Getting Around Angkor Wat and Siem Reap

We spent 5 days in Siem Reap visiting Angkor Wat and surrounding temples in August 2010. We travelled overland from Bangkok and stayed in Prince D'Angkor Hotel. There is plenty of online information about Angkor Wat: Travelfish, Tales of Asia are two I used a lot.


Firstly, a driver and a guide are distinct people around Angkor Wat. That is, your driver cannot be your guide, entering temples and explaining details (of course, they explain some history while on the road; however I would think dedicated guides have much more reliable information to tell you). The options for getting around the wats include a car/van, tuk-tuk and bicycle. The first time I visited, Brenton and I used a tuk-tuk for two days (and no guide). This was ok. We even did the long trip (about 30km) out to Banteay Srei. However if you have more than two people or want a bit more luxury (and air-conditioning) then try a car or van. Most cars are older Toyota Camry's and seat four passengers comfortably. However as we also booked a guide (total of 6 people), we booked a van for two days. Through the hotel the cost was $US40 per day for driver/van (and extra $10 for the 2nd day because of the long drive to Banteay Srei; guide was also extra - see below). It had plenty of space and we could have fit another person (driver and guide in the front; 2 people; then 3 people at back). Any more would not have been so good.

Guide or on your Own?

The first visit with Brenton we had no personal guide, just a Lonely Planet. From memory it was ok, but you should do a lot of background reading before you go so you know what you're looking at. With Mum, Dad and Wan, we decided to get a guide. Organised through the hotel, he cost $US25 per day. Other from "where are you from", he wasn't very talkative as we drove out to Angkor on the first day. The first stop was Angkor Wat. From the car park we followed the guide to the walkway across the moat. Its an impressive first sight of the biggest religious monument in the world, but the guide just kept going at reasonable pace. The others followed – I stopped for some photos. This was not a good start. I was think we are going to spend all day rushing through the temples with no chance to soak it all in. He got to the middle of the causeway and stopped. Once we all caught up to him, he started explaining some history. Despite my initial impression, it wasn't long before we all realised he was a bloody good guide. He did give us plenty of time to soak it all in. If he rushed at any point it was because he had good reasons: avoiding crowds and keeping us out of the hot sun. Importantly, his knowledge of Angkor Wat and Cambodia seemed excellent. He gave detailed explanations of the bas reliefs, good historical information, and seemed confident yet honest when answering questions. Finally, he spoke English better than most people I've met throughout south-east Asia. Over the two days there were only a couple of times when I noticed he had trouble pronouncing a word (which is better than I can do!). So if you are considering whether to get a guide for Angkor Wat or go it alone: my suggestion after trying both is definitely get a guide. If the guide is half as good as ours, you will be happy.

Entrance to Angkor Wat

We got a three day pass for $US40 per person. The pass is obtained at the main gates into the area as you drive from Siem Reap. They take your photo, money and give you a pass that you must keep with you for regular checks at entrances to individual temples.

What Wats?

A guide, driver or guide book will tell you the common route around the temples. We brang a printout from Travelfish, which has good rankings out of 10 of the different locations. The places we visited, in order, are listed below. Note that we started from the hotel at about 7:30am and our plan was to finish early afternoon both days (about 2-3pm) and we decided not to go for either sunrise or sunset. The driver/guide will actually take you through to 6pm to see a sunset. If you do this (or the sunrise) I recommend returning to the hotel around lunch time to take a break, otherwise it will be a long day. Day 1
  1. Angkor Wat
  2. Angkor Thom (gates)
  3. Bayon
  4. Baphoun
  5. Phimineakas
  6. Terrace of the Elephants
  7. Terrace of the Leper King
  8. Lunch
  9. Ta Phrom
Day 2
  1. Pre Rup
  2. Banteay Srei
  3. Land Mine Museum
  4. Neak Pean
  5. Preah Khan
  6. Lunch
  7. Angkor Wat
Originally the guide had planned for us to spend most of the morning at Angkor Wat, however after we told him we would like shorter days we visited another series of temples (Baphoun and Phimineakas) and the stadium area before lunch. This was a mistake. We were all hungry and tired and didn't take much notice of the temples. The last 1 hour before lunch was probably the hardest part of the holiday for Mum and Dad. We all picked up after lunch and enjoyed a swim back at the hotel. Of my travels through Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, and visits to numerous places through Thailand over the last 4 years, Angkor Wat/Siem Reap is probably my favourite. Angkor Wat easily surpasses wats in Thailand in terms of "wow" factor, the tourist facilities are very professional (e.g. toilets, guides, ticketing) and Siem Reap is a nice tourist town with a variety of cheap, international products. For photos of Angkor Wat and surrounds see the gallery.