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Volunteer in Cambodia

Volunteer in Cambodia and dive into the culture of this fascinating country with stunning landscapes and a history both cruel and inspiring...

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Volunteer Projects and Internships in Cambodia

Volunteer work in Cambodia

One of the main issues Cambodia is facing today is the rural poverty within the country. For that reason, most of the volunteer programs in Cambodia heavily rely on interpersonal relations. No matter if you want to help the local communities by teaching, providing medical aid or helping to improve regulatory frameworks, there will be plenty of volunteering opportunities to apply your practical and soft skills. For those of you who primarily want to focus on environmental issues, there are also volunteer programs in Cambodia evolving around coral reef farming or mangrove conservation.

Teaching English in Cambodia

Compared to its neighboring countries Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, Cambodia unfortunately, has the lowest literacy rate of approximately 77%. Therefore educational volunteers are needed to provide adequate knowledge, especially English skills. Due to the growing importance of tourism, one of Cambodia's main economic drivers, English language skills are more in demand than ever before. As a volunteer in Cambodia, some of your tasks may involve:

  • practicing and improving basic English conversational skills
  • managing and organizing English classes
  • teaching in non-conventional and creative ways
  • teaching children with disabilities

During volunteer work in Cambodia, volunteers will be working with children of different age groups and can choose between working in the urban area of Phnom Penh, rural areas like Kampong Speu or even teaching Buddhist Monks in Siem Reap, home of the famous Angkor Wat temples. Being a teacher also means that you will have days off on the weekends so that you can explore the country on your own and experience the culture in its entire beauty.

Medical and health care

Even though Cambodia's health sector has improved immensely over the last couple of decades there is still the necessity to drive medical standards forward. In addition to poor sanitation, especially in rural areas, Cambodia is sadly also one of the countries with the most landmines. Scarred by three decades of Civil War these landmines still cause several dozens of casualties each year, leading to deaths or severe injuries. If you want to volunteer in Cambodia and are passionate about healthcare this might be the right field of volunteer work for you.

Some of your tasks as a healthcare volunteer in Cambodia may include:

  • working alongside nurses and doctors
  • assisting in different treatments and administrative tasks
  • providing knowledge about basic hygiene standards

Most of the volunteering services needed will require a certain set of skills in the medical field but can vary based on your level of expertise and years of experience. If you are not a trained nurse or doctor you can still support local communities by informing locals about infectious diseases and hygiene measurements.

Support community services

In addition to volunteering as a teacher or medical professional, you can also help based on the premise to improve the living conditions and the economic status of disadvantaged communities. Volunteering in the field of community is ideal for anyone who enjoys working outside and not shying away from getting their hands dirty. Your work as a volunteer in Cambodia can evolve around:

  • Human rights support
  • Sustainable community development
  • Construction projects
  • Temple preservation
  • Orphanage child care

Before you decide to volunteer in Cambodia at an orphanage, make sure you are prepared for your task and understand what to expect. While working and volunteering with orphans might sound noble at first, it is important to realize that more than 80% of children living in orphanages are not orphans. These children are separated from their families because they are poor, disabled, from an ethnic minority or because they are suffering from other exclusion factors.

Many of these children have experienced violence or abuse and are traumatized. For this reason, it is essential that volunteers MUST have appropriate skills. If not, you could be putting yourself and the children at risk. Therefore, if you wish to work and volunteer in Cambodia at an orphanage, you should meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • experience in working with traumatized children
  • training as a child caretaker
  • training as a psychologist
  • training as a social worker

Biodiversity and its conservation

As a volunteer in Cambodia, you can join environmental programs to make a real difference in the effort to preserve the unique fauna, temples, and coral reefs of Cambodia. Many conservation projects will be located in the south of the island but also in the north. The south is perhaps the most unique part of Cambodia in terms of scenery and flora. Depending on the volunteer work in Cambodia you will join, typical tasks might include:

  • Working as a coral farming assistant
  • Cleaning reefs
  • Surveying seahorses
  • Building and maintaining coral nurseries
  • Cleaning beaches, village areas, temples
  • Working on temple’s main conservation and preservation sites
  • Repairing and fixing mangroves
  • Contributing towards a sustainable development of the local community
  • Teaching English
  • Snorkeling tours and in water cleaning
  • Running a plastic recycling plant

As a volunteer in Cambodia, your work can make a significant and lasting contribution to the social project goals and will provide you with a unique experience.

Cost of living

The suggested daily budget for living as a volunteer in Cambodia is between US$ 7 and US$ 22. This is an estimate made considering the average price of some of the services you might need and things you might want to buy. It gives you a general overview about how much things cost in this country, so you can be prepared and save the money you will need.

Additional costs you should consider will be:

An exemplary overview of living costs in Cambodia (in US$, for one person) is:

Things to know before you volunteer in Cambodia

Before starting your journey as a volunteer in Cambodia, it's important to think about the cultural norms you'll need to adjust to. In addition, learn about the precautions that are important to take. The following list will help you with that:

Safety & precautions

As it would be expected the Cambodian daily life is quite different from what most tourists from western countries are used to. It is important that you always exercise common sense to avoid dangers. Although Cambodia is a relatively safe country to travel, there are still some guidelines that should be followed in order to remain safe:

  • Beware of scammers: Often times taxis and tuk-tuks will charge you overpriced rides. You can always bargain with the drivers to set a fair price. The drivers also often take detours to charge you extra, so pay attention to the roads you are familiar with. Otherwise just enjoy the view.
  • Don't display your valuables: Being a tourist alone already draws enough attention towards you. You don't need to display your belongings in public places - especially at night and in big cities if you don't want to spark the interest of pickpockets and scam artists.
  • Watch your step: This one is extremely important, while being in the rural areas of the country. Surely, journeys far away from home are often times thrilling as the inner explorer gets awakened. But it is strongly advised to not stray from well-marked paths in order to discover things on your own. As aforementioned, Cambodia is, unfortunately, one of the countries with the most landmines and casualties do occur if no caution is taken.
  • Stay away from illegal drugs: Even though in comparison to its neighboring countries, Cambodia can be mistaken for a country with moderate drug laws, punishment is severe, especially for foreigners.

Culture & Religion

Cambodia has a unique culture influenced through a synergy of Hinduism and Buddhism. Tradition plays a crucial part in the daily lives of the Cambodians as the country is very homogenous with over 90% belonging to the Khmer ethnic group. Even though Hinduism played its fair share in the contribution to Cambodian culture, the Religion itself has only a few followers. The vast majority of Cambodians are Theravada Buddhists. As religion still has an important role in the daily lives of the local population, it is important to display proper mannerism in accordance to the culture & religion.

  • When visiting temples you'll always have to take off your shoes. This can apply to houses as well.
  • It is uncommon to shake hands with women. Just press your palms against each other in front of your chest and bow down. This is also the traditional Cambodian way of greeting each other, called "Sampeah"

Health advice

Before traveling to Cambodia you should plan 4-6 weeks ahead on updating all your vaccinations. The US-based health protection agency CDC recommends getting the following vaccines:

  • Vaccines:
    • MMR
    • DTP
    • chickenpox
    • polio

    Moreover, pregnant women should avoid traveling to Cambodia as they are put at risk due to the possibility of being infected by the zika virus. Further, volunteers should:

  • Beware of counterfeit: Medical supply is not up to par with western standards and local pharmacies sometimes only have limited amounts of a certain medication. More so counterfeit and expired products are often being sold.
  • Additional tips: Eat and drink safely. You probably already know this, but it's good to stick to bottled water and don't drink from the tap. Food should be cooked and served hot.

Packing Essentials

  • You should bring sunscreen and insect repellent with you to avoid any sunburn or even worse infections from mosquitoes that can transmit the zika virus or other tropical illnesses.
  • Always carry enough money with you as credit cards are not common outside of Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, and Siem Reap. Before arrival, you should also check with your bank, as not all ATMs accept foreign credit/debit cards.
  • Pack lightweight clothing as well as well as a raincoat and sturdy shoes.
  • Bring photocopies of your essential travel documents like passport, travel medical insurance information and visa, and keep them safe at your accommodation.

Who can volunteer in Cambodia?

As you will have noticed by now, there are a lot of different volunteer opportunities in Cambodia that expect different skills and abilities from their volunteers. While you can find out the specific requirements for each project on their program page, here are some general requirements that apply to most volunteer programs in Cambodia:

  • You should speak English at a basic level to volunteer in Cambodia; for some programs a higher level of English is required.
  • The minimum age for most volunteer programs in Cambodia is 18 years.
  • You might also need to submit your CV, a health declaration or a criminal background check, depending on the area of work and the program you're interested in.

What visa do I need for volunteering in Cambodia?

You have made it to the last section of this guide, which is another really important aspect while planning your volunteer work in Cambodia: getting your volunteer visa for Cambodia.

Please consider that the following information is based on a best practice approach, which has been made according to the best of our knowledge and in cooperation with several volunteer organizations. That's why you should please make sure to discuss your visa requirements with your contact person on Volunteer World. If in doubt, we also recommend getting in touch with the Cambodian embassy or consulate in your country.

General Immigration Information

There are some general requirements volunteers should comply upon their arrival in Cambodia:

  • Please check the current validity of your passport. The passport should be valid at least 6 months following your departure date from Cambodia. We strongly recommend traveling with 6 months validity on your passport at all times.
  • Make sure your passport has at least two blank Visa pages. Cambodia requires that you have adequate unused pages in your passport, allowing for any necessary stamps upon arrival and departure.
  • Please check if a transit visa is required for any connections.
  • Make sure to be in possession of a valid return ticket for your travel home.

Best practice for short-term volunteers

The following information refers primarily to citizens of Australia, Switzerland, the USA and the member states of the EU.

Best practice for long-term volunteers

In case you are planning to stay and volunteer in Cambodia for up to 90 days, you can extend your visa in one of the local immigration offices once you're in the country. This fee is respectively about US$ 45 for 30 days and US$75 for three months.

  • It is also possible to obtain an e-visa prior to arrival. The application process can take up to 3 days and should only be done through the official website of the Cambodian Government to avoid any problems. Keep in mind that the e-visa is only accepted in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh but not in Sihanoukville.