We absolutely loved our time in Cambodia and it far exceeded our expectations. We were prepared for long, hard days of travel, lots of hassle and pretty basic infrastructure. The reality was it was quite an easy place to travel around, the food was great, we experienced hardly any hassle at all and the people were some of the loveliest we’ve ever come across anywhere in the world!
Here you’ll find a round up of where we went in Cambodia and what we did, where we stayed, what we ate, how we got around, handy hints and tips if you’re doing a similar trip there with young kids and importantly how much $$ we spent.
Where we went
We spent 3 weeks in Cambodia in January/February. In this time we visited:
Day 1 to 5: Siem Reap
We spent 5 nights staying in Siem Reap and exploring the temples of Angkor Wat including Angkor Wat itself, Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm and Banteay Srei. You can read more about our fantastic introduction to the Angkor temples and Cambodia here.
While we were in Siem Reap, we also tried our hand at eating insects at the Bugs Cafe. Yes we really did eat tarantulas!
Day 6 to 13: Koh Rong Samloem Island
We travelled via Phnom Penh to the paradise island of Koh Rong Samloem Island off Cambodia’s southern coast for a week in a beachside bungalow. We had the best time spending hours in the crystal clear warm water, building sandcastles and relaxing big time. Here you can read about the beautiful Koh Rong Samloem island.
Day 14 to 17: Kep
Kep is a cute little seaside town famous for crab, and we spent four nights here exploring the town, visiting the national park and finding out about how Kampot pepper is grown. Here’s the lowdown on what we did in Kep.
Day 18 to 22: Phnom Penh and back to Siem Reap
From the southern beaches we hit the capital city of Phnom Penh and had a couple of days exploring the royal palace, the very sad Tuol Sleng genocide museum and eating delicious Chinese food to celebrate Chinese New Year. Another bus ride took us back to Siem Reap and we checked out some of the non-temple related stuff to do with kids. Here you can read about our time in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap
Where we stayed
We stayed in a mixture of hotels and homestays during our stay in Cambodia. Here’s where we hung out:
Siem Reap- Soria Moira Boutique Hotel
We spent a total all up of a week at the Soria Moria Boutique Hotel in a triple room. The room was large and the beds big enough for our 3 and 5 year old to share one. The bathroom was also a good size with a bathtub.
The buffet breakfast was good (cereal, fruit, yoghurt, fruit, egg station, waffles etc) and we ate at the restaurant a few times which was ok but we probably had better food in town. The rooftop bar has great views over Siem Reap and is a lovely place to have a drink and watch the sunset.
They have a pool on the ground floor which isn’t huge but essential for cooling off in the boiling heat, as well as a rooftop jacuzzi that’s on cold 🙂
The location was good, quiet but close enough to walk to town (Pub Street and the market around 10 minutes) or a quick $2 tuktuk ride.
We loved the hotel’s responsible tourism policies which included employee ownership (where the employees of the hotel have a 51% share in the hotel), a paid trainee programme for youth from disadvantaged backgrounds, language and literacy classes for staff, educating guests on how to be a ChildSafe traveller in Cambodia (tips on how to travel responsibly and avoid anything resulting in child exploitation) and many other initiatives. More hotels should be like this!!
The staff were very friendly and welcoming especially to the kids and helpful in booking onward transport and day trips around Siem Reap. They were also happy to store one of our bags full of winter clothes and stroller for two weeks while we travelled around Cambodia (incidentally strollers are a bit useless here).
The only criticism was the WiFi was a bit intermittent – but hey it’s Cambodia, got to be realistic and we still managed to Skype a few times.
Our rating: 8.5 out of 10
Price: Check out the latest prices and book the Soria Moria hotel here
Koh Rong Samloem – Secret Paradise Resort
The name of the hotel says it all. It truly was a secret paradise and we loved our week long stay here. It was a bit of a splurge to start our trip off and it was well worth it.
We had one of five bungalows on site that was literally metres from the sea. We had a large double bed and paid for another single which our two kids top and tailed in. There was electricity and a fan in the room (no air-con) and we found that adequate. There is a lovely big bathroom and shower which fit all four of us in after the beach! It’s cold water but it is so hot you don’t really need hot water. The rooms were cleaned really well everyday as the sand is so fine it gets in quite easily.
At the front of each bungalow was a couple of chairs where you could sit and relax looking out at the ocean. If you wanted, the staff would bring you your breakfast/dinner to your balcony. There were also plenty of hammocks and sun loungers for use.
The on-site restaurant does a great breakfast (not included in the rate) that sets you up for the day, so normally we would skip lunch and just have a couple of snacks to get through for dinner. Reasonable internet is also available at the restaurant but only during opening hours. But when you’re in paradise, who needs the internet?!
The staff were really nice to our kids, giving them a whole lot of beach toys to play with. We loved our time here and didn’t want to leave!
Our rating: 9 out of 10
Price: Check out the latest prices for Secret Paradise Resort and book here
Kep – Blue Kep Bungalow
Trying to keep our budget on track, we opted for a family bungalow at Blue Kep Bungalow, a homestay type set-up which was on the edge of Kep National Park and about a 10 minute walk or $2 tuk-tuk ride to the crab market.
The bungalow was simple but had two double beds with mosquito nets, air-conditioning and hot water. The bungalows were set in a beautiful tropical garden with a hammock and seating to relax in.
The best thing about Blue Kep were the lovely French owners Chantal and Christian who were so nice to us and our kids. Chantal even loaned me her sneakers one day so we could do a walk in the National Park! They were very helpful with suggestions of what to do, where to go and arranging transport.
Breakfast options included full English or simple French with baguette and jam. The kids had pancakes a couple of days which they loved. We also had dinner there a couple of nights. There is a friendly dog and cat which the kids also enjoyed playing with.
Our verdict: 8 out of 10
Price: check out the latest prices for Blue Kep Bungalow and book here
Phnom Penh – One Up Banana Hotel
Despite the random name of this hotel, it was a cracker. We booked 2 rooms here and they were spotless, with good air-conditioning and shower plus a fridge and tea/coffee making facilities. We also got one room upgraded to the ‘penthouse’, which in reality meant we were just in one of the rooms on the roof terrace, but it was a nice gesture.
The location was great too, in the BK1 area of the city with lots of nice restaurants and leafy streets, plus a couple of dollar tuk-tuk to get to most places.
What we loved about this hotel though were the amazing staff. They were SO nice to us and especially the kids, always smiling, saying hello, talking to them and us. We had a lovely conversation one evening with one of the young staff who was studying architecture at university. The staff were really helpful in booking our onward travel for us during the busy Chinese New Year period when it wasn’t that easy. They seemed to genuinely enjoy their jobs. When it was time to leave they gave our kids a Khmer style scarf each and a big hug.
Our verdict: 9 out of 10
Price: Check out the latest prices and book here
What we ate
We enjoyed the food in Cambodia, but probably not as much as Thai or Vietnamese food. In saying that, here are some of the standout dishes we tried.
The national dish of Cambodia is amok, which is a type of curry. We tried fish amok at Khmer Kitchen restaurant in Pub Street, Siem Reap, it was pretty tasty.
When in Kep we had to try the crab, and we ate a couple of times at the Holy Crab restaurant at the crab market. The food was great. We also tried Khmer curry and seafood skewers of squid and prawn.
There are a lot of Cambodians of Chinese descent, and as it was Chinese New Year we ate at a Chinese restaurant. The pork steam buns and noodles were delicious, our kids are dumpling fanatics so they wolfed them down.
There were also some lovely salads we tried while in Cambodia. Here’s a banana blossom salad we had at Khmer Kitchen, and we also had some spicy but refreshing mango salads that I forgot to take any photos of!
The kids and adults alike enjoyed the ice-creams from the Blue Pumpkin chain.
There is plenty of variety in terms of food so you don’t need to worry if your kids are a bit fussy. Everywhere we went had “Western” options, but our kids also enjoyed noodles, fried rice and fish and seafood when we were on the coast. Generally speaking the food isn’t too spicy.
There is an abundance of beautiful fresh fruit everywhere, and we often bought freshly cut up pineapple or mango from street vendors. In Siem Reap there are also vendors selling delicious cold fruit shakes for $1USD.
How we got around
We did a mix of taking the bus and hiring drivers/taxis to take us places, as in some cases it worked out the same price for the 4 of us to take a private car rather than getting the bus – children aren’t given discounted rates on the bus. It also means you get to have door to door transport rather than getting dropped at a bus station and having to tuk-tuk to your accommodation with tired kids in tow.
We used Giant Ibis buses at the start – from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh and Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville in a smaller minibus. They are high end, mostly tourist buses complete with Wi-Fi (which worked about 2/3rds of the time), a pastry snack and bottle of water, seatbelts and extra leg room. It was fine.
At Chinese New Year when we were going from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap everything on Giant Ibis was sold out. So we went with Capitol Tours on a not as nice but cheaper bus, but we were the only foreigners on board so got to experience a bit of local travel. It took an hour longer than the Giant Ibis bus also, because there were many stops to pick up and drop off people along the way. They also played ear-splitting comedy TV shows and music at a million decibels so take earplugs!
The rest of the time we made our way around by reumork or tuk-tuk. These are little carriages that are towed behind a motorbike, brilliant to keep you cool in the heat. The kids loved travelling in these but we had to hold on to them tight!
As I mentioned in our Angkor temples post, we had a great tuktuk driver take us around, and I promised I would put his details on the blog :-). So if you are in Siem Reap and looking for someone to transport you around, contact Chim Bunthoeun at [email protected] or +855 12 59 50 25. He was a very careful driver and lovely with the kids on board. He also took us and all our bags out to the airport very early on the last morning.
Some handy hints and tips for for family travel to Cambodia
1. Pace yourself with Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is incredible and our kids loved it, but it’s huge and there’s a lot to see. It can also get incredibly hot which means you’re really limited to early mornings or late afternoon if you’re travelling with little ones. We were really glad that we purchased a 3 day pass and did small chunks at a time rather than trying to see it all in one day. A couple of hours was the max that our kids could handle at a time.
2. Take plenty of sunscreen – the sun is harsh!
If you’re heading to the coast especially, make sure you pack lots of sunscreen. We went through 2 bottles of it in a week and still managed to get a little bit sunburnt. You can buy more there but it’s expensive.
3. Be prepared to attract attention when you’re travelling with small kids
Cambodians absolutely love children and can be very tactile, wanting to pinch their arm or cheek, or pick them up and give them a hug. It can be a bit strange at first, but they are genuine and mean well. It has been a bit of a problem with our blonde, sometimes shy 3 year old in particular who is absolutely over being touched and pinched in a friendly way, picked up and being called “hi baby”, so I would say by the time we get to Vietnam they’ll have no chance! Chinese tourists also seem to act like a mini paparazzi with the kids, they line up to take photos of them as well when we are. At Banteay Srei it was especially bad and a bit overwhelming for them so I resorted to my Mama Bear ‘“xièxiè!’ no more photos of my kids” routine 😉
4. Take some Vaseline with you
Bit of a delicate one, but it was handy to have some vaseline with us to help prevent chafing in the extreme heat. Particularly on little boy’s bits. Enough said.
5. It’s ok to drink the water and ice in restaurants
We were very cautious at first and didn’t drink any water that was given to us in restaurants and kept saying ‘no ice’. But everywhere without fail we went used bottled drinking water and ice made from bottled water, so there’s no need to stress. We had the most delicious fresh fruit shakes made from street vendors who also use bottled water and ice.
6. Don’t take your younger kids to any of the genocide museums
Of course personal preference here, and maybe it’s obvious but we wouldn’t recommend taking younger kids to any of the genocide museums and sites. It’s extremely graphic and would be quite frightening. We split up and took turns visiting these sites, one looked after the kids while the other one visited.
How much did we spend?
Cambodia was reasonably cheap by Western standards. We stayed in mid-range accommodation and ate out 3 times a day as we didn’t do any self-catering. Our stay on Koh Rong Samloem at Secret Paradise Resort which was a bit of a splurge to start our trip off and food was more expensive on the island as everything needs to be shipped in. And we had a few cold beers 🙂 But there’s not really anything to do there, so that’s all you’re spending your money on! So I’ve costed out our time out on the island separately. This also doesn’t include our 3 day pass to Angkor Wat which was $80 USD for 2 adults, kids were free.
Here’s what we spent for 2 adults and 2 kids per day:
Cambodia average daily accommodation cost: $50 USD
Cambodia average daily spending (food, sightseeing, transport): $80 USD
Total daily cost: $130 USD
Koh Rong Samloem average daily accommodation cost: $90 USD
Koh Rong Samloem average daily spending: $85 USD
Total daily cost: $175 USD
We loved Cambodia and really hope we’ll go back there again one day!
Note: This blog post contains affiliate links. That means if you make a booking after clicking on one of these links, we might receive a tiny commission, but it won’t cost you anything. Maybe enough to buy us a beer. Thank you 🙂