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5 Things That Might Surprise You About Cambodia

Written by Alice McLeod on 21 / 11 / 2023

Gap Year Advice

Cambodia is a fascinating country to backpack around on your travels, with a rich and often harrowing history, but with a vast number of things to experience. It remains a popular stop on the gap year tour of South East Asia, and it also ranks highly on lists best countries to backpack on a budget. We've all heard of the famous Angkor Wat, but here are five things about Cambodia that you may not have know and that may surprise you, from Milly, who's just returned from two weeks there.

1. The number of social enterprises

In Cambodia, social enterprises have emerged as powerful agents of positive change, leveraging business principles to address social and environmental challenges. These enterprises operate with a dual mission, seeking not only financial sustainability but also the betterment of society. Cambodia's social enterprises span various sectors, from agriculture and tourism to education and healthcare, creatively addressing issues such as poverty, sustainable development, and access to quality services. Many of these initiatives prioritize marginalised communities, offering training, employment opportunities, and fair wages. Milly's favourite was the Deva Café in Kampot, where the owner, Freya, trains women and girls to run cooking classes, which saves them from being forced to work in sweat shops. Freya aims to empower these women so that they're confident teaching Westerners the joys and secrets of Khmer cooking.

2. The similarity to British humour

Milly was surprised how similar the Cambodian sense of humour was to the famously dry British sense of humour. This clearly means you're in for lots of laughs along the way as you travel through this vibrant country.

3. Health and wellness

If health and wellness is your thing then Cambodia is the place for you. There's tonnes of massage, reflexology, and yoga to be found all over Cambodia, often in serene settings. It's very easy to practice mindfulness as you're surrounded by beautiful temples, stunning natural scenery, and areas of calm amidst the chaos. You'll be leaving with your chakras perfectly aligned.

4. The schools and education

It might shock you to hear that in some rural areas children attend as many as five different schools in order to receive their education. One of the girls Milly met from an area near Kampot goes to six different schools. This is just one example of the barriers to education in place to children in rural areas, contributing to higher drop-out rates than in the larger cities. We work closely with an NGO that does a lot of work improving education for local children, with a large focus on teaching them English, as this can often lead to better jobs and opportunities for them in later life.

5. The rubbish problem

If you want a reminder about how important it is to travel sustainably then you only need to walk the streets of Cambodia, to see what a huge plastic pollution issue they have. There are lots of things you can do to help combat this when you backpack, such as taking a reusable water bottle, taking bar shampoo and soap, and being mindful of how much single-use plastic you're using throughout the trip. Luckily there are lots of charities and social enterprises that recycle the plastic into something useful, whether that's building materials, or arts and crafts.

Overall there are probably hundreds of things that would surprise you about Cambodia. It's an incredibly vibrant and varied country, with so much to see and do. It also links nicely with countries like Thailand and Vietnam along with slightly further afield places like Australia and New Zealand. To find a suggested itinerary for Cambodia then log into the backpacker advice hub to find our suggestions of what to do, where to stay, and other Cambodia-specific travel tips.


Is it easy to backpack in Cambodia? Incredibly easy, it's a backpacker favourite for a reason. Not only is it easy to travel around, but it's incredibly cheap, leading to it being popular with gap year travellers. You can find our suggested itinerary in the backpacker advice hub.

Do you need a visa to enter Cambodia? Yes, for UK passport holders you can either apply for a 30 day tourist e-visa online before you arrive, or get one on arrival.

How long should I backpack around Cambodia? It totally depends how much of the country you want to see, but we'd suggest 2-3 weeks is perfect. It's an inexpensive country, so your money will stretch further here, and you definitely don't want to feel like you're rushing around. You can link it nicely with plenty of other countries too.

How safe is Cambodia for backpackers? In general Cambodia is a very safe and welcoming country to backpackers. However, like with all countries, you must exercise a degree of caution, especially when travelling alone or at night.

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