Take the road less traveled by choosing Cambodia as your destination for high school abroad. Filled with friendly and always smiling people, Cambodia is rife with history and compelling stories.
Cambodia gained independence in 1953 and has been evolving ever since. Furthermore, the country is multilingual; though Khmer is Cambodia's official language, many speak English, Chinese, and even some French.
By choosing to do high school abroad in Cambodia, students will be inspired by this small Southeast Asian country and the powerful message it has to offer to its visitors.
Cambodia is best for students who are history buffs, language lovers, interested in volunteer work, and also want to explore a developing country in Southeast Asia.
Volunteer and service learning programs are the most common options available, though they can be limited. Students have the option to work with children (i.e. by teaching English) or build infrastructure such as homes, schools, and water wells. Discover more tips about short-term volunteering in Cambodia.
Cultural immersion programs and teen travel programs are best for students that want to see various parts of the country and immerse themselves into Cambodian culture. Because it is such a small country, students can easily travel to a wide variety of destinations and get the full picture of Cambodia’s history, culture, people, and lifestyle.
Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia, attracting many students as one of the country's most popular hubs. Siem Reap is another famous location as it houses the world's largest religious monument, Angkor Wat, drawing millions of visitors each year. For those less interested in city life, students can be placed in Cambodia's many rural areas as well.
Student visa requirements
A one-month tourist visa costs $30 on arrival and requires one passport-sized photo (and can be extended when in country). You can obtain them via your home country’s embassy and should do so at least a month in advance before your departure for Cambodia. Don't forget your passport!
While most accommodations in Cambodia are fairly minimal, they are enjoyable in their simplicity. Wi-Fi and air conditioning might not be provided, so keep that in mind. Homestays are the most popular option when staying in one place (for example, when volunteering), but hostels and hotels are options when on travel tours.
As developing country, Cambodia is very affordable to visitors from Western countries. Local meals and street eats are much cheaper than the still wallet-friendly restaurant options and can range from $1-3. Students should plan to budget around $20-30 per day after the costs of their programs. Find more budgeting tips for Cambodia on Lonely Planet.
Due to its humid and hot climate, head to Cambodia between November and March when it is considered “cooler” and drier, reflecting almost Mediterranean temperatures. Be sure to pack:
- Lightweight clothing (modest enough for temple visits); long sleeves and long trousers or skirts are preferred
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Bug spray
- Shoes that are easy to slip on and off
- A 230V power adapter for electronics and blow dryers
Note: People from Cambodia typically dress more conservatively than Western countries, so be sure to brush up on Cambodian etiquette before you go.
The CDC recommends all routine vaccinations as well as the following before traveling to Cambodia: Diphtheria, Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Polio, Tuberculosis, and Typhoid. Be sure to carry proof of your vaccinations while in the country. You should not go to Cambodia without having health insurance as medical aid is very primitive there. Don't be scared -- most travelers experience an upset stomach at worst, which can be treated with some Pepto Bismol.
That being said, be careful with what you eat. You cannot safely drink tap water and ice unless you are certain they are purified -- stick to reputable brands of bottled water or soft drinks with unbroken seals. Tea and coffee are generally fine if they've been boiled beforehand. Fruits and vegetables are safer washed with purified water and/or peeled.
Though Cambodia is pretty safe for tourists nowadays, the most important thing to remember while in Cambodia is to stay on marked paths in remote areas (due to landmines that are in the country from past wars). Besides that, petty theft is the most common concern, particularly during major festivals. You should always keep your valuables near your body (if you are even carrying them with you in the first place).