Gap Year in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, once known as “The Pearl of Asia” is a chaotic mixture of disorganized traffic, fantastic local markets and the slowly creeping in cosmopolitan vibe of a large city. Sitting on the mighty Mekong River banks it will amaze and scare you, confuse and fascinate at the same time. You can dine on the roadside while 5 minutes later you’re sipping a fancy cocktail in one of the Riverside swanky bars. Phnom Penh is definitely a place to stop by if you want to discover Cambodian history and culture.


Phnom Penh is usually a 2-3 day stop on most backpacker routes. Worth visiting if you’re after experiencing a big city emerging from the dark past of Khmer Rouge regime and wanting to learn more about Cambodia’s history by visiting The Killing Fields and S-21 Prison.


Cambodia is one of the main destinations for those thinking of volunteering in SE Asia with Phom Penh being the main city together with Siem Reap. There are many options available with most of them focused on teaching English, helping local children get into education, supporting local communities and improving medical sector. For more information, visit Go Overseas's Volunteering in Cambodia page with volunteer programs and reviews.

Study Abroad

Although initially difficult to research, there are options of studying abroad in Cambodia available out there. You can usually apply for a study abroad program that will involve visiting historic and culturally important places that will give you an opportunity to discover Cambodia while studying. Have a look at Go Overseas's Study Abroad in Cambodia page for more information and inspiration.

Cost of Living in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is a relatively cheap place to visit for all Western tourists. US dollars are widely used and all menus and accommodation prices will be quoted in dollars. Small change (less than $1) is usually given in local currency notes. There are no coins in Cambodia.

There are plenty of good standard guesthouses and hotels in Phnom Penh. Prices for a double, air-conditioned room in a nice guesthouse average about $14-15.

Meals are relatively inexpensive setting you back as little as $5-6 for two for breakfast up to $10-14 for two for lunch or dinner for two if eaten in local restaurants or cafes. Street food is considerably cheaper.

You can hire a tuk tuk driver for a day for around $9-10 if you wish to visit The Killing Fields and S-21 prison.

Drinks like beer are cheap and usually cost around $1, cocktails in a nice bar will be considerably more. Prepare yourself to pay $5 plus for one.

While visiting local souvenir shops and markets, haggling is essential and part of the culture as anywhere else in SE Asia.

Contributed by Marta Napierala

Showing 9 Programs

International Volunteer HQ - IVHQ
Volunteers are needed in Cambodia to join a range of highly affordable projects for durations ranging from 2 weeks to 24 week...
Projects Abroad
Projects Abroad has been sending volunteers abroad since 1992. This is your chance to have a direct impact on the lives of th...
Projects Abroad
Projects Abroad is proud to offer a wide variety of excellent internships in Cambodia. Opportunities include Medicine, Journa...
Operation Groundswell
You might’ve heard of this region’s 30 cent street pad thai, deep-fried tarantulas, and bucket-fuelled dance parties. Sure en...
Plan My Gap Year
PMGY offers 2-week to 6-month volunteering opportunities in the charismatic capital city of Phnom Penh. Volunteers get involv...
Love Volunteers
Join Love Volunteers and work with their partner NGOs in Cambodia! With poverty as a main concern, there is plenty of volunte...
The Leap
Join a team of Leap volunteers, heading out to Cambodia, to protect endangered elephants, build fresh water wells in rural vi...
Volunteering Journeys
How about an alternative winter, spring or summer break that gives you life's best moments but also gives you an opportunity...
Real Gap Experience
Full of history, beauty and enchantment, Cambodia welcomes hundreds of adventurers and gap year travelers every year. This th...