Phare, The Cambodian Circus has only been on the performance art scene in Cambodia since early 2013, but already they’re well on their way toward changing the lives of Khmer youth. Using performance art as a means for social change, the team at Phare are all about creating avenues for tourism-supported local development – a mission they share with Buffalo Tours. With this installment, Emily Martin of the Phare team talks responsible travel, buying better and being a more sustainable traveller in Cambodia.

Responsible and eco-tourism knowledge and participation is growing fast. It’s exciting and inspiring to see so many organisations either developing responsible aspects into their work or starting from the ground, up – basing their businesses on the idea of giving back to the communities they are operating in.

When travelling in developing countries like Cambodia, there are many ways you can make sure your tourism money is spent wisely to leave a positive impact, and help local development. That’s something that we think should be at the core of travel. Here’s 4 things you can do on your travels in Cambodia that does just that!

1. Have Lunch at Epic Arts Café in Kampot

Everyone has to eat while travelling right? Epic Arts Café is the social enterprise established by Epic Arts in 2006. It provides work opportunities to people living in the area with disabilities and has become a hang-out for students who are deaf. Not only this, but it raises funds for the work of the NGO behind it.

Epic Arts is an organisation working to educate and empower Cambodians to see ability not disability. During the last 10 years it’s grown from a few workshops in Phnom Penh, to the construction of their very own, fully accessible arts centre in 2009.

Of course this café isn’t the only one in Cambodia that focuses on helping develop the lives of the locals. You can also chow-down at training restaurants such as Haven, Marum, Bloom and Connecting Hands Café.

 2. Rent a ‘White Bicycle’ to get around on in Siem Reap

If you’re thinking about cycling round the temples, going for an explore in the countryside or just want another way to get around Siem Reap city then why not rent a bicycle for the day?

With White Bicycles not only will you get to go at your own pace and have a wee leg work out at the same time, but you’ll be supporting a great non-profit charity.

The organisation has over 100 bikes which they rent to hotels and guesthouses in Siem Reap to be able to hire out to travellers. Proceeds go towards supporting clean water, educational projects and the Giant Puppet project. At just two dollars a day to hire the bikes, it’s an easy way to support local development.

 3. Go shopping at Daughters of Cambodia (Phnom Penh) and the Made in Cambodia Markets (Siem Reap)

These two places are an ideal place to do your holiday shopping if you want to help contribute to the development of Cambodian people.

Daughters of Cambodia is an NGO working to help victims of sex trafficking in Cambodia. They have a day centre and many different programs and resources to help change the path of life for these girls. Every item sold in the boutique is produced in their operations centre and the sales go back to the women who created the work and the organisation supporting them.

Made in Cambodia markets opens on the weekends only in Siem Reap and houses many stalls – all selling products either created and supporting local NGO’s, local companies creating eco-friendly and sustainable products or individuals who would otherwise have no platform to sell their goods.

4. Have a night out at Phare, The Cambodian Circus in Siem Reap or Battambang

Phare in Siem Reap is a nightly performance of theatre, circus arts, dancing and music. The stories told are uniquely Cambodian and focus on the countries recent history, culture and current social situations. All of the performers train at the NGO School, Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang where there is also the chance to see them perform, though only a few nights per week.

The school was set up by 9 refugees from the Khmer Rouge and their arts teacher. They had found art therapy so powerful in helping them overcome their trauma that they wanted to share it with as many children as possible. The school was founded 20 years ago and today there are over 1200 students at the public school, helped through the social support services and studying in the arts programmes. All the students come from very difficult social and economic backgrounds and through the school they have the opportunity to transform their lives through art.

When attending the show not only do you get to experience the passion, drive, talent and dedication of these young performers, but you are also contributing to the continued development of the school and providing job security for the current artists. You can find tickets online for tickets to the professional show in Siem Reap or the student show in Battambang.

Cambodia is an incredible travel destination that deserves to be enjoyed and experienced – but not without plenty of prior research and planning. Making your travel in the country count toward something better requires finding the right information before you even get on the plane. Nevertheless, it’s possible to make every single one of the dollars you spend in Cambodia count toward a brighter future for the country.

Buffalo Tours is committed to creating tours that benefit the local communities and people of each of our destinations – and partners with life-altering NGOs like Phare to do it. Experience Cambodia while making the most of your travels there. Check out our tours to Cambodia, or customise your own adventure here!


  1. […] Instead, visitors can help empower and build local communities by choosing the right tour options. We have lots of tours to villages and homestays in communities that work to support (not exploit) these individuals. The money that you spend to visit these communities goes directly back into local economy, and helps kids go to school and parents support their families. To learn a little more about what we do in our destinations, check out our blog post on sustainable travel activities in Cambodia. […]

  2. […] In 2016, your challenge is to become a responsible travel expert before you ever board your plane to Asia. Read up on the latest responsible travel tips, research the best ways to make a positive impact on your destination, and tell others about what you’ve learned. The Buffalo team is excited to help you become an expert throughout this year with lots of great guides and tips. For now, get started with our guides to responsible photography, souvenirs and social responsibility in Cambodia. […]

    • Thanks for your kind words! We are certainly excited to help promote important ways we can all be a part of changing lives through travel. Have you given us a follow on Facebook yet? We’ll be sharing lots of new opportunities to get involved in our responsible tourism initiatives soon, if you’re eager to be a part of it!

Leave a Reply