If you’re planning on visiting Siem Reap, your trip most likely revolves around Angkor Wat and the different temples. The temples of Siem Reap are Cambodia’s pride and joy, and it’s definitely worth setting aside a few days to explore them all.
Here are 7 tips to help you make the most of the temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
1) Get there early
If you want to see Angkor Wat at its finest, you need to get there early, and by early I mean sunrise.
Waking up before sunrise might be painful, but trust me, it’s worth it. Sunrise at Angkor Wat is famous all over the world, and for good reason. It’s beautiful. You’ll see the sun rising behind the temple complex, with the temple silhouetted against a colourful sky.
And if you head just inside the complex, across the bridge and through the main entrance, you’ll see a small lake (which admittedly looks like a big puddle) just in front of the temple. This is the perfect spot for the perfect photo, with the temple reflected clearly in the water. And once you’ve watched the sunrise, there are plenty of places for breakfast on-site.
Arriving early also means you beat the blistering heat and swarming crowds. If you’re sweating buckets and having to push your way through hundreds of tour groups, your temple visit just isn’t going to be as memorable. In the early morning, it’s still relatively cool, and there’s no where near as many tourists.
2) Hire a tuk tuk driver for the day
There are hundreds of tuk tuk drivers in Siem Reap and around the temples, but it’s worth staying loyal to one driver. If drivers know you’re going to use them for all your day trips and temple visits they’ll offer you lower daily rates, and who doesn’t want to save money?
So once you’ve found your driver, stay loyal to him, and when you visit the temples, pay him for the day. This way, you’ll have the freedom to visit whichever temples you fancy, at whatever time you want. And when you’ve had enough, you can just ask your driver to take you home.
Plus, some tuk tuk drivers will go above and beyond to make sure you enjoy your temple visits. They’ll make sure you have everything you need (like your Angkor Passes!) before leaving the hotel, they’ll suggest the best route to take around the temples, and some will stock a cool box full of water bottles for you. And if you need to buy your Angkor Passes, they’ll take you to the ticket office and might even help you skip the queues.
3) Ask your tuk tuk driver for restaurant recommendations
At the main temples, especially at Angkor Wat, you’ll be greeted by guys making jokes, singing, whistling – anything they can to get your attention. And once they’ve got your attention, they’re going to convince you to eat at their restaurant.
And more often than not, it’s all fun and games until you’re actually sat down. Then the chit chat stops, and you’re served overpriced food that’s nowhere near as tasty as it should be.
So to avoid being thoroughly disappointed by your meal choices, ask your tuk tuk driver to take you somewhere to eat. They usually have the best recommendations.
4) Wear sensible footwear!
Lots of people underestimate just how much climbing is involved in temple visits, and quickly discover that insensible footwear like flip flops can be lethal. And that’s not an exaggeration.
A lot of the Angkor temples will have steep, uneven steps that lead to the top of the temples. And we’re not talking about one or two steps here. These ancient staircases are often over a hundred feet high, and climbing them is scary enough in trainers, let alone flip flops.
5) Spread the temples out over a few days
There are so many temples in Siem Reap and whilst no one wants to admit it, some of them do look kind of similar. Why does this matter? Because if you try and cram all of your temple visits into one day, after a few hours you’re going to get ‘templed out’.
If you’re spending a few days or more in Siem Reap, go for a 3 or 7 day Angkor Pass. This way you can spread your temple visits out.
A good system is to visit a few temples in the mornings, and then explore other non-temple attractions in Siem Reap in the afternoon.
6) Take plenty of cash with you
The temples might be the most touristic part of Cambodia, but they’re still quite a way out of the city, in the middle of a jungle.
This means that there’s no ATMs nearby, and most of the restaurants are outdoor kitchens, so don’t expect them to take card.
Take out plenty of cash before your temple trips, as you might need to buy food and water (or one of the famous $1 shakes!).
7) Buy souvenirs from adults, not children
At every temple you visit, you’ll see small stalls selling souvenirs, and you’ll have people calling out, maybe even blocking your path, trying to get you to buy a magnet, a guide book or whatever else they’re selling.
But what’s worse than hard-selling market stall owners, is their children. There are hundreds of children, some as young as 5, wandering around the temples, begging and pleading with tourists to give them money or buy something from them.
But as hard as it might be, don’t buy anything from the children. Buying from them encourages them to be out of school. So instead, the Angkor National Park have asked tourists to make a point of buying their souvenirs from adults.
Hannah Collerson – Hannah is a freelance writer and travel blogger from the UK. She lives life on the go, constantly exploring new places and writing about her experiences on her travel blog.