When volunteering in Cambodia, finding the right place to sleep is important both for its impact on your finances and for the quality of your private life after volunteering hours.
Since many of our volunteer positions take place over a few months, volunteers are required to find short-term accommodations, which seems like an easy task, considering Cambodia is a touristic destination with hundreds of accommodations suitable for any type of budget and needs.
Based on the experience with our former volunteers, here are some tips and suggestions you may want to consider when you’re looking for your room in Cambodia.
How to find a suitable accommodation?
In Cambodia, public Facebook groups are extensively used by locals to post ads on hotels, apartments and rooms for rent. Typically, the rates posted on Facebook are cheaper than what is offered on booking.com and similar websites. You can often use Facebook Messenger to connect directly with the reservation manager or the owner, who usually speaks English and responds quite promptly. Ask for more information, pictures of the place, negotiate the price or even make a reservation.
For example, the following groups contain posts for accommodations in Siem Reap:
- Expats and locals living in Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Cheap Rent Siem Reap
- Siem Reap Real Estate (Buy, Sell and Rent)
For how long should I book my accommodation?
We always suggest making a reservation for a short period of time (i.e. a week, ten days) and then decide whether to extend it or look for another place once you are in town.
Sometimes accommodations are different from the pictures published on the website. Often you realise what your real needs are only once you’re settled into your life in Cambodia. Some people prefer a quieter location, while others want to be close to where restaurants are… you’ll really never know what you like until you come over and experience the place for yourself.
Should I choose a guest house or book an apartment?
As mentioned above, the choice between a guest house or an apartment/studio room depends on your personal preferences.
If you prefer an all-inclusive, fully-serviced option, you’re likely to choose hotels, hostels, and guest houses. The great thing about these kinds of lodging is that tax, water, Wi-Fi, room cleaning, change of bed linen and towels are always included in the rental price. They often offer free pickup from the airport and the use of a bicycle. Most of them have a swimming pool as well.
If you prefer a place that feels more like home, with an equipped kitchen where you can cook and eat your own meals, invite friends over and have a proper table where you can use your laptop, you’ll probably want to look for a studio apartments or a flat.
What is the average cost of an accommodation?
There are mainly five types of lodging you may consider in your search:
Hotels that are rated four stars or above tend to be in good conditions. One of the perks of renting a hotel room is that the prices include amenities, such as swimming pools and gyms. Many hotels provide breakfasts as well for no additional cost.
Price: A four-star hotel rooms averages to more than USD 30 per night.
Swimming pools and breakfasts are also typically available in guest houses. However, the rooms may not be well-lit and the pipes may be old, resulting in rust in the running water. Some guest houses may only have fans rather than air-conditioning in the rooms, which could cause discomfort during the hot days of Cambodia, depending on how well you tolerate heat! You may also find many insects in the rooms, such as ants and geckos. All in all, due to the lower prices of guest houses, many still find it to be a great value for money.
Price: USD 15–30 per night.
Swimming pools and breakfasts may not be available in hostels. There are typically three types of rooms in hostels: female dorms, mixed (female and male) dorms, and private rooms. Rooms in hostels are typically very nice and clean with air-conditioning. Hostels are also often in great locations, not far from the city centre where locals and other tourists hang out.
Price: USD 8-15 per night.
Shared / Whole Apartments/Studio rooms
Many apartments only accept longer rentals of at least one month or longer, and some for at least over six months. Depending on the price, they may be very basic (the so-called Khmer-style room), or they may be equipped with a kitchenette, living room or a balcony.
Price: A basic Khmer-style room that doesn’t include a fan costs USD 50–100 per month
A western-style apartment/studio room with air-conditioning costs USD 150–450 per month.
Villas / Houses
Cheap villas or houses are available if you come in a group of two or more. Villas come equipped with regular amenities that you’d typically find in a house, such has a kitchen, a living room, washer and dryer, and air-conditioning. Many villas in Cambodia also include a nice swimming pool that you can cool off in at the end of the day. Villas are absolutely great if you are coming with friends or family.
Price: A two-bedroom villa would cost approximately USD 500 per month and would increase accordingly as the number of rooms increases.
IMPORTANT: Note that prices may change during the high season.
In Cambodia, high season typically refers to October-March, and low season is April-September.
Other Criteria to be Considered…
Distance to the city
As a volunteer, you’re working on weekdays, but you would still like to explore the city centre during your off-hours. Living close to the city centre would make your nightly outings much safer, since other residential areas may not be well-lit enough at night for you to safely venture on foot or by bike alone.
On the other hand, accommodations in the city centre might be exposed to noise (such as Karaoke music) until late hours. Living in areas that are more residential may allow you to have a quieter and greener place. You could take a tuk-tuk, or use the apps PassApp or Grab (Cambodia’s equivalent of Uber) at night.
For the city of Siem Reap we recommend these areas:
- Pub Street / Old Market area, if you prefer a more central area that is bustling with activity.
- Sok San Road or Tapul Road if you like being close to the action (i.e., Pub Street) but would like something cheaper.
- Wat Bo area or Wat Damnak area if you like being in a quieter area that is still not too far from the centre.
Facilities in the room
You may want to check for:
- Air-conditioning. It’s highly recommended, as it could get very hot in Cambodia.
- Quality of Wi-Fi in your room.
- Good water drainage. You would particularly want to check for this in guest houses, where it’s not uncommon for shower drains to be blocked. Check the shower drain before renting!
- Insects in rooms. This is harder to verify, but do at least look for ant nests in ceilings.
- Comfortable bedding. Instead of a proper duvet, some home owners may simply place a blanket between two sheets, which may not make for a comfortable sleep.
Potential for Socialising
Regardless of whether you’re a social butterfly, it’s always nice to meet new friends, particularly when you’re abroad. Roommates and room neighbours are potential socialising buddies. If not, living close to the city centre certainly makes it easier for you to go out and meet people.
Hostels are certainly excellent for meeting people, but they’re not necessarily great for getting a good night’s sleep once a party gets going!
We hope these tips are helpful in your search for your home in Cambodia. There are certainly many options to choose from!
Happy house hunting!