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6 Tips for Visiting Angkor Wat, Cambodia

TravelShannon Guerrero14 Comments

I've said it before and I'll say it again - Cambodia is one of my favorite countries I've ever visited.  As of now I've been fortunate to visit 30 countries, so I think that's saying a lot!  It's been a dream of mine to see Angkor Wat and experience the beautiful Cambodia culture.

I've compiled a list of tips to help make your Cambodian trip that much more memorable.  Nobody likes those little hassles that pop up during your trip.  Hopefully telling you about some of these tips will help alleviate any of the extra stresses that travel can cause.

Buy your visa ahead of time online.

When planning your trip to Cambodia, be sure to check what the Visa restrictions are for your country of origin.  If you’re an American, you definitely need to have a visa to enter the country.

Be sure to apply for this online before your trip.  It’s a super easy process.  You just have submit a passport photo (no smiling!) and $36.  My visa got approved same day.  Just have to print it out to have on hand when you land.

You can only buy your ticket from 5am to 5:30pm.

You’ll probably want to purchase your ticket at the Angkor Ticket Center which is only from 5am to 5:30pm - essentially only during day light hours.  There are 3 ticket options - 1 day, 3 days or 7 days.  These don’t need to be consecutive either! Just within a certain time frame.

If you’re looking to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat be sure to purchase you tickets the day before.  You don’t want to be stuck having to buy a ticket and then going to Angor Wat.  You won’t get a great view of the sunrise if you get there too late.  Read all my tips on how to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat

They take your picture that is printed directly onto your ticket.  Also, they recently changed the process so that they now accept credit cards in addition to cash.

Hire a car/guide, not a tuk tuk.

Your experience and visit will be that much better if you hire a car to take you to each temple.  I wouldn’t hire a tuk tuk for this because most days are extremely hot in Cambodia.  In a car, you’ll have access to air conditioning.  Second, a car will be much faster between temples especially if you’re intending on seeing the sunrise at Angkor Wat, trust me, take a car.  We bypassed so many tuk tuks on the way.

If you haven’t experienced a tuk tuk ride, definitely try one out in town! They are a fun way to get around in all other instances.  

I think it’s also worth hiring a guide along with your hired car.  They are extremely knowledgable and really help you get the most out of your visit.  Best part is they are super affordable!  I believe we had a private car and guide for 2 for just $30/each for the day.

Think your wardrobe through before your trip.

If you’re a woman, for basically every single temple you visit in Angkor Wat, you have to have both your knees and shoulders covered as a sign of respect.  It’s not the most pleasant experience if you don’t prepare ahead of time.  You could find yourself wrapped in multiple scarfs, struggling to keep them wrapped just right and struggling in the heat with multiple layers.  Pack for these restrictions! 

I made sure to bring skirts and dresses that covered my knees and tops that covered my shoulders.  Off the shoulder tops proved to be extremely helpful here.  You can just lift them up so they actually cover your shoulders while visiting temples.

Don’t exchange your money. 

Trust me, this is one country it is completely unnecessary to exchange your currency.  Cambodians accept USD everywhere and in a lot of cases, you may not be able to exchange back to USD after your trip. 

IT can get really hot - bring a fan, don’t forget water.

Make sure you adequately prepare when heading out to the temples.  The heat and humidity can get really intense in Siem Reap.  Be sure to stay hydrated and bring a fan to help stay cool.

 

TIP RECAP:
1. Buy your visa before visiting.
2. Buy your entrance ticket to Angkor Wat before a sunrise visit.
3. Hire a car, not a tuk, tuk.
4. Think about your wardrobe before.
5. Don't exchange your money.
6. Stay hydrated and cool.

Moral of the story: A visit to Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia should take a bit of planning.  Not much, just a few things to think about before visiting that will make your experience that much better!

 

Yours Truly // Shannon

Golden Temple Residence - Siem Reap, Cambodia

TravelShannon GuerreroComment

It’s inevitable.  When you return from a trip, friends always ask where was your favorite place you visited.  Usually I don’t have a favorite and struggle with this answer because generally I like everywhere I visit.  During this past trip, sure I absolutely loved so many of the stops on my trip, but I do have a favorite.  My absolute favorite place I visited was Cambodia and I’ll tell you it was definitely in part because of the people I encountered and my fabulous stay at the Golden Temple Residence hotel.

We were greeted by not only smiling faces but also a traditional Cambodian dance performance by the pool with our welcome.  This is a nightly performance, by the way.  Aside from the smiles faces you immediately will notice the beautiful and traditional Cambodian decor.  The architecture and the decor are so warm and welcoming.

This is one hotel that I will always remember.  Learn more about my experiences with Golden Temple Residence hotel below!

 

SERVICE

I’m putting this category at the very top because the service at this hotel was pretty much impeccable.  They honestly will bend over backwards to make sure you are well taken care of.  A pickup and drop off service to and from the airport or bus station is available.  The second you arrive at the hotel, you’re immediately greeted by a welcome drink and welcome snacks.  I wish I could bottle up the delicious lemon iced tea they serve as their welcome drink, yum.  Anything you need or want is handled by their staff and not just with a smile but with such genuine excitement.  If you encounter Rose or Alice at the front desk, you will absolutely know why I had such a great experience.

LOCATION

The hotel itself is only about 20 minutes from the airport which is super convenient.  It’s a nice change to most airports that are an hour or so outside of a city.  It was also nice that it’s a small airport so for an international flight we only had to leave 2 hours before our flight.  We got to the airport and through security so quickly.  

Golden Temple Residence is also very centrally located.  It is not even a 5 minute walk from the Angkor Night Market and the Pub Street bars.  It is also just 4 miles from Angkor Wat which is key if you want to try to catch the sunrise.  It’s about a 15 minute drive to get there early for the best viewing spot.

FOOD

The quality of food is incredibly high at the Golden Temple Residence.  They truly set their standard so high that it shows through their food.  Honestly, the welcome snack that was serviced was delicious so I knew their full menu of Khmer food would be amazing.  Even the room service food was just as delicious as sitting at their restaurant which can’t always be said for a hotel.  

On top of that the hotel offers a daily buffet breakfast complete with fresh squeezed juices and made to order hot foods.  They have another really awesome complimentary service for when you’re out seeing the temples.  They will pack a breakfast or lunch for you to have out at the temples.  And finally there is a one hour cocktail each day by the pool.

We, also, had the opportunity to have a cooking lesson (which you too can schedule!) with the head chef and saw first hand the care they put into prepping their food.  Everything is fresh and thoughtfully crafted.  If you have the chance, this was a great way to learn more about the Cambodia Khmer culture.

AMENITIES

What doesn’t the Golden Temple Residence have to offer? On top of the stunning pool, swim up pool bar, luxurious lotus spa and first class food, they offer tons of ways to help you see the Siem Reap area.  You can choose from any of their excursions from a full tour of Angkor, horseback riding, helicopter tours to a silk farm or even golfing.  If you don’t want to choose any of their pre-made tours, they literally will build you a tour set to your specifics.  We were able to dictate exactly which temples we wanted to do within a 1.5 day timeline and were able to fit in a cooking class back at the hotel to boot.  On top of being able to book our own tour through Golden Temple Residence, it was a private tour in a Lexus, not a tuk tuk!

ROOMS

Since the hotel only has 28 rooms total, you really feel like you’re staying with friends rather than a hotel.  I’ve already talked about their amazing customer service, but I think that really shows more since there are less rooms.  The rooms itself are beautiful as the rest of the hotel.  They’re very spacious and clean, but on top of that it’s the little details in the room that make it amazing.  When we first walked into our room, the bed was covered in lotus flowers.  The sink was also full of floating lotus flowers and boy did they smell incredible.

Trust me, when you find yourself in Cambodia, stay at the Golden Temple Residence.  You will feel like a king, be able to discover what Siem Reap has to offer and experience firsthand the amazing kindness, service and hospitality of the Cambodian people.

Check out the Golden Temple Residence, here.

There are actually 5 Golden Temple locations in the Siem Reap area.  Learn more about each of them, here.

*Sponsored Post: My hotel stay was provided in collaboration with Golden Temple Residence! All opinions are my own.

Guide to the Temples of Angkor

TravelShannon Guerrero18 Comments

I didn’t realize this before going to Siem Reap, but Angkor Wat is only one temple that makes up the Angkor, Siem Reap area.  In actuality there are approximately 50 temples and they all have different names.  Angkor Wat is the most famous which why is easy to make that mistake.  Although the phrase Angkor Wat does literally mean city of temples in the native Khmer language.

I also did not realize how spread out most of these temples are.  I figured like in Europe, you could visit multiple sites in a short period just by walking to each.  When I googled the distance between two temples that looked pretty close before my trip, I quickly realized that driving was going to be the way to go because the short distance I perceived on the map was going to be an hour walk.

Because there are so many options of temples you can visit in the Angkor Wat area, I've put together a list of the top 10 temples you should visit during your trip.  Tons of pictures included below in this post!  FYI, all pictures that relate to the temples are shown just above the text!

BANTEAY SREI

The Banteay Srei temple is one of the furthest temples from Angkor Wat. It was our first temple visit because it is pretty far north.  The lady temple as its also called is known for its pinkish color and intricate stone carving detail.  Even after hundreds of years, the details remain intact after all this time because of the good quality sandstone used.  The red sandstone used is actually what gives it its pinkish shade.  The temple is surrounded by a moat filled with colorful waterlily flowers making an already beautiful temple more stunning.

You can really see the pinkish color in the title picture shown above!

PREAH KHAN

This temple is one of the bigger temples in Angkor.  It’s actually similar to Ta Prohm which is famous for how the 500 year trees have grown into the structures.  You’ll find yourself walking around Preah Khan in a bit of a maze of columns, fallen rubble, ancient trees and tons of carved buddha icons.  This one wasn’t high on my list before actually seeing it, but I definitely would have missed out had I stuck to prior research.

NEAK PEAN

Pronounced “neak pawn”, this was a temple that I was really excited to visit after doing some research before visiting.  This temple is unique in that it is located in the middle of a lake and has a long and beautiful wooden walkway leading to the actual shrine.  The walkway is lined by delicate trees and water.  It is truly picturesque.  Neak Pean is located just next to Preah Khan temple.

PRE RUP

Pre Rup is a great place to catch the sunset.  In comparison to the more popular spot to watch the sun go down, Phnom Bakheng, this temple is slightly less crowded and doesn’t have a limit to the amount of people they allow on it.  Phnom Bakheng only allows 300 visitors on top of it, so if you don’t get there early enough you could miss out on the sunset.  Choose Prae Roup instead because the top of the temple sits above the trees.  Get there around 4.  It does fill up and getting there early allows you to grab a better vantage point.  Stake out a seat as high as can be on the front south side as the sun sets to the south west side.

ANGKOR WAT

The most popular and most well know of the temples, Angkor Wat is the largest stone building in the world, and one of the new 7 wonders of the world.  It is also the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia because its the largest religious site in the world.  This is the place to catch sunrise.  It had been a lifelong dream of mine to witness a sunrise here.  I was praying for good weather and no heavy cloud cover.  The world heard my prayers because I witnessed the most stunning sunrise I’ve ever seen over the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat.  It’s an art getting the best view of Angkor Wat for Sunrise - keep an eye out for my blog post to learn how.

After the sunrise, head straight into the temple.  A line started to form pretty quickly to hike up to the top.  They only allow 100 people at a time so don't waste time getting there!

BAYON

This was another question I had in terms of what this temple was actually called.  Because of some research I thought Angkor Thom and Bayon Temple were one in the same, but it turns out that Angkor Thom is the city name while Bayon is the temple.  This temple is probably the second famous after Angkor Wat of all of the temples.  Bayon temple is made of the carved stone faces.  Literally there are giant stone carved faces every direction you look.  One of the tourist pictures to snap here is the illusion of standing nose to nose with one of the carving.  There are multiple opportunities to get one of these pictures - you’ll no doubt see all of the other tourists getting this same picture.

WAT PREAH NGOK

Just a short walk from the Bayon temple, you’ll find Wat Preah Ngok. It’s a large pyramid looking temple, but a fast visit.  You can climb to the top of the temple and get a great view of the surrounding area.

BAPHUON

A second temple that is just around the corner from the Bayon temple is the Baphuon temple.  These 3 temples are the only exception to the non-walkable advice I gave you above.  Really all of the other temples are pretty far apart, but these three you can hit easily together.  Baphuon is more a photo op, but worth seeing especially since it’s so close to the other two.

TA PROHM

This temple will forever now be known as the tomb raider temple because Ta Prohm is where Angelina Jolie filmed part of the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movie.  It is extremely unique because it is the one temple that really feels like a jungle.  Giant silk-cotton and strangler fig trees have grown in between the stones of the temple and now have become part of the temple.  It is definitely a sight to see!

BANTEAY KDEI

Honestly, Banteay Kdei was a last addition to our tour.  After seeing Ta Prohm, we simply didn’t feel we had enough of the Angkor temples before heading to the airport to leave Cambodia.  Our tour guide stopped by Banteay Kdei since it was just a few minutes drive from Ta Prohm.  I’m so glad we did because this temple was just a bit different than the other temples.  It felt more like a ruin and less giant piles of fallen ruins.  It was beautiful.

These temples are definitely what made me fall in love with Cambodia.  The history, the craftsmanship, the culture.  It's all incredibly beautiful. Hope this guide helps you get the most out of your next trip to the beautiful Cambodia!

Yours Truly // Shannon