The directions we were given by our host family were somewhat vague. We were just told to get off the bus once we reached the second bridge. From there we needed to hire a local boat which would take us to the remote community of Chi Phat. This was going to be my first Cambodia homestay experience and it was already feeling like quite an adventure just getting there.

After roughly five hours on the bus we finally reached that second bridge. We asked the bus driver to let us off and crossed our fingers that we hadn’t missed a bridge on the way and that this was actually the place we had to get off at. After a while though we saw some local fishermen and were able to hire a local boat. During the boat trip we saw some of the most beautiful countryside imaginable. We drove past the stunning Cardamon mountains, mangrove forests, houses on huge stilts, and even a temple in the middle of the river. Because we were traveling during the rainy season everything was really lush and green, exactly the Cambodia I have grown to love so much over my past two years here.

boat to Cambodia homestay

Chi Phat river Cambodia homestaymangrove forest Cambodia homestayon boat to cambodia homestayAfter two hours my friends and I finally reached Chi Phat community, one of the few eco-tourism sites in Cambodia. We walked through a village until we reached the tourism center. From there we were able to book our accommodation and overnight jungle mountain bike tour. We choose a non-touristy type of accommodation – a traditional Cambodia homestay. Due to my NGO work I have been lucky enough to visit many rural communities before and frequently interact with locals but I never actually stayed in an authentic Cambodian house overnight before.

Our host family lived in a traditional wooden house on stilts. The house had four rooms: two bedrooms for guests, one kitchen, and a third bedroom which was shared by our hosts and their lovely children. There was also an airy terrace which was used as a living and dining room combined. The toilet was an outdoor building and the shower was a cold bucket of water, which in the stifling heat of the jungle was actually just what the doctor ordered. Our bedroom was very simple but cosy nonetheless with a double bed, complete with a much needed mosquito net, hooks on the wall to hang our clothes on, and even a cute hand-carved bedside table. The window had no glass which was quite convenient for our little gecko friends as they could come and go as they pleased throughout the night. It did though provide us with a spectacular view from our beds, providing a gateway to the tranquil beauty of the surrounding rice paddies and water buffaloes. It certainly wasn’t luxurious and we only had electricity at night (though no air con or even fans which was a challenge in the jungle) but for $3 a night we weren’t expecting creature comforts. And in any event, that’s hardly what homestays are about.

hosts cambodia homestay

Our host family

house cambodia homestaybedroom cambodia homestaykitchen cambodia homestayview from room cambodia homestayTourism in Cambodia is a big business these days, especially being home to the magnificent Angkor Wat, but most tourists never get the chance to experience the real Cambodia through the eyes of real Cambodians. One third of Cambodians, mostly from the countryside, live below the poverty line of earning $1.25 per day so visiting a homestay not only gives tourists an unforgettable and genuine cultural experience, but it also helps support the local economy and communities. Chi Phat itself only gets about 2000 visitors a year because of its remote location but true to the communitarian nature of Cambodian people, these 2000 visitors are equally divided between all homestay host families so that the proceeds are evenly distributed.

host cambodia homestay

Rural life

Rural life

What I particularly liked about our home-stay was that nothing was staged meaning there were no canned presentations or ‘spontaneous’ shows of children dancing. Instead we got to play with our host family’s children in their home environment and eat and live with a family going about their everyday business. The whole eco-tourism project was a great experience and one I’d recommend to any traveler who wants to find out how the majority of Cambodians live. Staying with a homestay family helps to learn more about the culture and the local traditions. But most importantly when staying with a homestay family you contribute enormously to the local economy too, so it is also a means of alleviating rural poverty in a sustainable manner.

grandma cambodia homestay

Grandma cooking up a feast

having fun cambodia homestaylocal girls cambodia homestayHave you ever stayed with a homestay family, and if so, what was your experience like?


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About Tammyonthemove

Tammy & Chris are a couple hailing from Germany and England, meaning between them they are efficient and polite, but unable to talk about football. Find out why they stopped pushing pens around the British civil service to travel the world on their blog.

44 Thoughts on “My Cambodia homestay experience

  1. $3 a night is quite a bargain! And it seems like a lovely way to spend time while getting to know the country.

    I also have to say, Grandma looks really young, she must only be in her 40s. Probably one of those rural communities where people marry and have kids young? πŸ™‚
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    • Tammyonthemove on October 21, 2013 at 8:16 am said:

      Cambodians all look incredibly young actually. I need to ask them what their secret is. But yes, some also marry quite young too, especially in the country side.

    • Mao Sophea on April 12, 2014 at 11:49 pm said:

      Dear Mrs/Miss,
      I am living in Cambodia I researched about home stay I saw your photo I don’t know about you and contact you.
      If this real email please you replay me.
      Thank you.

      Mao Sophea

      • Tammyonthemove on April 13, 2014 at 8:51 am said:

        Hi Sophea, thanks for getting in touch. I can highly recommend a home stay in the Chi Phat community. It was such a lovely place.

  2. This post just made me realize how much I’ve been missing Cambodia and the local hospitality. It’s incredible (as you noticed yourself) how hospitable and kind-hearted people can be! Yes, Cambodia is so cheap and finding a room to sleep in for less than $5 for two was never a problem for us.
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  3. wow it.. looks very great experience with Cambodia. I never been in Cambodia but while reading this post. I was feeling Cambodia insight my heart.

  4. Sounds like a wonderful experience! I’d love to visit Cambodia
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  5. What an awesome experience, Tammy! We’ve had a pretty good go of meeting with locals as we’ve traveled, but we haven’t done that many homestays. It was something I had been looking into while we were in Cambodia, but for whatever reason, we never pulled the trigger. I wish we had thoughβ€”not only does your money go to people who need it most, but it really gives you look into the local way of life that a simple tour really won’t.
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    • Tammyonthemove on October 23, 2013 at 1:04 pm said:

      I agree Steph, going on a tour will never give you the real picture of a country. It only touches the surface. This was my second homestay. I have done one in Ecuador before and I really loved both. I think I will do more in future.

  6. Homestays are definitely a great way to immerse into a culture. The pictures you shared are wonderful to describe what the experience is like.

    I did one in Guatemala that was arranged through an organization. I paid $30 USD per night which included accommodations, three meals a day, and laundry service. The organization took 63% of the proceeds and the family 37 %. I thought that this was a bit off. Plus, the family had flat screen TVs which felt even more funny.

    Next time I choose a homestay, I’ll do a bit more research on the family and to see how it helps out.
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    • Tammyonthemove on October 23, 2013 at 1:07 pm said:

      I guess if it included food and laundry it is not that expensive actually, but it is not fair that the organization gets more money than the family. It is not really eco-tourism if that is the case and I think a lot of families get exploited by tour companies. I think doing as much research beforehand as you can, will definitely help.

  7. Lovely post. I have always wanted to live in a house on stilts next to some huge water mass.
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  8. Great experience, Tammy. I’ve never stayed in a house on stilts before. I agree with you; I hate canned presentations too. It’s so superficial. Love what you did here and hope I can do it when I travel there someday.
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  9. I signed up for a homestay in Guatemala for 3 weeks, and had an amazing time learning from my Mayan host family. You’re reminding me that I should try it again somewhere soon…
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    • Tammyonthemove on October 25, 2013 at 7:53 pm said:

      Wow, 3 weeks-that must have given you a really great insight into the culture. This was only my second home stay (done one in Ecuador a few years ago), but it too make me realise that I should do more.

  10. What a fantastic experience, certainly one of the best ways to see the real Cambodia and give something to its wonderful people. Good for you!
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  11. I haven’t been to Cambodia yet, but I’d love to go one day and have a very similar experience to yours, the local hospitality is always the best.
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  12. Looks like a fantastic experience! We visited the stilt houses of Kampong Phluk in 2009, and would have loved to stay in one. You guys are really making me miss Cambodia. Beautiful country and great hospitality. Cambodians were some of the warmest, friendliest people we’ve met, even if I could never tell their age – if there’s a youth elixir, they’ve been hogging it…
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  13. Never been to Cambodia but the destination looks so great. It is a place that I should visit.
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  14. What an awesome experience! Talk about getting to know local people and how they live. I’m glad no spontaneous dance sessions arose, except maybe your own with the family? Hehe.
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    • Tammyonthemove on November 23, 2013 at 4:18 pm said:

      It was so lovely Sally! No impromptu dance sessions, but lots of cuddles with the daughter and high fives with the cheeky son. πŸ™‚

  15. Cambodia is a beautiful and charming country. The population of Cambodia today is about 10 million. There peoples are so kind and simple. They are famous about there hospitality. You had really good experience with them.

  16. What’s not to love in Cambodia?:)

  17. Jessica Needleman on February 18, 2014 at 4:13 pm said:

    I would like to know how you found this opportunity. I am looking for a similar experience, get off the touristy path. πŸ™‚

    • Tammyonthemove on February 18, 2014 at 6:02 pm said:

      It is really easy Jessica. Once you got to Chi Phat you just go to the tourist information center and they can arrange a homestay for you. I believe you can also pre-book though. Just google Chi Phat and their eco tourism site pops up. You should definitely go, it is an amazing place!

      • Jessica Needleman on February 27, 2014 at 2:24 am said:

        Thank you for the response! I am looking forward to booking πŸ™‚

        • Tammyonthemove on February 27, 2014 at 2:28 am said:

          No worries. Glad I could help! πŸ™‚

          • Jessica Needleman on February 27, 2014 at 4:02 am said:

            Hey? How many days did you spend with this family? Also, were meals included?

          • Tammyonthemove on February 27, 2014 at 12:40 pm said:

            We spent one night with the family, one night in the jungle and the last night in a private bungalow. Meals were not included, but we asked the family if they could cook us a traditional meal. She charged USD 15 for everything (we were 4 girls), so really cheap.

  18. What a great genuine experience! Would have been great to get away from the major city areas, unfortunately I have only been to Sihanoukville which was a bit full on for me!
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  19. Great article I like all your pictures, it is very very nice, I hope I can go to this places in some day. thank you for sharing this nice article with this value information
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