Do it yourself Angkor Wat: forget the tour guides

2015 was a shocking year for me, mostly because of the abrupt trend of millennial travel. 20-something travelers flocked every touristic spots in the world and it’s the greatest number I have ever seen in the course of my years of traveling.

Youngsters have been active and tenacious on pursuing their travel dreams. However, there are things that are still missing: they are still relying on tour guides and have not discovered to do things their way, yet.

Fortunately, we are not in a hurry. Progress will come as time pass. Travel agencies will sink and people will slowly understand that they can make their own guide books based on their preference.

I am not a tourist-spot-kind-of-traveler but in my recent trip in Siem Reap, Cambodia, I’ve observed a lot of people still paying loads of money for tours when in fact they can just to things by themselves, particularly a tour in the Angkor Temples.

Forget the tour guides! I know things can be more convenient if everything is planned but don’t you want to test your limits and jump into something you have no idea about? Here are some tips on a do it yourself Angkor Wat tour:

STEP 1: Map your tour

Our knowledge about Angkor Wat is that single temple that you see in your friends’ Facebook photos but Angkor is an empire of different temples. It’s like a compound that is composed of various temples such as the Angkor Wat itself, Banteay Kdei, Banteay Samre, Angkor Tom, etc.

I did not visit all the temples myself but you can just choose whatever you want to visit. For me, they are all alike after all and I didn’t want to drown into too much temple runs.

There are maps available in every corner of Siem Reap so trust yourself — you will find your way. Include the timeline: do you want to do a half or full day tour?

It all depends upon your preference or how much you want to do temple runs. But I am telling you, a full day is already too much for me.

STEP 2: Organize your ride

There are different ways to go to the Angkor Temples. The best thing is you can choose whatever fits your personality and preference. Below are some of your choices:

Taxi (for the luxury traveler in you)

There are a lot of black car rentals around Siem Reap that you can rent but the best way is randomly hailing a trusted taxi driver before your trip.

This way, you can bargain the price however, I must tell you that most taxi drivers have an agreed rate. Trust your gut and bargaining skills. | Taxi rate(s): from $25.00 – $40.00 USD

Tuktuk (for the local in you):

Want to experience how the Cambodian people use tuktuk? I am sure you are familiar about this mode of transport but one thing I notice that is something different from that of Thailand’s tuktuk: this is more spacious.

Looking for the best tuktuk guy is easy because they are everywhere. As usual, you can haggle for the price that you want or much better, do it on a per head basis.

Let’s say $5.00 per head. This is ideal for small groups (groups of 4) and is guaranteed cheap and efficient.

Motorcycle (for the adventurer in you):

Maybe you have a driver’s license and is looking for something adventurous? Motorcycles is it! As long as you have a driver’s license, you are free to choose this mode of transportation.

Make sure you know how to drive, too! This is ideal for solo/couple travelers and have more room for managing your own time/route.

Motorcycle rentals are usually on a full day basis so this is good if you have planned something else for that day (aka driving around Siem Reap). | Motorcycle rate(s): from $6.00 USD per day

Basket bikes (for the wanderer in you):

Or maybe, you don’t know how to drive a motorcycle nor you have a driver’s license? Basket bikes are the way to be!

Cruise the Angkor Temples in French style, manage your own time and find your way. Whether you are by yourself of traveling with a buddy, basket bikes are worth it!

Plus, it’s a good exercise! Motorcycle rate(s): from $4.00 USD per day

STEP 3: Bring your own breakfast

The best time to start your Angkor Temples tour is at 5:30 in the morning to catch the beautiful sunrise. You will then have to wake up at 4:30 and won’t have time to eat breakfast.

It’s best to pack your breakfast the night before the trip (or when you wake up) to save money. Food around the temples is ridiculously overpriced and believe me when I say you will get really hungry after the sunrise shenanigan is done.

Cold cuts, sandwiches, hard boiled eggs are easy to prepare and carry around. Make sure not to eat junk to avoid being sleepy and tired during the tour.

Fruits are good, too! Coffee is just $1.50 USD and can be found in the temples. I’m sure you’d want to drink it fresh.

STEP 4: Buy your tickets.

You can do this on the day itself. No need to book in advance. You just have to go to the ticket booth around 5:15, fall in line and voila, you will have a ticket with your very own photo. Like and ID type of ticket. Half day costs $25.00 USD.

STEP 5: Enjoy the tour!

Do it your own pace without anyone instructing you that you should move. Arranging your own Angkor Wat trip saves you a lot of money as tours like this can cost up to $100.00 USD from a travel agency. If you do it yourself, your budget will be cut by 50%.

It’s more fun, effective and gives you room to be creative and independent!

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  1. What great advice. I loved that you went in a Tuktuk and I agree, 90% of the time, doing it yourself is the way to go… especially so you can go at your own pace.

  2. Great advice, Trisha! I traveled on my own through Siem Reap and agree with you! There’s really no need for an expensive guide. It’s really easy to map out which temples to see and to work with your Tuk-Tuk driver on getting to each one. I have to say, though, I couldn’t believe when I saw people riding bikes! I know it’s cheap and seems charming, but the Cambodian sun and heat are no joke. I just couldn’t handle that. 🙂

  3. I absolutely agree with you, it can be overwhelming to go visit a historic place like that with a tour guide. I often find myself not paying attention, taking pictures or wandering off. And the day after, heck, 5 minutes after, I can’t remember what they told me anyway 😉

  4. Could not agree more with you. People should be able to create their own experiences rather than always choosing a tour guide first. Love your tips on how to plan for a self guided experience of Angor Wat. Looking forward to visiting soon and using your tips. Thanks.

  5. We much prefer the independent style of travel and haven’t used a guide or travel agents for many years. I guess it depends on your comfort levels and travel experience and sometimes it takes a lot of advance research to understand and interpret the history and culture behind what you are seeing. For some people if they only have a couple of weeks to travel each year I can understand that they might prefer to outsource that and just enjoy the moment but I’m with you, the crowds and doing what everyone else is doing is not for us. Travelling independent stretches the travel budget and make the experience richer.

  6. Thanks for the great tips! We always love visiting places on our own, too–it’s nice to be able to explore at your own pace and we love taking out time with photos and video. The breakfast you brought with you looks great and is a really good idea! Looking forward to visiting Angkor Wat ourselves sometime!

  7. You made some good points! My husband and I live in Cambodia and have visited the Angkor temples several times over the years. Personally we suggest taking a tuk tuk and hiring a local guide for at least half a day. It’s nice to be able to ask questions and have someone experienced there to take a good pictures of you! That said, it’s also fun to bike throughout the temple complex and explore at your own pace. Some other advice, if you get your ticket in the evening around 4pm you are allowed to go into the temples that evening for sunset and it doesn’t count as one of your days using the pass. Also, when I was there at the end of 2015 travelers weren’t allowed to ride motorbikes around the temples. Did that change now?

  8. This has been on my list of places to go for years and I still haven’t made it. I’d probably do it myself, too, though I’d like to do a lot of research beforehand so I know what to see and what to look for. That hotel you stayed at looks divine!

  9. Great tips Trisha! Like you we did it on our own too. Armed with just a book for a guide. ? it was nice to go at our own pace. The big tour groups swarmed the temples and that stressed me out. It was cool to eavesdrop on the English speaking tour guides though. Hehe

  10. I would really prefer to do it this way, without a guide. When I went to Machu Pichu I chose the same method. It’s not that having a guide isn’t worth it – sure it is. But it’s really great to be able to walk around on your own and decide at what pace to do it at.

  11. I’ve been to Angkor but it has been about 12 years ago, way before the big herds of tourists started getting there, before English was spoken in Siem Reap and before you could even get money there other than importing USD. Although I loved Angkor, I wouldn’t go there again because I know it has changed a lot. I love your idea of doing things yourself btw, we always try to travel like this as well!

  12. Cambodia is on my bucket list ASAP!! Especially after perusing the latest Lonely Planet coffee table book and its pick of Angkor Wat as #1 in its top #100 !! i think i would choose the tuck-tuk ride!!! thanks for giving me the confidence to try more tours ourselves!

  13. Great advice! I’d definitely take a tuktuk there- sounds like a lot of fun and a bit of a bargain! Good idea about bringing breakfast, i’m sure there’s lots of people who forget and end up paying lots of money for snacks.

    I think doing it by yourself rather than a tour is more exciting and actually more thrilling. It seems to easy to book an expensive tour rather than actually arranging it yourself!

  14. I totally agree with you Trisha! I’m planning to go to Cambodia next year and planned out my own itinerary well. I thought of renting a bike and tour around the temples 🙂

  15. Hello!

    I just want to ask. Was the $5.00 per head tuktuk rate covers the entire day of tour?

    Looking forward to your response.


  16. Thanks Trisha! While traveling I have always found that making your own tour Is so much more relaxing and cheaper. I will be heading to Angkor Wat on a scooter today and walking around the ruins!

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