Visiting Angkor Wat and surrounding temples with kids

Visiting Angkor Wat and surrounding temples with kids

Of course I was nervous taking the kids to Cambodia in general let along dragging them around Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples – but, of course I didn’t need to worry. They were awesome. Such good little travel buddies. I am so much more relaxed with the kids when we are travelling! A win for all!! I am so glad we we went.

I researched, and researched, and researched this trip before we left, and to be honest, there are a few blogs talking about visiting Angkor Wat and surrounding temples with kids – but saying NOT to take them!!! But, at the end of the day after speaking to Sally from our3kidsvtheworld, I felt very comfortable in going on this trip. Yes, the kids are young. Yes, we know they won’t remember. But, did they have a ball? They sure did. There was so much to explore and climb – it was like a playground for them – and they still talk about the trip.

Temple Passes for visiting Angkor Wat and surrounding temples with kids

You can buy your passes on your way to Angkor Wat (or other temples) in the morning but you are also able to buy your temple pass before 5pm the day prior to your visit – this is what we did so we didn’t need to worry about this on our way to Angkor Wat at 5am! We bought a week’s (7 days) temple pass so we could spread our temple days over the week and not have to visit temples back to back (more information below). Purchasing your tickets at this time means you can watch the sunset for free at one of the temples, but we decided that we’d have enough temple exploring time over the coming days.

Passes are sold for one-day ($37), three-day ($62) and seven-day ($72) blocks. A photo is taken on the spot which is included in the price of the ticket. Your photo is printed on your ticket and the whole process only takes 5-10 minutes. Children under 12 are free and they won’t need a pass, but if your kids look around 12 years of age but are younger, make sure you have their passports with you.

Also, you can only pay for your tickets using US dollars. There are ATM’s at the booking office.

If you buy a 3 or 7 day pass they don’t have to be used on consecutive days and you can spread out your visit i.e.:

  • 1 Day:This ticket is valid only on the day of purchase;
  • 3 Days:This ticket is valid for 10 days from the date of purchase. You can choose which three days you wish to visit the Angkor temples on; and
  • 7 Days:This ticket is valid for one month from the date of purchase. You have a whole month in which to visit the Angkor temples on the seven days of your choice.

A temple pass is not required for Beng Mealea but it’s an extra $5 (we didn’t realise this at the time, and one reason for the weeks pass was to include this temple, but never mind!).

Check and double check that you have your temple passes with you in the morning before setting off. They are checked at the entrance points and the day of the week is hole punched out of the tickets.

How to get around when visiting Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples with kids

Before we left home we arranged a wonderful tuk tuk driver for our temple days.  I can highly recommend Sok and you can read all about him here.

You can also hire an air conditioned car and driver if you prefer. We had a driver for our day trip to Beng Melea (details below) who was fantastic.

To be honest, I think a tuk tuk is a great way to get around when you are visiting Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples with your kids. I think if we were getting in and out of an air conditioned car we would have felt the heat more. In a tuk tuk, you have a lovely breeze whilst driving around which cools you down. The kids also get a wonderful view all around.

I think a tuk tuk is the way to go!

Dress Code for visiting Angkor Wat and surrounding temples

Also bear in mind that there is a dress code when visiting Angkor Wat and surrounding temples. How strict they are on this depends on the guards at the time but we always wore what I called hippy pants (Ross had fisherman pants) that are knee length and a t-shirt (no singlet tops etc). We did see people wearing all sorts of outfits – whether they weren’t aware of the dress codes or just didn’t care in the heat I am not sure. We had the kids dressed in long pants and t-shirts. The kids favourite shoes are their ‘Natives’ so that’s what they wore whilst exploring. I bought myself a pair also and wore them. I only wore them whilst exploring; the rest of the trip I had on thongs. I really don’t like packing shoes and socks. Ross also bought a pair but he didn’t take them as he thought it was silly for us all to be wearing the same shoes haha. He wore thongs the whole time and was fine. We were also told that it was a good idea to have these clothes on when you go to purchase your tickets.

Ned and Olive in their temple clothes to visit Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples

Ned and Olive in their temple clothes to visit Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples

Facilities available when visiting Angkor Wat and surrounding temples

The temples had toilet facilities, but they weren’t always close by – sometimes a decent walk – the ones we used were flush toilets and toilet paper was available.

You’ll always find some sort of little stalls set up selling cold drinks etc and many temples have restaurants at the entrance but take as much water as you can carry as you will definitely drink stacks. Sok our wonderful tuk tuk driver had cold water and cold wet wipes in an esky in his tuk tuk which was so thoughtful as we were always sweaty.

Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples we visited with our kids

Angkor Wat and Bayon, Angkor Thom

We decided early on in the planning process that we would relax and enjoy a whole week in Siem Reap and spread out our temple days as I had read so much about temple fatigue (not just for kids – adults also!). There is lots to do in and around Siem Reap. You can read my overall introduction to Siem Reap with kids here and I’ll have more detailed information soon.

Our alarm went off at 4.20am and we weren’t sure how the kids would respond to being woken so early but they jumped up with excitement when we said ‘who wants to go and see Angkor Wat’?  We met Sok (who was always on time and would send an email when he arrived if we were not there), and after double and triple checking we had our temple passes we headed to Angkor Wat. The kids loved the tuk tuk ride in the dark watching the moths on all the lights. It was pitch black but we did feel completely safe. It took approximately 20 minutes from our hotel to Angkor Wat.

I have goosebumps writing this now at home as it was so amazing and I still can’t believe we have been! A tick off the bucket list!

There is quite a walk from the car park over the bridge and through the outer wall (at a guess I’d say about 700m). We were a little concerned when we first arrived as it didn’t look like what I thought it should – but just keep following the crowd!

There was a relatively long wait once we arrived inside, while we were waiting for the sun to rise. This was one of the times the kids got a bit (ok, maybe a little more than a bit!) testing – just hanging around. We had a breakfast box packed up from the hotel so we were able to sit and have some breakfast while we were waiting. For some reason, I thought that the sun would magically appear behind! But of course this didn’t happen and it slowly rose showing off the beauty.

Waiting for the sun to rise at Angkor Wat - a little over it!

Waiting for the sun to rise at Angkor Wat – a little over it!

 

Sunrise over Angkor Wat

Sunrise over Angkor Wat

Apparently, over Dec-Feb there can be 10,000 people hustling for a spot. We didn’t have anywhere near this amount and it was really civilised – so glad we visited in June!

Not a large number of people at Angkor Wat in June

Not a large number of people at Angkor Wat in June

The majority of the tour groups head back into town for breakfast straight after sunrise so we took advantage and headed straight in to the temple and spent a few hours exploring, climbing and soaking it all in (which is exactly what the kids were waiting for). We probably spent about 3 hours at the Angkor Wat. There are lots of people trying to sell books and asking if you would like a tour guide. We didn’t have a guide – we were happy exploring on our own. I think a guide could be useful if you are on your own without kids.

Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument/site in the world and you could literally spend hours and hours exploring all the carvings, stairs, view points etc.  You are allowed to climb up the central tower and there can be long lines but it wasn’t too bad for us. To go up to the top of the tower you must be over 12 years old so Ross and I took it in turns. The stairs were so steep but the views were awesome. Ned was most disappointed to be missing out on more stair climbing though!

Steep stairs to the Central Tower, Angkor Wat

Steep stairs to the Central Tower, Angkor Wat

It was stinking hot by 9am and when we headed back to Sok (don’t worry, he will always find you!) we bought a couple of massive fruit shakes. There were so many tour groups heading back into the temple at this time – wow a) so very hot to just be starting and b) so many people!

Already, I am surprised by the amount of walking involved just to get to the temples. There are bus loads of tourists that come here and I do wonder if everyone is aware of the amount of walking required?

We then travelled with Sok to Angkor Thom, which is only just over 1.5km from Angkor Wat, so it is very easy to do these as a combined trip; although in saying that, there are a number of temples to explore within the borders for Angkor Thom and we only visited Bayon (as to not get temple fatigue with the kids).  You are best to enter at the South Gate and stop for photo’s before the bridge. Your Tuk Tuk driver will (should) know this is the best way.  Everyone was stopping for photo’s – but you still needed to watch out for tuk tuks and cars coming past. Bayon is known as the temple of faces as they are looking at you from every angle. It was much cooler in the bottom parts of the temple so we had lots of fun exploring all the ‘secret’ passage ways, climbing and trying to keep out of the sun. Most of the tourists were exploring above so it felt a lot more peaceful as well as cooler – and we all thought a lot more fun!

Amber, with the faces of Bayon, Angkor Thom

Amber, with the faces of Bayon, Angkor Thom

Here we saw monkeys and elephants and there were lots of people riding the elephants. Evie from mumpacktravel has written on why we shouldn’t be riding the elephants in Cambodia here.

From here we headed back to the hotel for sleeps and swimming!

Preah Khan and Ta Som

It wasn’t quite as early as our Angkor Wat start (thank goodness!) at 7.30am when we met Sok for our adventure out to Preah Khan. Preah Khan is about 30/40 minutes from Siem Reap in a tuk tuk. This is one of the lesser known/popular temples and I chose it as it sounded like it would be a good one for kids to explore! I was right! The kids did really well again exploring this temple as there was plenty to keep them entertained – windows to crawl through, passageways to explore, dark areas to hide in. This was our first experience seeing the big massive trees growing in and around the temple – amazing!

The trees at Preah Khan

The trees at Preah Khan

There was a lot of walking for this temple – it was huge. Sok dropped us off at one end and you explore, making your way through the temple and then walk around 1km to the car park out the other side. There seemed to be plenty of shade here also which made exploring slightly easier.

There are toilets at all the temples but the toilets at Preah Khan were about 2 km’s away. When Ned needed to go I said I would take him. I didn’t know at the time that they were so far away – I have never sweated so much in my life piggy backing him all the way! Thank goodness Sok saw us as we made our way out of the complex and drove us the final 1km!

I had read lots about the children begging around the temples, and we didn’t see it happening at Angkor Wat but we did once outside Preah Khan.

We then went on to Ta Som which is about 15 minutes from Preah Khan. Ta Som is on a much smaller scale compared to the temples we had already visited. There is a fig tree growing over the entrance on the Eastern side and it is one of the most photographed trees and is very recognizable.

'The' Fig Tree at Ta Som

‘The’ Fig Tree at Ta Som

As fantastic as this temple was, there wasn’t much shade, so we all faded quickly as it was boiling hot so we explored quickly before heading back for more pool time.

Ta Prohm

At the next temple we got our ‘Tomb Raider’ on at ‘Ta Prohm’. It was absolutely amazing. We left the hotel around 7.30am but to be honest you could go earlier as it gets hot so early (even though there was no sun this morning and it was cloudy it was almost our hottest day – the sweat was real here!). Ta Prohm is approximately 30 minutes from Siem Reap.

Secret passage ways at Ta Prom

Secret passage ways at Ta Prohm

This was definitely our favourite temple to explore as a family. We were able to climb and explore to our hearts content over the ruins. You could easily spend half a day here exploring, if not longer. This temple is all about the trees and roots which climb all over the ruins – it is like it has been swallowed by the jungle – so cool! Half the time it doesn’t feel like you are following a defined path and you have no idea what you are going to come across around the next corner or over the next pile of stones. So amazing.

Where will the path lead at Ta Phrom?

Where will the path lead at Ta Prohm?

I am glad we did this temple on its own though as if we were already exhausted from other temple visits we may not have enjoyed it quite as much as we did.

The view of Ta Prom from our rest spot - it blows me away

The view of Ta Prohm from our rest spot – it blows me away

This was our last day with Sok and I am sure he would have loved to show us more but we knew it was enough for us all.

Beng Mealea

We had high hopes for our final temple, Beng Mealea. Did it deliver? Sort of. I’d still definitely add it to your itinerary if you are coming, as it was amazing to see it pretty much exactly as it was discovered. Beng Mealea was built to the same floor plan as Angkor Wat, and nature has well and truly taken over. I am still umming and ahhing over this temple. It was awesome, it really was, but we felt that you could almost explore more at Ta Prohm – What we were hoping for was a bit more exploring and they have put boardwalks and paths throughout for you to follow a well defined path. We also timed it poorly with a couple of bus loads of noisy tourists and it was hard to get off the path and find a quiet area. We did find a spot to sneak over the wall and did some exploring which made the experience worthwhile! I am not sure if guides were available for this temple but if they are it could be worth it to have them take you off the beaten track slightly so you can have a real Indiana Jones experience.

The original entrance Beng Mealea

The original entrance Beng Mealea

 

Finding our own path at Beng Mealea

Finding our own path at Beng Mealea

 

Beng Mealea - largely untouched

Beng Mealea – largely untouched

Beng Mealea is about 1.5 hours away from Siem Reap via a car (longer via tuk tuk), so we took a car. Although, it probably would have been more peaceful in a Tuk Tuk as the kids complained most of the way (in fairness they didn’t have car seats and it meant they couldn’t even see out the window!).

Our driver Mr Khen, was fantastic (he has bookings everyday until next Jan!) and was happy chatting. He has a 4 year old and another on the way. His wife had to convince him to have another baby as he had bad memories of growing up as one of five – his family was very poor. He didn’t get his first pair of shoes until 12 years old and his first push bike until 23! You actually need to stop and think about this – our kids are onto their second and third bikes already.

We felt safe in his car and he provided cold towels and water when we returned back to the car. I’d definitely recommend him, and you can contact him on ppsrtaxi@gmail.com and click here for his website. We paid US$60 for this trip which was comparable with other prices I saw.

A temple pass is not required for Beng Melea but it’s an extra $5 – Mr Khen went to the ticket office for us while we used the bathrooms. There is no toilet at this temple. The bathrooms and the ticket office are a couple of minutes’ drive from the temple entrance.

Top tips for visiting Angkor Wat and surrounding temples with kids

  • Please give yourself plenty of time. Siem Reap is a fantastic base. We would not have coped with anymore than 2 temples in a morning (Ned was 5 and Olive was 2 – nearly 3).
  • Wear your ‘temple’ clothes to buy your tickets.
  • If your kids look over 12 then bring their passports to the ticket office.
  • Buy your tickets before 5pm the day before you go to Angkor Wat to save stopping on the way at 5am. You can even experience sunset if you wanted to.
  • Check, double check and triple check you have your temple passes with you. You don’t want to be making the trek back to town if you forget them.
  • Take as much water as you can carry. If you don’t drink it, you’ll be tipping it over your head to cool down.
  • If crowds are an issue for you then consider going in the off season. We visited in June at the start of the wet season – we hardly had any rain. Some temples were busier than others at this time of year but absolutely nothing like 10,000 people (it is slightly cooler over November-March though).
  • Research which temples you think your kids might like. I choose the above temples based on the fact they were quite natural with plenty to climb on and explore. There are so many to choose from though. We are really happy with those we visited.
  • For one less stress consider arranging your tuk tuk driver before you leave home. Our tuk tuk driver, Sok, was amazing.
  • Let your kids lead the exploring around the temples – Ned and Olive were much happier when they took charge of what passage ways and windows we were going through next!
  • For us it worked really well to head out first thing and then we back at the hotel in the afternoon to swim. It was pretty hot even first thing.
  • Wear whatever shoes you are comfortable in. Ned, Olive and myself were wearing our native shoes and Ross was in thongs – yes there is some climbing etc but we didn’t once feel like we needed shoes and socks.
  • Don’t bother with a pram, if you have a kids backpack that is a much better option. We didn’t bring our backpack for Olive so Ross spent a fair bit of time piggybacking her (her little legs did get tired quickly).

So there you have it. Our information on visiting Angkor Wat and surrounding temples with kids – yes it can be done! I think your kids should like climbing, scrambling and exploring though! I am so excited to have put this information together for you and I hope it helps in your planning.

Have you been to Siem Reap and visited Angkor Wat and any surrounding with kids? What did you think? Please leave me a comment below and ask any questions you may have as I am happy to help.

By | 2017-12-20T21:09:19+00:00 November 26th, 2017|Categories: Cambodia|4 Comments

About the Author:

I love travelling with my family! When we are not travelling I am researching all things travel!

4 Comments

  1. Marianne November 26, 2017 at 10:12 am - Reply

    Love your tips and the adventure it actually seems possible.

    • Amber November 27, 2017 at 10:06 am - Reply

      Hi Marianne, thanks for the comment. Definitely possible with kids! Awesome experience!

  2. Lyn aka The Travelling Lindfields February 17, 2018 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    We have just got back from Siem Reap. Our children are now 20 somethings but we travelled a lot with them when they were little. They would have loved the temples. I can’t imagine why anyone would say not to take children there. The whole place is magical and most kids enjoy anything they can wander around and explore.

    • Amber February 18, 2018 at 11:43 am - Reply

      I hope you loved Siem Reap as much as we did. I’d love to go back. Oh, you would be surprised at the many ‘raised eyebrows’ we received with taking the kids – but they are non-traveling families and just don’t get the addiction, enjoyment and love we have of all things to do with travel. I think you can/should take your kids everywhere! Thanks for having a read!

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