6 tips for volunteering in Cambodia
So you have decided to volunteer at Anjali House in Siem Reap, which is a great opportunity to have meaningful impact on the children and the country. Even if you have chosen a different NGO these tips will come in handy for you. If you haven’t chosen your organization yet, you can find a lot of information on choosing the right NGO for you on Concert Cambodia. Now that you have decided to volunteer it is time to prepare you for your stay in Cambodia.
Get your “E” Visa on arrival
Depending on your nationality, it is the cheapest and easiest to get a visa on arrival. We recommend you to take the “business visa”, also called the “E” Visa (do not confuse this with the online e.Visa) for volunteering. It is also called the “employment or ordinary visa”. You will need $35, a passport photo and your passport that is valid for at least another 6 months. You will have to fill in the application form on the airport of arrival. The visa is valid for 1 month but can be extended in one of the many travel agencies. Note that when you cross the border by land you cannot apply for the “E” visa everywhere. You can find more information about the different types of visa Siemreap.net.
Housing in Siem Reap
Many volunteers choose to stay in one of the many guesthouses in Siem Reap. The prices differ from $5 to $12 per night depending on the room-type, location and availability of air conditioning and a private bathroom. If you stay longer it could be an option to rent an apartment. Many apartments in Siem Reap have contracts for 1 month that will cost you around $100. Finding them can be more difficult. Ask for the staff or current volunteers for advice or ask in one of the many Facebook groups like ‘expats and locals living in Siem Reap’.
Transportation in Cambodia
On your arrival you will notice that tuk-tuks, motorbikes and bicycles are the preferred choice of transportation of many Cambodians and tourists. You will find someone with a tuk-tuk or motorbike that is willing to bring you to your location on almost every corner. But paying the $1 to $3 fee (depending on the distance and your haggling skills) multiple times a day might come in costly. There are plenty of places that rent bicycles for 1 or 2 dollars per day. If you stay for a longer period you can also buy your own bicycle or motorbike and sell it again at the end of your stay.
Your stay at the NGO
The objective of volunteering is to acquire new experiences and knowledge. Volunteering should be beneficial for both the volunteer and the NGO. You will be working a lot with the local staff. Try to transfer your skills and knowledge to them, and they will do the same to you.
You can also prepare your stay at the NGO. Read about the Cambodian culture and history will help you understand the country and it’s people. You will most likely have to introduce yourself, so why not prepare a game to learn then names of your children. In addition you can prepare some creative workshops or activities to teach English.
Respect the traditions and culture
When visiting Cambodia you should pay respect to the culture and traditions. The majority of Cambodians are Buddhists. You will meet many monks in Cambodia. It is important to know that women should not touch them, and you should always ask for permission before you take a picture (as you should with anyone). The head is the most holy part of the body in Buddhism, therefore it is considered rude to pat someone on the head. Also take off your shoes when you enter someone’s house and dress appropriately when walking around the city. Cambodian people are very friendly, respond to the many smiles with a smile.
Enjoy Cambodia responsibly
Most of the volunteers decide to travel around Cambodia in the weekends or before and after their stay at the NGO. Feel free to ask us for advice on the many places to visit. Cambodia is a wonderful and diverse place and you will certainly like it. But you should always keep in mind to travel responsibly. Are your actions and visit beneficial the local communities? Think before you go on an elephant ride in Cambodia, visit an orphanage or give to a begging child. We recommend you read the information on ThinkChildSafe.
We are sure you will love your stay in Cambodia. Feel free to ask any other questions or read more information on our website.