The Children of Cambodia - A Heartbreaking Experience for Visitors

Driss & Marrionn


When we first visited Cambodia, we knew that it is a poor country, and we expected to see poverty and beggars, mostly child beggars. However, we have lived in Angola and traveled through Africa so it shouldn't be worse or much different.  Well, it was, and we will explain why.

If you are traveling to Cambodia, you should know that Cambodians use children to get money from tourists. There are mainly two ways of doing so: orphanages and child beggars.

Cambodian orphanages have become a kind of a tourist attraction...a very dark tourist attraction. Yes, take a breath,  people pay to go and see orphanages in Cambodia. However, that's not even the worst part. It's that in such a poor country, parents are giving away their children to orphanages because the children are a big money generator. If you are thinking about visiting an orphanage, please think again, your heart may be in right place, but you are probably doing more bad than good.

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Child beggars or children selling stuff in the streets or close to touristic attractions - usually temples - is the other way. Parents and other grown-upz know that tourists have a soft spot for children, so they put them selling stuff or simply begging. Note that sometimes it isn't even money they ask for. There's a famous scam called the milk scam where children convince foreigners to buy formula for a baby, pick out the most expensive one, and then sell it back to the shop. The profits are split between the shop owner and whatever adult is, in essence, “pimping” the child.

The bottom line is: You shouldn’t give money to the children, because it encourages them to skip school, and in the long term it's bad for them and the country. Travelers are motivated to contribute when seeing poverty and children in vulnerable situations, the way they contribute could be more harmful than helpful to the children.

However, be aware that it will be difficult, these children are highly motivated and trained to convince you. Furthermore, most of them are very very cute and it may break your heart saying no... constantly saying no.  We know it broke ours!

Jorge and Claudia are travel bloggers from Portugal who lived in Angola for three years and currently are traveling the world. Their mission is to keep on discovering new countries and sharing their tips on smart and budget traveling. Find out more about their trips on travel drafts!

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