Other pages have info on specific sites, mainly pictures.
However, before looking at the pictures, if you intend to visit part of the wonder of being there yourself is the surprise, the new experience if seeing it for the first time so consider if you want to see loads of pictures or be amazed when you get there. That said, the pictures here are not that good anyway.
Visiting the Site
There are many options, different ways suiting different people and interests.
There are various routes or groups of temples.
Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, the most famous, centrally located and close together.
Little Circuit (Le Petit Circuit) major sites to the east of Angkor Thom
Big Circuit (Le Grand Circuit) sites north and further east
Roluos group further east of Siem Reap along National Hwy 6
Outlying temples over 20 km from Angkor Wat
Some people are fascinated by dates, names, kings, etc. whilst others just enjoy the ambience of the temples.
One option to consider is taking a guide for a first visit (get facts, dates, etc.) visiting Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm and some other Le Petit Circuit temples. Then on a second day take a tuk-tuk for Le Grand Circuit. If you want a 3rd day maybe cycle independently or list what you want and take a tuk-tuk. Plenty of places in Siem Reap to hire a bicycle.
Get or study a map – online is fine, best to have one you can check whilst travelling round the site (mobile signal is bad to none). Decide which temples you want to see. For example Le Grand Circuit is (in practice) a defined set of temples which means if you do Le Grand Circuit you will be driving past some amazing places. If using a tuk-tuk driver he will stop wherever you want (as long as you don’t over do it time-wise).
Le Grand Circuit is a lot less crowded than the inner group of temples and includes some amazing places.
Taking a Tuk-Tuk
Tuk-tuks are everywhere and there is nothing to stop you responding to the eternal shouts from every tuk-tuk driver you pass. But, some tuk-tuk drivers specialise on Angkor Site tours. Many tuk-tuks are great at taking you bus station to hotel but ask them about the ruins and they wont turn down the work but they probably wont even have a map to show you where you’re going. Ask at your hostel/hotel/Guest House as they will know good tuk-tuk drivers for site tours. Costs are Le Petit Circuit US$ 15, Le Grand Circuit US$20. You would be able to negotiate a lower price from an “street” tuk-tuk and you may be lucky or you may be unlucky (to save a few $).
You can buy a 1 day, 3 day (valid for any 3 days in the week) or a 7 day ticket. A 3 day ticket costs twice the 1 day ticket price. Tickets have your photo on them (so are not exchangeable and cannot be sold on) and are checked at the entrances to most of the bigger sites.
There is no reason to give money to anybody other than the ticket booth to get tour ticket. If a tuk-tuk driver tries to get you to pay him … you’ve chosen the wrong tuk-tuk driver.
Cambodian nationals get in free so you probably wont have to pay for a ticket for your tuk-tuk driver (if that is how you ate visiting).
Ticket Revenue & Wild Rumours
What happens to the money raised from ticket sales has been highly controversial within Cambodia and subject of many (untrue) rumours.
Ages ago the Cambodian Government contracted a private “for profit” company called Sokimex to run the ticket sales operations. Sokimex runs many high end luxury hotels within Cambodia. The company is owned by a Cambodian national (though of Vietnamese origins/parents). Sokimex received between 10% and 15% of the money from ticket sales (reports vary). And that becomes quite a lot when annual ticket sales are more than US$100 million.
This suspected highly lucrative arrangement was not liked by Cambodians and early Jan 2016 the Cambodian Government took full control of ticket sales.
There were all sorts of wild (untrue) stories as to what was happening including that the entire site had been leased to Vietnamese/Chinese investors who were taking all the profit.
Be aware that temples on Le Grand Circuit are not policed as carefully as those more popular sites nearer the center of the site (e.g. Angkor Wat). E.g. a cleaning lady who will show you a carving in a wall and expect to be paid for the “directions” e.g. even a lady sitting at an altar giving people blessings for cash payment.
Visiting Angkor Wat/Thom/Ta Prohm
(The 3 most popular sites)
Get there early (by 6:00 am).
Get up when you’re ready, have a breakast, organise yourself, etc. and you will be enduring big crowds.
Even when tourist numbers in Cambodia are low, there are very different types of tourist at the Angkor Archaeological Site – wealthy Chinese who pay no attention to anybody else, their only concern being what they want. They will be there, standing blocking your photo for their selfie for 5 mins., barging past you on the steps, etc.. That said, some of their antics can be very amusing. Getting there early gives you a bit of a head start. Ticket office opens at 5:00 am and temples at 6:00 am.
Other Cambodia posts at Cambodia Travel Map
Other South East Asia posts at South East Asia Travel Map