Today I’m sharing my space with guest blogger, Judith, an avid traveller who has spent many years in Cambodia with her family. Read on below for her top tips for visiting Angkor Wat with kids.
Angkor Wat With Kids – 5 Kilometres of History and Spirituality
I remember my first visit to the temples of Angkor Wat in 2009 and how overwhelmed I was with the sheer size of Angkor Archaeological Park and how incredible the historical structures were.
From the outside, it’s difficult to gauge the size but when you walk down the path to the central structure, its immensity hits you. Since my first visit, I have returned so many times that I’ve lost count.
Angkor Wat with kids is definitely something to add to your bucket list if you’re looking to visit Cambodia.
The history of Angkor Wat is fascinating. It was built under the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th Century. Originally, Angkor Wat was dedicated to Vishnu, the Hindu God, however, it was transitioned to a Buddhist temple later in the same century.
How to get to Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is about a ten minute drive from Siem Reap, one of Cambodia’s must visit locations and a popular tourist hub. It is very easy to get to Siem Reap by plane with direct flights running from airports such as Bangkok and Phnom Penh. When you arrive though, there are numerous transport options out to the Angkor Wat temple complex, with some options better and more practical than others, particularly when travelling to Angkor Wat with kids.
You can opt for bikes, a tuk tuk, you can even drive yourself but, I find that hiring a private van and tour guide is the best, most fuss-free option when travelling with children. Not only is the cost quite reasonable, it makes for a much more comfortable Angkor Wat experience in the heat.
In addition to escaping the heat, a private van and tour guide means you can be collected from your hotel, you have an English speaking guide to educate you about the area, they look after permits and drive you around the 400+ square kilometres that Angkor Wat covers. Now that’s a lot of distance for kids to cover on bike or foot!
Travelling with kids to Angkor Wat: What you need to know
There is so much to see at Angkor Wat and when you’re seeing it with kids, planning is imperative.
As mentioned above, hiring a private driver and guide works well with families because you can stop when the kids need a bite to eat or to go to the toilet. A private driver and guide also means you can prioritise where you want to go first or if your kids are obviously worn out, you can leave early to return to the hotel.
Travelling to Angkor Wat with kids is all about being prepared for the unknown that kids like to spring on us – it’s just not realistic to try and fit everything into one day. The various pass options for Angkor Wat make it a lot easier. One day, three day or seven day passes are available; a three day pass is perfect for families. This takes the pressure off having to see everything in one day, you can just go in and out. Remember to bring your children’s passports with you because children under 12 years old do not need a pass to Angkor Wat yet it’s likely you’ll be asked to prove their age.
With a three day pass, one day you might like to spend a couple of hours at Angkor Wat and then take the kids to enjoy some ceramic classes or cooking classes in Siem Reap. The second day after visiting the Angkor Wat temples, you could take the kids to visit the floating villages. On the third day, you could see the butterflies at the Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre. Breaking up your visit to Angkor Wat definitely keeps kids more engaged.
There is a lot of walking and climbing up steps at Angkor Wat so make sure the whole family is prepared with comfortable footwear, plenty of water (freeze the night before), sun protection including loose layered clothing and opt for a baby carrier because strollers are just not practical. April is the hottest month in Siem Reap so if you’re travelling around this time, it’s best to visit Angkor Wat in the morning before 11am.
How to prepare the family for 5km of history and spirituality
Some children will remember most details of their trip to Angkor Wat, other children will just remember the structures, either way, there’s so much for children to take in which is why it’s a good idea to prepare them before your visit.
If you’re opting for the three day pass, I recommend seeing no more than two temples a day. Plan ahead and decide which temples you’ll see on each day. In addition to visiting the Angkor Wat temple, I highly recommend visiting Banteay Srei, Banteay Samre, Bakong, Preah Rup and Ta Prohm.
I find the best way to prepare children to visit Angkor Wat is by sharing stories about the ancient times and the people who lived in the temples. Throw in a bit of an adventure to make it more exciting. For the older kids, get them to watch Tomb Raider so they can see the Ta Prohm temple, where Tomb Raider was filmed.
The basics of temple etiquette for kids
It is absolutely essential to respect Cambodia’s culture and the sacred grounds of Angkor Wat.
Here are some basics for temple etiquette:
- Dress code – Knees and shoulders should always be covered. Leave any short shorts or vests at your hotel because these are prohibited in holy places.
- Monuments – Do not touch carvings, lean on structures or remove anything from the temples.
- Sacred sites – Show respect to the surroundings. The temples are over 1 000 years old and so speaking softly and acting calmly is important. This goes for Cambodia as a whole; shouting, screaming and ear piercing laughter is frowned up.
- Restricted areas – Be sure to read all of the warning signs and follow the instructions. If your children cannot read yet, tell them what the sign says. These signs are usually for the protection of visitors.
- Littering – Just as you would in your own country, litter should always go in the bin or if there is no bin, put it in your bag until you can find one.
- Giving to children – You may see children begging at Angkor Wat but please do not give them lollies, money, gifts etc as this encourages them to continue begging and will, therefore, keep them trapped in poverty. If you would like to help the disadvantaged people of Cambodia, please search for reputable NGO’s to make a donation instead.
- Monks – Always ask a monk for their permission to take a photo first. I remember asking a monk once, and the monk said no which is fine – we shouldn’t take photos of people without their permission. Also, females should never touch a monk, it is strictly prohibited. It’s best not to get too close, young girls included.
There is a very useful Angkor Code of Conduct you can view before your visit to Angkor Wat. It will make you aware of the ways you can respect the ancient structures and preserve them for the future.
Family friendly accommodation near Angkor Wat
Quality accommodation is essential when travelling with kids, and the good thing is there is plenty of excellent accommodation close to Angkor Wat. Just remember to get accommodation with a swimming pool to escape the heat!
One thing I’ve noticed in Cambodia though is that kids’ clubs aren’t common in hotels like they are in other countries.
However, I have found that in place of the kids’ clubs, the hotels that are family-friendly have kid-friendly pools, very spacious hotel rooms, free Wi-Fi and great breakfasts.
Here are a few family-friendly hotels in Siem Reap that I recommend:
1. Navutu Dreams Resort & Spa
2. Angkor Palace Resort & Spa
3. Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor
4. Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa
If visiting Angkor Wat with kids isn’t yet on your bucket list, I highly recommend you add it because I can guarantee that if you’ve never been, it won’t be your last visit and the experience will be permanently etched in your mind and the minds of your children.
Judith is passionate about empowering Cambodian locals to earn a living wage through her ethical gift store Temples and Markets. You can read the story of one of her local sources, Angkor Bullett Jewellery, a small village-based group that creates jewellery out of recycled aluminium bullet casings from times of war and is passionate about the personal development of vulnerable Cambodians with disabilities.