Welcome to Cambodia! You will arrive into Phnom Penh and begin your journey in the Kingdom of Wonder.
Join our amazing local staff as they take you off-the-beaten path in your exploration of the Kingdom of Wonder. Walk among the bustling streets of Phnom Penh and visit its historical sites to learn about Cambodia’s past. Relax on beautiful beaches in Sihanoukville and journey across the mountains and jungles of Cambodia’s northeast provinces. Work on infrastructure initiatives at local schools across Cambodian’s rural countryside and visit floating villages along the Tonle Sap Lake. End your trip in Siem Reap, soaking in the breathtaking Cambodian Circus and the awe-inspiring ancient temples of Angkor Wat.
With our No Anxiety Escrow Policy, you cancel for any reason up until the day of travel, and escrow 100% of the program fees for up to two years from the cancellation date.Read More
Relax and prepare for a world-class trip on Singapore Airlines. Prior to your departure, you will have received your pre-departure packet, which will include your Rustic t-shirts, flight information, and important contact information. Once you arrive at your international departure city, our Airport Coordinator will help you get checked in to your international flight. Here you’ll meet your Flight Leader, who will escort you all the way to Singapore! From Singapore, you’ll hop on another short flight with your group members and a Flight Leader to Cambodia, the Kingdom of Wonder! Our Flight Leaders are most often schoolteachers or good friends of our organization who happily fill this role for us each year. Once you’re checked in, feel free to relax and get acquainted with your new friends before boarding your flight to Southeast Asia!
Today is lost as you cross the international dateline. Fear not – you will get this time back on your way home.
Welcome to Phnom Penh! As you exit airport customs, your Rustic Pathways Program Leaders will be waiting just outside in the arrival area. Climb into a private van to the hotel, enjoying your first glimpse of Cambodia’s capital. Nestled on the banks of three great Southeast Asian rivers – the Mekong, Tonle Sap, and Bassac rivers – the frenetic streets of Phnom Penh provide a fascinating window into Cambodian culture. According to legend, this vibrant city was founded by a nun, Lady Penh, in the 14th century and became the country’s capital some 100 years later. From its power as a prominent market hub for European traders and eventual French colonization, to Khmer independence, to domination by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, Phnom Penh has seen its fair share of turbulence and unrest. As you ride through the motorcycle-choked streets and catch glimpses of busy marketplaces, know that you are witnessing a new era of growth and change for this beautiful and special country. Freshen up and head out to explore the city and try your first taste of delicious Cambodian food. Your Program Leaders will also hold an orientation so that you can get a real grasp of what you’ll be seeing and experiencing in the next two weeks.
Rise and shine for your first full day in Cambodia. Grab some Khmer breakfast and begin your tour of the country. Head south to the beautiful Khmer coast and visit Kampong Saom province, home of the beachside towns. Stop along the coast for a delicious seafood lunch and head over to the quiet and peaceful Otres Beach, which will be your home for the next couple of nights. Rest, relax, and go for a swim. After a local-style dinner, chill out, play some cards, and dig your feet in the sand before heading to bed.
The sounds of breaking waves and crowing roosters will let you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. Hop aboard a boat for a three-island tour, complete with snorkeling and an island lunch! Tonight help our Cambodian local staff prepare a delicious seafood barbecue and watch the breathtaking sunset over the Gulf of Thailand.
Spend your last morning relaxing at Otres Beach and then hop in the vans to head back to Phnom Penh, where you will spend the night along the riverside.
Start the day with a full tour of Cambodia’s busy capital. Your first destination is the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former school that was used as a torture and interrogation prison under the Khmer Rouge. The building has now been converted into a museum to educate visitors about the genocide that occurred here. Visit the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek where you walk through the quiet and peaceful fields that were once the site of mass killings and burials during the genocide. While difficult to process at times, these sites are important landmarks in Cambodian history and allow you to put the contemporary Cambodia in perspective. For lunch, head to famous Russian market and do a little shopping before exploring the grounds of the extravagant Royal Palace. Cool off with a sunset cruise out to Koh Dach Island, known for its silk farms and handmade goods.
Today it’s off to Kampong Cham province for your first village homestay and service experience. Over the next couple of days, you will get to immerse yourself in daily countryside life. Partake in a community service initiative at a local primary school, where you will assist with projects designed to improve the school’s grounds.
Rise early to begin your trip into the rugged mountains and jungle of Cambodia’s northeast! Hop in the vans and work your way to Mondulkiri Province, the home to the majority of Cambodia’s remaining elephant population. You will notice that Mondulkiri is nothing like the Cambodia you’ve seen so far. Surrounded by misty mountains and jungle, this will be your home for the next few days! Head over to the local school where you will be working on impactful construction projects, like building pathways around the schools, putting up fencing, and planting sustainable gardens. Don’t worry, there will always be some time for a friendly game of volleyball with the students too! For lunches, you may head to Bou Sra waterfall or a local coffee plantation and feast on a traditional Khmer meal complete with local fruit that you will be sure to love!
Now it’s time to really get off the map as you head into the jungle to spend the next two days and one night visiting the Elephant Valley Project. The Elephant Valley Project is a sanctuary that aims to improve the health and welfare of captive elephants, while working to conserve wild elephant’s natural habitat and support the local people who share the land. The sanctuary is used as a place for local families to bring their elephants to receive veterinary care and rehabilitation and as a retirement home for older elephants. Spend the days observing and learning about these gentle giants in their natural habitat, while also conducting service to help maintain and develop the site as an elephant care facility. Spend the night at the sanctuary’s base deep within the jungle as you get to know the mahouts who look after the elephants and gain insight into the daily life of the local ethnic Bunong communities that live there.
Say goodbye to Mondulkiri and make your way to the most remote province in all of Cambodia, called Ratanakiri. “Ratana” meaning gem and “kiri” meaning mountain, this province is one of the most sparsely populated regions of Cambodia, preserving its natural beauty. Take in the spectacular scenery of this area by exploring beautiful waterfalls and taking a refreshing dip in a lake that occupies a 4,000-year-old-volcanic crater!
After your final breakfast in peaceful Ratanakiri, it’s time to journey onward to Siem Reap, home of Angkor Wat! Grab some lunch and have a relaxing afternoon on the town. Siem Reap is an easy city to fall in love with, especially while strolling through the famous night markets for some evening shopping and local souvenirs.
Hop on board our very own Rustic Pathways boat for the next stop on our adventure that will really make you feel like you are off the map! Before you begin your trip into the floating villages of rural Cambodia, make a stop at a local market to buy food, supplies, and service materials for your time on the water. As you cruise up the river during the morning hours, you will see a whole new way of life in the floating villages on the way. Families cook their morning meal aboard their floating houses and set out nets to reel in the day’s catch. School children, dressed in white shirts and blue shorts wave excitedly as they begin their day. Your nightly accommodations will consist of traditional floating village homestays. Settle in with your accommodating host family before heading out to explore the village. Life here is simple but the people are incredibly hospitable and will share everything they can with you.
During your time in Prek Toal, students will be assisting with our Housing Improvement initiative, which was designed in partnership with the local community and seeks to construct and upgrade homes in need of repair.
Upon returning to Siem Reap, head to the beautiful, refreshing, and historically important Phnom Kulen Mountain and waterfall amid the ruins of the Angkor civilization. This scenic mountain isn’t just a great place to swim and enjoy nature; it is also the birthplace of the ancient Khmer Empire that developed Angkor Wat. King Jayayarma II proclaimed independence here and many of the area’s ancient rock carvings are present. This is an amazing place to visit and learn about Cambodian culture. Tonight head back into town where you will visit Phare, The Cambodian Circus. This inspiring acrobat show is performed by students from Phare Ponleu Selpak, an organization that educates disadvantaged youth through the power of the arts. It is truly a sight to see and something you will remember from your time here in Cambodia.
Set out in the blue-grey of the early morning to see the amazing architecture of Angkor Wat, the largest religious complex in the world. Grab a good spot and get your camera ready for this incredible once-in-a-lifetime view! As you enter the complex to explore the structure, check out the intricate carvings of Angkor’s historical battle scenes. If you’re brave enough to climb the steep steps, the view atop the highest tower is well worth it! Travel next to see the huge, carved faces of Bayon. After lunch, make your way to the shady and cool tree temple, Ta Prohm. Massive trees have grown up through these ruins making for a spectacular site. Tonight, you will be treated to a delicious Khmer dinner and spend some time browsing the night market. Be sure to make a shopping list for all of the souvenirs for your loved ones back home!
After three incredible and eye-opening weeks, it’s time to say goodbye to the Kingdom of Wonder and journey onward. For students connecting to another program in Southeast Asia, you will say goodbye to your group in the morning as you head to the airport to begin your next adventure. If you are departing for the U.S., soak up some last bits of culture and shop for souvenirs today. This afternoon you’ll head to Siem Reap International Airport where you will meet up with your Flight Leader to begin the journey home. Cambodia will miss you! Som Lee-hai!
If you are flying back to the U.S., you’ll arrive back in the states on this day, as you’ll have time zone changes in the middle. Many of our students choose to connect to other programs in our Asian destinations. All students on our group flights arrive home on Fridays, regardless of whether they return to JFK or LAX.
Rustic Pathways reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the daily itinerary for this trip at any time. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in flight or program schedules, changes in the schedules of various external tours incorporated in our trips, the addition of new activities into a trip, or the substitution of an old activity for a new activity.
The itinerary shown here provides a good outline of the anticipated daily schedule for this program. As with any travel program, some changes may occur.
“Optional Activities” are fully included in the cost of your program, but you can choose to not do these activities.
“Add-On Activities” are not included in the cost of your program and must be paid for separately. Add-on activities are rare, but include things like skydiving, bungee jumping, or weekend side-trips. Not every program has add-on activities.
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This 3-week journey will take you all over the country and give you the chance to see the different landscapes and people that make Cambodia so great!
From city life in Phnom Penh, crystal clear water at beaches in Sihanoukville, vibrant green mountains in Mondulkiri, to villages surrounded by rice paddies, you will get to experience it all. This journey will take you in and out of being on and off the map in terms of rustic-ness, and will provide a great look everything the Kingdom of Wonder has to offer.
In order to see all of these places, lots of traveling by private vans will occur on this program. Your Program Leaders will make sure to stop at the nearest gas station before those journeys begin so you can stock up on yummy snacks. Students can expect van rides that are a couple hours long, with the longest van ride lasting between approximately 7-8 hours (including stops).
By the end of this trip you will have experienced: Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Mondulkiri, Kratie, Kampong Cham, Siem Reap, and floating villages along the Tonle Sap Lake.
Riding elephants, snorkeling to see awesome coral and marine life, and swimming in a waterfall will be just a few of the activities that will occur during this trip. Nothing is too strenuous, but you should feel comfortable and confident participating in these types of activities.
If you embark on this trip, you will get to experience it all!
You will be staying in hotels and guesthouses with western amenities such air conditioning and hot water while in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
In Kampong Cham, students will be staying in our base house, which is nestled in a small local village. Here students will have a mattress pad on the floor with a mosquito net.
While in the floating villages you will live in a traditional homestay. There will be two floating homestay houses (students are separated by gender), with basic living accommodations. This is an authentic experience where there may not be running water or western-style toilets. Don’t worry; your guides will be sure to teach you the dos and don’ts of village life. Bucket showers (super refreshing!) and squat toilets will be part of your daily life and you can expect to sleep on a mattress pads with a mosquito net. It’s early to bed in the floating villages but also early to rise as the sound of the boat engines start up bright and early!
Rustic Pathways works with local community leaders and organizations to identify and prioritize the needs of each community. You can expect to lend a helping hand with the most pressing need of the communities at the time of your visit.
On this trip you will be working at three different project sites. In Mondulkiri and Kampong Cham you will be complete service at our partners site, where you can expect projects such as improving grounds and facilities or teaching English lessons and games.
Your last stop for service will be in the floating village of Prek Toal. Last year, our students helped build a new floating home for a family in need. You can expect to do a similar project this year, and also teach English at the local primary school.
Students will have access to clean, safe drinking water (pronounced duk) on this trip at all times. Water in faucets can be used to brush your teeth but is not for drinking. Don’t forget to bring your reusable water bottle so you can stay hydrated!
Traditional Khmer food of course! Cambodia is home to many great cuisines due in part to French colonial influence, and you will get a chance to try these out when in major cities. However, you will be encouraged to eat local food as much as possible, after all, you are in Cambodia! Lok-lak, amok, pra-hok— sound familiar? These are some of the most well known dishes in Cambodia. Be sure to tell one of your local Program Leaders that you want to try pra-hok, which will give them a laugh for sure. Is it common for Cambodians to eat rice with every meal- even for breakfast, unless they’re having some yummy noodle soup! Some dishes you can expect are: rice based dishes (especially fried rice, pronounced bai cha in Khmer), noodle soups, grilled pork, stir fried vegetables, various fish dishes, and tons of fresh fruit! Coconuts are plentiful in Kampong Chang so get ready to crack some open and enjoy the refreshing coconut juice with your meals! Our staff will oversee the preparation and cooking while completing the homestay portion of this trip and can even teach you how to make some of their favorite dishes. We will make every effort to accommodate vegetarian and other special dietary needs as best we can, but please be aware that students with seafood or nut allergies cannot be accommodated.
Get ready to sweat! Cambodia has a tropical climate and it’s going to be rainy season while you are here. It’s hot and humid in the day and a little cooler in the mountains at night. Daily downpours are short and are very much looked forward to as they offer a brief break from the heat of the day. What does that mean for you? Clothes that have synthetic fibers are great because they dry fast (much faster than cotton)! Ponchos can easily be purchased in-country.
Neak jong reeun Khmer aut? —-Do you want to learn Khmer?
In Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, many people speak English to a certain degree, but during your time in other parts of Cambodia such as Mondulkiri, Kampong Cham and the Floating Villages, you will be encouraged to learn as much Khmer as possible. It can be a lot of fun practicing phrases you know, and your local guides will be able to help with translation too! People will be as interested in hearing about your culture as you are in theirs and cross-cultural communication will be one of the most important aspects of your trip.
When you join us on this incredible journey we want you to have an as immersive experience as possible and soak it all in. To do that you are encouraged to take a break from technology and engage with the life on the ground in Cambodia. Leave the lands of social media behind and focus on being present in the moment—don’t worry, it will still be there when you return—we promise!
You will have access to internet in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap but throughout the rest of the trip, internet access will be sporadic.
What should families at home do in case of emergency? You will be given the phone number to our 24/7 emergency line which is kept open for true emergencies only. One of our awesome staff members in the U.S. will be in charge of this line, and they will pass any necessary information to us on the ground in Cambodia.
Three weeks is a long time so you’ll certainly need to do laundry at least once. Don’t worry, we won’t tell on you if you wear the same t-shirt twice! Cleanliness is a big part of Asian culture so we keep as clean as we can while traveling. We will have access to laundry facilities at the beginning and end of this program which usually cost around $1/kilogram. Feel free to buy some laundry soap at the local market and learn how to wash your clothes by hand like many Cambodians do during your time in the village!
Malaria is present throughout the country of Cambodia. Mosquitos tend to pop up whenever the rain starts, and at night. Please bring 2 bottles of mosquito repellant with the proper amount of DEET (at least 30% DEET is recommended). Packing a lightweight long sleeve shirt and pants to wear at night for extra protections is also a great idea! Students will be provided mosquito nets when completing their homestays. Be sure to consult with a travel doctor or your family physician regarding additional precautions to take.
HX Global provides the most up to date recommendations regarding Cambodia. Since we do not know your child’s medical history, we recommend you reference HX Global’s website at: http://hx-global.com/ or the CDC website at: http://www.cdc.gov for more information. We also suggest consulting with your local travel doctor prior to your travels for further information.
Part of traveling internationally is learning how to be responsible for your belongings. All students are responsible for carrying their own personal spending money and you must be prepared for this responsibility. On average, most students require a minimum of $100-$150 USD per week for incidental expenses (including laundry, any extra snacks, souvenirs, etc.). The night markets in Siem Reap have an amazing variety of crafts, clothing, and unbelievable miscellaneous trinkets. Shopping there is a real treat, so budget more if you’re a big time shopper and less if you’re a go light, less is more, bring home only the memories kind of traveler.
ATMs are widely available in Cambodia, and students are encouraged to bring ATM cards to limit the risk of theft as they travel. We suggest bringing $200 USD in cash and then using an ATM if additional money is needed. Don’t forget to call your financial institution beforehand to let them know you’ll be traveling out of the country and ask about any additional fees!
Students traveling on this program via JFK will have a travel time of approximately 28 hours, and students traveling via LAX will have a travel time of approximately 30 hours (this includes layovers). Don’t worry- the trip will fly by as you pass the time meeting your new friends! Singapore Airlines features some great movies on the plane and is rumored to hand out ice cream during mealtime!
Believe us when we say that you are not going to be ready to go home after two weeks! Time will fly and you’ll feel like your journey is just beginning as you board the plane home. The long flight over to Southeast Asia is the hardest part; once you’re here, why not make the most of it and build an incredible summer?
This trip connects seamlessly with other programs throughout Southeast Asia. Connecting is a great idea if your travel plans allow for it!
Packing the right gear (and the right amounts) is the first step to an incredible travel experience. Follow these tips to pack like a pro:
Travel light. Pack only the essentials. You’ll need less than you think!
Bring the right clothes. Pack clothes that are culturally appropriate for your destination and acceptable for service projects. This means bringing long shorts (think Bermuda and basketball shorts), t-shirts with sleeves to cover shoulders, and appropriate footwear.
Leave your valuables behind. While traveling, it’s easier for things to get lost, stolen, or damaged. Keep any prized possessions safe at home.
Check with TSA. Make sure your luggage complies with TSA regulations, especially your carry-on. Useful tip: Pack an empty water bottle and fill it up after security.
Extra paperwork? If you need additional forms filled out to get credit for your service hours, no problem! Bring these forms with you so they can be completed in-country.
A school backpack is ideal as it will be used for day trips.
A 50-70 Liter duffel bag or backpack is ideal. Wheeled bags are not suitable for this program.
(Travel size bottles in Ziploc bags)
Welcome to Cambodia! You will arrive into Phnom Penh and begin your journey in the Kingdom of Wonder.
Beachside retreat filled with snorkeling and delicious seafood.
Village life and service work in peaceful Kong Maha village.
Head to the mountains for service work and elephants.
Journey even deeper into Cambodia and take a refreshing swim in the crater lake.
Live on the water in unique floating communities and work on a service project.
Explore the ruins of incredible Angkor Wat–a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest religious structure in the world!