Staying Safe in Cambodia - Travel Warnings and Safety Tips
If you would ask us if Cambodia is worth visiting, for certain our answer will be positive. There’s fabulous exotic nature, lots of antiquities, friendly smiling people, 100% organic fruit, tons of seafood, and best value for money regarding accommodation.
But to be honest not all that rosy here. The country is very contradictory and even reciprocal. Don’t get too emotional, always keep calm and steady, organized and attentive. We’ll try to explain why.
The Cambodians clearly understand that tourism is one of the most important revenue sources. Besides, the Khmers inherited habitual sense of respect for foreigners since the French colonization times.
Nevertheless there are natives who seem to be detached and pragmatic about visitors taking them for easy money. More often than not travellers provoke taking advantage of them. Accepting drinks from strangers at a party or getting drunk in a bar in front of tuk-tuk drivers, who will take you home later or going out alone at night or doing drugs with some guys, all these things make you a perfect target for desperate cash-strapped locals. Teasing poverty-ridden people with jewellery and money burger in your pocket is not the best idea. Don’t let your guard down and try to avoid situations compromising yourself.
Robberies, armed assaults and thefts take place mostly in touristic places. Bikers’ attack against pedestrians is the most popular way of robbery in Phnom Penh, they simply tear bags and photo-/ videocameras off walking people. This may end up with saying good-bye to your stuff, and even a serious injury caused by falling.
While going out it’s preferable to keep your things in the backpack and put it on your front rather than back. In this way your hands are still free which will help you to manoeuvre or fall down with comfort.
One day in Cambodia
Ok, now imagine somehow you managed to keep feet and went on down the street. Along with all those begging alms you met a woman cradling her baby and asking for food. Plus she’s followed by children, her children with baskets of whatnots to sell to you triple the price. Run Forest, run! This woman will bring you to the store, you’ll buy her milk, rice and not ony and right after you turn away she will give this milk back to the assistant for cheaper price (cause she’s local) and keep the change.
Trying to escape you cross the street and you hear a polite “Hello, Sir”. You look at this local guy. He’s friendly and not so persistent. You two talk while walking. And here he suddenly recalls he lives just next door and would love to introduce you to his family. Again, leave now! Most likely they will start playing cards or something (gambling) and extort all your cash.
You storm out into the street passing by a monk flapping his arms at you. Ok, a monk... what he could possibly do, you ask? Ha! Now he’s chasing you along the street and claims for the money you own him for blessing. He’s a fake monk. Real monks are not allowed to address people and particularly claim for money.
Ok, the day is a mess! And the only thing you wanted was to buy a ticket for this night bus to Sihanoukville. You rush to a tuk-tuk whispering “Sihanouk night bus” and take off. In two blocks tuk-tuk stops and the driver proudly declares “fifty dolla”. What? Ridiculous? No, that’s all right. Take it easy. They are fooling tourists on the off chance and sometimes they do succeed.
After bargaining for 30 minutes you paid overpriced USD5, climbed off the vehicle and found yourself facing a tour agency. Nice a/c office, neat ladies, picturesque booklets, everything’s perfect. You are so happy to find a place where everything so properly arranged. So, happily you pay them USD24 for a ticket to Sihanouk and head for your hotel. Just in ten meters you see some kind of a market stall with the same booklets and commercials. And of course you come up to ask about the price for the same bus and get “14” in reply.
You feel as a giant “L” letter (L for looser) is peeping out on your forehead but keep going on. All of a sudden like from nowhere appears a dude offering something but you can’t get what exactly. After a 5-minute-talk you understand that he offers you marijuana sounding like “marivanna”. It’s only 50 meters from your hotel so you flee forward leaving the guy freaked out.
At night you try to fall asleep but all in vane. You see the nightmare. Your luggage was stolen from luggage compartment during one of the stops on your way to Sihanouk and the bus itself bit the dust at all. So you had to hire a taxi for USD30 to get to town. Oh, wait, that was not a nightmare, that actually happened during your transfer.
Indeed all the above is based on real events but, relax, you can avoid them by taking basic precautions. Just keep both eyes open!
As for the drugs; it’s illegal but it’s very easy to get them here almost for free especially if call it happy pizza or magic cakes. But it’s equally easy to get in trouble for this not speaking about hard drugs which may send you not only to jail but provide one-way ticket to the skies.
And don’t put high hopes for local hospitals. Health care level in Cambodia is low. Primary health care is available in Phnom Penh’s hospitals but thoroughgoing treatment will be feasible only in the neighbouring Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. For this reason the first thing to do when setting off on a journey take care of your insurance to be valid on the territory of Cambodia and its bordering countries and to cover transportation cost.
Going to an exotic country we always risk to catch a tropical disease. Cholera and other waterborne infections, amoebic and bacillary dysentery, typhoid fever, А, В and С hepatitis, different worm infections can still be found here. Malaria infection increases during rainy season as well as another mosquito-borne disease,dengue fever. And this is another reason to get your health insurance ready. Make several copies of the insurance passport and always keep one in your backpack, while the original will be in the safe-box together with the rest of your documents (passport, money, etc.).
Needless to say about hygiene rules observation. Drink only bottled water, use antiseptics and wash your hands more often.
Keep calm and go to Cambodia!