Welcome to Cambodia! You will arrive into Phnom Penh and begin your journey in the Kingdom of Wonder.
Learn about Cambodia’s past during your first few days in Phnom Penh and then continue to the countryside where you will help support the next generation. Spend the week with our local partner, the BSDA, assisting with youth enrichment activities for children attending after school care centers, and completing infrastructure projects needed at that time. Live the simple life by staying at our base house nestled in a quaint village in Kampong Cham province. Say goodbye to the amazing students at the BSDA and end your journey in Siem Reap touring the majestic temples surrounding Angkor Wat!
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.
Over the next two days, you will get 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. 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 and visit an amazing city landmark, Olympic Stadium, to see where all of the locals congregate after work to get some exercise.
Today hop in the vans and it’s on to the next province we go. The heart of the program will be set in the town of Kampong Cham, home of Buddhism for Social Development Action, a non-governmental organization. The BDSA, founded locally by a small group of monks in response to the vast needs of their community, works to empower and help women, children, and marginalized members of the Kampong Cham community in areas of education, health, and income generation. Rustic Pathways supports the BSDA by improving facilities at their education centers and providing youth enrichment activities to the children at those centers. The BSDA currently has a vocational training center, and two drop in centers where over 200 children are receiving support. Lead educational games and activities, and participate in any infrastructure projects that the organization needs at that time to improve their facilities.
Nights will be spent at the base house as you lesson plan and prep for the next day of service, participate in a ping pong match against one of your Program Leaders, or even take part in a cornhole tournament! You will also have time to explore some highlights of Kampong Cham, a quaint riverside town. Grab an ice cream, walk along the river, and pay your respects with a visit to the local Pre-Angkor temple.
Have your final breakfast at Smile Restaurant, the culinary training restaurant where vocational students at the BSDA can learn the necessary skills for working in the service industry. After a delicious buffet and of course a fruit shake, it’s time to bid farewell to your newfound friends here in Kampong Cham and depart for Siem Reap, home of Angkor Wat! Grab some lunch and have a relaxing afternoon on the town. Fish massages anyone?
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.
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.
Set out in 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 two incredible and eye-opening weeks, it’s time to same 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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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. Sleeping arrangements will be separated by gender.
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 program you will be working with our partner organization called the BSDA, where you can expect to partake in projects such as improving grounds and facilities at their education centers and running education enrichments activities.
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 most certainly give them a laugh. 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 so get ready to crack some open and enjoy the refreshing coconut juice with your meals! 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. 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 reun 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 Kampong Cham, you will be encouraged to learn some Khmer. 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.
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 Kampong Cham!
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 in Kampong Cham.. Be sure to consult with a travel doctor or your family physician regarding additional precautions to take.
International SOS provides the most up to date recommendations regarding Cambodia. Since we do not know your child’s medical history, we recommend you reference International SOS’ website or the CDC website 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!
A school backpack is ideal as it will be used for day trips.
A 50-70 Liter duffel bag or backpack are ideal.
(Travel size bottles in Ziploc bags)
Airlines in Southeast Asia have weight restrictions for checked and carry on luggage. Please limit your checked luggage to no more than 33lbs (15kg) and your carry on luggage to 15lbs (7kg).
Welcome to Cambodia! You will arrive into Phnom Penh and begin your journey in the Kingdom of Wonder.
Village life and service work with our partner organization, the BSDA, where you will be doing construction projects and running youth empowerment programs.
Explore the ruins of incredible Angkor Wat–a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest religious structure in the world!