After I had come back from my volunteer trip from Thailand ( if you haven’t read the blog post, click here!), I had been thinking to go on another voyage. I signed up for the program in Cambodia shortly after I returned home. Why did I choose Cambodia? I always want to visit the country, and there are approximately 30 to 60 volunteer each month. So I figured it would be fun and easy to make friends there!
Now, let’s start this review with a video from IVHQ!
Check it out on IVHQ’s website. Click here!
Before I went to Cambodia, I was expecting the same situation from Thailand. And boy, was I wrong.
In Thailand, all volunteers worked and lived in the same location for one organization.
In Cambodia, the primary organization is CVF (Cambodia Volunteer Foundation), and they are responsible for pre-arrival questions and pickups. And CVF partners with more than 10 NGOs across Cambodia. (Which means you aren’t guaranteed to work at the same place with your travel pals!)
The content I shared below is from my experience. You might go to a different program, location, and city. As I mentioned before, IVHQ works with CVF and CVF partners with more than a dozen organizations across Cambodia!
CVF is in Phnom Penh which means all the new volunteers fly there ( or take a bus, or even walk, personally I took the bus from Saigon!) I already sent my arrival info to CVF couple weeks before, so they picked me up from my hostel the day before my program start!
The next day which was the orientation day revealed where I would go. And me, still in Phnom Penh! Most of the people who weren’t in Phnom Penh were going to Siem Reap, and some people were going to the small cities around.
My accommodation was a bit further outside the city center. But everything I needed, like beer shops and laundry shops, could be found around.
It usually cost 5$ (yes, people use US dollars there!) to the riverside on a tuk-tuk (where all the restaurants, bars, and the palace at.) It fit four people in a tuk-tuk, so it was pretty cheap!
There were four different dorms in Phnom Penh and allowed about 40 people in total so sometimes we all got together and spent the night somewhere in the city.
On a typical day, I finished work at 4:30. Dinner served at 6, and I would be ready to go out at 7. There are plenty of things offered in the city. I watched a traditional Cambodian dance show, visited a few bars, tried different restaurants and happy pizzas. If I weren’t outside, I would be chilling with others on the roof.
On the weekend, it just depends on you! There were so many things going on in Cambodia! Do you like the beach? Go south to Koh Rong! Or maybe prefer wildlife and hiking? Sign up for Mondulkiri tour! I spent a weekend in Siem Reap to visit Angkor Wat and another week in Phnom Penh!
I had to share the room with another girl, Jenny. The room is ensuite, absolutely no hot shower (not that I needed it since it was warm all the time), two fans, two single bed, and wifi which isn’t working most of the time.
In Cambodia, volunteers are responsible for getting to work by ourselves. I was lucky that I only lived ten minutes walk away from my school. Those who weren’t close to the worksite had to spend money on transportation every day.
The chef fed the volunteers two times a day, lunch and dinner.
There would be bread, spread, peanut butter, and fresh fruit for breakfast. Or I could cook an egg for myself if I am feeling extra hungry. Lunch and dinner were Cambodian traditional house dish. Rice and three different vegetables based dishes.
The good thing about living in the city is that we had easy access to supermarket, burger kings and restaurants. I felt guilty for going out so much at the time. But I had been traveling for six weeks, and I was craving for burgers.
Most of the volunteers purchased more food, such as milk, cereal, chocolate, beers and more beers.
I signed up for English teaching work. I worked at a place called “Happy School” which is an organization offered free education for kids whose parents couldn’t afford the public school. They also offered career training courses for teenagers. My work at the time is to teach basic English to grade 2 and practice conversational English with the teenagers.
The work wasn’t too difficult. The school already had teacher’s brochure for instructions and suggestions for class planning. The materials are easy and the kids are so smart and passionate about learning English.
Just be prepared that all the kids are always super excited, and it took a lot of energy and time to calm them down.
The best thing about this job is after the school is finished. Kids always rushed to me to hold my hands and we walked back to the volunteer house. After they got to their house, they always gave me a big hug! Even til now, 6 months after, I can still remember the smile on their face and it still melts my heart!
How Much Did I Spend?
Well, it’s the time to talk about the money now!
- Flight (Taipei to Saigon, Vietjet) $80USD
- Bus (Saigon to Phnom Penh) $14USD
- Visa (On-Arrival) $25USD
- Application fee ($472.5) + Registration Fee ($279 with 10% returning discount) = $724 USD
- Personal Expense for three weeks $200 USD
- Flight (Phnom Penh to Singapore $86, Singapore to Kaohsiung $150) $230USD
Total: $1,273 USD for a three-week trip to Cambodia!
BUT! This is not accurate since I fly into Saigon which is way cheaper than fly to Phnom Penh. At the time, there are several bombings in Thailand, so I had to give up my flight from Bangkok and get another flight from Cambodia (I didn’t count it in my total expense since it was the extreme occasion!)
My personal cost was mostly spent on transportation and accommodation to Siem Reap, Angkor Wat entry fee, and tours. I also spent quite a lot on drinking 😳
This is an excellent experience. Cambodia is a beautiful country with so much to offer, and Khmer people are kind and polite. This program gave me an opportunity to explore the country, live with locals and do some goods.
But, if I compare Thailand with Cambodia, I would go back to Thailand again. I felt something missing in Cambodia.
Maybe it’s the location, I expected to be in a more rural and remote place and turned out to be in the city. Maybe it’s the accommodation; I thought all volunteers would stay in a location, but we spread all around Cambodia. I am not saying the Cambodian program isn’t as good as Thailand. I just feel like it’s for very different people.
Outside of volunteering, Angkor Wat is truly the most amazing thing I have witnessed with my eyes. The southern coast is mostly untouched. The beach is so clean and calm, and it makes me want to stay there for eternal!
If you prefer an isolated place where all volunteers hang out together, go to Thailand.
If you prefer to stay in the city where you can go out to dine and have internet access everywhere, Cambodia!
And the last, if you decide to go on a volunteer trip with IVHQ, you can use my code “A77BB” to get $30 off!
(Here’s a selfie at the happy school! It was taken by a camera and I received the photo through e-mail. Felt strange for me to still do that in 2016!)