Cambodia is safer to visit these days than ever before as the political situation is stable and the crime rate is generally low. There are no extremist hotspots in the country and terrorist activity is rare. However, risks and dangers are still present and visitors should take care when exploring after dark, particularly in Phnom Penh.
In the countryside, unexploded landmines still pose a threat and visitors who want to stray from the beaten track should take a guide along with them. Occasionally armed men can accost those who stray onto ‘private’ land. While it unusual to get away from these situations scot-free, those who keep their cool and negotiate should be able to reduce the fines considerably.
Crime in Cambodia
Cambodia is a very poor country and opportunist crime is high. Visitors should keep valuables hidden, especially when travelling in crowded areas such as markets, on public transportation and after dark. Theft can be a particular problem in touristy places such as Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Again, visitors can minimise the risks by choosing to travel by taxi rather than cyclo or moto and avoid travelling alone on deserted streets.
Scams in Cambodia and touts
Tourists may be approached by scam artists, who offer them what seem to be excellent deals. Generally speaking, if something seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.
A good example of this is the ‘precious gem’ scam, which is found all over Southeast Asia. These so-called gems are usually ordinary stones that have been treated with chemicals and are worthless.
Scam artists are easy to spot. While the Khmer are friendly, be suspicious of anyone offers a deal, especially if it needs to be sold in another country for a profit.
Natural disasters in Cambodia
Cambodia’s poor drainage system makes the roads susceptible to flooding, especially during the rainy season. Areas around the Mekong River and Tonle Sap are particularly at risk during this time. Other natural disasters that tend to strike Cambodia are droughts, tropical storms and forest fires. However, the largest of Cambodia’s towns as well as the cities are rarely effected by natural disasters.
Disease in Cambodia
Visitors should make sure vaccinations such as hepatitis are up to date and take malaria tablets while exploring Cambodia as well as a couple of weeks before and afterwards. It is also a good idea to apply insect repellent after dark as well especially in overgrown areas such as national parks. More on health risks.
Corruption in Cambodia
Police occasionally try to coerce bribes out of tourists, especially at borders and checkpoints and if you’re driving a motorcycle you may be stopped and told to pay a fine. You can get out of paying the fine or reduce it considerably if you are polite yet firm and make eye contact. The police have also been known to plant drugs on tourists in order to get fines. If you are set up, don’t panic. They are generally just looking for money and with a lot of patience the situation can be sorted out. Paying up before you get to the police station keeps costs down.
Road safety in Cambodia
Driving in Cambodia can be a real gamble as many drivers disregard the rules of the road, and a large number drive without licences. Both driving and even walking across the road can be rather dangerous here, especially in large towns and cities and visitors should take particular care after dark as there are few, if any, streetlights to show the way. More on transport.
Women travelling alone in Cambodia
While this may raise a few eyebrows, solo women travellers are generally just as safe as men. The gentle nature of the Khmer people means that women are unlikely to receive too much unwelcome attention from men.