You’ve picked a perfect travel destination if you enjoy exploring without the creature comforts of home. Cambodia is no stranger to tourism but chooses to embrace tourism in such a way that the country stays true to it’s ethnic roots.
In South East Asia you’ll find a diverse range of cultures in close proximity to one another and Cambodia is poles apart form what you will experience in both Vietnam ad Thailand. But Cambodia is a country scarred from the Khmer ruling of the late ’70’s where mass genocide occurred and you’ll notice the effects in more than just the museums. Cambodian’s are quiet, subdued, humble people recovering from a recent past. There is plenty to be mindful of when travelling to a destination with such horror on it’s doorstep and while tourism is growing year on year a few Cambodia travel tips will help make your experience even more enjoyable.
Consider Your Interaction with the locals
In some Western countries it takes a firm and borderline rude approach to prevent hagglers from ruining you’ll well deserved holiday. In Cambodia it’s a little different. There will be times where hagglers will be prevalent, like at various parts of Angkor Wat. There will also be times where local kids will attempt the sympathy card by showing their clear signs of poverty in an attempt to gain some of your currency. In some cases too, like the Siem Reap night market, you’ll witness amputees who feel victim to land mines and are attempting to make an honest living through music. In any of these cases and more it, Cambodians deserve the respect of a polite decline. Unlike some countries, Cambodian’s have a kind and gentle back bone. Their attempts of gaining from tourism doesn’t appear to come from a negative or dishonest place. Be firm but kind and use manners when you choose to decline their offers.
Explore Angkor Wat but Don’t Forget the Rest
Chances are that you’re planning o visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor Wat during your Cambodia travels. Good choice; this is a truly sensational, architectural delight. But don’t forget the rest of the country because there are plenty of hidden gems throughout. In the South Bokor National Park should feature high on your Cambodia travel itinerary with more than 140,000 hectares of lush jungle. The seaside village, Key, is a magical place to enjoy day hikes from, sample seafood, and enjoy the interesting French history of it’s pre-‘6-’s hey day. In the north the more remote Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary allows an opportunity to stay in the lesser travelled part of the country while giving back to Cambodia wildlife in need of human support
Stay en Route; Landmines Still Exist
There is plenty of the Cambodian countryside that is inaccessible to tourists purely so that tourists remain safe. During the civil war landmines were planted around Cambodia with a clear objective to maim Cambodian’s. The objective made sense in the yes of war; when a soldier is injured, his comrades will attempt to rescue thus slowing down a larger proportion than if the soldier was to be killed immediately. Unfortunately when the war ended, there was no clue as to where the landmines had been laid and as they remain active for up to 50 years, their effects are very much prevalent today. Farmers, playing children and the hard working Cambodia people have fallen victim to the many land mines in the country and there is no way to ensure safety to anyone who strays from the well trodden path.
Cambodia beach towns are special but not tropical island paradise
Cambodia is a country with so many wonderful sights, adventures and cultural differences to explore. Lush nature parks, wildlife, historical monuments and even desirable coastal towns. But if you’re on the hunt for a tropical island beach holiday then Cambodia may be disappointing for you. Whilst taking up a prominent section of the South East Asia coastline, Cambodian beach life is different to that experienced in Thailand. Water is warm and sand is clean but in Cambodia you will enjoy a simple, humble beach town vibe. Travelling to Cambodia is all about the culture, nature and history with a taste of ocean swimming. Head to Thailand if you want to end your travels with a cheap yet luxurious beach holiday.
Keeping shoulders covered is a demonstration of respect to the Cambodian culture
Throughout Cambodia women dress modestly. They don’t show much leg, keep cleavage covered and have clothing over their shoulders. When foreigners show skin in these areas it can be considered disrespectful, not to mention invite unwanted attention. Even though it is hot, be mindful to cover these areas. If you need options that keep you cool in the South East Asian heat try buying a cotton scarf from the market that you can draw over your shoulders and chest.
Bartering is Expected, Valuing The Product is too
It is expected in Cambodia – much like other parts of South East Asia – that you will negotiate (barter) the price paid for an item. Typically the seller begins with a price, you counter offer with a lower denomination and that process repeats itself until an agreement is reached. As a rule of thumb the seller’s first price is double the price they are willing to sell at. This sounds simple enough but the problem that can come along with bartering is that the final figures that the foreigner is unwilling to budge on convert into minor figures back in their home currency, yet mean make a world of difference to the seller. Plus the seller has put a lot of work into an item that the foreigner is getting cheap. Remember to leave the ego behind when bartering and consider the effort that has gone into making the item. You might find it’s worth letting go of the few dollars your trying to hold on to.
Be mindful; child prostitution is a very real problem
Child prostitution is a very real problem in Cambodia and 100% illegal, let alone immoral. Following the end of the Khmer Rouge – a time when the country almost perished by genocide – came this horrific issue. Throughout hotels and guesthouses the issue is clearly identified with pamphlets and flyers issuing warnings. Be mindful that your seemingly innocent escapades could be more than you bargained for. In all cases be alert and cautious.
Check the nature of your orphanage visit before you commit
Voluntourism is the term used to describe the increasingly popular holiday style that involves volunteering. In some countries this could be centred around rebuilding homes or schools after environmental disasters, or supporting efforts to retain endangering wildlife. Cambodia is a favourite for volunteering in orphanages. In some this involves teaching children English, or simply providing much needed care and attention. But for some this is not the case. There are plenty of excellent orphanages throughout the country where volunteering can bring value to the children but there are also some which become places of child exploitation as a result of bus loads of tourists stopping to take photos. If you are intending to spend time giving back to the people of Cambodia through volunteering in an orphanage, check your situation in detail before committing so that you be sure you’re good will is not in vain.