DO’S AND DON’TS OF STAYING IN A HOMESTAY IN CAMBODIA
Some of the most magical experiences you will have whilst travelling in Cambodia will be made during your visit at a community based homestay. Not only, you will have the chance to feel completely immersed into a local culture, but also you will be able to experience Cambodian hospitality, the kind you feel when you’re at home.
Homestays are becoming an increasingly popular option with more of the conscious travelers. There are a few reasons for this… one being the raw exchange of culture and tradition, the second being the contribution you can make to sustainable development for rural poor communities. Homestays not only offer you a unique unforgettable experience but also, they make a difference to the lives of others.
HERE ARE SOME TIPS ON HOW TO MAKE THE BEST OUT OF YOUR HOMESTAY EXPERIENCE
- Prepare for your trip – Spend some time reading about the area of Cambodia you are going to visit, the place you are going to stay, research what is provided in the homestay. Don’t expect to find the same amenities as a hotel.
- Be open minded – Trying to understand the local culture is important because all cultures are different. People have different traditions, different rules and different ideas about what is acceptable behavior and what is not so acceptable. To learn more – see our article
- Leave your comfort zone behind – Often travelers feel disappointed because they feel a homestay was not comfortable enough, or not what they are used to back home. We are sorry to hear that, but please be mindful that homestays are not hotels. They are a place where you live like the locals live.
- Communicate with the family – Language barriers can be difficult to overcome when staying in a homestay but it’s important to try and communicate as much as possible with your host. It’s a great way to learn little bit of Khmer and it helps the host to improve their English.
- Be aware of the seasonal difference – Rainy and dry seasons are becoming increasing extreme in South-East Asia, so be aware of the local differences between the seasons. The greatest impact it has is the access to the site, a trip that might take 30min in a dry season might take 1,5 hours in the rainy season. Ask the local community for advice on what possible to do during the season you are visiting. Bring a good raincoat and appropriate shoes during the rainy season.
- Dress appropriately – Most rural Cambodian are traditional, so please wear conservative clothing – women – knee-length skirts or short/trousers and no bare shoulders, men – T-shirts (no vests) and knee-length shorts. We know it is hot, but remember you are not on a beach! You are staying in someone’s house, so please try to respect their culture and traditions.
- Come prepared – There are few essential you should always bring with you – torch/ light (do not rely on your mobile phone as you might not be able to charge it in the house), mosquito repellent, sun cream, hat and sunglasses. When packing clothing, bring practical clothing as it can get easily dirty during your adventures.
- Bring small change – Most local families live on less than $100 per month, so they will not have change for your large bills.
- Toilet facilities – Most Cambodian household will have squatting toilets instead of western toilets, bucket showers instead of head showers. At some places, you might need to take shower outside, so be prepared and bring with you a sarong/ piece of cloth you can wrap around yourself… feeling lost, just observe the locals and learn how best to take shower outdoors.
- Geckos, spiders, mosquitos and other insects – We promise there will be plenty of them! Expect few geckos or spiders in your room, they are not dangerous so don’t worry. In the evening, you will be mostly sitting indoors, so bring light/thin cotton clothing with long sleeves and trousers and good mosquito repellent.
- Shoes – In Cambodia, you never wear shoes indoors, so please remove your shoes before you enter the house. Do not take them inside with you, leave them outside. The same goes for outdoor toilets, no outdoor shoes inside the toilet structure… look for “communal” pair of shoes outside, that can be taken inside.
- Leave a review – It’s easy to forget the impact we can make when we take a short time to leave a review of our experience. Your reviews are really one of the small things you can do to help your hosts. Some tourists only leave reviews when something is wrong, complaining about a bad experience…. So, try to be different and leave a review when something is right, when you had a good time and enjoyed your stay. Remember, every good review is an opportunity for your host to have more visitors, that in turn helps to provide more income for their families. So as a gesture of appreciation, why not leave a positive review for some other traveler to read.
Remember visiting a community based tourism project is an opportunity to live for a few days in a completely new environment, developing empathy and understanding towards a different way of life. So, leave your comfort zone behind, even if only for a night and experience life in someone else’s shoes.