Designing the Ultimate Bucket List experience can be challenging. After all, if this kind of trip was easy, it wouldn’t be special. Pick the right destination, in the right season, with the proper support to make your travel an Ultimate Bucket List experience of a lifetime. Angkor Wat has the potential to be that trip. Follow our guide to create your very own, Ultimate Bucket List travel experience to Angkor Wat, in Siem Reap Cambodia.
Planning Your Trip: Traveling from the USA can be time-consuming, running anywhere from 20 to 26 hours including layovers. With so much travel time invested, you must give yourself enough time in the region. Our trip, which was outlined in our blog article ran for 3 weeks. I would suggest a minimum of two weeks, with 3 to 4 nights in Siem Reap. Use Bangkok as your gateway to Southeast Asia. Travel between cities is cost-effective providing that you travel light using the regional air carriers like Air Asia.
When to Go: November to March offers the best weather, which by no surprise is the peak tourist season. You’ll have dry days, but it will still be hot. We traveled in March with temperatures hovering between the mid 90’s and 100 degrees. The rainy season runs June through September with frequent storms. The tropical foliage becomes a lush green, but the dusty roads turn to mud making it difficult to explore the temples. In my opinion, the shoulder months of March and November are the best months to travel.
Preparation for Travel: The Center for Disease Control recommends that you are up to date on all vaccinations, with additional vaccines for Hepatitis & Typhoid. Malaria pills are also suggested during your stay. Your primary physician can guide you through this process. Be sure to start early, the Hepatitis vaccine is given in 3 shots over a 6-month period.Buy a HydroBlu Clear Flow Water Filter – 1,500-L Activated Carbon and Hollow Fiber Membrane Water Filter Bottle for Camping and Hiking available on Amazon $18.95Err on the side of caution, we used our bottle religiously only drinking water from the HydroBlu bottle or from sealed plastic water bottles. Remember ice can also be contaminated.More often than not we drank beer, which is sterilized through the brewing process! If our medieval ancestors can survive on drinking only beer, we could too! We traveled for 3 weeks in Southeast Asia without getting sick.
Where to Stay: There are two ways to go, budget or luxury. You will be impressed with how far your dollar goes in Cambodia. The Cambodian Riel is the primary currency, but the USD is used almost everywhere. Bring small bills, nothing over a $20.Bring as many singles as you can, you’ll use them! We stayed at Saem Siemreap Hotel, a 5-star resort just a short ride from the temple complex. Imagine booking a luxury hotel with an amazing breakfast included for only $70 per night! Airport transfers are included. A hotel with a swimming pool and air-conditioned rooms will make your days more enjoyable.
What to Do: Some activities are required; you can’t go to Angkor Wat without watching a sunrise over the main temple. A 5:00 departure from your Siem Reap hotel is necessary with a stop to buy entry tickets before getting settled in the viewing area. An early start gives you the chance to explore during the cooler parts of the day avoiding that hot afternoon sun.
Ride a Tuk-Tuk! This is the best transportation method for exploring the town. Two bucks will get you from the hotel to the downtown area. Three bucks will take you from one side of town to the other.
Visit Pub Street and enjoy 50 cent beers at the numerous pubs, many with entertainment. The Siem Reap Brew Pub has the best beer in town and great food. Amazing and very affordable restaurants are scattered all over Siem Reap. We can recommend Bavaria Restaurant for ice cold Hofbräuhaus beer and a change of pace menu. If you prefer traditional Cambodian cuisine try The Khmer Grill. Embrace the culture, don’t be afraid to try something different!
What to Avoid: Honestly the only recommendations on what to avoid is food and drink related. Do not eat raw foods or vegetables, they are probably washed with water which our sensitive western bodies may not be able to handle. If you eat street food, be sure it was freshly cooked and just off the fire. Trust your instincts! When you see the lady selling a variety of scorpions, tarantulas, and snakes on a stick it’s best to avoid! It’s quite curious that usually, only the tourists indulge. How do you know if those scorpions are fresh? Crickets, on the other hand, are stir-fried in hot oil and heavily seasoned, locals have told me they go great with a cold beer. Much in the same way that we would eat salted peanuts with our beer. For the record, we did not eat the crickets although I do regret not trying them.
How to get the most out of your trip: The temple complex is huge! Angkor Wat is said to be the largest religious monument in the world. Originally built in the 12th century, the Buddhist temple city sprawls over an area of over 400 acres. Approximately 50 Buddhist and Hindu Temples are waiting to be explored in this expansive Angkor Archeological Park. This UNESCO World Heritage site is best explored with a guide!
We booked Siem Reap Best Driver, Dara Phann and guide Makara Neth. We enjoyed 2 full days of touring that included temples, waterfalls and a floating lake village. This was first-class service at an affordable price. We paid $200 plus tip for door to door service in a comfortable air-conditioned vehicle for 4 people! After visiting each temple, Dara was waiting with ice cold bottled water, face wipes and the comfort of his air-conditioned cruiser. Believe me, the air conditioning cannot be overstated, it was 100 degrees outside! When you consider the alternative of riding a Tuk Tuk, over dusty roads in 100-degree heat it isn’t even close. Dara & Mak organized our day planning every detail to make the most of our visit. If there is something of particular interest they will accommodate, watch another sunrise or watch the sunset, anything goes!
Easily my Ultimate Bucket List experience, Angkor Wat checked all the boxes. From watching the sunrise over the main temple to exploring Ta Prohm in search of the mysterious stegosaurus carvings. We have seen the complex on Ancient Aliens, in the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and in Indiana Jones, the Temple of Doom. Inspiring all of us as youngsters but not really knowing much about what we were seeing. To learn the history of this amazing complex, and then to explore in person, is truly inspirational. Watch for a future article, The Temples of Angkor Wat, which details our favorite temples in the complex.
The Beer-Centric Traveler writes for Play Harder Tours… Please email Bill@playhardertours.com and start your travel planning today! For a complete list of recommendations please email with “Angkor Wat” on the subject line. I’d love to hear your suggestions too.