Visiting Cambodia is safe for the whole family. Tourism is an important feature of the country's economy, so foreigners are regarded with respect and well-protected.
Traveling involves some risks, however, no matter where you go. It is always important to be careful and to use common sense, knowing what risks you might encounter when you visit a foreign country.
Here are some common problems along with some advice; it should be easy to avoid the problems with a little bit of knowledge and foresight.
Avoid traveling by motorcycle, for that can be dangerous. Usually, there should be no problems with tuk tuks or taxis.
Renting a bicycle is the best way to get around. Always stay on the main road and don't venture into isolated rural areas. It is advisable to choose reliable travel agencies and ask them for the best routes: this will significantly improve your experience.
Due to traffic conditions, it is essential to be extremely careful when crossing the road: always use a cross walk, and assume that drivers might not follow the same rules you are used to.
As you go around, you will hear a lot of honking: this may mean someone is going to pass you. Just keep going straight without changing direction. If you are crossing the road, stop immediately.
Scams and tourist traps
Scams are common in many countries. This is because tourists are relaxed and lower their guard, and people want to make a profit from this. Always be careful and take precautions.
Most scams in Cambodia are not a big deal: usually, they involve an extra commission for drivers, especially in Siem Reap.
Some scams, however, can be dangerous and expensive: a little bit of knowledge will protect you along the way.
The guy collecting money
Maybe the most popular (and most harmless) scam is that of a local who approaches you telling you he/she is a coin-collector who is missing coins from your country. He/she offers to exchange local currency for your coins, offering what looks like a fair trade.
Of course, it won't be fair: he/she will try to get as much money as possible while giving you almost nothing in return.
There are plenty of shops around selling all kinds of souvenir. Around the tourist areas the prices are in dollars, but everything is extremely over-priced.
There is a local price and a tourist price. Check more than one place to compare prices and avoid the traps. If you want to buy souvenirs, head to the markets in town.
If you want to buy a particular souvenir, let us know and we can arrange a tour of the best shops. Always remember to bargain. Your guide can help you get the best deal.
The number of orphanages in Cambodia has risen by 75% during the last five years.
It might happen that an orphanage is exploiting poor families by telling them their kids can get food and education for free. Tourists will visit the orphanages and make donations money that is of course kept by the owners.
If you want to visit an orphanage, find a reliable one, for example by getting in touch with an NGO.
When visiting the Angkor Temple, do not accept an incense stick from anyone. If you do accept a stick or two, they will show you how to make a quick and simple prayer and then charge you US$ 5 for each stick you got.
A variation of this scam is the fake monks: they walk around the temple-area offering golden cards for good luck. They can ask for up to US$ 20 per card. If, however, you look carefully at them, you can discover they are not real monks, but scammers. Real monks don't go selling stuff around the temples.
Invitation to a Local Home
While you are walking around in tourist areas, it may happen that a local approaches you. He will start talking, asking where are you from.
Coincidentally, he may say that members of his family are going to move to your country and then ask if you want to join the family for dinner and talk to them.
You will enter a house where there is a gambling game underway. You will be invited (or forced) to join the game, and then lose your money.
To be safe, always be skeptical of people telling you their family members are going to travel to your country. It is a common way to start a scam.
Baby milk scam
A young mother carrying her baby will approach you, typically when you are having dinner. She will say she doesn't have money to buy milk for her baby. If you decide to help her, she will point out a shop where you can buy the milk for her.
Sometimes, however, the owner of the shop is part of the scam. He will overcharge you for the product and wait for the woman to bring the milk back. He will buy the milk back for a lower price and sell it again and again.
Food is almost never a problem in Cambodia. Street food is usually safe, but always be careful. Choose only the best places to eat, as the hygiene is not always great. Be particularly careful with seafood, since sometimes it is not kept in a fridge.
The quality of medical service varies enormously from city to city. The most up-to-date facilities and best treatments are available in major cities such as Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Vientiane and Yangon.
In these cities, hospitals and clinics are sufficient for daily needs and pharmacies are well stocked. For serious conditions, it may be best to seek treatment in Bangkok or Singapore.
Bring with you medicine to treat common illness (such as aspirin, flu tablets, antihistamine, etc).
Usually tap water is unsafe to drink (unless boiled), so stick to well-known brands of water and drink.
Asia Highlights will do all it can to help you ensure a safe journey.
Violence against foreigners is extremely rare, but it is always good to be careful and alert, especially when travelling solo or walking around at night.
As in any other country, do not leave anything unattended, especially in crowded areas. Always take care of your belongings.
The most common crimes are pick-pocketing and bag-snatching. When out walking, keep your bag close to you and protect it with your arm. Avoid walking on the sidewalk with the bag towards the street.
Do not carry too many valuables with you: bring only the things you really need. If you are riding a bicycle, do not put your valuables in the front basket. Smartphones are an easy target: always put them in a safe place (your front pocket) and don't leave them unattended.
In bigger cities, thieves use motorbikes to snatch bags, sometimes without letting go, dragging passengers off their motorcycle-taxis.
If you are going to need the help of the police, prepare some money. Any police intervention will cost you money, with rates varying according to the size of the claim (from $ 5 to $ 50).
Visit Cambodia with Asia Highlights
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