In early March we visited the CRDT – Cambodian Rural Development Team – an NGO that works to alleviate poverty and improve living conditions in North East Cambodia. We visited their Kratie office which is also home to CRDTours, a social enterprise set up by the CRDT to offer responsible tourism experiences in North East Cambodia with all contributions going back into the communities CRDT support.

Towns such as Kratie, Kampong Cham and Steung Treung are less visited than other parts of Cambodia but tourism numbers are increasing. Organisations like CRDTours provide responsible tourism opportunities that allow tourists to experience this beautiful part of Cambodia without having a negative impact on the communities and wildlife that inhabit this region. Instead CRDT work closely with locals to ensure that tourism growth is sustainable and beneficial.

When visiting rural areas or places less frequented by tourists it’s a good idea to find out about any cultural sensitivities that could affect how you should dress / behave so you don’t end up causing offence or worrying that you might.

We had a chat with Tola, the CRDT Tour Operations Manager, who kindly advised us about some of the do’s and dont’s when visiting a rural village in Cambodia.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO WHEN IN A RURAL VILLAGE

  • Be friendly to villagers and other tourists – talk to other tourists as it provides a good example to locals as they watch you communicate.
  • Ask a lot of questions during your visit or tour to show your interest.
  • Always respond to a smile with a smile.
  • Be sensitive about local traditions – don’t judge too quickly.
  • Respect local religions belief & culture.
  • Dress modestly: women should cover shoulders and wear at least knee length shorts, skirt or Sarong (also if you choose to swim in the river, do not just wear a bikini, cover with a long t-shirt) particularly when visiting temples or buildings of religious significance.
  • Ask for permission before taking photographs of any Cambodian people or monks – sometimes a request is received better if you participate and ask to have a photograph with the person rather than only taking a photo of them. Always remember you’re visiting a village not a zoo!
  • Take off shoes and hat when entering someone’s house or a pagoda.
  • Give a good example to the local people (don’t litter, don’t smoke in front of them, don’t show any violence etc.)

WHAT YOU SHOULDN’T DO WHEN IN A RURAL VILLAGE

  • Don’t wear revealing clothes.
  • Don’t give gifts to kids informally as it can encourage begging – if you wish to give a gift it should be presented in a formal manner to the eldest member / head of the family.
  • Don’t be too critical about the conditions – be constructive instead.
  • Don’t buy any wild products from villagers – if you are offered wild products politely decline and inform CRDTours at the end of your trip.
  • Don’t show public displays of affection.
  • Don’t take a shower together.
  • Don’t litter.
  • Don’t use any forbidden substances and be moderate when drinking alcohol.

If you’re interested in visiting the North East of Cambodia, check out the CRDTours website to find out about some of the awesome activities and tours they provide that allow you to experience rural Cambodia responsibly.