Cambodia came through the excruciatingly difficult days of the Khmer Rouge era and has emerged today as one of the most family-friendly destinations in Asia. Its mind-provoking history, colorful culture and jaw-dropping temple complexes spark interest in adults and children alike.
Here you can have a quick overview of the best things to do in Cambodia and of some nice hotels for your family trip.
Things to do in Cambodia for your family holiday
On a family trip to Cambodia, not only can you play hide-and-seek among the big trees of Bayon, but also adventure to the outskirts of Siem Reap by quad bike. Here are some interesting possibilities for family holidays in Cambodia.
Phnom Penh: royal palace, national museum and cyclo rides
Walk in the grounds of the majestic Royal Palace and your guide will lead you into the realms of imagination, when the Kings of Cambodia used to live here. At the exit of the Royal Palace, you will find some local musicians playing traditional instruments. For a few cents, your kids can have a try.
History displays at the National Museum might not be as attractive or interesting to kids, but they'll enjoy feeding the fish at the central pond of the Museum. A dance show at 7 pm every Thursday is worth a return visit.
If you get tired after all the walking in the morning, take a cyclo ride. Delve into narrow alleys and chaotic local markets where you will see people frying up bugs for snacks, scribbling graffiti on the wall of Street 93, and selling quirky things at the Central Market.
Age: 3 years and above
Phnom Penh: dark history at the killing fields and S21 museum
If you are traveling with older children, 15 years or more, Cambodia offers an excellent opportunity for an improved understanding of history. The infamous Killing Fields and the S21 Museum are not meant for laughter but they present stories that deserve to be told to the world.
An audio guide will be available, while your private guide will also share his/her own experiences or stories, as most of today's Cambodian nationals have family members who were killed during that dark time.
Most children can handle the dark parts of human history well, if narrated in the right way. Nevertheless, every child is different, so we encourage you to discuss with your children first before adding this to your travel list.
Age: 15 years and above
Siem Reap: Angkor complex - an Indiana Jones fantasy
Siem Reap is all about the temples. It's easy to get temple-fatigue if you roll yourselves into too many wats in a short time. The key is to split them up and take it easy.
Take a 2-hour walking tour at Angkor Wat with a local Khmer scholar, who has worked with the Angkor Temple Conservation Institute for years and knows the temples like the back of his hand. Your kids' curiosity about the fairy ladies' finger gestures will be answered.
Giant trees at Ta Prohm created a perfect set for Angelina Jolie's movie the Tomb Raider and also provide a good place for kids to play hide-and-seek. Make a bet to see who guesses the correct number of stone-carved faces at Angkor Thom.
Climb up Pre Rup for a beautiful sunset. It is believed to be the very place where common people can become immortal, and it won't be as crowded as Pakeng Hill.
Spice it up a notch; you can have a zip-line experience at the complex. The only zip-line facility at a UNESCO site in Asia, the flight takes you through the rainforests while gibbons greet you along the way. This superb experience of 3 sky bridges and 21 platforms is not to be missed.
Age: 6 years and above
Siem Reap: cycling and quad bike riding around Siem Reap
Life might seem very predictable in downtown Siem Reap but once you get to the countryside, you will see something different. Start riding from the riverside, where you will see children splashing water in the same river where mooing buffalos are bathing; the children will probably shout hello as you pass.
This route has no traffic jams (unlike downtown), ensuring a worry-free ride. Continue to the temples and have a picnic lunch in the jungle. Finish your ride at one of the temples and get back on a support car.
Cycling can be a good way to help the local community. We rent bikes from White Bicycles, which is a non-profit rental shop, with all its profits going to support clean water, education and the Giant Puppet Project.
For older children, a quad bike ride is definitely a blast (if you don't mind the dirt). Also known as an ATV (short for all-terrain vehicle), a quad bike is a miniature monster truck that roams on all kinds of roads, including dirt roads, mud trails and shallow water.
You must take an introductory lesson before hopping on your own bike. No matter whether it is an 8-hour full-day tour, an afternoon trip or just one hour to watch the sunset, your bravery will be tested and proved.
Age: 12 years and above
* Note: Children above 17 years of age can ride a quad alone if they are a similar size to an adult and can pass the driving test for the quad bike.
Battambang: countryside Bamboo train ride and take a peek at the Bat Cave
On a longer vacation in Cambodia, venture to Battambang, a humble town located in the southwest, 160 km from Siem Reap. The town itself might lack loads of attractions to wow you, but an exciting ride on the local bamboo train is absolutely a hoot.
In its heyday, the bamboo train was the main means of local transportation across the country but now Battambang is one of only a handful of places where you can ride on such a train.
The train is more like a raft on a track, and the bamboo carriage, or bed to be more exact, is propelled along fast by an engine at the back.
The ride is only for daredevils as it gallops along so fast that you don't really have time to think about anything before reaching your stop.
Please notice that the Bamboo train is shut down and can't be arranged now. If you are interested in this, just contact us. We will help check if it's reopened for you.
Afterwards, visit the Bat Cave where thousands of bats take residence. Every evening they storm out of the dark chasm in search of food. On the way to the Bat Cave you will pass the Killing Cave, where the remains of those killed there during the Khmer Rouge genocide were buried.
Age: 6 years and above
Family-friendly hotels in Cambodia
For the special selection of family-friendly hotels below, we take three factors into consideration:
Location: A good hotel must have easy access to shops, restaurants and good venues for down time. It should, however, also guarantee enough quietness for a good sleep.
Room facilities: Rooms of 25 square meters or more are preferable for families with more than 3 people; an extra bed is among the standard requirements; separate showers and in-room wifi are a must.
Child-friendly features: a buffet breakfast with a good choice and a swimming pool are the basics. A hotel with a babysitting service and kids' club would add icing on the cake. On-site dining options should be no less than 2, as you might want to stay in after a busy day.
Here's a list of family-friendly hotels in Cambodia:
Phnom Penh: Double Leaf Boutique Hotel ****
Ranked #1 among Family-Friendly Hotels in Phnom Penh, Double Leaf is Asia Highlights' first choice for family holidays in Cambodia. Located downtown, only a few minutes' walk from the Russian Market, it is an oasis in the bustling city.
Rooms are spacious, 30 square meters and up, and an extra bed is available. The hotel has a swimming pool, babysitting services and an on-site restaurant, serving decent Khmer and international fusion cuisine.
Location: #32, Street 123, Tuol Tom Poung I (Russian market area), Phnom Penh
- One child per room 12 years or under can share a bed with one of the adults free of charge;
- Children 13 years or over cannot share a bed with an adult and will be charged the same as an adult
- An extra bed is not available for Superior Rooms
Phnom Penh: Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra Hotel *****
Inside the Old Quarter and surrounded by old colonial houses, Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra Hotel offers convenience and comfort that a family holiday deserves. At 40 square meters or more, rooms are big enough for a family of 3.
A separate shower and bathtub, Lavin toiletries, Sofitel MyBed, brightly lit and soundproof rooms all ensure a comfortable stay. There are two pools and 8 dining options; the shopping mall Aeon is only a few minutes away, a good place for kids to go bowling or to the cinema.
Location: #26 Old August Site, Sothearos Boulevard, Sangkat Tonle Bassac, Chamkar Mon, Phnom Penh
- One child per room 12 years or under can share bed with one of the adults free of charge;
- Children 13 years or over cannot share a bed with an adult and will be charged the same as adults
Siem Reap: Lotus BlancResort ****
This resort is inside an alley by National Road, 10 minutes from downtown by tuk tuk and 20 minutes from the Angkor complex. It is rated as one of the best family-friendly hotels in Siem Reap and also rated as Travelers' Choice 2017 by TripAdvisor.
The resort has soft beds in spacious rooms of 36 square meters or more, separate toilet and shower room and two sinks, providing a homey feeling. There are 3 restaurants and 3 bars, and the chef will customize food for children upon request. The resort has the only stadium-sized swimming pool in town.
Other features include in-hotel doctor health care, Resident Host services and special events and dining planning (such as dinner at a temple).
Location: #6 National Road, Krous Village, Svay Dongkom, Siem Reap
- One child per room 6 years or under is charged 15 USD per night for one extra bed
- Children 7 years or over are charged USD 50 per night for an extra bed, or charged the same as adults for their own bed
Siem Reap: Borei Angkor Resort & Spa *****
Boasting a superb location at the heart of town, Borei Angkor Resort is situated in a lush garden. Its rooms, at 40 square meters or more, all feature a private balcony, wooden floor, soft beds and an extra bed available. A big outdoor swimming pool will keep your kids entertained while you enjoy a spa treatment.
Babysitting service is available upon request. The resort restaurant, the Pavilion, puts on a nice cultural dinner every night at which you can enjoy graceful Apsara Khmer dancing with your delicacies.
Location: # 0369, Banteay Chas, Slorkram, Siem Reap
- One child per room 3 years or under can share a bed with one adult free of charge
- Children between 4 and 11 years of age are charged a child fee for an extra bed
- Children 12 years or over are charged the same as an adult, either for extra beds or for their own beds
Siem Reap: Park Hyatt Siem Reap *****
Park Hyatt's location is both away-from-the-chaos and convenient-to-everything, within walking distance of the Pub Street and Night Market, yet the greenery and smooth background music make a nice holiday stay. It might be more ideal for families with older children, as they can appreciate better the sophisticated taste.
Every room comes with big windows facing the city, garden or pool; soft beds, separate shower and bathroom, and leisure couch. Great food and a big swimming pool will satisfy you and your children. Culinary tours to the rice village and sugar palm garden are popular among families with kids.
Location: Sivutha Boulevard, Siem Reap
- One child per room 2 years or under can use an extra bed in one room free of charge (subject to availability)
- One child per room 6 years or under can share a bed with one of the adults free of charge
- Children 7 years or over will be charged the same as adults
Cambodia is nearly always visited together with at least one of its neighboring countries, often Vietnam or Thailand. Your experience in this amazing country, however, will be enough to make the long flight all worthwhile.