How to Tour Angkor Wat in 1 Day

Southeast Asia, Travel

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Banteay Samre Temple

Thousands of people travel to Siem Reap every year to explore the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat. Listed as one of the Old Seven World Wonders, this historical site has its place on many people’s bucket-lists, as it did on mine. 

The size of Angkor Wat and all of its temples are so big that many companies offer 3 day tours to fully immerse yourself in this experience. 

I squashed my visit to Siem Reap into a 3 day weekend…which means I only had 1 day to tour the archaeological park.

Here’s how I did it…

Hire a Tuk Tuk

There are Tuk Tuks all over Siem Reap, and the drivers will persistently make an effort to talk with you and offer you rides as you walk through the city (they all have a general understanding of English which makes it easy to communicate and make plans). Talk to a few different drivers to get an idea of prices. You should be able to snag a full day tour for $10-$20.

I found a driver that offered the 1 day tour of Angkor Wat for $15, and met some friendly German guys at my hostel to join my expedition, so we split it three ways paying only $5 each (score!). Make sure to get the contact or Facebook information of your driver, and set a time for them to pick you up at your accommodation.

Bayon Temple
One of thousands of face carvings @ Bayon Temple

Catch the Sunrise

Catching the sunrise over Angkor Wat has become extremely popular, and it is surprising the amount of people that flood into the temple at this early hour. I wanted to be sure to get my own experience (and photos) of this magical moment, even if it meant waking up at 3:30am.

If you are trying to catch the sunrise, tell your Tuk Tuk driver to pick you up from your accommodation at 4:30am sharp. Many people suggest you buy your tickets the night before in order to save time and beat the lines, (but this means you have to pay more money to have a Tuk Tuk driver to take you to the ticket office), and I’m all about doing things on a budget. I was able to buy the tickets the morning of the adventure, and make it to the park with plenty of time to catch the sunrise. Ticket cost: $37. Can be paid with cash/card.

When you first walk up to the temple of Angkor Wat, you will see many people setting up camp along the water to the entrance of the temple. Walk past them down the man-made bridge and head into the actual temple site.

As the sky slowly changes from black to hues of purple and pink, keep walking until you reach the ponds at the front of the main temple (you will see tourists grouped all around). I caught the sunrise from the pond on the right, and despite the amount of people that were there, was able to get up close for the perfect reflection pictures of the sunrise on the pond.

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Sunrise Over Angkor Wat

Touring the Temples

Your Tuk Tuk driver will most likely have a map of the different temples that make up Angkor Wat Archaeological Park, and will show you the itinerary he will drive you through on your tour. Make sure you establish the plan before you pay!

Our driver took us along the established route, stopping at photo opportunities, and pointing out toilets and food stands along the way. At each temple, he would drop us off and let us know where he would be waiting on the other side as we exited. He gave us no time limit, which allowed us to explore each temple freely. And every time we exited one temple, there he was waiting with all the other Tuk Tuk drivers, waving us down with a huge smile on his face.

Be kind to your driver, share some jokes and conversation with him, and he will take care of you.

Preah Khan Temple
Pre Rup Temple

Bring Snacks!

There are outdoor restaurants lined along the exit of the main temple that will try and get you to sit down for an “American Breakfast”. I would recommend passing them by as they are quite expensive. I grabbed some fresh coffee from a local vendor’s stand set up in the parking lot ($3). You can also pick up a refreshing fresh-fruit smoothie
at any of the stands for $1-$2.

The guys that I was with packed a picnic of snacks which was the perfect remedy to start the day and stay in budget. I munched on fruits, crackers, meats, and cheese; and the boys made a few sandwiches for themselves. Between this and the coffee/smoothie, I was ready to take on the day.

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Phnom Bakheng Temple

What to Wear

After checking my “Health App” on my phone at the end of the tour, I was both shocked and proud to see that I put in 16 miles on this adventure around Angkor Wat. Not only are you walking a ton, but many of the temples require you to hike up and down (extremely steep) stone steps. Give your feet the support they need by wearing proper shoes. 

The guys I was with opted for running shoes, but I always rock my Tevas anywhere I go. These shoes were one of the best purchases I’ve made and are my travel necessity for long days of exploring, walking on the beach, swimming in the ocean, or hiking up steep rugged mountains.

Keep these things in mind for your attire:

1. It’s a temple. And as most temples in Southeast Asia will have it, you MUST have your shoulders/knees covered. In fact, you may not be allowed into certain temples if you don’t, so plan accordingly.

2. The weather is hot, especially between 12:00pm-3:00pm, so pick something that both covers you up but allows you some breathing room. You’re going to sweat hard either way. I wore a stretchy cotton jumper with a sheer shall over my shoulders, allowing me the comfort I wanted and a cute get-up for Insta-pics.

Victory Gate- Southeast Entrance to Angkor Thom
Meditating Monk @ Bayon Temple

Travel Tip- $$$

The US Dollar is the most commonly used currency in Cambodia (and is worth a lot more than Cambodian Riel). Make sure to keep small bills with you to make your purchases, as most things are less than $5 (USD).

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