Cambodia //

Travelling with children

While travelling through Cambodia with your children is not for the nervous or over-protective parent, many families are now enjoying holidays here. Cambodians love children, although they do have a habit of greeting them with an affectionate pinch, which can be disconcerting; but the protectiveness of the West is non existent and there are no special facilities or particular concessions made for them. On public transport, children travel free if they share your seat; otherwise expect to pay the adult fare. If you need an extra bed for your child in your room, hotels will charge around $10–15 per night. Under-11’s are admitted free to the Angkor Heritage Park (passport required as proof) otherwise they are charged at the adult fee. To travel around it’s worth considering hiring a car and driver – not only will this mean you can stop when you want for food and comfort breaks, but it’ll be more comfortable – although note that child car seats are not available in Cambodia. Staying in guesthouses or hotels with a swimming pool is a big hit with children; alternatively many hotels with pools will let you use it for a daily fee (of around $5).

In the main towns you’ll be able to buy disposable nappies, formula milk and tins or jars of baby food at the supermarkets and mini-markets, but elsewhere you need to take your own supplies. Many Western children now take rice and noodle dishes in their stride, so eating out should be relatively simple (fussy eaters excepted) with stir-fries, simple chicken dishes and fried potatoes universally available.

There are no real activities designed for children, but with a little ingenuity resourceful parents should get by. In Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Monument Books sells children’s books and a limited supply of Western games and toys; while the markets have plenty of cheap plastic toys that you can pass on to a Cambodian child when you leave. Riding an elephant is a wonderful experience – crossing the causeway at Angkor Thom or making a circuit of the Bayon is not something you’re likely to forget quickly. Provided it’s done in short bursts – consider too, hiring a guide – children seem to adore the temples; clambering up temple steps, listening to tales of gods and demons, having their photo taken with the dancers at Angkor Wat and checking out the vast trees at Ta Prohm with enthusiasm. Horseriding and quad biking through the rice paddies are available at Siem Reap; while fishing, picnics and badminton can be done pretty much anywhere. Cambodian children are always playing games – the flip-flop game and marbles for boys, skipping for girls only; a Western child is always welcomed and somehow language is never a problem. Consider finishing your visit to Cambodia at Sihanoukville, where the gently shelving beaches of Ochheuteal or Sokha are pretty safe and a nice wind-down before the long flight home.