Permits, fees, passes and guides for the Angkor area, Cambodia

Permits, fees, passes and guides for the Angkor area, Cambodia

Passes are required to enter the Angkor area. They are on sale at the front gate for 1 (US$20), 3 (US$40), or 7 (US$60) days. The 3-day pass is valid for a week, while the 7-day pass is valid for a month. Cambodians can enter for free — you shouldn't need to buy a pass for your guide or your driver.

If you buy a pass on the evening before the first day of the pass, you can enter the park after 5PM to view the sunset, after which the park closes. The passes are non-transferable and include a photograph of the owner. The photograph is taken at the counter. Note that regular checks for the pass are performed at almost all sites within the park, so carry your pass with you at all times, and be certain to buy the passes only from the official Apsara Authority counters, not from other vendors and definitely not second-hand.

Guides can be hired for about US$20 a day and are available for most major languages. Hiring a guide for at least the first day can help you get orientated to the temples and are particularly useful for finding and explaining the bas-reliefs, which can otherwise be rather overwhelming and/or difficult to understand.

Be sure and get to the temples early — you can enter the park from 5 AM, and the temples themselves open at sunrise. There are fewer visitors early in the morning, and the sun isn't at full force. Arriving at the temples at 8 AM instead of 9 AM can make all the difference in staying one step ahead of the tour bus contingents.

The temples can broadly be categorized into four groups:

- Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, the grandest temple of all and the ancient capital next to it

- Little Circuit (Le Petit Circuit), taking in major sites to the east of Angkor Thom

- Big Circuit (Le Grand Circuit), taking in major sites north and further out east

- Roluos group, 15 km east from Siem Reap along National Highway 6

- Outlying temples, located over 20 km for Angkor Wat

You can, of course, mix and match freely, but as distances are fairly long, it makes sense to plan ahead and pick sites connected by road. Most car, tuk-tuk or moto drivers will have an itinerary ready if you don't have one in mind, and their expertise may come in handy for arriving at sites a step ahead of the big tour groups.

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