Nobody sets out on a trip with the goal of being an irresponsible tourist. Yes, some people just want to have fun without thinking about the consequences, but it is pretty much unheard of to plan a vacation with the intention of harming the people and the country you are about to visit.
Tips for Travellers
· Don’t buy from children
· Buy from working families or children in training
· When you buy products made by parents or youth-in-training it gives them a regular income and a better future.
· Be aware that certain “tourist-attractions” such as orphanage or slum tours exploit children’s vulnerabilities for financial gain. An orphanage is a child’s home, a place that should be safe and should respect her right to privacy and dignity.
Travelling and Shopping
It’s nice to know that you can do the right thing just by spending your money intentionally. A dollar goes a long way in Cambodia and your choice of a socially responsible meal or necklace purchase may do more good than you would think.
You need to sleep somewhere, so why not stay where your payment makes the best economic and social impact? Some hotels are owned by big corporations from more affluent countries and the money spent at these hotels usually leaves Cambodia.
Travellers are accustomed to thinking about what they eat, but don’t always think about why they eat where they do. Restaurant decisions are often based on cost, perceived cleanliness and convenience. While these are reasonable considerations, it is also useful to gather more information about the restaurant’s social practices and whether food is locally sourced.
Ecotourism in Cambodia provides an alternative way to make a living, one that preserves the environment. Instead of cutting down forests or poaching endangered wildlife, some Cambodians now work to save Cambodia’s ecosystems. Some learn to lead bird-watching and nature tours, while others who live near national parks offer meals, oxcart rides, guided nature hikes and boat trips.
Modest dress is the Cambodian standard, in an area with lots of tourists this dress codes may not be obvious at first, but away from urban centres you risk giving offense (and being bitten by mosquitoes) if you are not appropriately covered. As a rule of thumb, when visiting villages, men and women should wear shirts that cover their shoulders and pants or skirts at least to the knee. Longer pants or skirts may be required for religious sites.
Do tip! There are some circumstances where giving money to people directly may be appropriate, such as a tipping - The average Cambodian income is about $1 a day so your tip is welcome.
The poverty in Cambodia can be a shock for some travellers. Tourists may be approached by begging children, especially around markets and restaurants. The children may speak to you in English, tell you they love you and present an appealing and heart-breaking picture.
The solution may seem to be to give money directly to the children, but organizations like Child Safe strongly recommend against this for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most compelling one is that begging keeps children on the street, where they are vulnerable to exploitation and harm. Some street children are being exploited, abused, or trafficked. Instead, support organizations that provide services for vulnerable children and youths.
Giving directly to a local organization may also be risky. An orphanage may be a front for corrupt people to pocket donations from tourists. To be sure that your money is actually helping people in need, always check out organizations before making a donation.
Learn a few Khmer words
Do not assume that Cambodians speak English. While many do, there are also many who don’t. In tourist area, where English is more common, hamburgers and pizza are the foods of choice and prices are marked in dollars, it can be easy to forget that some people won’t understand you. Learn enough Khmer to thank people who help you.
Some ways of showing respect must be learned. Notice when other people take off their shoes. Shoes typical are not worn into houses and are not worn in Buddhist temples. There may be other establishments where shoes are also removed outside.