Angkor Wat—the jewel of the ancient Khmer Empire—beckons visitors with its intricate stone towers rising over the Cambodian jungle.

But, can you see Angkor Wat without paying the entrance fee?

The short answer is yes…and no. While you can catch glimpses of Angkor Wat from outside the archaeological park, exploring the iconic temple complex does require purchasing an Angkor Pass.

I’ll walk you through the nuances, but first, let’s talk about why that Angkor Pass is so important.


Understanding the Angkor Pass and Its Importance


The Angkor Pass is an essential component for any visitor wishing to explore the Angkor Archaeological Park, which includes the magnificent temple of Angkor Wat, as well as numerous other ancient structures.

This pass is not merely a ticket for entry but serves a greater purpose in the conservation and maintenance of the site.

The revenue generated from the sale of Angkor Passes is crucial for the ongoing preservation efforts, ensuring that the temples and the surrounding environment are protected for future generations.

The Angkor Pass system is managed by the Angkor Enterprise, the official organization responsible for selling the passes, and visitors can purchase different types of passes depending on the length of their stay, ranging from a one-day pass to a seven-day pass.

This pass is mandatory for foreign tourists visiting the park and can be obtained at the official ticket center located near the site.

It’s important to note that the pass must be kept on one’s person at all times while within the park, as officials conduct regular checks.

The funds collected from the passes are allocated not just to the temples’ structural conservation and restoration projects, but also to the management of the vast park which includes the provision of visitor facilities, security, and environmental management.

By purchasing the pass, you are directly contributing to the sustainability of this UNESCO World Heritage site, ensuring that the awe-inspiring legacy of the Khmer Empire can continue to be appreciated by people from around the world.


Alternative Ways to Experience Angkor Wat Without Paying

While the Angkor Archaeological Park requires an entrance fee to explore the temples up close, including the iconic Angkor Wat, there are still ways to catch a glimpse of this ancient wonder without paying.

One such method is to find vantage points around the perimeter of the park.

For instance, you can visit Phnom Bakheng, a hill located northwest of the Angkor Wat temple.

Although Phnom Bakheng itself is within the park and usually requires a ticket, the base of the hill and some surrounding areas offer distant views of the temple’s towers protruding above the treeline.

This can be particularly breathtaking during sunrise or sunset when the silhouette of Angkor Wat is set against the vibrant hues of the sky.

Another way to experience Angkor Wat without entering the complex is by taking a boat ride on the moat that surrounds Angkor Wat.

While you won’t be able to see the intricate carvings and architecture up close, the reflection of the temple on the water creates a serene and picturesque scene.

Some local establishments, such as hotels and restaurants, may have upper floors or rooftops that offer a distant view of the temple.

These spots can provide a peaceful setting to admire the grandeur of Angkor Wat while enjoying a meal or a drink.

It’s important to note, however, that while these alternatives offer a unique perspective, they cannot substitute the immersive experience of walking through the temple grounds and witnessing the awe-inspiring details of this historic site.

Exploring the Surroundings of Angkor Wat Without an Angkor Pass

While the grandeur of Angkor Wat itself beckons visitors from around the globe, the area surrounding the temple complex also offers a glimpse into the rich tapestry of Cambodian culture and history, all without the need for an Angkor Pass.

The town of Siem Reap, the gateway to Angkor Wat, is brimming with activities and attractions that can be enjoyed independently of the temple visit.

For instance, the bustling Psar Chas, also known as the “Old Market,” is a vibrant hub where one can immerse themselves in local commerce, sampling traditional Khmer cuisine, and purchasing artisanal crafts and textiles.

The Siem Reap Art Center Market and the Angkor Night Market offer evening shopping experiences where the colorful array of souvenirs and street food create a lively atmosphere.

Beyond the markets, Siem Reap is home to other cultural sites such as the War Museum Cambodia and the Cambodian Cultural Village, neither of which require an Angkor Pass.

The War Museum provides insight into the country’s recent history, showcasing military equipment and offering guided tours by war veterans.

The Cambodian Cultural Village is an expansive theme park that features miniature replicas of important historical buildings and live performances, depicting various aspects of Cambodian folklore and tradition.

If you’re looking for something a little more quiet, a walk along the Siem Reap River or a visit to the Royal Independence Gardens can be a refreshing experience. Here, you can admire the natural beauty and perhaps catch a glimpse of the intricately carved stone bridges and the Royal Palace.

These activities allow visitors to appreciate the local environment and culture without purchasing the pass required for entering the Angkor Archaeological Park.

Planning Your Visit to Angkor Wat: Cost Considerations

As you plan your visit to the majestic Angkor Wat, it’s important to factor in the cost considerations.

The entrance to Angkor Wat is not free, and you’ll need to purchase a pass to access this iconic temple complex.

These passes come in different durations: a one-day pass costs around $37, a three-day pass is around $62, and a seven-day pass is around $72 (price may vary depending on when you’re reading this, but I try to keep it as up-to-date as possible).

It’s always a good idea to double-check the entry prices for the most current pricing before your trip.

While it might seem like a significant expense, it’s worth keeping in mind that this revenue contributes to the preservation of the site, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

If you’re on a tight budget, the one-day pass can give you a taste of the grandeur, but if you can, it’s worth opting for the longer duration passes (3 days is usually plenty of time for most visitors).

To make the most of your time and money, especially if you’re considering the one-day pass, it’s crucial to plan your itinerary carefully.

Start early to witness the breathtaking sunrise over Angkor Wat—a moment you won’t forget.

Prioritize the temples and areas you want to see the most. Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm are the jewels in the crown, but there are many other remarkable sites within the park that are worth your time.

If you’re an avid photographer or a history enthusiast, the three-day or seven-day pass will allow you to delve deeper into the lesser-known temples, where you can appreciate the intricate carvings and architecture without the rush.

Remember that the park is vast and distances between temples can be significant, so it’s a good idea to consider renting a bike or hiring a tuk-tuk for the day to save time and energy.

This way, you can tailor your visit to your interests and pace, ensuring an unforgettable experience amidst the ancient stones of Angkor.


While visiting Angkor Wat does require purchasing an entrance pass, the cost is well worth it to explore one of the world’s most magnificent ancient sites.

By planning ahead and purchasing the pass that best fits your schedule, you can make the most of your time at Angkor Wat.

Focus on seeing the key highlights like Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm, while also taking time to appreciate some of the lesser-known temples and bas-reliefs.

The revenue from passes goes towards preserving this UNESCO World Heritage Site for future generations.

With some preparation, you’re sure to have an unforgettable and inspiring experience wandering through the historic temples and jungles of Angkor Archaeological Park.