I received the following email from Andy regarding Angkor Wat accessibility:
We are aging parents, and planning to visit Angkor Wat. I am unable to walk very far without pain in my arthritic ankle. We will have a car and driver, but it looks like there are no cars or motorbikes allowed on that long walkway. How did your mother negotiate your visit to Angkor Wat? Any suggestions or advice greatly appreciated.
Hi Andy! GREAT area of the world to visit! Angkor Wat is in my Top 3 travel experiences to date (and I would go back in a heartbeat). Nothing short of amazing.
Regarding getting around, a car/driver is definitely the way to go as the temples are huge, far from one another and interspersed in the jungle. Although you can take a tuk tuks to certain sites, it’s just not as comfortable for long distances and summer in Siem Reap is nothing short of an inferno. Mom and I needed the A/C when we could get it!
I’m not sure how you feel about a wheelchair Andy, but for this adventure, I highly recommend using one. In fact, it’s really my only suggestion for getting to see the ruins up close and personal (which you’ll definitely want to do). If you’re not used to using one, just remember, you don’t know any of these people (well, outside of your wife!) and you’ll never see them again. The wheelchair will allow you to go for longer periods of time and in my mind, that is definitely the priority as there is a lot to see and do. In addition, you can opt to only use it when you need it.
If you’re still a little reluctant to use a wheelchair, take a peek at Jane Gruenebaum’s adventures in China. She and her fellow travelers used “professional wheelchair pushers” in Tiananmen Square as it’s a 3.5 mile hike. She was initially a little embarrassed but quickly got over it when she realized she wouldn’t have been able to walk the whole way (and would therefore miss many important sites). Definitely please consider this option Andy.
Now, two options for getting a wheelchair. The first is to ask the tour company where you booked the car and driver if they have one you can rent. If not, your hotel can definitely rent one for you. That said, be sure the driver knows you have a wheelchair to ensure it will fit in the car (you may have to step up to a van as cars were pretty small).
The second option is to rent one here in the States and bring it with you. However, after saying that, I’m definitely leaning towards having your hotel get it for you. The only reason for renting one in the US is that you can get a lighter weight, fold-up chair that you can check as luggage when you travel. (Most airlines don’t charge for a wheelchair but rules change all the time so be sure and ask before renting one.) If your wife is going to push you anywhere, a lighter model would probably be better for her as the hotel option will probably be the old style heavy ones. However, and this is critical, the sidewalks in Siem Reap are terrible and I’m not sure your wife would be able to do it. Heck, I had a hard time pushing mom around our hotel as the sidewalks were so bad and I was in my early 40’s when we went (we used a car/driver to go anywhere for dinner).
All that said, I highly recommend having your hotel rent you a wheelchair for your use. One final note – if the hotel indicates they have a wheelchair, verify you can use it exclusively (as many times, the chair is for transporting guests to their room, not for a guest to take off property).
One other critical recommendation. When speaking with the tour company, arrange to have the driver walk with you and your wife through the ruins. It will probably run you $20 (or even less) and he can carry the wheelchair around for when you need it (and push once you’re in it). I also had the driver bring a second person to walk with us through the ruins to help lift the wheelchair when needed. There are typically locals hanging around the entrance to the ruins to help with requests like this and the driver took care of everything for us (as I recall, we gave the 2nd guy about $5 US). Mom loved being carried around and requested my brother and I do this on a regular basis! She’s a rascal that way.
I know it may be weird being in a wheelchair Andy, but my recommendation is to at least give it a try. After your first day, I’m guessing your wife will be jealous and you’ll need to arrange one for her too!
Thanks for the question and good luck to you and your wife! Let me know how it goes!