5-7pm. Sunset was magical and driving around in the tuk-tuk at night was a lot of fun.
Watch the sun set from the top of Pre Rup temple.
Really can’t be bothered to take the kids?
If you really don’t want to take your kids around Angkor Wat, I recently learned of an international school in Siem Reap that will care for kids on an ad hoc, hourly or weekly basis.
The Tree House Internation School offers nursery and primary daycare for visiting families as well as those living there. I have not used this school but I do have a friend working there.
Which temples do we recommend?
You can’t go all the way to Siem Reap and not see the main site however don’t spend too long there because we think there are better temples to see.
These were some of our favourites:
Entirely surrounded by water (like many of the temples) this 10th century smaller temple feels like it’s on an island. Five reddish blocks of towers together and its exterior is striking for its classical lines and symmetry.
This reservoir also dating from the 10th century features the upright head of a serpent, mounted by a garuda with its wings unfurled. The steps that lead down to the water are flanked by two guardian lions. A 1600 sq. meter cemetery was discovered at the north-west corner of the reservoir. Mortuary jars containing cremated remains were excavated. There may have been a temple in the middle of the lake as a base was also found.
This 13th century jungle temple featured in the “Tomb Raider” movie. The huge trees and massive roots growing out of the temple walls give the temple a sureal atmosphere. Although a number of trees have been cut down to protect the temple from collapse, it is still one of the most natural settings in the Angkor Wat complex.
The last temple to be built at Angkor, Bayon’s most distinctive feature is the multitude of serene and smiling stone faces on the many towers which jut out from the upper terrace and cluster around its central peak.
With its enormous stone faces on towers as well as heads on the bridge as you enter, it’s a spectacle not to miss.
Ta Keo has five sanctuary towers arranged on a five-tier pyramid, surrounded by moats. The first terrace is 122 m by 106 m. The second terrace is 5.5 m higher.
Banteay Kdei Temple
This Buddhist monastic complex is currently dilapidated due to faulty construction but is perfect for kids to explore. It was built in the 12th century and has been overrun with moss and trees.
Known as the bridge of stone, it’s one of only a few to have survived. It was built on the former path of the Siem Reap River between Angkor Thom and the Eastern Baray and it was probably rebuilt after the Khmer period (15th century), as it includes many reused sandstone blocks. The 14 narrow arches are 1.10 m wide.
Chau Say Tevoda
A 12th century Hindu temple which was entirely destroyed when found. Its stones were found scattered around the banks of the Siem Reap River. Later it was re-built in its original style and was re-opened in 2009.
Angkor Thom was abandoned some time prior to 1609 but prior to that it is believed to have sustained a population of up to 150,000 people.
Angkor Thom is in the Bayon style; large scale construction; face-towers at each of the entrances to the city and in the naga-carrying giant figures which accompany each of the towers.
Here we discovered giant centipes and stopped to watch them for a while.
There are five identical gates to enter Angkor Thom. The south gate is the most commonly used. The walls are 8m high and the towers of the gate 23m high. They feature large Bayon style faces and is named The Victory Gate as it was used by a Khmer king on his successful return from battle.
Terrace of Elephants
Part of Angkor Thom, this 350m long terrace of huge sculpted elephants was used by Angkor’s king Jayavarman VII as a platform o view his victorious returning army as well as being used as a giant reviewing stand for public ceremonies and the king’s grand audience hall.
A temple with a giant seated Buddha which is still used by monks to worship.
Constructed more than two centuries before Angkor Wat in the 9th century, Phnom Bakheng was in its day the principal temple of the Angkor region. Phnom Bakheng is one of 3 hilltop temples in the Angkor region that are attributed to Yasovarman’s reign and it gives fantastic views across the main site of Angkor Wat. It’s a great spot for both sunrise and sunset.
Another great spot for sunset is 10th century, red brick, Pre Rup. Get your climbing legs on for this squared pyramid which measures 50m at its base and rises in three steep tiers a dozen metres in height to a 35m square platform at the summit.
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