Expect to be challenged
For many who have never been to Southeast Asia, this trip was an eye-opener. So expect a bustling, busy city with many things to do and see, but also poverty. This may be confronting for some, but use it as a reflection to realise how lucky we are in Australia. Despite the conditions here, the locals are very friendly and happy and if you wave and smile, they will return the gesture with the biggest smile you have ever seen- especially the children.
Expect to get sick
I am not saying it is inevitable, but expect to. That way there is no disappointment when you are and you have come prepared. Pack paracetamol, stomach flu medications, any vitamins to keep you going (I brought zinc!) and if you need to, any antihistamines or cold and flu medication you usually reach for. Within the first 4 days here in Phnom Penh, 9 out of 11 of us fell ill with stomach bugs. For those affected it was not ideal so definitely be aware of this when eating out and drinking. In saying that, the food is amazing and there are plenty of restaurants to eat at so don’t hold back. Just be careful to only drink bottled water and plenty of it!
Expect to make friends
I was so preoccupied with the trip and working abroad that I forgot I was going to be experiencing this with a group of likeminded students. The friends I have made have definitely been one of my favourite parts of this experience so far. Remember, you are not alone and if you are feeling homesick, uneasy, or anxious it is likely that so are some of your fellow travellers so support each other. If you don’t know anyone going on your trip, don’t worry. I only knew of one other person before going and by the second day I had private jokes with everyone! You are in a group of likeminded, adventurous people so making friends is easy and will make your experience even better.
- The environment here is very different to Australia so make sure you pack accordingly. Dress conservatively but also bring some casual clothes to wear on weekends away or out to dinner with the group. One of the things I regret most was packing too conservatively and being very hot. While it is recommended to respect the culture and wear clothes that sit below the knee and cover the shoulders, it is fine to wear shorts or skirts that are at the knee or just above.
- Bring USD. There is no need to bring Cambodia Riel as Cambodians prefer USD. I would recommend bringing several hundred USD and then taking more out at an ATM if needed. You will most likely have a safe box in your hotel room to store your cash but check beforehand.
- Bring a small bag that is secure. Be aware that pickpocketing is rife here in Cambodia so keep your belongings secure when walking the streets and do not bring your passport or large amounts of cash with you unless it is required.