This guidance is designed to describe appropriate clothing, the cultural context where you will be living and working, and the professional expectations of your workplace.
As you decide what to bring, keep in mind there is a 100-pound weight limit on checked baggage.
In general, most items you will need are available in country and locally acquired items are often the best at helping you integrate into your community. However, locally available items may not be the brands, quality, prices, or sizes you are used to. Bringing some key items from home might make your transition to service more comfortable.
This guidance has been compiled by Peace Corps staff and Volunteers and is based on their experience. Use this information as an informal guide as you make your own packing list, bearing in mind that each experience is individual. There is no perfect packing list!
This packing guidance is designed to help you think through different categories of items and consider what you might want to bring, considering work expectations, cultural considerations, and your own personal preferences.
Cambodia’s climate is defined by seasonal monsoon winds. The Cool season runs from November to February, the hot season is from March to May, and the rainy season goes from June through October. Average temperatures range from around 75 degrees in the cooler months to 95 degrees over the hottest portions of the year. Light, loose clothing can help mitigate the heat. Though it is hot, many Cambodians wear long sleeves shirts and pants to help avoid the harmful rays of the sun.
Peace Corps Cambodia provides the following items:
- Bedding (local mattress, fitted sheet, and blanket)
- Bicycle helmet
- Bicycle maintenance equipment (including handpump and lock)
- Mosquito net
- Medical kit
- Water filter
- Storage trunk with lock
- “non-smart” cell phone
- Smoke/CO2 detector
- Fire extinguisher
Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take:
- Radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted)
- Automobiles or motorcycles
- Flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers
- Valuables such as precious jewelry or family heirlooms
Do not bring any drug that has not been authorized by the Peace Corps for medical purposes without prior consultation with Office of Health Services Pre-Service. This includes prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Illicit drugs, including marijuana and related products such as CBD and herbal substances such as kratom, are prohibited during Peace Corps service, even if they are legal in your home of residence. If you use, possess, or distribute illicit drugs, you will be administratively separated from service.
Below is guidance on clothing expectations and cultural norms for work as well as leisure and recreation.
Cambodians tend to dress conservatively and place a high value on personal appearance and cleanliness, both at work and during leisure activities. Low-cut, tight, or revealing clothing is inappropriate for most settings in Cambodia, especially in rural areas.
Laundry is done primarily by hand and white clothing may be difficult to fully clean at site.
Clothing in larger sizes, including bras and underwear, may be difficult to find outside of the capital or provincial towns. It is recommended to bring extra of these items in case they are difficult to find.
Education volunteers are expected to wear clean, professional clothes while working. Teachers wear sampots (traditional, Cambodian skirts) or dress pants with collared, button-down shirts or blouses.
Because PST is a very busy time, it is best to bring at least one week’s worth of professional clothing. PST will include 2 weeks of practicum teaching, during which, Trainees will be required to wear attire appropriate for teaching in a classroom. Jackets and ties are not required but Volunteers might want to wear them during formal events such as the swearing-in ceremony at the end of PST and meeting local government officials.
Gender norms in the communities where Volunteers serve may be more rigid than Volunteers are used to. Men and women are expected to conform to different dress codes by gender. Many schools have a uniform, however the minimum dress code for teaching includes:
- Collared, button-down shirt (not polo) or collared blouse (for women). Short sleeve shirts are acceptable, but long sleeves must be worn to cover any arm tattoos.
- Professional trousers or slacks for men
- Sampot (traditional long skirt) for women - Peace Corps staff will facilitate a field trip to purchase these during PST
- Dress shoes or sandals. If sandals are worn at work, they MUST have a backstrap.
Volunteers in the Peace Corps office or attending Peace Corps sponsored training events are expected to wear:
- Collared shirt (polos are fine)
- Professional trousers or slacks (not jeans or yoga pants)
- Skirts (below the knee)
- Close-toed shoes or sandals with a backstrap
Leisure and recreational clothing
Cambodians dress modestly around the house and while engaging in leisure activities. Keep casual clothing culturally appropriate (sleeveless or low-cut shirts and shorts above the knee are inappropriate for most parts of Cambodia, though they can be seen in more touristy areas). Yoga pants can be worn but generally in combination with a long shirt or similar article of clothing to ensure modesty.
Swimwear in Cambodia is also modest compared to that in America. Two-piece bathing suits are uncommon outside of tourist beaches and inappropriate for rural areas. Cambodian people will often swim fully clothed.
Culturally appropriate leisurewear includes:
- Jeans/comfortable pants
- Rain jacket
- Athletic/sport pants
- Shorts (appropriate to wear during the weekend when at home)
- Underwear (bring lots)
- Shower shoes or lights sandals
Generally, shoes are not worn inside the house or in some buildings such as wats or temples. People with shoe sizes over 10.5 (43 UK sizing) might have trouble finding shoes outside of Phnom Penh or other large cities. At work, teachers wear dress shoes or sandals. If worn for teaching, sandals MUST have a backstrap. Outside of work, many Volunteers prefer to wear sandals. During the rainy season, roads and pathways are often flooded and muddy. Sandals or other footwear designed for walking in water and mud are essential. Many Volunteers also bring tennis or running shoes for exercise or other activities.
Recommended footwear to bring includes:
- Dress shoes
- Sandals (with a backstrap)
- Flipflops for shower or around house (can be purchased in-country)
- Running shoes, sneakers, or athletic footwear
You should bring a three-month supply of any prescription and/or over the counter medications you use that are authorized/approved by the Peace Corps.
Note: Prior to service, Peace Corps supplies all volunteers with a medical kit containing basic, over-the-counter medications, as well as multivitamins.
The medical unit will replenish prescriptions after the initial three-month training.
If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs (of the current prescription) with you. Contact lens use will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Additional guidance for Cambodia:
Many skincare products in Cambodia have bleach or other whitening agents added (many French pharmacies will have at least a small selection of non-bleaching skincare products). Sunscreen can also be difficult to find without skin whiteners and can be expensive.
Volunteers with curly or kinky hair might also have difficulty finding haircare/styling products. Bring a supply from home for the first few months.
Volunteers who menstruate may have difficulty finding their preferred hygiene products. It is recommended that Volunteers bring a small supply for the first three months. Pads are widely available; however, tampons are uncommon, especially in rural areas. Volunteers can choose to either receive menstruation products from the Peace Corps Medical Unit or receive a monthly supplement in their allowance to purchase products themselves. Once you are in Cambodia, please consult with the Peace Corps Medical Officers to determine which option to choose.
Recommended items to bring include:
- Good quality sunscreen (with a high SPF)
- Tampons, sanitary pads or Diva cup
- Aloe or after-sun lotion (Peace Corps does not provide this)
- Nail clippers/nail file
- Razors (men are expected to be clean shaven)
- Shaving cream (hard to find and expensive in Cambodia)
- Towel(s)/washcloth(s) (can be found in country, but helpful to have with you upon arrival)
- Haircare products (especially for curly or kinky hair)
- Floss (Peace Corps provides some, but you may want better quality)
Most volunteers in Cambodia have access to electricity at their sites, however it may be intermittent or inconsistent at times.
Electronic devices are not required for service in Cambodia. However, volunteers who have brought electronics such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets have found them useful. In Cambodia the standard voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. Power plug sockets are of type A, C, and G. Because of this, some electronics may require a voltage or plug adapter.
Most electronics are available in-country; however, some brands (Apple) may be more expensive or harder to find. It can be difficult to replace laptop chargers or other specialized pieces of equipment. Consider bringing a spare if possible.
Recommended electronics include:
- Unlocked cell phone that accepts SIM cards
- Cambodia-compatible adapter
- Cambodia-appropriate converter
- Digital camera
- USB flash drive. USB-A ports are still standard in Cambodia. USB-C is rare.
- Rechargeable headlamp or flashlight. Bring extra batteries if not rechargeable.
Based on your interests and personal preferences there may be additional items you will want to consider bringing with you. Below is a description of the common activities Volunteers engage in and what different Volunteers have said they enjoy having that might be more difficult to find in-country. Note: these items are not required or even recommended, but they might be nice to have.
In Cambodia, many Volunteers participate in recreational activities in their community such as riding bikes, swimming, volleyball, or soccer. Other volunteers spend their time at site reading, cooking, or hanging out with their host family. Aside from bringing items for activities such as these, Volunteers have recommended bringing the following:
- Portable battery
- Reusable water bottle
- 30+ decibel earplugs
- Musical instrument
- Resistance bands or other lightweight exercise equipment (i.e. yoga mat)