Famous for its fascinating history, beautiful scenery and rich culture, Cambodia has seen an incredible rise in tourism in recent years. It has asserted itself as one of the “it” destinations for travellers in South East Asia. However, large numbers of tourists threaten to drive up local prices of essentials, forcing local people further into poverty, and damaging the very culture that originally attracted the crowds.

Here at SAFE, we’ve created a guide to travelling sustainably in Cambodia, so you can enjoy the charms of the country, while taking responsibility for your effect on the environment, people and culture.

Accommodation

Opt for small, independent hotels, over big international brands. By choosing a hotel that embeds themselves in their community and employs local people, you are directly supporting the staff and their access to jobs, education and medical assistance. The Soria Moria Hotel, in Siem Reap, offers an Employee Ownership Scheme that allocates 51% of shares to employees. It also runs an Educational Development Program, encouraging staff to complete bachelor’s degrees.

Source: https://www.visitbanteaychhmar.org/about/

Alternatively, one of the best ways to contribute to the local economy and receive a more authentic Khmer experience is to choose a Cambodian homestay. Income goes directly to the families, and villagers are able to improve their English, learn housekeeping skills and increase their standing in the community.

Book with local travel companies

Try to arrange your tours and excursions through Cambodian-based travel companies, instead of buying packages through UK companies. Local tour companies, including Khmer Ways and Triple A Adventures, are likely to have greater local knowledge, allowing you to delve deeper into the area’s culture and history. More importantly, they will ensure your money goes directly to workers, cutting out the commissions and haggling by international travel companies.

Source: https://beyonduniqueescapes.co/package-tag/family/

Look out for companies that are involved in eco-initiatives, support NGOs or give back to communities in some way. For example, Beyond Unique Escapes divert some of their profits into their foundation HUSK Cambodia, which provides access to safe water, housing, livelihood opportunities and education services to Cambodian families.

Eat Local

Again, when scouting out eateries, the best thing to do is to support local businesses, whether that be a street food stall or family-owned restaurant. Check out Marum, a Siem Reap restaurant that operates as a hospitality training school for underprivileged youths. You’ll be able to taste inventive pan-Asian, tapas-style dishes and traditional Cambodian specialities, while helping the development of young locals. Also in Siem Reap, The New Leaf Eatery donates 30% of profits to educational initiatives in the province, and splits 20% among its Cambodian staff. If you’re there, try the Cambodian Espresso Martini, which mixes Kahlua, cold-brew coffee from a roaster in Phnom Penh, and traditional sombai (rice wine).

Seek out responsible volunteer experiences

Cambodia has recently come under the spotlight for the large number of tourists visiting and volunteering at orphanages. Unfortunately, these good intentions are unwittingly feeding an industry that gives poverty-stricken families incentives to lend or sell their children to them. Three-quarters of the children in these places are not actually orphans, so do not get involved! Also keep in mind that if you’re not a skilled expert with training experience, the volunteer work you do might not actually be beneficial. For example, helping paint a local school could be taking away a much-needed job opportunity from underemployed locals. It might be more useful to consider donating money to a registered NGO or charity instead.

Source: Dan Green Photography

That being said, it is possible to find responsible volunteer experiences in Cambodia, often in the areas of animal welfare and environmental conservation. Organisations like ConCERT (the Connecting Communities, Environment and Responsible Tourism NGO) help identify legitimate organisations most deserving of your donations, volunteer time and business.

Hire a Bike

Source: http://www.thewhitebicycles.org/

Why not hire a bike to explore Cambodia on two wheels? Cycling will lower your contribution to traffic jams and air pollution and is also a great way to see some of the most interesting sites outside of the city limits. The White Bicycles is a non-profit in Siem Reap that partners with guest houses to offer tourists a novel way to experience the city. It’s only a 20-minute ride to the temples at Angkor, with rentals costing $2 a day. This income is used to fund clean water, educational and other projects, including the Giant Puppet Project (a children’s community arts project).

Volunteer with SAFE

Here at SAFE, we offer a vast range of volunteer opportunities based in the UK and overseas, including in Cambodia. If you would like to learn more, visit our homepage https://www.thesafefoundation.co.uk/