Cambodia

Cambodia flag

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

Peace Corps Cambodia’s mailing address during pre-service training (PST) is as follows:

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

Towards the end of PST, Volunteers will be given information for provincial P.O. Box information for their permanent sites. After PST, mail should be sent directly to the Volunteer’s provincial P.O. Box mailing address.

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 may 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. All homes have electricity (220 volts current) and indoor plumbing, including toilets and cold water showers. Electricity is available at every site, but temporary blackouts are common. Drinking water must be boiled, filtered, or purchased. Other basic amenities such as soap, shampoo, hair conditioner, lotion, stationery, sodas, and instant coffee are commonly available in shops.

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. 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. Fish and other seafood are also important components of the Cambodian diet. Fish or fish sauce/paste is in most dishes. Vegetarians and vegans can get by 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. A gluten free diet can also be difficult to maintain in Cambodia because many commonly used sauces such as soy sauce, fish sauce, and oyster sauce contain gluten. Living and eating with a host family can make it difficult to accommodate dietary restrictions and preferences. 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. Food stalls offer reasonably priced cooked food and are open from early morning until evening. 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

During pre-service training (PST) and at your permanent site, your primary mode of transportation will be by bicycle. Peace Corps Cambodia provides a bike and helmet to each Volunteer for travel to work, for errands, and pleasure. You will have a bike during PST and will receive training in bike maintenance and repair. Wearing your helmet while biking is mandatory. The intercity transportation system in Cambodia is generally good. One can travel between provincial towns, major district towns and Phnom Penh via air-conditioned buses on paved roads. Between provincial towns and district towns, Cambodians travel by van, tuk tuk, or pickup truck. These smaller conveyances are less organized and likely to be crowded. Additionally, the roads are smaller in size with two-way traffic, and they can be dangerous, especially after dark and/or when the visibility is poor (for example during the rainy season). As such, after-dark travel between provinces and towns is strictly prohibited. Finding a consistent means of transportation to and from your site may be a challenge, especially in the early months of service. Locals travel predominantly by motorbike in Phnom Penh and throughout Cambodia. However, as a Peace Corps Volunteer, travel by motorbike is strictly forbidden due to the high rate of traffic accidents involving motorbikes. Volunteers’ main mode of travel in urban areas such as Phnom Penh will be by foot, bicycle, or tuk tuk. The central part of Phnom Penh is relatively small, and it’s easy to get to most places by walking.

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. Teachers are seen as role models in the community and Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to follow the same standards of professional appearance and behavior as the teachers in their host schools. Professional dress for men includes slacks, collared button-down shirts, and neat shoes (no flip-flops). Professional dress for women includes collared blouses and shirts, traditional long skirts called sampots, and 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.