Cambodia

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

Peace Corps Cambodia’s mailing address is as follows:

(Your Name)
Peace Corps
P.O. Box 2453
Phnom Penh 3
Kingdom of Cambodia 

Please ensure that senders do not write “c/o U.S. Embassy” in the mailing address. Unauthorized mail and packages inadvertently routed to or through the embassy will be rejected and returned to sender.

Telephones

Peace Corps/Cambodia issues basic cellphones to trainees during pre-service training, to keep for the duration of their two years of service. These phones are essential for communication in emergency situations. Additionally, some trainees bring smartphones from the U.S. that are unlocked and can function in Cambodia. Volunteers are personally responsible for their phones, and must pay for repairs and/or replacements if they are damaged or lost.

Internet

Internet access during pre-service training is limited and you should not expect daily access. Only half of the training sites have Internet cafes and price and speed vary considerably. After pre-service training, a majority of Volunteers have the ability to access the Internet on a daily basis.Some Volunteers find a computer to be a vital organizational tool for creating lesson plans, storing photos, listening to music, or writing letters. Even if electricity is not available in your area, you will be able to power your computer by car battery. Many cellphone providers have Internet packages through a USB modem, or Internet packages are available on unlocked smartphones.

Housing and Site Location

Peace Corps/Cambodia Volunteers live with host families throughout their service. A few Volunteers live in provincial towns, however, most live in smaller villages. Some homes have electricity (220 volts current) and indoor plumbing, including toilets and cold water showers. Electricity is not available at every site. Drinking water must be boiled, filtered, or purchased. Other basic amenities such as soap, shampoo, hair conditioner, lotion, stationery, sodas, and instant coffee are available.

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.

Food and Diet

Rice is extremely important to Khmer culture, and Volunteers may be surprised by the amount of rice they are expected to eat. It is important to remember that the offering of rice is an intrinsic part of Cambodian hospitality. For example, you might have rice with some type of meat for breakfast, fried rice or noodles with or without meat during lunch, and rice with curry or stir-fried vegetables for dinner. Food stalls offer reasonably priced cooked food and are open from early morning until evening. Vegetarians can survive in Cambodia, but may find it difficult to maintain a strict diet, especially in some social contexts. In some areas, it may also be difficult to get enough protein without eating meat or fish. Living and eating with a host family may also complicate attempts to adhere to strict vegetarianism. Volunteers eat at least one meal a day with their host families—some eat all their meals with the family— and the majority of Volunteers do not cook for themselves. As with so many aspects of your daily life, in order to thrive as a Volunteer in Cambodia you will need to maintain a flexible attitude about food.

Transportation

Transportation in Phnom Penh and most provincial towns is predominantly by motorbike (moto), tuk-tuk (a small carriage pulled by a moto), cyclo (a bike with a chair in front), bicycle, or on foot. The central part of Phnom Penh is relatively small, and walking is quite pleasant, especially along the river. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you are not allowed to ride on motorbikes. Your main mode of transportation will be bikes and tuk-tuks.. The intercity transportation system in Cambodia is good. One can travel between provincial towns and Phnom Penh via air-conditioned buses on paved roads. Between provincial towns and district towns Cambodians travel by van or pickup truck. These smaller conveyances are less organized and likely to be crowded. Additionally, the roads are sometimes very bad, especially during the rainy season. Finding a consistent means of transportation to and from your site may be a challenge, especially in the early months of service. Peace Corps Cambodia provides a bike and bicycle helmet to each Volunteer for travel to work, for errands, and pleasure. You will have a bike during pre-service training and will receive training in bike maintenance and repair. Wearing your helmet while biking is mandatory.

Social Activities

Cambodians spend a lot of time socializing with their families. As most houses in rural areas are built on stilts, you will see many families passing the time under the house during the hottest part of the day. Cambodian women generally socialize in and around the home. Cambodian men often socialize outside the home, playing sports, shooting pool, drinking, and playing cards or chess in cafés. Some activities that are popular with men are associated with gambling, and are therefore not appropriate activities for Volunteers to participate in with students. In keeping with its goal of cross-cultural exchange, the Peace Corps expects Volunteers to establish social networks with Cambodian friends and colleagues at their sites rather than seek out other Volunteers for social activities. You will spend much of your free time socializing with your Cambodian colleagues and neighbors, eating, and attending Cambodian festivals, weddings, and other cultural events. Your ability to adjust to and enjoy this kind of social life will be an important aspect of your success as a Volunteer and will enhance your ability to be effective in your work.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Cambodians dress neatly and take great personal pride in appearances. Following this example as a Volunteer will increase your effectiveness and credibility in the community. First impressions in Cambodia are extremely important. Peace Corps Volunteers, especially teachers, will be seen as role models. Appropriate professional dress for men includes slacks, collared short-sleeved shirts, and neat shoes (no flip-flops). For women, blouses (with collars) and long skirts are appropriate for work, with closed-toe shoes or shoes/sandals with back straps (no flip-flops). Sleeveless, transparent, tight and/or low-cut tops are inappropriate. Shorts can be worn around the house and to play sports, but they are not worn in professional settings. Male Volunteers should be aware that long hair, beards, mustaches, and earrings are generally not worn by Cambodian teachers or professionals and are considered to be inappropriate, particularly in the rural provinces. Multiple-pierced ears and visible body piercings or tattoos are not generally accepted in professional settings. If you have tattoos, be prepared to wear clothing that will cover them. Additionally, shaved heads may cause unwanted attention; in Cambodia, a shaved head means you are becoming a monk or that you are mourning the loss of a close family member.