The sights of Cambodia are mighty to behold! From the majestic temples of Angkor, warm communities and lush landscapes, Cambodia has a great deal to offer any traveller. However, we at Buffalo Tours think it’s essential to note the importance of a responsible mindset and attitude when travelling to this dynamic nation.
Responsible travel is the key to creating sustainable practices, preserving cultures, the environment and stimulating local economies. It’s about taking a humble and educated approach when travelling, so that you can make the most of your trip and leave nothing but positive effects behind.
Travelling responsibly is easier than we think, with many organizations and companies performing not just for profit, but for conservation and sustainability. Tourism as an industry has an important role to play in this endeavour, especially in terms to responsible development for visitors and Cambodians. Therefore, this message to prioritize responsible tourism goals and incentives could not be of greater importance and interest to both large and small scale companies.
Sustainable tourism is a major focus of our growth as a company, and we seek to promote this not only in terms of our partners but also in what businesses we support and how we can help our visitors travel and act responsibly. Travellers to the region can be active in responsible development of Cambodia, and make a difference, and we’d love to share how. Here are 6 ways you can support responsible tourism on your travels to Cambodia.
Here are 6+ Tips for Responsible Travel in Cambodia
Before departing on an adventure in Cambodia, it is important to learn more about the dynamic, ancient and heart wrenching history of this fascinating country. By informing oneself about the history and culture of where they travel, anyone can make a difference. For Cambodia, learning about the country’s more tormented past, ancient glory and recent development is essential for understanding the cultural realities people face.
Carrying on from the last point, using knowledge about Cambodia and the challenges it faces can allow you to make informed decisions that curb the negative effects of tourism. For example, the growth of tourism has lead to an unfortunate development of voluntourism, where visitors pay to volunteer with orphanages in Cambodia. Donations to these orphanages have lead to a massive surge in child exploitation in the country. Often, children are given little to none of the contribution, and directors line their pockets. To stop this, support organizations that are reliable and accredited. Find out more about this issue here and ways to make a difference here.
In Cambodia, there are often children forced to sell small goods or souvenirs, or beg, and it is crucial not to give cash. That can be trying considering the state of them, but it’s important to not give anything monetary. Many children are exploited by the adults in their life, and while often unaware, travellers have encouraged this to become an industry. If a child approaches you to sell or beg, give them some food or consider playing with the child. Having fun with them not only helps them become more confident but also creates an escape from their harsh reality.
Travelling to Siem Reap? Consider a home stay with a local family, directly supporting people of more impoverished areas while seeing some of the most tranquil and beautiful parts of the country. Want a luxurious place to stay? Book a stay at the 4 Rivers Floating Lodge, a high end eco-resort on the Tatai River in the Cardamom Rainforest. Built with a sustainable framework, supporting locals with jobs and regular incomes, built using sustainable materials, powered with solar panels and minimal environmental impact, 4 Rivers Floating Lodge is an excellent example of sustainability and luxury. Whether on a tight or loose budget, you can make a difference to the region by choosing the right accommodation.
We know what you’re thinking. Responsible eating sounds like a new catchphrase. But when writing this, we refer to where you eat, but also what. Forego dinner at your hotel to take a walk to some street food stalls, or local restaurants, where your money will go directly in the pockets of locals, making a difference to their lives. Another element to consider, is trying a diverse array of Khmer cuisine. Often overlooked in Asia, Khmer might be one of the oldest cuisines in the continent, but was affected as music and dance by the Khmer Rouge reign. Remember, there’s more than just Amok in Khmer cuisine. Try some Kampot Pepper Crab (fresh crabs sautéed with locally grown pepper pods), Lap Khmer (a marinated lime beef salad) or Nom Banh Chok (noodles in a green curry fish sauce). Dig in while supporting the local economy and underrated culinary traditions.
Our favourite piece of responsible travel advice is to go off the beaten track. Many visitors breeze through Cambodia, running through Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. While that’s understandable with a tight timeline, it is worth it to go a bit further and see a more of Cambodia. Go beyond the highlights, by visiting smaller, lesser known destinations, rewarding you with a unique experience and the locals with more support. Head to charming riverside Battambang, or the seaside Kep-sur-mer, or to a homestay in Chansor village outside of Siem Reap. Sometimes, you’re favourite part of your trip is the least expected.
In order to help Cambodians directly, there are many social enterprises to you can visit. By dining at one of these cafes, restaurants or supporting these initiatives, you can directly help the community development of the country. Add these to your to do list:
- Spoons restaurant, Phnom Penh
- Lotus Blanc restaurant, Phnom Penh
- Friends the Restaurant, Phnom Penh
- Bayon Pastry School Coffee Shop, Siem Reap
- Marum restaurant, Siem Reap
- Sandan, Sihanoukville
- Made in Cambodia Market, Siem Reap
- Colors of Cambodia, Siem Reap
- Daughters of Cambodia, Phnom Penh
- Rajana Crafts, Phnom Pehn
- Friends n’ Stuff, Phnom Penh
Entertainment and Activities
- Phare the Cambodian Circus, Siem Reap and Battambang
- White Bicycles, Siem Reap
As with all our destinations across Asia, we also encourage you to:
- Dress appropriately, especially in temples and religious sites.
- Throw away your rubbish in designated bins and recycling areas, even if you see locals doing the opposite.
- Not visit orphanages or similar institutions; this will encourage an exploitative and established system.
- Not engage in public displays of affection.
- Not give money to people begging, especially children. If you want to help, seek out a local responsible and reliable community organisation.