Work and Travel in Cambodia
VOLUNTEER AND PAID WORK OPPORTUNITIES IN CAMBODIA FOR TRAVELLERS
Cambodia is part of the traditional backpacking trail in Southeast Asia. Every year thousands of tourists come to visit Cambodia, often from Thailand. Volunteering in Cambodia has become something of its own fully-fledged industry. If you want to work in Cambodia you can do it, but bear in mind that most reputable volunteering organisations ask for volunteers to stay for at least six months to a year.
The main line of work you’ll find if you want to work and travel in Cambodia is working at orphanages. This is year-round work that regularly accepts tourists as volunteers. You can stay for as little as a few days to a few months. The problem with this line of work is that a lot of orphanages aren’t genuine. The children there often have living parents and were sent away purely to make money.
If you do want to work in Cambodia helping children orphaned from the horrific aftermath of Pol Pot’s genocide, make sure you do your research first. Find a reputable orphanage before you decide to work and travel in Cambodia. You don’t want to support a morally reprehensible industry when you come to work in Cambodia.
Many volunteers will also choose to work with elephants in Cambodia. Again, this is another type of backpacker job in Cambodia that happens all year round. As previously mentioned, make sure you do your research. Not every elephant sanctuary treats the elephants in the right way. Some are just tourist traps for westerners. You’ll increase your chances of working at a great sanctuary if you already have skills in working with animals.
With that out of the way, this guide is going to introduce you to some of the seasonal work in Cambodia that you can do this year.
VOLUNTEER WORK VISA / PERMIT REQUIREMENTS FOR CAMBODIA
The Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for issuing visas to foreigners. The situation regarding volunteers and their visas is unclear. Although there are many stories of travellers volunteering in Cambodia on tourist visas, some government officials claim this is illegal. The messages coming from the government are extremely mixed and seem to differ from person to person.
The difference between a tourist visa and a business visa (which once can upgrade to), is nothing but a few dollars. We recommend getting the business visa for a few dollars more purely to make sure that you don’t run into any trouble if your host happens to be inspected during your time there.
Only other regional countries have access to visa-free rules for Cambodia. All Europeans, Americans, Australians, Russians, and people from New Zealand who want to work in Cambodia have two options. They can either apply for an eVisa online in advance of their trip or they can obtain a visa on arrival.
You should watch the visa regime carefully as tourism industry representatives mentioned in 2015 that they were considering a move to extend visa-free tourist visas, in response to similar moves from other countries in the region.
SEASONAL BACKPACKER SKILLS NEEDED IN CAMBODIA
Spring is the low season in Cambodia and can be one of the worst times to work in Cambodia. Most of the country is melting under extremely high levels of humidity and many roads are blocked due to flash flooding around the country. As far as spring work in Cambodia goes, you will do best if you have specialist skills.
International organisations are highly active this time of year. You’ll find conservation organisations in areas like the Ream National Park and charitable organisations in cities like Phnom Penh. Spring is where new batches of volunteers tend to be hired by these organisations.
Skilled working travellers who want to work and travel in Cambodia will find it much easier to find work with international organisations. The influx of unskilled backpackers has meant that these organisations are more selective than ever before.
The summer season of Cambodia represents the shoulder season. It’s wet in most parts of the country, but it’s also one of the most beautiful times of year to visit as the hills turn an emerald green. The summer in Cambodia will bring more people to the resorts of the south. This provides ample opportunity to start picking up some seasonal work in the tourism sector.
Many of the tropical islands of the south have become home to guesthouses run by foreigners in recent years. You’ll find plenty of self-sufficient eco lodges that are always looking for a spare pair of hands. If you want to work and travel in Cambodia you could help out with DIY, gardening, or just showing guests around.
The second shoulder season of the year takes place during the autumn season. Autumn work in Cambodia mainly centres around teaching English to poorer children throughout the country. There are no geographical restrictions as to where these schools are located. You’ll find them scattered around the country
Autumn is just before the main tourist season and is where the majority of skills want to have their staff ready for when many children will be attending these schools. Apply to teach English in Cambodia as far in advance as possible to increase your chances of being accepted.
Winter in Cambodia is the high season and is when you’ll encounter most tourists heading for the Southeast Asia backpacking trails. There are no specific winter travel jobs in Cambodia (such as working in guesthouses) outside of the tourism industry. You’ll find many of the jobs detailed in the previous sections still available, and potentially in greater numbers.
ATTITUDE TO FOREIGNERS WORKING OR VOLUNTEERING IN CAMBODIA
Volunteering in Cambodia has become something of a national industry. There’s no corner of the country that hasn’t been touched by foreigners working in Cambodia. If you want to work in Cambodia you’ll have no problems working alongside the locals. You may want to bear in mind that for basic labouring jobs in Cambodia you could be taking work away from an impoverished local community.