Visiting a developing country for the first time can be quite a shock. I remember traveling to Cambodia the first time when I was 10 years old.
It was so different to everything I had known before: the air was hotter, the water dirtier and the roads busier.
To make your trip to Cambodia a bit easier and to give you a bit of an idea of what to expect (Google Images and TripAdvisor will only get you so far) I have gathered some tips of what to do or not to do there:
1. Negotiating Prices
Cambodians will often charge you more if you look like you have money and therefore it is totally normal and not rude to negotiate prices for food, TukTuk rides and little souvenirs from markets. Just be sure not to come across as aggressive. If the negotiation comes down to paying $0.50 more or less, pay instead of persisting on getting your favoured price as either this is the only source of income they have or you are negotiating with a University student who is driving TukTuks as a side business.
2. Buying off beggars
Even though it might be ever so tempting to buy a postcard or some flowers off a child with dirty clothes and a sad face – it is definitely not recommended. Not only are you paying the child not to go to school, you are also making them targets for child predators like human traffickers.
Often there is a scam-coordinator who sends the kids out to beg for him and the takes the money away from them. This is actually a multi-million dollar industry.
So by buying off beggars (especially children) you are trapping them in the endless poverty circle.
3. Visiting temples
Going to Siem Reap you will most likely want to visit the Angkor Temples on weekends or before and after project.
Being the region’s biggest attraction, Angkor Wat in particular attracts thousands of people every day.
If you don’t want selfie sticks and sun hats blocking your view, I would recommend not visiting at sunrise or sunset, as lots of Japanese tourists will have had the same idea. Usually they clear out instantly after the best photo opportunities have passed, so if you want to go early (to avoid midday heat) aim for the time just after sunrise.
If you are desperate to get a good picture of sunrise/ sunset I would recommend trying a different temple. The Angkor area incorporates over 1000 temples so you are likely to find one that is not packed.
Another thing to look out for at temples is fake tour guides. I was once approached by a man in a dirty and broken uniform telling me I could only enter the temple if I paid him $50. This was obviously a scam so be careful about who you give your money to. These people often look out for the tourists that look like they have the most money so dressing accordingly is recommended.
4. Caution on roads
My last tip is more common sense but I wanted to address it just in case. Traffic in Cambodia is very different from Australia or any other Western country. Don’t be alarmed if you see two kids on a moped carrying a chicken, a goat and maybe some shopping. This is of course not safe but pretty normal there.
Traffic can get very hectic if it is busy, so just be sure to watch out when you are on a road or trying to cross it. Normally drivers will beep their horn to signal that they are approaching but you can never be too careful. If you are in a TukTuk try keeping your hands and feet inside the vehicle and enjoy the ride!