At times when planning for a grand journey, ‘preparation’ may simply mean becoming more comfortable with the unknown. For packing, the necessities are an open mind, a positive and humble attitude, and a healthy body. In terms of physical items, packing list feedback from Cambodia Summer 2018 students has been incorporated into the list below. As there is no one way to travel or to live, there is no one way to pack. You yourself know what will make you happiest. Each participant will get a phone call from one of the instructors over the next few weeks where you can ask any questions you may have about packing or preparation. If you have questions about this list, please post a message to the Yak board. There is another packing list for Cambodia that was mailed to you. It is very similar, but if there are discrepancies, use this one!
THINK LIGHT! You will have to put whatever you bring onto buses and into the backs of trucks, often on local transportation with limited space for luggage. You also may have to carry your bag for long distances, so please keep this in mind. The lighter you pack, the happier you (and the rest of the group) will be! Pack your bag and then walk around the block 3 times or up and down a flight of stairs 10 times. Anything you can live without? Students who arrive at the airport drastically over packed will be asked to send extra items home at their own expense. We recommend that you bring what’s listed here and not much more. It is very freeing to travel without so much stuff. Keep it simple! It is very important that you can fit all of your belongings, including shoes, inside one backpack (and a day pack) that you are comfortable carrying on your own! Note: you will not have to fit your day pack into your backpack. Additionally, you will be asked to help carry group gear with your free hands. We will become adept at hauling our world!
EQUIPMENT: The most important thing is that you should be comfortable with your gear. Be sure you know how to pack and adjust your backpack, and that you can carry it comfortably when it is full. Comfort is key!
- 1 BACKPACK around 45-55 liters. If you bring a bigger one, you’re likely to over pack. If your stuff doesn’t fit into this size pack, you are packing too much!
- 1 small (~20 liters) DAY PACK to carry your water bottle, journal/notebook, sunscreen, rain jacket, camera, wallet, etc. (anything you will need for day trips).
- 1 secure WALLET or money belt. Instructors will collect and carry student passports, but you’ll want to keep your other valuables in a secure wallet. Do what makes you most comfortable. This is where you should have your student ID, emergency info card, cash, at card, and photocopy of your passport. This should be comfortable, incognito, and accessible enough to use on a daily basis. You are responsible for developing a system for not losing your stuff!
- 2 REUSABLE WATER BOTTLES that can withstand boiled water (like a Nalgene). Some students recommend one regular water bottle and one pouch style water bottle that rolls up.
- 1 waterproof WATCH with an ALARM. Practice setting the alarm before the trip to become familiar with it.
- 1 small, lightweight HEADLAMP and extra batteries. Headlamps with a red light option (instead of just white) help reduce bugs at night. Also, there are rechargeable versions available that eliminate the need for extra batteries!
- A JOURNAL or notebook and pens. These will be used often.
- STUDENT ID card. There are sites that will give us discounted entrance tickets with a valid student ID. If you don’t currently have a student ID, then bring a picture ID as this often works. The money that we save during course will largely be added to your student expedition budget, which allows you to go bigger!
- 2 PASSPORT COPIES. It’s a good idea to scan the main page (with your photo) of your passport and print three hard copies: two to carry with you and one to leave at home. Email yourself and your parents a copy of the scans so that you can access them online if necessary.
- 1 PASSPORT SIZE PHOTO for the Cambodia visa on arrival.
- CASH AND ATM DEBIT/CREDIT CARDS. For payment of your visa on arrival, you will need approximately $40 USD in cash; an extra $100 USD in cash for incidentals is a good amount to have on hand. USD is used widely throughout Cambodia. You’ll be able to go to the ATM to withdraw more cash if needed during the program. Visa and Mastercard are widely used, and we will have relatively regular access to ATMs. Having an emergency credit card is also handy in case you need to go to a clinic or hospital.
- Note: You may be charged withdrawal fees; please check with your bank in advance and be sure to set a TRAVEL NOTICE BEFORE you depart if you plan to use your card to withdraw abroad.
- Small travel size SHAMPOO and conditioner that will last about one week. You can buy more there when you run out.
- TOOTHBRUSH, small tube of TOOTHPASTE, and FLOSS. These are available in Cambodia. There’s no need to bring a tube larger than 1 oz. Any more takes up unnecessary weight and space.
- Small travel size SOAP. You can buy more when you run out.
- 1 DEODORANT that you prefer. More can be purchased in Cambodia if needed.
- Small MOSQUITO REPELLENT (smaller than 3 oz). You can buy more there. 20-50% DEET is the most effective for stopping mosquitoes from biting you.
- SUNSCREEN. SPF 45+, waterproof/sweat-proof, in a resealable bag. Types with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide provide the most complete protection on the UV spectrum. If you have sensitive skin, make sure to bring enough of your preferred brand for the whole trip. If not, it’s possible to find generic replacements in Cambodia.
- LIP BALM with sunscreen.
- GLASSES or CONTACTS and contact solution stored in a resealable bag. If you wear contacts make sure you have enough for the entire trip (plus an extra case and enough solution too), or if you wear glasses bring a backup pair.
- NECESSARY MEDICATIONS, prescription or OTC, with instructions on use and dosage (by your doctor if by prescription). The Instructor Team will carry a comprehensive medical kit with first aid supplies, OTC medications, and broad-spectrum antibiotics, so there is no need to bring extra medication if you don’t need it.
- ELECTROLYTE PACKETS. Bring a personal supply of Emergen-C, Airborne, or alternative electrolyte packets. These will be important to replenish our bodies in the heat and humidity of Cambodia and fend off sickness.
- If you shave, a RAZOR and small bottle/tube of shaving cream. If you have facial hair, it’s appropriate to keep it well trimmed at all times on course. Cleanly shaven is the norm in Cambodia.
- TAMPONS or pads if needed. If you use these please bring enough for the whole trip. They are hard to find in-country. We recommend looking into DIVA CUP as an alternative. These reduce waste as well, which can be awkward to get rid of in a homestay setting. You should be comfortable using this prior to the trip if you bring it. Don’t be shy to ask Kelsey about this!
- CAMERA (not your cell phone), charger/batteries, and memory cards.
- HAT to keep the sun off your face. Physical sunscreen is more effective than chemical sunscreen, but only bring a lightweight hat that you will actually wear.
- LIGHTWEIGHT QUICK DRY TOWEL. Some use a quick dry piece of clothing to dry off in order to carry less. Do what will make you comfortable.
- BACKPACK COVER. A waterproof slip to fit over your backpack is important as the group will be traveling during a rain and mud season. Hefty trash bags (to line both the inside and outside of your bag) can also work equally well.
- Small album of PHOTOS of family and friends (culturally appropriate) and/or your house and school. Photos are great for starting conversations or just to ward off homesickness. Consider bringing extra copies to give away as gifts to homestays. Your host family will love to have them and you may notice there are pictures of past students in the places and homes we visit. Modest pictures are more appropriate than those showing a lot of skin.
- SMALL DRY BAG, STUFF SACKS, or extra resealable plastic bags. These will come in handy in the rain, on the water when you want to keep valuables dry, and to keep your stuff organized while unpacking and repacking.
- Small CARABINERS to clip items like water bottles to your backpack so they don’t fall out.
- Small, lightweight, collapsible PILLOW. Some people just use clothes for pillows.
- PROBIOTICS. We have found that probiotics are a great thing to travel with as they encourage and support a healthy GI tract. You can purchase non-refrigerated ones at a health food store or pharmacy. They aren’t available in Cambodia. Please make sure the ones you get don’t have to be refrigerated!
- DICTIONARY and/or PHRASE BOOK. We strongly recommend the Khmer-English compact pocket dictionary by Tuttle. The Lonely Planet Khmer phrasebook is quite helpful too, but the dictionary will be more useful. They can be hard to find in stores, but you can order online. These can be great for in your homestay.
- EARPLUGS. Some of the places that we stay can be noisy and if you are a light sleeper please consider bringing a pair. They’re also great for air travel.
- LIGHTWEIGHT TRAVEL YOGA MAT for budding yogis. Travel can be hard on the body and we encourage all forms of exercise.
- GAMES or something to do as a group. You will have many moments together as a group, and it is nice to have games (ideas are cards, Uno, dice, etc.).
- Travel-sized HAND SANITIZER. Nothing beats good old soap and water to get rid of germs, but when in a pinch, hand sanitizer is useful.
- INSTRUMENT. Travel sized and inexpensive. Music is a language we all can speak!
- Small GIFTS. A big part of Cambodian culture revolves around gift giving, especially when entering our homestay. These must be small and inexpensive. Alternatively, leave material gifts at home and show your appreciation in a non-material way such as writing letters or postcards, taking photos with your family (with their permission) to have printed later, or even performing a dance or song for your family on our final night! Gifts are often something as simple as a piece of fruit, a packet of 3 in 1 coffee, a bag of chips, or a similar token gesture. Items like key chains, crafts, travel-friendly foods from your hometown, and photos are always good. You will stay in one homestay during this trip. You don’t need to bring enough gifts for everyone in your family (as likely there will be many relatives!).
Cambodia is largely hot and humid. There will be many opportunities to do your laundry by hand, and you’ll be happiest with lightweight, breathable, wrinkle-free, quick dry, sun-protective clothing that is not too dark (absorbs heat), not too light (shows dirt easily and may be more see-through), and very modest. When it comes to clothing, keep it simple! You don’t need a lot or to spend a lot on new clothes, and if you find you’re lacking something, inexpensive clothing can be found in Cambodia.
Please make sure that clothing is CULTURALLY APPROPRIATE. Please don’t bring any shorts that go above the knee, short dresses or skirts, any tight leggings (except for sleeping in), or any tops that expose your shoulders, are low cut, or see-through; these are not acceptable.
Sleeveless shirts are not appropriate for anyone. When it comes to shirts, no deep V-necks or loose-hanging, wide cut necklines. Make sure that bras (which must be worn everyday by female-bodied students) do not show through shirts or armholes (transparency can be an issue with lightweight fabrics), and that your shirt is long enough to cover your midriff.
Clothes with swear words or satirical jokes are not appropriate for anyone at any time on course. Low hanging pants that reveal underwear are not appropriate. Though some people wear shorts in urban Phnom Penh, they’ll attract unwanted attention, so it is important you have capris/pants/longer skirts that you’re comfortable in.
As a good rule of thumb, if you’re questioning whether a piece of clothing is appropriate, it probably isn’t. It can sometimes be frustrating to find clothes that meet these specifications in the US, but you’ll be very happy you followed them! Students who arrive without culturally sensitive clothing will be asked to buy additional clothes at their own cost.
- 1 pair of walking SANDALS like Chacos, Tevas, Keens, etc. (these must fit inside your pack). If you love Chacos and wear them all the time they can be great. If you do not want sport sandals you can use almost any other comfortable sandal. There is no need to spend a lot of $$ if you don’t think you will wear them.
- 1 pair of walking OR hiking SHOES (you don’t need both). The best option is a light, low top, hiker or mountain running shoe that can double as a street shoe (these must fit inside your pack). You do not need hiking boots.
- 1 pair of inexpensive FLIP-FLOPS is convenient and appropriate for homestays and time in rural communities, but they are not appropriate for trekking/wilderness exploration, NGO visits, or travel days.
- 1 lightweight or midweight PONCHO or RAIN JACKET (breathable material).
- 1 lightweight WARM PULLOVER or JACKET for mountainous areas or transportation days.
- 4-5 presentable and polite T-SHIRTs (no sleeveless shirts). You will get a Dragon’s t-shirt and this can be one. Loose-fitting quick dry t-shirts are best. We will politely ask you to get changed if shirts are too tight or revealing. More t-shirts can be purchased inexpensively along the way if necessary.
- At least 1 presentable COLLARED SHIRT or BLOUSE. This can be short-sleeved, as it will be hot. This is part of your “nice outfit” to wear to NGO meetings and religious services/ceremonies with your homestay families.
- 1-2 pairs of lightweight QUICK DRY PANTS. Note: these do not have to be expensive zip-offs (these can be great but are sometimes pricy), just make sure the pants are comfortable and can dry out quickly.
- 1-2 pairs of lightweight CAPRIS or LONG SHORTS (must extend TO/BELOW THE KNEE) that can be used sleeping and/or all-around wear. A pair of leggings for wearing underneath skirts or for sleeping is useful but not appropriate on their own for everyday wear. Shorts above the knee can only be worn for sleeping, at all times except during the homestay.
- 1 pair of LONG NICE PANTS (lightweight like Dockers) and/or LONG SKIRT (must reach below the knee and not be see-through) for more conservative or formal situations. It should not be possible to see underclothing through any of your items. This is part of your “nice outfit” to wear to NGO meetings or to religious services/ceremonies with your homestay families.
- 1 swimming outfit. A QUICK DRY T-SHIRT (or rash guard) and a pair of BOARD SHORTS (to the knee). It is often hard to find women’s shorts to an appropriate length. Many students choose to bring basketball-style shorts or swim in their hiking capris and Cambodians swim in their clothes.
- 7-10 pairs of UNDERWEAR (should not be visible in any cases; skin-colored for lighter clothing).
- 3-4 pairs of SOCKS.
- 2-4 BRAS if applicable: sports bras or your choice, keeping comfort and versatility in mind. Make sure your nipples do not show easily and the bra is not visible through clothing. A sports bra can be used with a quick dry shirt for swimming.
One other thing that is essential: A HEALTHY BODY! SLEEP, HYDRATION, NUTRITION, EXERCISE, GRATITUDE. Your experience will be much more enjoyable if you come with a body that is fully prepared for the journey. Do what you can – the more the better! The more you stretch your muscles, the more you will engage and use them. Get your heart rate going for thirty minutes at a time, about four times a week. There will be several opportunities on the course to go for long walks, runs, or ride bikes. The better your condition, the greater the number of opportunities you’ll be able to seize!
DO NOT BRING:
- Cell phones, computers, tablets, iPads, iPods, or any device with phone/internet capabilities. Make sure to prepare security for email or other online accounts so you can access them without using your phone. eReaders without internet capabilities like the Kindle Paperwhite or Nook Glowlight are acceptable to bring on course.
- Too many books – they are heavy and do not last long in the wet season. Many books are available for purchase in-country.
- Anything made of leather that you don’t want ruined.
- A mosquito net or sleeping bag (all adequate bedding will be provided).
- Toiletries bigger than 3 oz.
- Jeans or cotton towels; they are too heavy and take too long to dry.
- Stained and/or ripped clothing.
- Low cut or see-through shirts that reveal your bra or midriff.
- Tank tops, short shorts, or tight fitting clothes.
- Low-riding, dragging, or baggy pants; not culturally appropriate and a safety concern.
- Swimsuits or bikinis (you can use a quick dry t-shirt, sports bra, and board shorts at or below your knees or hiking capris).
- Ratty, smelly, torn up shoes or flip-flops.
- More than 1 pair of shoes, 1 pair of sturdy sandals, and 1 pair of flip-flops (please remember that your shoes must fit inside your backpack; they may not be strapped to the outside as this is inappropriate in Buddhist countries).
- If you do have facial hair or dreadlocks, please keep your hair well trimmed for reasons of culturally appropriateness. While Dragons supports personal choices about appearance, cultural norms in Cambodia value cleanliness. As such, it is HIGHLY encouraged to adhere to local cultural norms in order to have deep and meaningful relationships with local communities based on shared respect.
- Makeup or cosmetics (you will sweat it off).
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT TO BUY IN CAMBODIA:
- Most toiletries
- Clothing if you decide you need it
- Treasures and souvenirs
Note on Shipping: Due to the movement of the course, difficulties with customs, and unreliability of shipping methods, we do not recommend shipping items to students during the program. Please make sure you bring all necessary personal items and medications for the duration of the course. For items like water bottles and headlamps, we definitely recommend bringing those from home.
Your I-Team (Instructor Team)
Kelsey, Brendon, & Seavyi