Before you go

Things to consider while packing

  • Passport
  • Extra xerox copy of passport to be kept in different location than passport
  • Extra passport sized photos - at least 2 - you will need one for the visa
  • Visa - check what your airline or country may require of you
  • You can get a 30 day tourist visa at the airport upon landing for $30USD [have extra  passport sized photo]
  • You can also get  an electronic visa online, it costs at least 3 times as much but can save  you a lot of hassle at the airport leaving from home and upon arrival.   e-visas are good for 30 days and you are given a 3 month window in which  to use it.
  • Outlet adapter for multiple  styles of outlets, Cambodia electricity is 220v
  • Check if you need any specific immunizations
  • Notify banks and credit card  companies of your travel plans
  • Have some USD cash to get  started, change will be given in Riels
  • ATMs dispense USDollars 
  • No need to exchange any cash before arriving, use local money changers in town, money changers at the airport tend to have higher exchange rates
  • Get travel medical insurance
  • Padlock and key for a safety deposit box
  • Usual toiletries, medicines, etc. - just about any toiletry you may need can be purchased there. There are many markets now to service tourists needs.
  • Flashlight for frequent power outages

Travel Medical Policy

  • On your first day, you will need to bring a copy of your travel medical insurance policy, so we have it on file while you are volunteering with us.  

Dress Code

  •  Cambodia is a conservative country and we ask that you respect them by dressing accordingly. Siem Reap hosts many tourists and one of the major concerns to the Cambodian people is the liberal and inappropriate dress worn by tourists. Please do not be influenced by the liberal clothing of other tourists, use the locals as your fashion guide.
  • The basic rule is to cover your knees and shoulders, T-shirts covering the shoulders and anything that covers the knees are the bare minimum and acceptable. Modest, high cut sleeveless tops are acceptable. Men should always wear a top and woman should always wear a bra. Buddhism is an integral daily part of Cambodian life but you will rarely see them walk off the street into a Temple, they will wash and change into clean, conservative clothing before entering, and hats are not to be worn inside Temples.  

Toilets

  •  Guesthouses have western style flush toilets, where you can usually put the paper down the toilet.  If you see a bin in any bathroom, it is there for toilet paper. If you feel this is unhygienic then consider the consequences of blocking the toilet. You may sometimes encounter a “squat” toilet.  This is the norm style for locals.  A scoop and water holding vessel is to be used to manually flush the toilet by pouring the scooped water down the toilet. 

Hawkers and Beggars

  •  Try to be courteous to hawkers selling gifts to tourists.  A polite “no, thank you”, or in Khmer, “aw te arc oon”, and a smile is usually all that is needed to be left alone. Even though they may be poor, or appear to be poor, begging is an unsustainable activity. We strongly recommend you not give anything to beggars out of guilt. By being a volunteer you are providing them with a sustainable future.
  • Giving sweets to children who have no access to tooth paste or brushes causes major problems, when you consider that they also have no access to dental care.
  • Giving money to children makes them spend more time begging and prevents them from going to school. With no education, when they become older and “less cute” they earn less money and have no possibility of employment.

Body Language

Placing the hands together and bowing one’s head is the normal greeting in Cambodia, however, many people will now extend their hand to shake yours.  Be respectful by going that step further to immerse yourself into the Cambodian culture.

  • Cambodians believe the head is holy and the feet are low and dirty.  To touch someone on the head is an insult, and to point your feet at someone is also an insult.  To point your feet at the image of Buddha is unforgivable.
  • Never show anger or try to make someone look stupid, saving face is important and one should maintain a cool head.
  • When bartering, do so with a smile – Cambodians are not aggressive barterers.
  • Do not show public emotions towards your partner, hugging and kissing is seen to be inappropriate public behavior.
  • The left hand should never be used for handshakes, eating or to exchange money or goods.

Being in Cambodia

 Siem Reap town:

  • The official currency is the Riel, although $USDollars are used in most restaurants and hotels
  • The exchange rate of Riel to USD is 4,000Riel to $1USD
  • There are ATM machines throughout town, ATMs dispense cash in $USD
  • There are money exchangers throughout town, often at jewelry stores
  • It is recommended you avoid the use of Traveler’s checks. They can be difficult to cash, especially if your signature does not match between the check and your passport, and often a commission is charged
  • It is recommended that you convert a small amount of $USD into Riel – perhaps $10 or $20USD, it will give you better bargaining power in the markets and for use as change
  • Local transport [motorbike] costs an average of $1USD for a short journey [1-2km], $8-$10USD all day
  • Tuk tuk transport costs an average of $2USD for a short journey, $12USD+ for all day – depending on where you are going
  • Bicycles are provided by many Guesthouses, and around town for hire, at an average of $2-$4USD per day
  • Food sold by street vendors is inexpensive, ranging from $1-$3USD, just make sure it is thoroughly cooked
  • Meals in a restaurant range from $3-$20USD, and more depending on where you wish to eat
  • It is not customary to leave a tip, however with the increase in tourists it does occur more often at restaurants [although not at a Western % rate], 2,000-5,000Riel would be fine
  • Bottled water is available all over town and range in price from 500Riel to $1USD per bottle
  • Ice cubes that are cylindrical in shape are made from potable water
  • There are laundry services available throughout town, and at most accommodations, most charge $1-$2USD per kg
  • A one day pass to the temples is $37USD, a three day pass is $62USD, and a week pass is also available for $72USD – more information can be found at https://www.siemreap.net/visit/angkor/practical/hours-admission/
  • Internet / Wifi is available at many accommodations and coffee/internet cafes
  • Telephone services are available in some internet cafes, but prices vary so be careful
  • Cambodia is set up for mobile connectivity, check with your mobile phone provider to see if you are set up for international roaming and if your phone will work in Cambodia
  • The main Post Office is located on Pokambor Avenue, along the river, near the FCC club. It is open 07:30 to 17;30 everyday
  • Siem Reap is equipped with cable TV with English language programs

Cambodian Holidays

  • On your first day, you will need to bring a copy of your travel medical insurance policy, so we have it on file while you are volunteering with us.  

Buddist Monks Etiquette

Buddhist Monks are very highly regarded in Cambodia.  There are some basic rules when working with or being near Buddhist Monks:

  • Wait until a Monk acknowledges you before you acknowledge him.
  • It is forbidden for a woman to touch a monk or even brush past his clothes, not even a hand shake!
  • Try not to make the Monks feel uncomfortable by sitting next to them on public transport.
  • A woman may not directly pass anything to a Monk, she must place it on a table for him to pick up.
  • Monks in Siem Reap are fairly used to foreigners and will try to be tolerant and flexible, respecting our culture as we try to respect theirs.

  • On your first day, you will need to bring a copy of your travel medical insurance policy, so we have it on file while you are volunteering with us.  

How to Make the Most of It

In the Western world we can be hung up on time, with our meetings and schedules. Cambodian people do not stress over time, and it is not uncommon for things to happen later than arranged. Just go with the flow, be flexible and forget the stress, it’s better for you anyway!


English is widely spoken in Siem Reap, but it is always good to know some basic Khmer (Cambodian) language. It would be beneficial to brush up on a few phrases. Here are a few polite ones:

  • Hello - so sa dai
  • How are you? - sok sa bai?
  • Thank you - arc-oon
  • Please - som
  • Excuse - me som dtoh
  • Do you speak English? - niak jek ong-layh
  • Beautiful - sa-aat
  • The bill please - som ket loi

  • On your first day, you will need to bring a copy of your travel medical insurance policy, so we have it on file while you are volunteering with us.