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Staying Healthy in Cambodia

Travelling to a distant country is a refreshing experience: we will find different food, culture, people and places. To get the best out of it, we have to stay healthy and safe.

Staying healthy in Cambodia is quite simple. Pay attention to the following things:

  • When choosing a place to eat, watch out for poor hygiene;
  • Pack any medicines you might need;
  • Beware of high temperatures, especially during the hot season;
  • Always stay hydrated.

Below are some hints about how to stay healthy in Cambodia.

Food and drink

Eating and drinking in Cambodia is usually safe. It is still, however, a good thing to be careful and to search for information before eating. Apps like YELP can help you know if other travelers are getting sick by eating a certain food.

Street food is everywhere, and most of the time it is safe. Sometimes, however, seafood is not refrigerated and is sold in places far from the seaside, and this can be risky. Always be careful when choosing your dining spot, especially when looking for street food.

Be sure your food (especially meat) is well cooked. Fruit should be carefully washed and/or peeled before eating.

It’s a good idea to use the apps on your phone to check out local restaurants when you can. Travelers are not very forgiving of bad restaurants, especially if they get sick because of them. A good rule of thumb is to observe the number of customers (locals and non-locals): the more, the better.

Tap water is not drinkable (except when boiled; there should be no problems with coffee or tea). It is totally safe to drink bottled water and drinks: to be extra-sure, drink only from containers with serrated seals.

Vaccinations and medical suggestions

Health facilities in Cambodia are relatively poor. Private hospitals are better equipped, but they can be expensive. A lot of treatments and procedures are not available in the country.

Talk with your doctor and have a health check-up before you leave. This should be done anyway before ‘serious travelling’.

Follow the tips below to avoid any problems.

Health insurance

Some kind of health insurance is essential. If you faced any serious illness, there would be two possible negative scenarios: 1) the public hospital is not equipped; or 2) the private hospital is excessively expensive.

You can get fairly cheap insurance that would allow you to be evacuated to a hospital in Bangkok for free.

Vaccinations (4-6 weeks before your trip)

When travelling to a distant country, always talk with your doctor and check about recommended vaccinations.

Plan your vaccinations ahead: some require more than one injection over a period of time. Record all your vaccinations on an International Certificate of Vaccination and bring it with you.

Some of the recommended vaccinations are:

  • Diphtheria and tetanus (these usually come together);
  • Hepatitis A: this vaccine provides long-term immunity after an initial injection and a booster after 6 or 12 months;
  • Hepatitis B: three injections and a booster after 12 months, can be combined with the vaccine for hepatitis A;
  • Polio;
  • Tubercolosis: especially recommended for children and young adults;
  • Typhoid: may be required if your trip is longer than two weeks.

Medicines to bring along with you

Pharmacies in Cambodia have a limited supply of medications. Bringing some medicines with you will allow you to treat non-serious illnesses without having to see a doctor or going crazy trying to find what you need somewhere in-country.

Your doctor can suggest to you some common over-the-counter medicines.

We recommend bringing at least:

  • “Blockers” like loperamide or diphenoxylate: diarrhea is a common sickness for travelers in Southeast Asia;
  • Aspirin for fever or pain;
  • Cold and flu tablets;
  • Aloe vera for sunburns and irritations;
  • Bandages, plasters and other wound dressings.

Keep the medicines in their containers. Bring prescriptions with your name on them (the same as on your passport) and you won’t have any problem bringing them in.

Remember also to bring hand sanitizers and wet napkins: you are going to need them.

If you wear contact lenses, remember that Cambodia is a really dusty country. This can cause a lot of irritation when traveling around. You won’t, however, have many problems when travelling in a car.

Bring your medical record

To avoid any problems, bring your medical record with you. It should include:

  • blood type,
  • immunization record,
  • any allergies,
  • any medications you are currently taking.

It is a good idea also to bring information about your doctor (name, telephone number, address, etc.) and your insurance company.

Wildlife

The nature in Cambodia is truly amazing, and most travelers explore it via boat rides, hiking and other outdoor activities. If you choose to do this, always hire a reliable guide; do not take risks.

The flora and fauna in Cambodia are rich and varied. When walking through undergrowth, always wear boots or long trousers, to minimize the risk of getting bitten by a snake.

Leeches can be present in damp rainforest conditions. They will get stuck on your skin and suck your blood. If this happens, use salt or a lighted cigarette to get rid of them.

The more remote beaches can be home to sandflies. If they bite you, use an antihistamine. The bite is really itchy; if you can’t resist, use the palm of your hand to quell the itching.

Beware of the heat

Cambodia, even during the cold season, can be quite hot. Frequent cold showers and air-conditioning are a good way to avoid a rash.

Itchy rashes are common, however, caused by excessive perspiration trapped under the skin. If this happens, drink plenty of water, bath often and dry your skin using mild talcum powder. Locals use a lot of talc: the most popular is Curash (US $6).

Always stay hydrated when you are out walking during the day, and eat plenty of vegetables and fruit. If the heat is tiring you out, rest in the shade or go back to your hotel.

Cambodian people prefer to stay hydrated with coconut water, full of minerals with plenty of potassium. Coconuts are sold everywhere for just US $2.

The Asia Highlights Experience

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Check out the following links to learn more about our tours and make a head start today on planning your hassle-free vacation!

12-Day Cambodia and Vietnam Highlights

14-Day Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos Tour

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