Sustainable Travel in Cambodia: Living Like a Local

Live like a local in Cambodia
Live like a local in Cambodia | © sbures/Depositphotos
Aviv Hochbaum

Is it possible to visit Cambodia without the negative consequences often associated with tourism? One quick answer can make a world of a difference—sustainable travel. If travelers take responsibility for how they affect not only the physical environment but also the people and culture, they can leave behind as small a footprint as possible. Not sure exactly where to start? Check out these four easy ways to blend in.

Buy a bike

A bike is one of the best ways to travel in Cambodia. Not only does it stop tourists from using fuel and contributing to traffic jams and air pollution, it’s also the only way to see some of the most interesting things outside city limits. How can you beat that?

Cycling in Cambodia

Homestay with a local family

By avoiding large hotel chains and all-inclusive resorts, any money tourists put into the economy stays local. As if that’s not enough, it also provides a great opportunity to learn about the culture and daily life in Cambodia.

Cambodian homestay with a local family

Eat local food at local restaurants

Avoid chains and imported foods, because they carry a larger carbon footprint. For sustainable travel, there’s nothing like eating the food that was grown and prepared by local people. Besides, what better way is there to learn about a place’s culture than by eating its authentic food?

Cambodian snacks

Know some proper Cambodian etiquette

Making merit by giving alms to monks

What do travelers need to know about Cambodian customs? Here are some basics:

• Stay calm. It’s considered very rude to show anger in public.

• No public displays of affection and take extra care when interacting with members of the opposite sex.

• Always bring a gift.

• Use only your right hand. The left hand is considered “dirty” and should only be used for things like using the bathroom.

• It’s considered rude to point.

• In Cambodia, because the head is the most sacred part of the body, never touch anyone on the head. Even children.
• When entering someone’s home or a temple, remove hats and shoes.

• If a Cambodian shakes hands, it’s appropriate to return the greeting. The traditional greeting, though, is to put both hands near the chin and bow slightly.

Responsibility & Respect in Cambodia

The biggest thing to remember about sustainable travel is to make the destination the focus of the trip. Be respectful. Be responsible. Rather than expecting the people and places to accommodate the tourist, the tourist needs to try to assimilate into the day to day life of the people who call Cambodia home.

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