Angkor Wat by Bike: How to Cycle Cambodia’s Famous Temples

The vast Angkor Wat Archaeological Complex in Cambodia is an amazing sight to behold. There’s a reason visitors come from all over the globe to tour Ankgor Wat and dozens of surrounding temples, some of which are over a thousand years old. It’s a stunning setting in which to admire the work of past civilizations, ponder the future of our own, or simply take some iconic pictures.

What’s the best way to visit Angkor Wat? If you have a bit of time, moderate physical fitness, and are up for a little adventure I highly recommend touring Angkor Wat by bicycle. You’ll be able to maneuver around the crowds, create your own flexible itinerary, and save money.

Seeing Angkor Wat on a bike isn’t as hard as it might sound. Lots of people do it, in fact I was recently one of them. Renting a bike in Siem Reap is easy and you can go on your own for ultimate flexibility (my recommendation) or hire a guide if you prefer. Read on for insider tips on how to get the most out of visiting Angkor Wat by bike.

Why Bicycling is the Best Way to See Angkor Wat

The Angkor temple complex is quite big and contains far more than just Angkor Wat itself. Assuming you want to see some of these other temples – and you really should – you won’t be able to visit solely on foot. I say that as a person who loves to walk around while traveling, but this one is just too big. Many guided visitors are shuttled around by tour bus, and most independent travelers hire a tuk tuk driver for the day.

I propose that a bicycle is actually the perfect way to see the Angkor Wat complex. Here’s why:

It’s cheaper. Renting a bike only costs around $5 – $6. Even if you go with a guided group you’ll still come out way ahead compared to paying a private driver to shuttle you around all day.

It’s perfect for the distances involved – too far to walk but not so far that you can’t comfortably cover a lot in a few hours’ time on a bike.

It’s super flexible. While your tuk tuk driver will take you where you ask to be taken, nothing beats the flexibility of simply pulling over on a whim without needing to ask, explain, or arrange a meeting spot with someone who doesn’t speak your language.

Sometimes it’s faster. Around peak times like sunset the main road into the complex becomes totally choked with traffic. You’ll be glad to have only two wheels as you maneuver carefully between the lines of stopped vehicles.

It gives you that independent feeling. If you’re a certain kind of independent traveler, you know what I mean. Angkor Wat is touristy and crowded. The flexibility of independent bicycling can be a partial antidote to the frustration of spending hours trapped behind shuffling, selfie-taking tour groups bused in from Thailand.

It’s good exercise and good fun! And if you’re not feeling up to all that pedaling in the heat, you can even tour Ankgor Wat by ebike these days.

The Basics of Angkor Archaeological Park

What most people refer to as Angkor Wat is actually a large complex containing dozens of temples. Angkor Wat itself is the most famous but many of the others are just as worthy of a visit.

The complex is big, consisting of a few overlapping loops of main road with major sites spaced roughly every few kilometers.

Your ticket grants you access to all temples at the complex for the time period you purchase: 1 day, 3 days or 7 days. Most people spend several days exploring the complex. Tickets can be bought online or in person at the Ticket Counter which is NOT at the entrance to the park.

Siem Reap, the “base” for exploring the Angkor complex, is about five kilometers away along a straightforward and busy route.

View of Angkor Wat and a palm tree from a back entrance

Renting A Bicycle in Siem Reap

There are many options for renting a bicycle in Siem Reap, starting from just a few dollars per day. Start by asking at your hotel, read reviews on Google Maps, or simply walk around town until you find a bike rental shop.

Look for a bike rental that includes a helmet and lock. Mountain bikes are generally the best choice for Angkor Wat, not because the riding is particularly rough but because they tend to be newer and in better shape. A decent mountain bike with lock and helmet should run around $5 – $7 per day. You can find cheaper city bikes for rent in Siem Reap but they may not be up to the challenge of the longer bike ride to and around Angkor Wat.

Bike lights may not be easy to find, but if you plan to ride to or from the temple at night (perhaps for a sunrise or sunset tour) a pair of front and rear lights would be very helpful. At the very least your rental bike should have reflectors on it.

For extra convenience (and a few extra dollars or Euro) you can even have a rental bike delivered to your hotel:

I’ll take a moment to make a personal appeal: though it may not be the most comfortable, I really hope you’ll wear a bike helmet, at least while riding Charles De Gaulle Road into the park. I rode my bike all over Southeast Asia for three months (I was traveling by bike) and the only accident I had was on Charles des Gaules Road biking to Angkor Wat! It was a bit of bad luck with a motorbike full of careless schoolboys, and all I got was a scraped elbow, but I was glad to have my head protected.

Do you need a guide?

It’s possible to arrange a guided bike tour of Ankgor Wat in Siem Reap. Guiding is a good source of income for English-speaking Cambodians, and a good guide can add a lot to your visit. However, if you’re on a budget or simply prefer to travel more independently, it’s totally fine to visit without one.

If you want to get the most out of your visit, I do recommend reading about the temples or they will all start to look the same pretty quickly. I used the Rough Guide to Cambodia and skimmed through all the descriptions in advance so I was vaguely familiar with the names. Then I pulled up the relevant section on my phone and re-read it while there in person. For me this was the right balance of information and independence.

Intricate stone carvings of a battle scene on the walls of Angkor Wat.
A guide can help explain the meaning of these carvings, but so can a good guidebook.

If you do want to join a guided bike tour of Ankor Wat, you’ll find plenty of options. Ask at your hotel or book online, for example at GetYourGuide:

How to Buy Tickets

Important: You cannot buy a ticket at the main entrance on Charles De Gaulle road. You’ll see an area that looks exactly like a ticket sales booth, but it does not, in fact, sell tickets anymore. If you arrive there without a ticket you’ll be turned away.

The ticket office is at the Angkor Park Pass Ticket Counters on Street 60 near the intersection with Apsara Road (see location on Google Map). Most people hire a tuk tuk to take them there, but you could go by bike. It’s sort of “on the way” to the temple complex in that it’s north of Siem Reap town, but it’s also 2.3km east from Charles De Gaulle Road. If you go on your way to the temple (except for sunrise visits, for which you’ll need to buy your ticket the day before) it will add an extra 4.6km of riding to your trip.

Better yet, buy your ticket online. This system is new since 2019 and is incredibly convenient. The cost is the same as buying in person. You can either print your ticket or use a digital ticket on your phone.

Tickets are issued for a specific individual and include your picture. Don’t try to game the ticket system, as officials do check and you could easily be slapped with a fine.

If you book a guided bicycle tour of Angkor Wat, note that the entrance ticket is generally NOT included. Be sure to buy your ticket in advance of the tour.

Which Ticket is Best?

Before you buy your ticket, you’ll need to decide which one to get. Your options are:

  • 1 day out of the next 7 ($37)
  • 3 days out of the next 10 ($62)
  • 7 days out of the next 30 ($72)

I recommend the three day pass for most visitors. It’s a better value than buying two 1-day passes, so even if you only go twice you’ll get your money’s worth. And if you’re staying in Siem Reap for a few days you’ll have the luxury of visiting Angkor Wat several times on non-consecutive days, which is perfect for breaking up the experience and avoiding “temple overload.”

Thinking about just one day? I’ll echo what others advised me and say generally speaking, no, one day is not enough. Unless you’re on a tight schedule and just want a quick taste, the one day pass will leave you wanting more. This is especially true for those seeing Angkor Wat by bicycle, as you’ll have your work cut out for you just getting from temple to temple.

Here’s the thing. Visiting Angkor Wat is hard work. It’s hot and it’s crowded. If you’re anything like me, the crowds will grate on your nerves and everything will start looking the same after about half a day. If you want to enjoy your visit and get your money’s worth, it helps to break up the sites into a few separate half-day chunks and give yourself a break to do something different in-between.

Seven days is too many for most casual visitors. Many people don’t even stay in Siem Reap that long, and even if you do you will likely feel “templed out” after two or three days. However, if you’re staying in Siem Reap for a few weeks or months and want the flexibility to explore the far reaches of the temple complex at your leisure, the 7 day ticket is an excellent value.

Stone linga statue in long corridor of doorways at Preah Khan temple
You can spend hours wandering mazes of corridors like this one at Preah Khan temple

Biking to Angkor Wat from Siem Reap

Angkor Wat is a straight shot north of central Siem Reap on Charles De Gaulle street. It’s a busy street with lots of traffic, but the drivers are used to motorbikes and bicycles. Simply join the fray and pedal predictably in the shoulder until you reach the main entrance.

I won’t lie, the chaotic traffic can be a bit intimidating to a cyclist who isn’t used to it, but it’s easier than it first appears. Traffic is slow-moving and you’re unlikely to have any serious incidents, though a minor bump here or there isn’t uncommon (so it’s smart to wear a helmet). If you want some tips to prepare yourself, check out this post on how to bicycle safely in Southeast Asia traffic.

Students in uniform bicycling in Siem Reap Cambodia
Biking with local school girls in Siem Reap

Bicycle Parking at Angkor Wat Temples

One advantage of visiting Angkor Wat by bicycle is the ease of parking. No need to find your tuk tuk and driver in a sea of hundreds. Bicycles are easy to park and easy to find again when you return.

At the more crowded sites, look for the place where the motorbikes park. Often there will be an employee/guard nearby and this makes for an excellent spot to park your bike. If you have a lock (and you definitely should), attach it to a tree or fence and you’re all set.

Suggested Bike Route and Itinerary

There are many possible routes for exploring Angkor Wat, and one of the best things about going by bike is the freedom to make up your own route as you go. That said, it’s helpful to have a plan in advance even if you make changes on the fly.

The two most popular routes around the Angkor Complex are the Petit (small) Circuit and the Grand (big) Circuit. With a little bit of advance planning you can mix and match from the two to suit your schedule and endurance.

The Small Circuit is a 16 kilometer loop. The Large Circuit is an extension of the smaller loop that makes for a total of 26 kilometers. The beginning and end of both overlap each other (both loops start and end from the same place) but the middle sections are different. You can follow one precisely, or use them as guidelines and pick and choose from both. You can go clockwise or counterclockwise.

There is a good map here showing the small circuit in red and the extended large circuit route in green. I also recommend the Maps.me app, which has all the temples and routes labeled as well as places to eat, use the bathroom, etc.

Ruined doorway full of stone blocks at Preah Khan temple
Preah Khan temple – can’t go that way!

Choose your own adventure, but here’s a suggested bike itinerary that worked well for me and allowed me to spread my visit over several days while minimizing backtracking and crowds.

Day 1

  • Start counterclockwise on the grand circuit, skipping Angkor Wat for now and starting with the smaller temples in the northeastern corner (Banteay Kdei, East Mebon, Neak Pean, Preah Khan, etc.)
  • Join the small circuit heading clockwise, skipping the Bayon (for now) but seeing Ta Keo, To Prohm, and other small sites on the way.
  • Retrace route back down the east side of the small circuit from Banteay Kdei to Anchor Wat (still skipping it, it’s tomorrow’s main event) and then head into Siem Reap to explore town for the rest of the day.

Day 2

  • Hit Anchor Wat first thing in the morning, as early as possible (after sunrise crowds disperse) to avoid the worst of the congestion.
  • Continue clockwise on small circuit seeing Angkor Thom, the Bayon and other nearby smaller temples until the “temple fatigue” wears you down.

Day 3

  • Assuming you have a three day ticket, use the third day to do whatever you’re still craving after the first two. Maybe you finally want to catch the sunrise (I’m not a morning person and don’t like crowds so I never did), or the sunset (recommended). Or return to a particular area you really liked or had to skip.

Whatever you do, I highly recommend allowing time to visit some of the farther-flung, less famous temples on these routes. They are spectacular in their own right and often much more pleasant to wander around, being slightly less busy. I especially enjoyed wandering through the corridor mazes of Banteay Kdei and Preah Khan.

Intricate carvings at Banteay Kdei

What to Wear and Bring

Angkor Wat enforces a strict dress code for both men and women: shoulders and knees must be covered. This can be easy to forget if you’re riding a bicycle, since those of us from western cultures often dress more minimally when doing active sports in hot weather.

Don’t forget! They will turn you away. Men can sometimes get away with longer shorts reaching just above the knee, but there isn’t much leniency for women. A scarf is acceptable in a pinch for women wearing a sleeveless shirt, but it’s easier just to wear a shirt with sleeves that cover at least your shoulders.

I recommend bringing a small backpack (I love a small stuffable pack like this for travel) so you can carry the following essentials:

  • Map and/or smartphone with navigation app
  • Your ticket, printed or electronic
  • Water bottle
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera
  • Possibly a rain jacket for those sudden downpours, or at least a plastic bag for your electronics if you get caught out.
  • Bike lock
  • Bike helmet
  • Cash

Keep in mind, it is HOT in Cambodia. You’ll be spending a lot of time in the sun. Protect your skin and drink plenty of water. There are good quality toilets throughout the temple complex, so no need to worry about that.

Worn carving of female figure draped in spider web at Preah Khan temple.

Timing and Crowds

There’s no avoiding it, you’ll need to mentally prepare yourself for crowds. Especially if you’ve been traveling elsewhere in Cambodia, you’ll be shocked by the number of foreign visitors in Angkor Wat. A change of mindset is required, and sometimes a few deep breaths, depending on your tolerance for shuffling through crowded spaces like a herd of cattle.

The most crowded temples are Bayon, Ta Prohm and of course Angkor Wat itself. The rest will still have plenty of visitors but seem quiet by comparison to those three. The bike itinerary above tries to avoid the most crowded times at these main attractions, but it’s impossible to find a truly quiet time at the big three. In general early morning or late afternoon will be better than mid-day.

If the crowds get to be too overwhelming (I know I’m not the only one who feels like this sometimes, right?) there’s almost always a shadier, quieter place to be found nearby on a side path or back entrance.

Crowds at entrance to Angkor Wat
The busy main entrance to Angkor Wat

Food and Water

You’ll be hungry and thirsty while exploring Angkor Wat, especially by bike! There are many places to buy food, cold drinks and bottled water inside the temple complex, but they aren’t cheap. Here are a few tips to help your Riels go further.

Many menus have ridiculously inflated prices. Like $6 per meal! My theory is that they give these to tour bus groups who don’t know any better. If you look even the least bit surprised by these prices, they will often immediately offer to halve them.

Prices for drinks and snacks may be somewhat negotiable. There is a lot of competition nearby so if you really need to save a few bucks, you can try shopping around.

Bring your own water in a reusable bottle for both cost savings and good karma points. See Water Treatment for Travelers to learn about easy ways to save money by filtering tap water.

Recommendation: You’ll be hungry after biking around Angkor Wat all day! Celebrate by eating dinner like the locals do, picnicking on the lawn overlooking the Angkor Wat moat at sunset. Order a bowl of noodles and a blissfully cold beer or soft drink from one of the noodle cart vendors. They may even give you a mat to sit on.

Take your food and mat over to the water’s edge and enjoy the sunset amidst friendly Cambodian families. If you’re lucky, the price will be $1. If you’re unlucky, it might be $2.50 or $3. Either way, it’s a nice experience. And because you’re visiting Angkor on a bicycle you won’t need a tuk tuk driver to wait for you while you enjoy it.

Angkor Wat gate just before sunset
View of the Angkor Wat gate from my evening picnic spot

Hassles, Annoyances, and Safety

Touts and Vendors

Yes, there are touts in the Angkor complex. The chorus of “Lady, you want pineapple? Lady, you want shirt? Lady, you want cold drink?” will grate on your nerves eventually. Small children may try to sell you trinkets, triggering guilt like nothing else.

These people are simply trying to earn a living. My advice is to just politely say “No thank you” and keep walking, unless you are interested in which case by all means stop and haggle politely but firmly. The vendors at Angkor seem aggressive compared to the rest of Cambodia and Southeast Asia, but I assure you they are still reserved and polite compared to many other places in the world.

One peculiar hassle I encountered came from the official ticket checkers. A number of them, seeing me pull up on my bike, tried to talk me into ditching my bike and hiring a tuk tuk. Nope, I came here on my bike because I intend to ride it! If they ask you which temples you’re going to see later, that’s your cue to politely excuse yourself (unless you actually want a tuk tuk).

Tourists walking through small market at Angkor Wat temple complex
Tourists walking the “gauntlet” of vendors

Traffic Safety

Bicycling is a wonderful way to tour the Angkor complex, but you’ll need to be mindful of the traffic since you’ll be riding the same route as all the cars, buses and tuk tuks. I rode my bike for 2.5 months in Asia and my only minor accident happened in Siem Reap on the way back from the temples (a minor run-in with a scooter full of distracted schoolboys).

Though the streets may seem chaotic, the traffic is slow-moving and drivers are very used to sharing space with scooters and bicycles. The key is to ride steadily and predictably, going with the flow, and you’ll be fine.

Personal Security

Siem Reap and Angkor Wat are fairly safe places. I have read cautionary statements that gave me pause, but personally I traveled solo as a young(ish) woman all around Cambodia and felt quite safe, including in Siem Reap and at the temples.

The only real concern at Angkor is theft, usually pickpocketing or bag snatching. I didn’t personally observe this but have heard that it happens. Be mindful of your phone and camera, carry your bag securely and on the side away from traffic if walking in town, and always keep your belongings under your own control.

Other Cambodia Destinations

Angkor Wat is so popular that it’s easy to overlook the other things to do in Siem Reap. I suggest taking at least an afternoon and evening to explore the city further, as it’s probably the nicest and most accessible city in Cambodia.

Beyond Siem Reap there is an entire country to explore that many visitors never see. Personally I think it would be a shame to visit Cambodia without seeing anywhere more representative of the country as a whole. Not only will you get a better sense of how locals live, you’ll also have more chances to interact with them in places that aren’t completely overrun with tourists. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking.

Somewhat touristy Cambodia destinations (but less touristy than Siem Reap):

  • Phnom Penh
  • Kampot
  • Kampong Cham
  • Kratie

Less touristy (you may only see a couple other travelers):

  • Preah Vihear (the town, though the temple of the same name located elsewhere is supposedly nice too)
  • Temples of Koh Ker (just a few hour’s drive from Siem Reap)
  • Stung Treng
  • Sisophon
  • Battambang
  • Krakor
Pristine river views near Tatai, Cambodia
Near Tatai, in southwestern Cambodia

More About Bicycling in Southeast Asia

I hope by now you’re convinced that riding a bicycle is the perfect way to see Angkor Wat.

Personally I went a step further and traveled by bicycle exclusively for 2.5 months through northern Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and central Thailand. I would argue it’s the perfect way to see a lot more than just Angkor Wat.

If you’re curious about what this takes (no, I did not have much experience), you can read more about bicycling in Southeast Asia here.

About the Author

Hi there, I’m Alissa, founder of Exploring Wild. I’ve traveled over 20,000 miles by bike and still can’t stop planning my next ride (and helping you plan yours). Pavement and panniers or singletrack and seat bag, I love it all. On my bike I feel free. Learn more about me here.

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