Voluntouring in Cambodia: An Interview - Part 1


Georgie is a Children's nursing student at University of East Anglia. She has had the opportunity to travel to loads of different countries with her family but more recently has travelled to Cambodia to volunteer at a school for vulnerable children. For her, the best part of traveling is meeting new people from all over the world and finding out their stories.

A note from the Editor: I came across a great quote while preparing to post this interview. I thought that I’d share it here since it seems quite fitting.  

“You have never really lived until you've done something
for someone who can never repay you.”


Defined as volunteer travel, volunteer vacations or travel which includes volunteering for a charitable cause, voluntourism is a growing trend for those who are inspired to give back while seeing the world. 

Q. When did you first go to Cambodia and why?

In_the_airport_leaving_for_Phnom_Penh.jpgA. The first time I went to Cambodia was in November 2010 during my gap year. I found out about the organisation I travelled with through a friend, who was also planning to go away. After reading through the brochure about all the different places, we decided that Cambodia sounded like the most interesting place to go. We didn’t know anyone who had been before and thought it would be a great experience.

Q. Why did you go back to Cambodia?

Cambodia_Kids_at_school.jpgA. After my first visit, I kept in regular contact with the school where I worked, the staff at the volunteer organisation and with some locals I met whilst there via Skype. The strong friendships with so many people and my connections with the children at the school, all influenced my decision to return. I’ve been to Cambodia three times now and each time I have I have had a different experience.

Q. What was the best part of your voluntouring experience?

A. There wasn’t any part of my trips that I didn’t enjoy. Certainly one of the best things was making some new friends, both locals and other volunteers. I have made friends from all over the world and when the opportunity arises we meet up - once in Denmark and another time a friend from Australia has come to England.Riding Bikes in Phnom_Penh Cambodia Voluntouring

Q. Any interesting local things you ate or drank in Cambodia?

A. The most interesting thing that I tried was tarantula. There are many places on the street where you can try spider, as well as other interesting things. I did not get it from one of these stalls, instead went to a restaurant that specialises in Khmer food and has them as a starter.  If you like, they will also bring the spiders out to your table alive so you can see them and pose for a photo before you eat them. To be honest, I only tried a leg. It was a weird texture and tasted mostly of the sauce that you dip it in.

Phnom Penh Cambodia Eating Tarantulas

Much less adventurous and certainly nicer tasting is sugar cane juice. It is also widely available from street vendors and in the markets. It is freshly made while you wait by crushing a sugar cane with lime. Don’t be afraid if it is given to you in a plastic bag with a straw, that is just how it is served sometimes. It isn’t as sweet as you would expect it to be and I find it to be a really refreshing drink.

Experiencing the local cuisine in Phnom Penh

If you want to try more traditional Cambodian dishes, I suggest the following.

  • Amok and Khmer curry - both have a coconut milk base with the main difference between the two being that Amok is traditionally fish based (though is also served with chicken and vegetable) and Khmer curry is a beef dish.

  • Sticky rice and sweet mango - I like to get this treat for dessert. It is commonly found in the street stalls and in restaurants. If bought off the street it will usually be wrapped in a banana leaf.

Q. What are your local tips for people traveling to Phnom Penh?

A. Use the Tuktuks & motos, there is no better way to get around the city. Locals find it strange when you want to walk somewhere, even if it is only 5 minutes from where you are. Be aware as the drivers will often try to overcharge you. Make sure you have a price in mind when you say where you want to go within Phnom Penh. I would never pay more than $2 to go anywhere by tuktuk and even less on a moto. Go ahead and fit as many as you can in a tuktuk. It just makes the journey more fun. As always, it is wise to be aware of your surroundings to protect yourself from thefts.Phnom Penh Refueling the tuktuk.jpg

Since I was working with the children of Phnom Penh, I really appreciated the work done by Friends and Daughters of Cambodia.

Friends is a local restaurant and shop which helps street children and marginalized youth get off the street. Its goal is to teach them new skills so they can have better lives. Everything sold in the shop is handmade.

The food in the Daughters café is amazing and the store has many wonderful items. You will find that the prices are a lot higher than what you will get in the markets, but the quality is far better and the cause certainly worthwhile. Daughters of Cambodia works with girls who have been trafficked into the sex industry and offers them a way out. This is done by offering jobs, along with programs and support services at the day centre located in the red light area of Phnom Penh. Their mission has now expanded and is also helping boys to get out of the sex trade. Within their franchise they have 2 cafés, a boutique and a salon and will soon be opening a guesthouse.

The children I had the pleasure to work with in Phnom Penh

Q. Any places you'd like to volunteer next?

A. Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar


Tuktuk Traffic streets Phnom PenhCambodia

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