For those of you who are considering volunteering in Cambodia, I have set about polling the volunteers here in the house to give  you an idea of what is essential packing and what you can probably give a miss. Having said this, please be aware that most things you can buy here and probably cheaper.

Here are a few special mentions first:

Insect repellent – don’t leave home without it. You can apparently buy it here but I don’t trust it so much. Get something that is at least 30% DEET but watch the strength if you have sensitive skin and avoid putting it anywhere near your face! The mosquitos mostly go for your legs anyway. DEET is a carcinogen so its best not to use stuff that is extremely potent.

Rehydration salts – these are especially useful. Don’t buy them before you leave though because you can buy them here for much much cheaper, and I have it on good authority that they work very well. When you get to Phnom Penh just head to U-Care Pharmacy (ask for directions from the staff here) and stock up.

Travel books – don’t bother buying one. If you want to clue yourself up before you come, rent one from the library. Once you get here there are three or four here in the volunteer house to refer to, and you can buy copies in the markets for very cheap.

For smokers: don’t buy cigarettes from duty-free shops. They are cheaper in Cambodia.

For coffee-lovers/tea-lovers: beware. Bring your own.

Girls – if you wax, bring your own strips or bring an epilator. You can’t be guaranteed of getting a good wax here. Also, if you use tampons, I would advise bringing some with you. They are expensive here and only sold in eight-packs.

Swimmers – bring them! I forgot to pack mine and they aren’t that easy to find here. If you head down to Sihanoukville (on the coast) you’ll be able to find more. You’ll want bathers for those especially hot days to go to the pool, and if you end up going to a day spa like Bliss you’ll want to take full advantage of the plunge pool! And of course if you go to Sihanoukville (which I would thoroughly recommend) you’ll want to go swimming too. The water is heavenly.

Laptop – opinion is divided. Some people who didn’t bring them wish they had, others who brought them wish they hadn’t, some are extremely glad they brought theirs and others are just as jubilant they didn’t bring theirs. This one is completely up to you – just know that the house is secure and there are lots of cafes with WiFi. The volunteer house itself however does not have internet connection.

Adaptors – the house has universal powerboards so you don’t need to worry so much in terms of that, but for some parts of the house and for the school (if you want to plug in your laptop for example) you need either a US adaptor or a European adaptor.

Phone – might be worth getting your mobile phone unlocked so you can just buy a simcard over here. It is cheaper than buying a phone here. Everyone uses mobiles here to stay in touch. Email is not such a big thing and people often don’t have home phones. Having said that, it is possible to get away with not using a mobile here too.

Okay – top suggestions from current volunteers: bring US cash. There are ATMs but a few of us have had difficulties getting our cards to work. In terms of how much money to bring… it depends a bit on how much you plan to go out at night, eat out, luxuriate, and buy souveniors, but about $2000 should cover you. Torch – there are frequent black-outs. You might want to consider getting one that you can wear on your head so your hands are free. Sunscreen – I don’t trust what they sell here. Day backpack – for weekend trips. Camera. Ointment for bites and burns. Anti-bacterial hand gel. Sunglasses – polarised is good. Water bottle – they sell plenty of bottles of water here but finding a water bottle is impossible. A good book – there are quite a few in the volunteer house but if there’s one you really like it’s worth it for travelling amusement. Ipod or other musical device – this helps when you miss home a bit, when you’re bored on the bus or the plane, and for music comprehension in classes too. Raincoat. Small packs of tissues – handy where there is no toilet paper, or if you’re really hot and sweaty, or if your hands are all greasy from food… Panadol and/or stomach settling meds. Useful to have some in the house from the start. Passport, naturally. Finally – if there are any toiletries you are particularly attached to; brands of deodarant, showergels, soap, shampoo, face-wash – you can buy all sorts here in Cambodia but if you’re particular about these things you might be wishing you brought your own before long.

That’s about it! I hope this has been useful for you. Happy packing!

   

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