Our 2-Week Cambodia Destination and Accommodation Guide for Families
This is our 2-week family itinerary traveling through Cambodia by bus. We crossed from Thailand via Bangkok to Cambodia using overland transit (read more about this here). Cambodia ended up being one of our favorite destinations on the trip. The people are friendly, the food is great, the history is fascinating, the prices are cheap and the sights are world class. Cambodia is “rugged” which may turn some away. For us, it was just as we like it!
Here is our 2-week Cambodia itinerary:
It was simple and consisted of 3 stops:
Siem Reap (7 nights) → Phnom Penh (4 nights) → Sen Monorom and The Elephant Valley Project (3 Nights)
1. Siem Reap – 7 Nights
At Angkor Wat with our amazing guide! At $30 for the day he blew our socks off!
Where to stay: Siem Reap Rooms Guesthouse: We really enjoyed the Siem Reap Rooms Guesthouse. There was plenty of space, air con, and a nice warm shower. It was the high season (Chinese New Year) so at $30 a night we felt this room provided good value for the money. The rooms were clean and the beds were comfy. Probably the best part was Lisa the hotel owner who greeted us on arrival, had a tuk-tuk waiting at the bus station when we arrived and arranged activities for our family for the entire week. She is extremely helpful and a wealth of information which made a big difference! The WiFi was good throughout the building and although breakfast wasn’t included in our price they had a good, well-priced options from the kitchen downstairs. The only drawback (which other reviewers have mentioned here) is the dark alleyway which feels a bit “sketchy” at night, but it is really only 2 short blocks and not that big of a deal. If you aren’t comfortable walking you can easily grab a tuk-tuk to Pub street which takes less than 2 minutes and is $1. Compared to some of the bigger hotels in the area I feel Siem Reap Rooms Guesthouse has more charm and character, being on a back street a bit removed from all the action means it is quiet at night. I prefer this location and the smaller space any day over one of the big “resort” hotels that are 5 times the price and feel far removed from the Cambodia you came to see. A big plus for families – it is close to the Grasshopper Bike Shop where you can book a wonderful ride for your family through the Cambodian countryside or tour the temples. Oh, make sure to ask for a guide the day you tour the temples, the hooked us up with an amazing English speaking guide… Well, worth $35 for the day!!!
WiFi – Excellent!
Getting to Siem Reap:
Bangkok to Siem Reap Bus Ride
Just arrived in Siem Reap after an adventurous border crossing from Bangkok. For a great article on what to expect read this. There are a couple of comical border scams you need to be aware of that will give you a one-up as you make your way across the friendly (but corrupt) border.
Crossing the border from Thailand by Bus we met an English Teacher living in China from Tennessee.
Things to do with kids in Siem Reap:
Artisans of Angkor:
The Silk Farm: A great day half day trip with your kids. A short walk into the Old Town District and a free shuttle to the silk factory followed by an excellent display of silk worms working for much below minimum wage. Our 7 and 4 year-old loved it as much as we did. itineraries
Watching the locals make beautiful textile artwork at The Silk Farm in Siem Rieap.
Bicycle Siem Reap Countryside Ride
Grasshopper Adventures provides tours all through South East Asia although here in Cambodia they offer great options for families traveling with small children by providing tag along bikes, kids bikes, and infant seats. We had a wonderful time touring the beautiful Cambodian Countryside.
Grasshopper Bicycles in Siem Riep is great for families!
Go to the Amazing Cambodian Circus – More like Theater Art!
Phare The Cambodian Circus: This is a must see. Part performance art, part contortionist, part acrobatics, great for the entire family!
At the must see Phare Cambodia Circus in Siem Reap
Download the free Angkor guide and search YouTube for some great documentaries prior to taking your trip to see the temples.
Angkor Wat is awesome for kids, there isn’t too much walking and it can be done in one day.
Angkor Wat is a confusing only because of the vast amount of information and the millions of people who will approach you about tours, sunset and sunrise experience, tuk-tuk rides etc. But it is really simple; We took a basic tour booked through our hostel which took us to the three main temples in one day starting in the morning at around 8 am. We paid $35 for an English speaking guide (also booked by our hostel). The cost of a tuk-tuk for the day was $15 and the guide and the tuk-tuk driver were separate expenses. At the gate, we paid $20 for each adult for a 1-day pass good for a full 24 hours. The kids were free.
Our English speaking guide was fantastic. We started at the main temple (Angkor Wat) entering from the back entrance, spent several hours touring and learning about the temple. We took an hour lunch break and ate with our guide at a restaurant nearby. We spent the rest of the afternoon touring the three other temples on site.
We also heard good things about the Angkor Wat bike tour offered by Grasshopper tours, it is a full-day tour, but they do offer bike trailers for younger children.
Beng Mealea Jungle Temple
If you go to Cambodia make sure to spend time in the countryside.
The Beng Mealea Jungle Temple is something I wouldn’t have done if it were not for the advice of our excellent hostel host. The drive is 2 hours each way by tuk-tuk. This may sound imposing, but the truth is the drive alone was one of the highlights of our Cambodian trip. You will be taken through the backcountry and the villages, it is a spectacular journey.
Beyond all the excitement of the temples, Siem Reap itself is a wonderful place to explore. At night, it turns into a spectacle of glowing lights and busy markets. Pub street is full of great cheap eats and lots of action. We frequented two places. A Mexican restaurant called Viva and “The Khmer Kitchen” restaurant
2. Phnom Penh – 4 nights
Where to Stay: King Grand Boutique Hotel
There are lots of excellent places to stay in Phnom Penh and The King Grand Boutique is a decent mid-range option. It is well located right across from the Royal Palace and an easy walk or tuk-tuk ride to all the attractions. There are some cheaper options on the same street as well. Surrounding the hotel are some great cheap eats, our favorite was the same-same hostel. We ate there almost every night!
WiFi – Excellent
Getting there: Getting to Phenom Penh from Siem Reap was easy. We took the Giant Ibis bus, which we booked online. It was an easy and enjoyable 7-hour drive starting at 7:30 am and arriving at 2 pm. There is air-conditioning, comfortable seats some food and free WiFi along with power outlets. The cost of the ticket for a family of 4 was $64.
We had multiple debates with concerned parents about exposing young children to the images of the Cambodian genocide inflicted by the brutal Khmer Rouge. We decided to bring our kids along and let them decide for themselves. I think it was a worthwhile experience that gave them insight into the brutalities of war.
The Killing Fields
It was a somber day at the killing fields, I am proud of our kids who showed maturity and respect for the 1000’s of people who lost their lives at this spot about 45 minutes outside Phnom Penh. I believe the experience was a positive one for the entire family and I am glad we decided to bring the kids along.
3. Sen Monorom and The Elephant Valley Project – 3 Nights
Where to Stay: The Nature Lodge
The Nature Lodge is a one of a kind accommodation just on the outskirts of the main city of Sen Monorom. We stayed in a rustic (yet incredibly charming) family lodge in an incredibly natural surrounding, with free range horses and cattle. It may seem a bit rough around the edges upon arrival but give it a day and you will understand why this place is such a gem.
WiFi – Excellent
A long 5-6 hour drive outside of Phnom Penh lies the amazing Elephant Valley Project. If you have the time this is a must see activity that is one of the highlights of our entire trip. You don’t get to ride or personally bathe the elephants but you will have the opportunity to trek through the jungle with their herd of 9 elephants, watch while they are bathed and learn about the history of the EVP. Our kids loved it! I would recommend a half day trek along with a half day of volunteering, it would be fun to spend the night and turn this into an amazing 2-day adventure.
To get from Phenom Pehn to San Monorom you can take a 16 passenger van. through Virak-Buntham Express. It is a new service and there are two company’s that provide it we took Kim Seng Express from Phnom Penh to Sen Monorom and then Virak-Buntham Express back. We preferred the later as they had a nicer van that was much less crowded and very comfortable. if you are staying at the nature lodge you will need to call them from the bus stop in San Mornorom, it is an 8-minute drive and they will happily pick you up free of charge.
Leaving Cambodia to Vietnam
Next stop on our itinerary was Vietnam. We took the Giant Ibis bus direct from Phnom Penh to HCM City. It was an enjoyable ride which we only booked 1 day in advance.