Introduction to Responsible Tourism in Cambodia

Responsible Tourism in Cambodia

Being responsible as a tourist in any country of the world is of paramount importance. Respecting a country’s culture, lifestyle, and natural environment should be second nature. This is the case in Cambodia too.

This nation is a land of beauty, and over 5 million tourists a year recognise this fact and the Cambodians’ desire to be eco-friendly.

In this article, we talk about responsible tourism, sustainable tourism and eco-tourism in this country. Is there a difference between these things? Yes, although it’s subtle:

  • Responsible tourism is about being considerate to the locals and the surroundings.
  • Sustainable tourism means visiting in a way that minimises your environmental footprint.
  • Eco-tourism tends to be about caring for specific areas, plant life or animal life.

Of course, all of these are equally important and, as a tourist, you can really make a positive difference. Read on to find out more!

All About Responsible Tourism in Cambodia

First, to be a responsible visitor, it is wise to do some research on this wonderful country. Take a look at where Cambodia has really concentrated on eco-friendly, responsible and sustainable tourism (even though the principles apply throughout the country).

There are specific towns, cities and rural areas where you can see that Cambodia has focused its efforts. There are also ways you can help, such as volunteering and even picking your accommodation with sustainability and eco-friendliness in mind.

Here are some tips for responsible tourism in Cambodia:

  1. Think About What Accommodation You Choose:
    • This country has some luxury hotels, but there are excellent local guest houses, restaurants and homestays available.
    • Support for the local communities, who are striving to sustain their environment, is very welcome – as is the income it brings them.
  2. Keep Your Waste to a Minimum:
    • Dispose of your rubbish responsibly, just like you do back home. Also, use a minimum of single-use plastic bags, straws or cups to prevent waste.
    • Much of Cambodia relies on fish as their main source of food. Disposing of rubbish responsibly, so that it stays out of the sea, helps to ensure the health and sustainability of this food supply.
  3. Use Water Sparingly:
    • Water is a precious resource in much of Asia, so use only as much as you need.
    • To contribute to the water’s cleanliness, avoid bathing in streams, lakes or rivers using detergents, shampoos or other body-cleansing products.
  4. Recycle Wherever You Can:
    • A little-known fact is that you can donate your aluminium cans, plastic bottles and cardboard to street trash pickers here. They then sell the rubbish to ensure it’s disposed of responsibly, so your actions contribute to their income.
    • You can spot trash collectors in many cities with their trollies or other modes of collecting items. They call out “Agile” while searching for anything that they may use to support their families.
    • Separating waste is extremely useful for trash collectors, as it saves them a lot of time. It also means they don’t have to sort through potentially unhealthy or dangerous piles of rubbish elsewhere.

All About Sustainable Tourism in Cambodia

As mentioned above, around 5 million people visit this country annually. So your actions and behaviour can make a real, positive contribution to the sustainability of Cambodia’s tourism industry. Here are some ways that you can help:

  • Use Natural Resources Sparingly
    • Water is the main natural resource that is vital for sustainable tourism in Cambodia. In particular, water is used to power electrical supplies throughout the country, so keeping your electricity consumption low will be positive.
    • For example, at your hotel, use your hairdryer less and do not leave the lights on! Also, remember that quick and revitalising showers will save more water than a bath.
  • Stay in Guest Houses to Protect the Forests
    • Many of Cambodia’s forests have been cleared to build luxury resorts and urban areas. So to contribute to the sustainability of the remaining forecasts, consider booking accommodation in guest houses and homestays.
  • Visit Green Areas and Raise Awareness
    • Probably, the best way to contribute to sustainable tourism in Cambodia is by visiting ‘green’ areas and raising awareness of local issues.
    • For example, you can visit areas such as Prey Lang Forest in Northern Cambodia to see the conservation efforts of the local rangers. These rangers are doing their best to preserve the remaining reserves of forests.
    • By visiting these areas you can help support the local communities. You can also ‘spread the word’ about what’s happening in Cambodia among your friends and family, as well as online, to preserve the affected zones.

All About Eco-Tourism in Cambodia

As mentioned above, eco-tourism generally refers to protecting specific areas, plant life and animal life. So in this section, we look mainly at flora and fauna, as well as animal species in this country. Here’s some key information to keep in mind:

  • About Animal Welfare and Indigenous Species
    • Charity organisations and locally founded institutions are working hard to preserve and care for all animals in Cambodia.
    • From domestic cats and dogs to the threatened Indochinese tigers and elephants, there has been a surge in protection in recent years.
    • There’s been a significant increase in ‘animal tourism’ i.e. those wishing to help animals in the country and highlight their living conditions. Could this be you?
  • Use Tour Companies That Specialise in These Local Issues:
    • Some of these tour businesses donate a percentage of their earnings to different eco-tourism causes in Cambodia. This can give you a real feel-good factor as a tourist, even if you cannot wholly resolve the problems that exist.
    • A substantial number of tours are conducted by local guides. These guides know and respect the areas that need care, so they’ll take you on the best routes to avoid any damage to the ecology. At the same time, you will have a wonderful experience seeing unique and indigenous plant and animal life!

Where to Enjoy Eco-Tourism in Cambodia

What does eco-tourism in Cambodia really mean? Well, TIES (The International Ecotourism Society) defines this as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of the local people”.

Fortunately, there are sites that dedicate themselves to Cambodia eco-tourism in a big way, each using different methods. Here are some areas of interest:

  • Chi Phat
    • This is located in the Cardamom Mountain and was one of the first established eco-experiences, where guides who were once poachers have turned over a new leaf!
    • Chi Phat is home to exotic flora and fauna, and is a must-see also boasting beautiful villages, waterfalls and wildlife.
  • Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre
    • This site is also located in the Cardamom Mountains, and is a phenomenal chance to see monkeys, gibbons, sun bears and exotic birds!
    • All the animals have been rescued, ready to be released after rehabilitation from the nearby Wildlife Alliance Release Station.
    • Guides and rangers are on hand to allow you to feed the animals and to trek into the surrounding forests and jungle. It’s an amazing experience!
  • Banteay Srei
    • Here you can live with the locals in homestays. You’ll experience their working and family lives, their culture and, in the Srei Temple, the spectacular carvings and engravings.
    • You’ll eat with the locals and watch them at work with their handicrafts.
  • Chambo Eco-tourism
    • This site offers the perfect chance to join up with the villagers and learn how to cook local dishes and perfect your dancing! You can camp here as well if that is your thing.
  • Betreed Adventure
    • This is a hidden gem, ideal for nature lovers and those who want to experience something off the beaten track.
    • The area has been set up to protect the surrounding savannah land, which is home to an amazing array of indigenous animals. This includes banteng cattle, silver langurs (so-called ‘old world monkeys’), gibbons and ‘barking deer’.
    • You can also visit ‘cave temples’, in existence since AD 802! If this sounds slightly sedentary for you, there is a zipline that will take you over 300m across the quarry. If you are brave enough, you can see so much from the air!

There are many more eco-friendly sites to visit in this country, just do your research as to what you’ll enjoy.

Where to Go for Cambodia Volunteer Tourism

Cambodia volunteer tourism has become increasingly popular in recent years. As such, there are many opportunities to volunteer as a tourist here, including the following:

  • Bear Rescue Project – This is a big, popular volunteer tourism programme in Cambodia for sun bears and moon bears. Here, you help with feeding, grooming and setting up play areas for the animals.
  • Elephant Sanctuary with the Bunong people of Cambodia – The main aim here is the improvement of the welfare of the elephants, their stimulation and general care. In addition, the sanctuary also provides a sustainable income for the Mahouts (elephant keepers) and their families.
  • Marine Conservation – This is a wonderful opportunity to nurture coral reefs and chart their health. In particular, if you are a beach lover, this is perfect for you. You support both the local biodiversity as well as the fisherman!
  • Water Projects – Help with installing pipes, filters and ensuring clean water for outlying areas.
  • Tree Planting – Work with Cambodian monks to plant trees and on other reforestation activities.
  • Health Care – This includes work with medicine, dentistry and physiotherapy in outreach areas.

There are other opportunities available, such as working with orphanages and teaching. That said, these generally require a minimum of a 1-year commitment, so you’ll need to be visiting Cambodia for an extended length of time to participate in these projects.

Introduction to Wider Tourism in Cambodia

This country is diverse in what it has to offer. The things to enjoy include spectacular landscapes, waterfalls, mountains, animal and plant life, plus luxury resorts with high tech spas and treatments. There’s also the amazing culture and history! Cambodia boasts over 1,000 architecturally amazing temples to see.

On the flip side of the coin, if you want to be a ‘beach bum’ on your holiday, there are a multitude of opportunities. Top beaches include Koh Thmei and Koh Totang for seclusion, while Koh Rong is ideal if you want to dance all night!

Meanwhile, Serendipity Beach in Sihanoukville is the place for water sports and particularly scuba diving. This zone offers a vast expanse of beach which appears to be uncrowded.

Where the local cuisine is concerned, after wandering around the larger towns or cities, treat yourself to some Cambodian or Khmer food delights. Fish is predominant, and dishes such as Fish Amok (steamed fish in banana leaves) are mouth-watering. There are excellent grilled pork and beef dishes to be sampled too.

These are just some of the tempting things to do in this amazing country; we tell you more later in the article. You can dream of seeing exotic gardens, visiting the dolphins in the Mekong River or exploring what remains of the rural areas off the beaten path! Tourism in this country is definitely on the up.

Top Cambodia Tourism Places

We could not possibly mention all of the choices available to you, but here are some of the must-dos and must-sees:

  1. It goes without saying that 2 of the top Cambodia tourist places must be Phnom Penh, the capital, and major city Angkor Wat. Each of these deserve their own sections of this article, so please see below for more details.
  2. Phnom Penh’s markets are a top tourist attraction, offering virtually 24-hour non-stop availability to purchase everything from food to clothing and souvenirs. Phnom Penh has markets everywhere around the city!
  3. Meanwhile, Ratanakiri will appeal to trekkers and escapists with solitude in mind, as will the glorious waterfalls of Chaa Ong and Ka Tieng.
  4. Prasat Preah Vihear is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and some say it’s superior to Angkor Wat due to its dramatic location at the top of the Dangkrek Mountains. It is almost like a temple maze, with intricately carved pavilions linked by walkways – you could get lost!
  5. Another great attraction is Sonle Sap Lake, where you can take a boat trip to see the floating villages and their inhabitants dotted around; this is probably the ‘real Cambodia’.
  6. For a more luxurious boat experience, try one of the cruises from Phnom Penh out to Silk Island, which can also be done at sunset.

Cambodia Tourism Safety Tips

Generally, it is safe to travel here, but as always when you’re on holiday, pay due care and attention to your possessions and your surroundings. Here are some tips to stay safe:

  • Carry your money around your person so that your wallet or purse is secure. Only take as much money with you as you need each day, and keep the rest in your accommodation, preferably in a safe.
  • Avoid dark and dimly lit streets, particularly at night.
  • Treat the locals with respect; Cambodians can be shy and are not used to any form of garish behaviour.
  • Depending on when you visit, be aware of heavy rains. Cambodia’s rainy season is usually between May and October.
  • Always let people know where you are going. Mobile phone connections can be hit and miss in this country, especially in the rural areas.

Cambodia Tourism FAQs

By now we’ve provided you with some helpful guidance about visiting this country responsibly, as well as how to get involved in sustainable eco-tourism. Keep reading to learn the answers to some frequently asked questions!

What’s Cambodia’s Nightlife Tourism Like?

Capital city Phnom Penh is clearly the place to go for nightlife tourism, with rooftop bars boasting spectacular views over the city. Most bars open when they want to, and all but never close! Combine the night markets with some cocktails if this is your thing, it’s a great way to end your day.

Meanwhile, life in outlying villages is more sedentary and more family-orientated, although the locals sure know how to dance!

What’s Cambodia Tourism to Angkor Wat Like?

Some people refer to Angkor Wat as ‘the 8th Wonder of the World’, and it certainly is a top attraction for Cambodia tourism. It is also the largest religious monuments in the world and draws tens of thousands of visitors most days.

The monument is best seen at sunrise, when the sun comes up behind the huge towers that flank the temple; it really should not be missed.

The temple is only part of the attraction here, so allow yourself 3 days to visit the whole area. You can access Angkor Wat from Siem Reap, which is another major attraction for tourists.

What’s Siem Reap, Cambodia Tourism Like?

The city of Siem Reap has so much to offer. Aside from the majestic temples, it has become known as a hotspot for everyone from historians to gastro gourmets, backpackers to chic sophisticates, spa lovers to adventure junkies.

Siem Reap’s cultural scene includes Phare, an incredible performing circus act composed of students and graduates from Phare Ponleu Selpak’s vocational training centre in Battambang. Phare truly is a cultural and historical performance to see, interspersed with amazing modern circus acts with no animals.

What’s Phnom Penh, Cambodia Tourism Like?

No visit to this country would be complete without seeing and experiencing the capital city of Phnom Penh. This is a bustling and vibrant city with everything from historic and cultural experiences, to nightlife, to top-class food and above all, friendly people.

The hub of Phnom Penh is the Central Market – you could spend a day here quite easily. Sample the food, buy souvenirs, whatever makes you tick. Elsewhere, take a walk along the relaxing riverfront or visit the Silver Pagoda or the ornate Royal Palace.

Alternatively, you could visit the capital’s National Museum, crammed with ancient artefacts. Whilst there, try to catch a performance by the Cambodian Living Arts performers, an all-singing, all-dancing, colourful musical extravaganza!

You are truly spoilt for choice, so take your time to decide what you would love to do – you will certainly find it. Of course, be sure to obtain your Cambodian eVisa before you, and find out more in our guides to travel vaccines and travel insurance for this country. Have a wonderful trip!