Ah. Solo Female Travel. At this point in the travelsphere, it’s almost a rite of passage. I hadn’t done so myself in quite a while before visiting Angkor Wat, with the exception of a short overnight stay in Paris a few months prior.
Needless to say, after my time in Bangkok and Phi Phi, I was itching for more of this new adventure. It was time to say “Suostei” to Siem Reap!
The main reason I was attracted to visit Siem Reap was the world-famous Angkor Wat. My visit there was unparalleled, the site itself unlike anything I’d ever seen.
Here is a guide to what Angkor Wat is, why you should go, and how to plan your trip there.
At the end, you can find stories from my own journey in Angkor Wat and some recommendations for how to learn more about it before you go!
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase any of the products or services from the links below, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I love!
What is Angkor Wat?
Angkor Wat is a Hindu temple that was built in the 12th century under the reign of King Suryavarman II. It is housed in Angkor, the capital of the ancient Khmer Kingdom, that is now the Angkor Archeological Site.
Because of Angkor’s cultural and historical significance to generations of Khmer people, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the modern day, there are families that live on the site. Many of them are direct descendants of Khmer people who lived in Angkor when it was the cosmopolitan capital of their Kingdom.
Why You Should Visit Angkor Wat
The rich history, culture, and architecture of Angkor Wat is enough reason to visit to me.
But, there are several other reasons to see it for yourself!
You can walk within, and even on, the temples. It is not necessarily a given in Southeast Asia that you will be allowed to walk in and on a temple as a visitor.
While some areas of Angkor sites are closed off for restoration purposes, the majority of it is available for you to see the buildings up close.
You can quite literally walk in the footsteps of people who lived thousands of years ago, on the same stairwells and paths they did. Wow.
Another motivation for you to visit is its beauty. There are few places as beautiful as the temples at the Angkor Archeological Site. The sun casts orange-auburn glow as it sets, a view no one should miss!
Angkor is a wonder for photographers. There are endless opportunities to take photos you’ll love forever at Angkor Wat and the other temples in the complex. From the light of morning to the shadows of afternoon, you’ll get a healthy mix of backdrops and textures.
Pro Tip: Yes, it is wildly popular to see the sun rise over Angkor Wat. But, this has become so overrun with tourists that many people say it isn’t worth it. Go if you want to, but have that caveat in mind!
Angkor Wat and Other Temples’ Opening Hours
Both the ticket office and the temples are open daily. Here are their specific operating hours:
Ticket Office: 5am-5:30pm
Angkor Wat: 5am-5:30pm
Phnom Bakeng and Pre Rup Temples: 5am-7pm
All the other temples: 7:30am-5:30pm
Ticket Information: How Much Tickets Cost + Where to Buy Them
There are a few ticket types for a foreigner to visit the Angkor Archeological Site:
- One-Day Visit = $37
- Three-Day Visit = $62
- Seven-Day Visit = $72
Once you enter the park for the first time, your ticket will only be valid for the following consecutive days.
You can buy your tickets at the main entrance on the road to Angkor Wat with cash (USD) or credit card (Visa, Mastercard, and Discover). Your driver will know where to take you if you let them know that you need to buy your ticket.
When you purchase, the teller will take your photo for it to be on the ticket.
You cannot lose your ticket, because it must be presented at every single temple you visit and at the park’s entrance!
I recommend the three-day visit, because the temple complex is far too vast to see all of it in one day.
Three days was enough for me to see everything and even go back to my favorites before my ticket was no longer valid.
Pro Tip: If you purchase your ticket after 4:45pm, you can enter the park and it won’t count as your first day. Use this time to watch the sunset at Angkor Wat, and then do your first full tour the next day!
How to Get to Angkor Wat from Siem Reap
Visiting Angkor Wat and the rest of the ancient city from Siem Reap is easily done by tuk tuk or private vehicle.
While Angkor is not in Siem Reap, it is a short drive from Siem Reap’s city center. This is why most travelers base themselves in Siem Reap in order to visit Angkor.
While there are many hotels that are in the Angkor area, I recommend staying in Siem Reap and traveling to the park every day. Siem Reap is a lovely town, and has become one of my favorites in Asia!
Transport Options within the Angkor Archeological Complex
Before you try to rent a car or motorbike to visit Angkor, don’t. Foreigners are not legally allowed to drive within the ancient city.
Bicycle: There are tour companies around Siem Reap that will take you on a bicycle tour, or allow you to rent a bicycle for a day.
These usually go for around $2 for an entire day, but you’ll need a lot of stamina to enjoy the entire park by bike!
Tuk Tuk: This is the most popular option, because it is a way to enjoy the outdoors while taking a form of transportation that isn’t available all around the world.
Sure, you’re exposed to the elements and the dirt of the roads. That’s what mosquito repellent, sunscreen, and showers are for!
If you book a tour like I mentioned above, a private tuk tuk is included. Your driver will know the area well, and will be a great help when it comes to avoiding the crowds.
My driver drove in the opposite direction of the normal tour so I could have the temples to myself! He also knew which ones had better shade, so we could visit them when the sun was at its peak.
Private Vehicle: You’ll likely get the same perks of a tuk tuk, but with A/C and more protection from the outdoors. You’ll pay much more for it, though.
The winner for me = Tuk Tuk!
Tour Options for Visiting Angkor Wat
Book a tour through the front desk at your hotel, or through a local tour operator. You can find some through a Google Search or GetYourGuide, for example.
I found it easiest and most cost-effective to book one through the front desk of my hotel.
If you opt to go through your hotel, they will pair you with one of their tuk tuk drivers, who will pick you up from the lobby at the time you choose every day.
While the map is laid out for which temples they will take you to, you get to visit them at your own pace. In that way, it’s very flexible and self-guided. You can even choose not to visit certain ones, or stop early if you’re tired.
This is how tours are organized:
Mini tour = $15
Includes Angkor Wat and other famous temples that are connected by an inner loop
Full tour = $20
Does NOT include Angkor Wat, instead visiting temples on a larger outer loop of the ancient city
Sunrise or sunset is an extra $5.
My recommended schedule:
Day 0 — Visit the Angkor National Museum in Siem Reap for some context ($12 entry, $3 to bring a camera, $3 for an audioguide). Purchase your 3-day Angkor Archeological Site ticket after 4:45pm and see the sunset at Angkor Wat.
Day 1 — Watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat and do the Mini Tour. If you’re interested, hire a local guide at the entrance to Angkor Wat.
Day 2 — Do the Big Tour. If you hired a guide, you can hire them for Day 2 as well.
Day 3 — Go back and visit your favorites!
After a long, hot day of visiting temples, get a big meal in Siem Reap and go for a dip in the pool to refresh!
What to Wear When Visiting Angkor Wat
I wouldn’t normally go into this, but what you wear when visiting Angkor Wat matters quite a bit.
While I believe women–and people, for that matter–should be able to express themselves and no one else through fashion, there is a balance of respecting cultural norms as a foreign visitor.
Angkor Wat and the other temples in the Archeological Park are religious sites for Buddhists and Hindus. As a result, you cannot enter the temples with bare shoulders, exposed midriffs, or exposed knees.
Because it also gets very hot at Angkor, I recommend to wear flowy pants or skirts that cover your knees. I paired mine with a thin, but not see-through, t-shirt. Some I wore were v-necks, and one was a crew neck. Basically, you want to cover up, but still allow for air ventilation.
For comfortable shoes, I wore Chaco sandals.
If you’re very susceptible to sunburns, bring a lightweight longsleeve shirt or shawl to minimize your exposed skin. Also, wear a hat to protect your face!
4 Tips to Fully Enjoy Visiting Angkor Wat
Now that you’ve done all the prep for your awesome Angkor adventure, here are a few tips you’ll need to fully enjoy yourself while you’re there!
1 // Pace yourself.
I cannot stress this enough. When you’re in the temple complex, the days are long and hot. It’s the perfect recipe for a dehydration disaster.
Take care of yourself!
Ensure you have plenty of cold water and snacks.
Bring more mosquito repellent than you need. Since the city still has centuries-old aqueducts, there are insects everywhere.
Also, sunscreen is an absolute must. Take breaks to be in the shade.
2 // Everything costs more within Angkor.
If you want to buy souvenirs, then do. But you should know that price inflation is a thing in Angkor.
If you want a guide, then hire one. You’ll see plenty at the front of Angkor Wat. I can’t guarantee their expertise will be easy on your budget, though. (And it probably shouldn’t be, anyway.)
If you want to buy lunch within the complex, then do. Just know you’ll pay much more than you would for the equivalent in Siem Reap.
Warning — you will see very young children selling souvenirs in Angkor. Do not buy from them. The Cambodian government asks us not to, because these children should be in school, not working.
3 // Temple fatigue is real.
Long-term travelers in Asia talk about becoming “templed out,” a phenomenon that causes one to go cross-eyed at the prospect of visiting yet another temple.
It can be compared to the Scottish ABC, Another Bloody Castle. Or cathedral.
You get the gist.
There are tons and tons of temples within the Angkor complex. They will start to run together. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, or just over it — that’s okay. We’ve all been there. Take a break, and then get back out there (if you want to).
4 // Get a paper map.
You’ll be super confused if you don’t. Just trust me on this one. I speak from personal experience.
I found one at a cute vegan restaurant after my first day in the park, and it helped tremendously! Plus, it felt nice to put down my phone and use a paper map, just like old times.
I recommend to hold the map open before you leave the hotel and ask your driver to show you exactly where you’re going that day. Since they’ll know Angkor like the back of their hand, they can show you the exact route.
This is also a good time to request to visit a specific temple if you’re interested in seeing one that is off the beaten path.
My Story: Alone in Angkor Wat
The sun was not yet seething, but it would be soon. The crispness of morning was just the welcome I needed for a day full of seeing relics of the past, such a long-ago past that it felt unreal for it to still be standing.
From everything I’d learned about Khmer people up to that point, it seemed fitting that their ancient city still stood, just as they do after decades of trauma. I’ve been to over twenty countries at this point, and there are few I’ve met where people have survived as much as Cambodians. I am proud to have met and know people as strong and lovely as the Khmer.
Being here alone is so strange. I’ve been to a few destinations solo. Paris. Tamarindo. But even in those places, I didn’t spend so much time alone. Alone with my thoughts, alone with so much history, just alone.
Usually, this place is teeming with tourists. Tourists everywhere. People climbing the temples, people taking their 500th picture for Instagram, people soothing their crying children, people buying souvenirs. People, upon people, upon people.
Not here. Not now.
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism dropped by nearly 90%. Catastrophic numbers for the tourism industry meant I was practically alone in Angkor Wat. This is not how I envisioned my time here.
And I don’t quite know how I feel about it.
What will this mean for the travel industry? For my own blog? For others who make their sole income from being a tour guide, restaurant owner, hotel manager?
My heart hurts for them. For myself. But I savor being here at Angkor Wat, alone with the beauty, in the quiet, the slow burn of the late morning sun greeting me.
And it’s in this moment that I see I’m not truly alone. I’m in the presence of a place weathered with thousand-year-old footprints. I share an experience with people from all around the world.
I can make it. I’m going to make it. We’re going to make it.
Deep breath in. Deep breath out. I can do this.
. . .
Now that you know everything you need to about visiting Angkor Wat as a solo female traveler, it’s time to plan your own future trip there!
What aspect of visiting Angkor Wat are you most excited about?