We were initially attracted to Cambodia by Siem Reap and Angkor Wat, but once we got there we found much more and we enjoy our family holiday in Cambodia and discovering Cambodia with kids.
Introduction to Cambodia as a Tourist Destination
Each country in the Far East has earned its own special status depending on the most attractive parts of its culture.
- Want to experience a family holiday on the beach? Take your kids to Thailand.
- Love delicious and yet healthy food?, Visit Hanoi,
- Or do you want to experience old Oriental culture? Go to Taiwan.
But a holiday in Cambodia can tick all those boxes – here you can visit the unique temples of Angkor Wat, taste delicious exotic fruits and even weird food such as spiders and snakes. And then laze on sun kissed beaches at the coast. Yes, there is plenty to enjoy while you are exploring Cambodia with kids.
How to get to Cambodia?
Well it rather depends where you are coming from so here is an overview of options.
- From almost anywhere by air to Phnom Penh or SiemReap
- From Thailand, by train from Bangkok to Poipot and then onward by bus or taxi
- From Vietnam by bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Kampot by bus and then onward by taxi
Advice for Dealing with Hustlers at Land Border Crossings
You will meet lots of “helpers” on the border. Many of them are quite pushy, trying to pick up a buck or twenty for carrying luggage, procuring a visa or finding a taxi. I don’t like this hassle and my natural reaction is to shake them all off, but by my second border crossing I realised that sometimes their offers can actually save money and inconvenience.
In this case, since there were three of us, taking the taxi from Poipot border to Siem Reap was not only cheaper but much easier and more convenient for us. The driver took us right to our destination whereas the location of the bus station at Siem Reap would have meant another tuk-tuk transfer with luggage. So my advice is at least to listen to the hustlers’ offers, and then perhaps make space and take a moment to weigh the pros and cons of what they are offering before rejecting them outright.
Weather in Cambodia
As a mummy, knowing the weather before opening the door of my house comes naturally, so when visiting any country, some climate research is always a significant part of my homework before packing for the trip.
The warmer months of March to June have an average of 35 C, while the cooler months of October to December have an average temperature of around 24 C. It is better to avoid August and September when Cambodia has heavy rainfall.
Major Locations in Cambodia
In this article we list the main tourist areas to explore while holidaying in Cambodia.
Siem Reap with Kids
The major tourist town of Cambodia, Krong SiemReap is a hot, humid and dry city. Often topping worldwide popularity charts, the city is home to the world’s largest archaeological temple, natural reserves, and the famous Apsara dance. We tried packing in as much as we can without overdoing. But still, the city had many other things to offer. We have a separate post about Siem Reap with kids
Trip to Angkor Wat Archaeological Park
Housing some of the most famous temples in the world, Angkor Wat Archaeological Park is one of the most-visited place in Asia. Dominating the majority of the park’s 400 square kilometres area, Angkor Wat is the world’s largest temple and a UNESCO World Heritage site. A true reflection of Khmer’s architecture, the wall carvings alone are enough to stun most visitors. The park complex also includes two other famous temples; Preah Khan Temple and Bayon Temple. These Indiana Jones style jungle ruins are perfect for exploring with kids. Exploring this place is an adventure where Lara Croft may be waiting around every corner and your kid is dreaming of becoming the tomb raider.
We found the crowds distracting and wanted some peace to absorb the spiritual side of these sacred places, so we decided to stay longer in the park after having visited the first temple. It turned out to be a good strategy. The crowds disperse at about noon, and so despite the heat the middle of the day turned out to be the best time to roam around the archaeological park. Don’t forget to wear full-length pants and shirts. Cambodians take it as disrespect in such sites if you wear clothes not covering shoulders or knees.
To visit all the temples, you can hire a tuk-tuk or take bicycles and cycle around them. As much as cycling may seem appealing to you, you might think twice about this if you want an easy day. The distances are considerable and the Cambodian heat unforgiving.
There is more to do in Siem Reap beside visiting Temple complex. We have the whole article dedicate to Siem Reap with kids.
The next big attraction here are the Floating Villages, and they are best seen with a tour guide. There are main four floating villages:
Chong Khneas– These houses on stilts sway with the movement of the water. This village is the first in line. Here you can see a floating school and a church with crocodiles in the waters below. Have a meal at the Korean restaurant on the way.
Kampong Phluk – Renowned for the tender meat of the farmed crocodiles, this village is a half-day trip, during which you can see the spooky shapes of mangrove forest – known worldwide by survival experts as one of the most dangerous environments on the planet.
Kampong Khleang – A group of three villages comprises Kampong Khleang.The stunning blue lake welcomes you into the village.
Mechrey – The lesser-known gem, we took a tuk-tuk ride to Mechrey as suggested by locals for a special treat. The floating cemetery and garden were unexpected and surreal.
Banteay Srey Butterfly Center
The largest butterfly enclosure in Southeast Asia, Banteay Srey is a great place to feel a little closer to nature. As you enter the park, a beautiful kaleidoscopic view mesmerizes you. Thousands of butterflies fly freely about a landscape of tropical flowers, all grown in a lush green garden inside a huge enclosure.
Other Family attractions in Siem Reap
- See the acrobats of Phare – The Cambodian Circus
- Explore Angkor Night Market
- Learn about silk at Artisans Angkor – Angkor Silk Farm
- Hear the story of the HeroRAT landmine clearance team
- Visit Cambodia Remnant War Museum
- Try ziplinning – Angkor Zip Line
- Try a fish pedicure
Battambang with kids
Battambang feels like a small countryside town located not far away from Krong Reap, but surprisingly Battambang is Cambodia’s second largest city (it doesn’t feel like that). The town is filled with amazing colonial french architecture, colourful temples filled with orange-robed monks.
Battambang Main Attractions
- Bamboo train
- go on the Plov Thmey swing bridge
- visit Phare Circus
Phnom Penh with kids
This city once called the ‘Pearl of Asia’ is also the capital city of Cambodia. Many people prefer skipping the Cambodian capital from their itinerary, but if they do then they miss out on some beautiful things. Among many other favourites, here are the not-to-miss attractions in Phnom Penh:
Pay Obeisance at Temples
The city is full of temples that are dedicated either to Hinduism or Buddhism. Apart from a soothing place filled with positivity, each one of them is a masterpiece of medieval architecture. Wat Phnom, Wat Ounalom, Wat Langka, Ta Prohm Temple, all are well worth seeing when in Phnom Penh.
Visit Phsar Thmey
A shopping mecca for tourists and locals alike, Phnom Penh’s central market, Phsar Thmey, is a must if you want to experience the real art, crafts, and culture of modern Cambodia. From clothing to jewelry, shoes to accessories; it has everything one can think of. And the best thing is you can have what you like at dirt-cheap prices. Don’t forget to taste loads of authentic Cambodian food while passing its many food stalls.
Koh Pich Children’s Amusement Park
Knowing about a children’s park while touring with kids is like having an instant pressure relief valve. Now enjoy a coffee while your littl;e ones forget their cares and squabbles in fun rides and games. Koh Pich is a hot-spot for children and is always jam-packed. Choose to watch them, or go for a stroll in the park with a snack.
Explore the Mekong River
Probably the single most not-to-be-missed Phnom Penh experience is taking to the water of the beautiful Mekong River. This giant river runs through six countries and a longer guided trip on it can take you for a trans-country cruise. We also travelled down Mekong to Luang Prabang (Laos) and in Vietnam. The best time to take a city cruise on the Mekong in Phnom Penh is at dusk. Watch the sunset while enjoying the food and drinks available on-board. You might even spot an Irrawaddy River Dolphin, the rarest of aquatic mammals.
Visit The Cambodian Coast
Kampot is located on the estuary of Praek Tuek Chhu river. So if you get bored with the beach, you can always have a dip in the river or go on the river cruise to see fireflies or glowing plankton.
The town still oozes with old French post-colonial charm, and attracts more and more tourists annually. While in Kompot you should visit Old Market Street and the Fish Market.
Kampot is located only 3 hours away from Phnom Phen is a perfect destination for a weekend getaway from the Capital. And the next stop is, Kep – only another 30 minute tuk-tuk ride away.
Once a resort for rich Cambodian and French, Kep suffered terribly under the Khmer Rouge. The town has not fully recovered, and now villas once belonging to Cambodia’s elite are empty, or a few have been adapted as boutique hotels. Kep is not only interesting for its testament to brutal recent history, there are things to do here too. Nowadays, Kep is known as the best place in Cambodia to try fresh blue crab. You can try one on the Kep Crab Market or in one of the restaurants. Another great thing to do here is visiting a Pepper farm or a snorkelling trip to Rabbit Island.
Dubbed the ‘Seaside Resort Town of Cambodia’, Sihanoukville is a hot place for party animals – locals and tourists alike. However it is also a great place for young family with many fun things to do.
Beaches around Sihanoukville include, Serendipity Beach,Independence Beach, Occheuteal Beach and Otres beach. Unfortunately, the first three beaches on that list are very dirty, so the only one I would recommend while enjoying Cambodia family holidays is Otres. This is still comparatively clear of over-development..
From Otres you can take a boat ride to Kbal Chhay Waterfall
Kbal Chhay Waterfall
Another serene spot to relax is by the crystal clear water of Kbal Chhay.. Enjoy the shade of the nearby bamboo huts. We all packed some local snacks bought while crossing the bridge to the waterfall.
Top Cat Cinema
A fun place near Serendipity Beach, Top Cat Cinema was an unexpected attraction for the family’s little ones. The theatre provides a family room for your own private mini-show, just with your crew inside and enjoying your choice of show. If course there is food and beverage available for you to enjoy while watching.
Koh Kong and Koh Rong Island
These twin islands off the coast of Sihanoukville are Koh Kong and Koh Rong. Both are available for tourists to enjoy. Our choice was Koh Kong. It is a great location to spend a few days with family. Being the location of a military base, Koh Kong is hardly explored by tourists. But this has become this island’s biggest strength as it is still unspoiled. With almost no crowd and its well-preserved ecosystem, the island’s natural form is still intact. The island also has many fishing opportunities, freshwater lagoons, and snorkelling spots for great family time.
Picnic at TaTai Waterfall on Koh Kong
Situated on the Preat River, TaTai Waterfall is a great place to spend an afternoon with family on Koh Kong. While we lay on our straw mats enjoying the sun and relaxing by the waterfall, the kids had a fun time eating shrimps and enjoying games.
Visit ‘Jungle Zoo’ on Koh Rong
This menagerie of butterflies, exotic birds, and rare wildlife including monitor lizards, civets, or tame bats is a private garden curated by a Russian wildlife enthusiast. Just drop by, and she’ll let you meet all the creatures and even touch a few. Kids come away happy and scared at the same time.
Enjoy glowing planktons at night
One of the main attractions of Koh Rong is the sight of luminescent sea water, the effect of glowing plankton. They can be seen at several beaches where you can swim at night including Lonely Beach, Long Set Beach, and Coconut Beach. Stir the water here and see the plankton light up against the dark coastline.
Trek through the Cardamom Mountains
If you are sceptical about trekking jungles with little ones by your side, we found several operators taking families for safe treks. We chose Rithhy co Adventure Tours as it included a-pick-and-drop-from-hotel on a tuk-tuk. The hospitable guide took us through exotic jungle, gave us a glimpse of exotic wildlife, let us swim in waterfalls and see Khmer village life on the trek.
This trip includes overnight camping in the jungle, snacks, and breakfast the next morning before heading back to the hotel.
Foods to try while on family holiday in Cambodia
Tasting local cuisine is one of the biggest perks for us of our globetrotting life.. And this nation has some sumptuous delicacies that are a must-try. We suggest here only regular food but Cambodia is also a great place to try some of the weirdest food in the world like tarantulas, or red ants
Fish Amok – Probably the most famous local food, fish amok is made by cooking fish in coconut curry. Spices like turmeric, kaffir lime, etc are added for flavour.
Steamed pork bun– A hard bun filled with tender pork and eggs instantly reminds of China, though it is plainer in taste. The hotter it is eaten,the tastier it is.
Lok Lak– Traditionally a Vietnamese dish, Lok lak is stir-fried beef loaf topped with a crispy salad of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, and fresh onion and seasoned with black pepper and lime juice before serving. You can have the dish wrapped in a lettuce leaf, the traditional Cambodian way.
Chive cake– Having its roots in China, the chive cake is a pan-fried rice cake topped with chives.
Grilled pork on skewers– This mouth-watering food can be easily seen displayed on local food carts. They can either be eaten as a filling breakfast or as an evening snack. While the former is served with pickle salad, veggie mix, and rice, the latter meal is served just by sprinkling spices on the tender pork pieces.
Cambodia with kids – Summing Up
It is difficult to sum up the fascination of Cambodia in a few lines. If you have restricted time we recommend bypassing some better-known sights such as the Killing Fields of Phnom Penh in favour of attractions offering a great family time.
There is much more to do in Cambodia than we have listed here, so we have been selective in the things we can recommend for families with kids in tow. Much of the fun of family holidays is finding things your kids can enjoy so you can have fun with them. We hope you enjoy Cambodia as much as we did.
Family holiday in Cambodia – Pin it for later
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