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Angkor Wat may well be Cambodia’s top tourist attraction, but it needs to be noted that it remains a sacred place of worship for many. While tourists battle to get their shot of sunrise or take a selfie with the iconic spires as a backdrop, others are there to pray and meditate. Take heed of our 11 rules to follow during a visit to avoid inciting any anger, and landing yourself in trouble.
A string of episodes in early 2015 led to the arrest and deportation of five tourists who decided to bare all for photos at the religious site. This sparked strict enforcement of dress code in August 2016, with visitors deemed to be wearing inappropriate clothing unable to buy Angkor passes. The main rule is to keep your knees and shoulders covered. Banned clothing includes halter-neck tops for women and tank tops for men.
Again, remember where you are. This is a religious site and is sacred to many visitors, so behave accordingly. As tempting as it may be to play Tarzan in some of the more remote temples, they are still sacred so don’t run rampant through the ruins crying out for Jane.
As a rule of thumb, visitors to Angkor Wat – or any other temple and religious structure across Cambodia – should remember not to touch the temples, climb on them, vandalise them or remove any stones. And don’t touch the carvings. If we all did, they’d sharp disappear.
Angkor Archaeological Park is full of sights you’ll want to capture on camera, including cute kids, workers, visitors and locals. Anyone wanting to take a photo of another person should bear in mind it’s polite to ask first. How would you like it if it was the other way around?
As with many laws in Cambodia, enforcement is often lacking and visitors to these Siem Reap-based temples may see many of these rules being broken within quick succession of each other. This doesn’t make it ok. Smoking is another one of these, with Angkor being smoke free since 2012, so refrain from lighting up until you hit a designated area.
It’s been said before, and it will be repeated again. Angkor is a religious site, with many visitors attending to worship or meditate. While whispering isn’t necessary, avoid shouting and raising your voice, especially if you see people in the middle of prayer.
Monks are highly respected within Cambodian culture so treat them this way. As with the previous point about photos, ask before clicking your camera. And women must remember not to touch a monk, or stand or sit too close to them.
If a sign says, “No entry”, then it means no entry – and more often than not, it’s for visitors’ safety. Angkor is an ancient site, with buildings dating back centuries. While reconstruction and conservation work is continual, there are areas that are dilapidated and are home to unsafe structures that you don’t want to collapse on your head.
As hard as it may be, don’t cave in to the swathe of cute kids asking for money, sweets or food that roam the temple grounds. It encourages the cycle of poverty and further fuels the problem, which is widespread across Cambodia.
The number of rubbish bins installed at Angkor is gradually increasing but visitors will often find no place to dump their trash once they’re done. That doesn’t make it ok to throw it on the floor. Take a spare plastic bag to keep trash in until the end of your trip, or you find a bin.
There are small street-style restaurants and stalls dotted across Angkor where guests can buy food, drinks and snacks throughout the day. However, don’t get caught out by forgetting sunscreen or a hat. It can get super-hot spending the day temple trekking, so come prepared.