Temples of Angkor in detail

Flights & getting there

Visitors heading to the temples of Angkor – in other words, pretty much everybody coming to Cambodia – need to consider the most suitable way to travel between the temples. The central temple area is just 8km from Siem Reap, and can be visited using anything from a car or motorcycle to a sturdy pair of walking shoes. For the independent traveller, there will be many alternatives to consider.

For the ultimate Angkor experience, try a pick-and-mix approach, with a moto, remork-moto or car for one day to cover the remote sites, a bicycle to experience the central temples, and an exploration on foot for a spot of peace and serenity.

Transport will be more expensive to remote temples such as Banteay Srei or Beng Mealea, due to extra fuel costs.

Bicycle

Bicycle is a great way to get around the temples and they are used by most locals. There are few hills and the roads are good, so there’s no need for much cycling experience. Moving about at a slower speed, you soon find that you take in more than from out of a car window or on the back of a speeding moto.

White Bicycles is supported by some guesthouses around Siem Reap, with proceeds from the hire fee going towards community projects. Many guesthouses and hotels in town rent bikes for around US$1 to US$2 per day.

Some rental places offer better mountain bikes, such as Trek or Giant, for US$7 to US$10 per day. Try Grasshopper Adventures, which offers mountain bikes and helmets for US$8 per day. Electric bicycles hired out by Green e-bikes and others are also a very popular way to tour the temples.

When exploring by bicycle, always use a sturdy lock and leave it at a guarded parking area or with a stallholder outside each temple.

Car & Motorcycle

Car is a popular choice for getting about the temples. The obvious advantage is protection from the elements, be it heavy downpours or the punishing sun. Shared between several travellers, they can also be an economical way to explore. The downside is that visitors are a little more isolated from the sights, sounds and smells as they travel between temples. A car for the day around the central temples is US$25 to US$35 and can be arranged with hotels, guesthouses and agencies in Siem Reap. It costs more to outlying temples like Banteay Srei and Beng Mealea.

Motorcycle rental in Siem Reap was prohibited for more than a decade, but recently the rules seem to have been unofficially relaxed and a number of travellers are renting small motorbikes for around US$10 per day. When exploring by motorbike, leave it at a guarded parking area or with a stallholder outside each temple, otherwise it might be stolen.

Elephant

Travelling by elephant was the traditional way to see the temples way back in the early days of tourism at Angkor, at the start of the 20th century. While you will see tourists taking an elephant ride between the south gate of Angkor Thom and the Bayon in the morning, or up to the summit of Phnom Bakheng for sunset, several elephant welfare organisations suggest it is detrimental to the health of these majestic creatures. Sambo, a female elephant, dropped dead outside the Bayon temple during a heatwave in April 2016. Lonely Planet does not endorse elephant riding in Cambodia.

Helicopter & Hot-Air Balloon

For those with a flexible budget, there are helicopter flights around Angkor Wat (US$90) and the temples outside Angkor Thom (US$150). Helicopters Cambodia or Helistar, which operate out of Siem Reap Airport, also offer expensive charters to remote temples such as Prasat Preah Vihear and Preah Khan.

Angkor Balloon offers a bird’s-eye view of Angkor Wat. The balloon carries up to 30 people, is on a fixed line and rises 200m above the landscape. It doesn't drift across the temples like Balloons over Bagan, so it's best to manage expectations.

Minivan

Minivans are available from various hotels and travel agents around town. A 12-seat minivan costs from US$50 per day.

Moto

Some independent travellers visit the temples by moto (unmarked motorcycle taxi). Moto drivers accost visitors from the moment they set foot in Siem Reap, but they often end up being knowledgeable and friendly, and good companions for a tour around the temples. Prices start at around US$10 per day. They can drop you off and pick you up at allotted times and places, and even tell you a bit of background about the temples as you zip around. Many of the better drivers go on to become official tour guides, although most have upgraded their motos to remorks these days.

Remork-Moto

Remork-motos, motorcycles with twee little hooded carriages towed behind, are more commonly known as tuk tuks. They are a popular way to get around Angkor as fellow travellers can still talk to each other as they explore (unlike on the back of a moto). They also offer some protection from the rain. Some remork drivers are very good companions for a tour of the temples. Prices run from US$15 to US$25 for the day, depending on the destination and number of passengers.

Walking

From Siem Reap, it's easy enough to walk to Angkor Wat and the temples of Angkor Thom, and this is a great way to meet up with villagers in the area. Those who want to get away from the roads should try the peaceful walk along the walls of Angkor Thom. It is about 13km in total, and offers access to several small, remote temples and some bird life. One way to save more time at the temples is to negotiate a drop-off and pick-up by moto or remork at Angkor Thom and explore on foot. Another rewarding walk is from Ta Keo to Ta Nei through the forest, but the best all-round jungle hike is to the 'River of a Thousand Lingas' at Kbal Spean.