Discover why Angkor Wat, Cambodia is one of the world’s most amazing places. Read this guide to experiencing the culture and history with your kids.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia is what I regard as one of the world’s most amazing places. Founded way back in the 12th century, it’s the largest religious monument in the world and covers a huge 402 acres so it pays to plan ahead.
Getting to Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is located just 10 minutes from the town and tourist center of Siem Reap. There are direct flights to Siem Reap if you need to get there by plane from Bangkok or Phnom Penh.
There are various options for getting out to and traveling around the vast area of Angkor Wat including bicycle, tuk tuk or a private van. In my experience travelling with young kids, opting for a van with a tour guide is more practical. If you have older children, a tuk tuk can be a fun way to experience Angkor Wat, however, be prepared for the heat and humidity.
What I also liked about having a van with a tour guide is that they collect you from your accommodation, they are a great way to learn about the area, they take care of your permits, and they drive you around the entire 402 acres. A van is also perfect when you have a toddler that simply doesn’t want to look at any more temples and would prefer to relax in the air-conditioned vehicle and perhaps even have a sleep. Having a van also makes it easy to cut the trip short and return to your accommodation if you need to.
How to prepare the family for a trip to Angkor Wat
A trip to Angkor Wat can not only be a very rewarding experience, but a very exhausting one for children; mentally and physically. In order to reduce the impact and overwhelm, it’s best to prepare them for the trip. Ways you can do this include:
- Sharing stories about the history of Angkor Wat.
- Showing them photographs of Angkor Wat.
- Watch Tomb Raider so they can see the Ta Prohm temple, where the movie was filmed. This will get them excited to visit!
- Take some tuk tuk rides and do some walking through other areas of Siem Reap to get them used to a tuk tuk and walking in the heat.
- Involve your children in selecting the temples you’ll visit each day (including the Tomb Raider temple of course). I recommend seeing no more than two temples a day and have found that a three day pass works well for families.
- Make sure you have sturdy and comfortable footwear to walk around in.
- Freeze some water overnight before your trip to Angkor Wat, so you have nice cold water to drink in the heat.
- Ensure you have adequate sun protection, including sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and loose layered clothing.
- If you have a baby or toddler, baby-wearing is a lot easier than pushing strollers on uneven ground and when climbing stairs.
- Good to know: Bring your children’s passports with you when purchasing your passes. Children under 12 years old do not need a pass to Angkor Wat but you will need to verify their age.
The basics of temple etiquette for kids
The Cambodian people are the most gracious and kind people you’ll meet so it’s essential to respect their culture, particularly on the revered grounds of Angkor Wat. Here are some basics for temple etiquette for your family to follow:
Dress code – Always cover your knees and shoulders. Don’t wear shorts or singlets, these are forbidden in holy places.
Monuments – Appreciate monuments by looking at them, don’t touch or lean on them and never remove anything from the temples.
Sacred sites – Sacred sites such as Angkor Wat warrant respect. This means speaking softly, walking slowly and not running, and refraining from shouting, screaming or laughing loudly and uncontrollably.
Restricted areas – Don’t ignore warning signs and always follow the instructions on them. It’s important that you relay the instructions to your children too, particularly if they can’t read. In most cases, these warning signs are for your protection.
Littering – You wouldn’t litter in your own country so definitely do not litter in Cambodia and Angkor Wat. If there is no rubbish bin, keep your rubbish until you can find somewhere appropriate to dispose of it.
Giving to children – One of the toughest things to see at Angkor Wat are children begging, but please do not give them lollies, money, gifts etc. It is when people continue to give to these children that they continue to be trapped in poverty. The best way to help these children is to donate to a reputable NGO to make a donation.
Monks – Before you take a photo of a monk, always ask their permission. They may say no, but that’s ok because you are being respectful. Females should never touch a monk either. If you would like to give them alms or food, you will need to place your offering nearby or on their receiving cloth.
I have found this Angkor Code of Conduct very useful before visiting Angkor. It will make you mindful of the ways you can respect the ancient structures and preserve them for the future.
Family friendly accommodation
After days exploring Angkor Wat with your family, having quality accommodation to return to is a must. At the top of your must-have list should be accommodation with a pool and it should be kid-friendly. After a day walking Angkor Wat in the heat, jumping in the pool will be the first thing your family will want to do.
One thing you’ll notice when looking for accommodation in Cambodia is the lack of ‘kids clubs.’ If you’re wondering whether or not accommodation is kid-friendly, my hot tip would be to check if they have kid-friendly swimming pools. Also check the room size, ensure they have free Wi-Fi and take a look at their breakfast offerings.
Family-friendly hotels in Siem Reap I recommend include:
Angkor Wat, Cambodia, is an unforgettable destination for parents and kids alike. The grandeur, spirituality, the history and culture and being able to escape the realities of the western world truly makes a trip to this place a humbling experience.
Guest post: Judith is an avid traveler who has spent many years in Cambodia with her growing family. Read about her Cambodian travels. 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, Senhoa, a company whose proceeds from sales go directly to protecting at risk children and the rehabilitation and education of young women who are vulnerable to or survivors of slavery in South East Asia.