I had heard repeatedly that Angkor Wat was touristy, crowded, and over-hyped. As a result, I kept moving it down the list when we were planning our next adventure.
In January, we had 6 days open at the last minute, but very little budget and no time to secure visas and flights. The stars had aligned and Angkor Wat was squarely in our sights! On the morning of the day we left, I did some quick research on the area, entered coordinates into MapFactor, bought travel insurance, notified the US Embassy through the STEP program, and packed.
Note: The main currency in Cambodia is the US Dollar. Their national currency is the Cambodian Riel but it is used only for small change. Even the ATM machines give out US Dollars.
Train to the Thai Boarder (Aranyaprathet) – From Bangkok we took the afternoon 279 train from Hua Lamphong Railway Station to Aranyaprathet (255 km from Bangkok) for 48 baht / 1.5 USD each.
The afternoon train departs at 1:05 PM and takes about 6 hours to reach Aranyaprathet. The ticket lists that you will arrive by 5:35 PM, taking only 4.5 hours, but we found this to be inaccurate. If we had arrived earlier, we would have crossed the border and continued to Siem Reap. Arriving late, we decided to relax, explore Aranyaprathet, find a hotel for the evening, have dinner, and continue in the morning. In order to go the entire distance to Siem Reap in one day, take the 5:55 AM morning train.
Thai/Cambodian Border Crossing – We took a tuk-tuk (80 baht / 2.5 USD) to the border where we exited Thailand and entered Poipet, Cambodia.
When we visited Phnom Penh we used their great e-visa system, but this was a last minute trip so we had to get our visa upon arrival. Do not fall for the visa scams at the border. Go all the way through Thai immigration and follow the signs to the official Cambodian immigration office just after the bridge. Bring a passport photo to avoid an additional fee (2 USD). We always keep a couple of extra photos in our passports.
Immediately after exiting immigration you will be accosted by taxi drivers. This will be your cheapest option if you are a good negotiator. A great price is considered to be 30 USD for the 2.5 hour ride. Remember, do not hand over the cash until you get exactly where you want to go!
Once in Siem Reap, we found a nice hotel called Shadow of Angkok I in a fabulous location near Old Market and booked a room for 25 USD per night.
Cambodia Land Mine Museum – After settling in and exploring the city, we hired a tuk-tuk (10 USD) with a very padded seat for the long 25 KM ride to the Cambodia Land Mine Museum (5 USD each). The tuk-tuk ride through the countryside was gorgeous and relaxing. The museum was informative and very well-presented.
Angkor Wat Small Loop – In the morning we walked across the street and rented bicycles for the day. We were astounded to see dozens of passports sitting in a metal tray on the counter. We NEVER give our passports as collateral. Luckily, they accepted my driver’s license, we paid our rental fee (1 USD each) for the day, and away we went! (In Singapore, we opted to not rent bikes when they would not accept an alternate form of collateral.)
It is an 8 KM ride to the park. Once there, we purchased a three-day pass for 40 USD. A one-day pass is 20 USD, so you break-even after two days.
Following the free map that was provided with our bike rental and the free temple guide that was in our hotel room, we did what is called the Small Loop and is 17 KM long. The Small Loop is in red in the following map.
Wow! Angkor Wat blew us away. I was an instant convert and Angkor Wat has become one of my favorite places. We spent the day there exploring and only returned when we were too exhausted to continue. Upon returning the bicycles, the young girl working the counter handed me the wrong ID… Do NOT give your passport as collateral!
Angkor Wat Large Loop – In the morning, we started our search to hire a tuk-tuk driver for the entire day to explore the Grand Circuit (26 KM). We hit upon an older, soft-spoken gentleman that quoted us 15 USD, and, liking his demeanor, we accepted without haggling. He was very pleasant and we could not have been happier with his services. At the end of the day, we arranged to be picked up in the early morning. We gave him a 5 USD tip, so his services for the entire day cost 20 USD.
What a spectacular day! There is so much to see in Angkor Wat, much more than I had ever imagined.
Banteay Srey and Kbal Spean – Our driver picked us up and we headed even deeper into Angkor Wat and the Cambodian countryside. We had a full day and loved every minute of it.
Our first stop was at Banteay Srey, about 25 KM from the main group of temples. Banteay Srey is built largely of red sandstone and is incredibly detailed.
We then continued further to Kbal Spean, “The River of a Thousand Lingas.”
After a beautiful 2 KM uphill hike, we arrived at the carvings in the riverbed.
Return Trip to Bangkok – In the morning, we took a bus back to Poipet (7 USD each). Passing through immigration back into Thailand took about an hour, much longer than entering into Cambodia since we arrived mid-day. After clearing immigration, we took a tuk-tuk (80 baht /2.5 USD) to the train station and caught the 1:55 PM afternoon train back to Bangkok (48 baht / 1.5 USD each). The morning train to Bangkok departs at 6:40 AM.
We spent three full days exploring the temples of Angkor Wat and feel that we have just barely scratched the surface. Expecting to be disappointed with Angkor Wat, we finished the trip already planning our next trip back…
- Time of Year: January 2015
- Length of Stay: 6 Days, 5 Nights
- Total Trip Cost – 2 People: 660 USD*
- Cost Per Day / Per Person: 55 USD*
- Visa Information: E-visa
*Excluded from the cost analysis:
- International Airfare – International airfare is not included because fares vary depending on your starting location.
GPS Coordinates: Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 5
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Hua Lamphong Railway Station @ 13.738954,100.516784
Aranyaprathet Train Station @ 13.69259,102.505154
Gate to Cambodia @ 13.662277,102.548468
Thai Immigration Office @ 13.661839,102.549395
Cambodia Visa on Arrival Office @ 13.660987,102.550139
Cambodia Immigration Office @ 13.660007,102.552096
Siem Reap @ 13.361845,103.859741
Shadow of Angkor I @ 13.353954,103.856361
Bike Rental Stand @ 13.352808,103.856574
Cambodian Landmine Musuem @ 13.539523,103.945853
Angkor Wat Ticket Office @ 13.387078,103.864118
Angkor Wat @ 13.412427,103.866918
Banteay Srey @ 13.598923,103.963476
River of a Thousand Lingas @ 13.565868,104.102594
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You can copy and paste the latitude and longitude into Google Earth, your browser, or into your GPS.
*The Thailand portion of the map follows roads, not the railroad tracks.
*Disclaimer- ALWAYS verify locations, transportation routes, GPS coordinates, etc. Errors are made, routes changed, sometimes we are just plain wrong. No one knows what you like more than you. If the trip is worth doing, it is worth doing right! Do your homework.