One of the most, if not the most important thing you must learn about country you are going to visit is how safe your visit will be.
If you are a traveller or a backpacker, you probably don’t want to be robbed, spend your time at a police station, hospital or worse.
South-Eastern Asia countries are considered as safe and pleasant destinations for foreigners. Especially because of friendliness and kindness of citizens, who can welcome newcomers with open arms. Cambodia is not an exception.
It doesn’t mean that you don’t need to be aware. Cambodia, as most of the developed countries has an issue with petty crimes, as thefts, and few bigger, that we will talk about in this article.
We’ll tell already that you don’t have to be afraid and refuse to visit the Kingdom. But if you don’t want your time to be spoilt, there are some precautions that you should know before the trip.
First thing you’ll need to know is a theft problem. Pickpockets, children gangs or biker packs catching unsecured bags from tuk tuks are something that you need to be aware of. Some attackers may take your goods but they won’t run away. Instead they can demand money for returning your property. Crowded areas, like markets or public premises like bars and restaurants are places where you definitely must be vigilant.
It may look frightening, but just follow the steps below to avoid a robbery:
Keep your stuff close to you in tourist areas.
As silly as it sounds, don’t look ‘rich’ – leave your designer clothes and jewellery home. As well you can paint a target mark on your chest and draw ‘Rob me!’ on your back.
Your pockets are not safe! – especially walking around crowded streets and tourist areas. Consider investing in at ravel money belt for the ultimate protection.
If you’re going to a festival, be vigilant more than usually – bigger crowd, more thieves, less security – bigger risk
Don’t walk around with your smartphone.
Don’t trust overfriendly strangers – even such warm people as Cambodians can be too friendly. And these people just want to put your vigilance down.
Keep all important things with you on a bus – this is the best way to prevent anyone getting to them.
Try to wear your backpack on your chest. Don’t leave anything beyond your eye range.
If you carrying an arm bag, don’t carry it on the roadside.
Don’t carry more cash than you need and leave all unnecessary stuff in hotel safe. Of course, not all hotels have safes. If you chose a cheaper one, do not leave the most valuable goods in your room. If you are backpacking, you need to trust your vigilance and keep everything with you.
On the bus, tuk tuk, at bar or restaurant keep everything close to you and make it as hard to reach for others as possible.
If someone will grab your bag or backpack let it go. Thieves can be extremely desperate. It’s better to loose cash or phone than get some injuries.
Avoid the fights…
The last point was really important. You’ll never know who you are dealing with. It’s not only the matter of involving a fight with pack of thieves, where you can get a solid beating in the best scenario…
If someone is aggressive to you try to ignore or calm them down. Don’t lose your temper – it’s not hard to escalate the hard situation. If something goes wrong it’s better not to be an aggressor in a conflict. You can also meet someone related to VIPs. Kids of the Cambodian elite carry a lot of sway – and some carry guns. If you’re out at night, don’t get into any scuffles.
Also, be wary of other travellers and expats – even if it’s painful stereotype, the lawless reputation of Cambodia attracts some suspect characters. Be careful who you get involved with. Don’t walk alone at night. If you’re partying, know your limits, and don’t leave your drinks. If you’ll leave them, better order new ones. If you’ll stick with those precautions, even the party in darker corners of capital city will be safe. Kidnappings, assaults on tourists and other terrible things are reality, but it’s not common thing in Cambodia. To be honest, it’s a part of each big city in the world.
Other matter that you must know are beggars, especially children. Remember, it’s your choice to give them money, but you can be sure that they won’t stop on one donation. The poverty is real problem, we know it, but there are a lot of Cambodian NGOs taking care of poor. Unfortunately, tourists have a big impact on beggary in Cambodia – your good heart can help one person but harm the whole campaign against the problem. Don’t fight the obtrusive beggars, even children. They may return in a bigger group armed with bottles and other dangerous items. While visiting rural areas and temples watch out for fake monks. They’ll get you to pay money if you wander into a temple on the outskirts of Angkor Wat. Don’t bother, they won’t attack you because it would blow their cover.
Another thing that you need to watch out for is taking photos. You’re a fan of military and see some interesting installations and objects? Keep them in your memories, because photographing such things is illegal and you can be arrested on charges of espionage. Don’t take photos of airports as well.
We hope we don’t need to tell such obvious thing but …. Stay away from drugs. They are illegal in Cambodia, so you may get not only trouble with dangerous substances, but also the law. Common drugs in the Kingdom are the weed of course, but also cannabis and yaba. The last one is really dangerous. Drugs are quite easy to get. Some people can often offer you some marijuana or another specifics to buy, but never accept it! Sometimes it’s just an ordinary dealer, and sometimes this person may contact the police right after deal.
Police also organising a lot of set ups for careless tourists. The officers will probably ask for a bribe…
We must tell it straight. Corruption is a big problem of Cambodian police. The reason is simple – policeman salary is often too low to support their whole families, so they are looking for extra cash.
Policemen will try a lot of occasions to look for a donation. They may be extra vigilant. If you’re traveling by car or moped you can be checked because of small things like the lack of headlights, helmets or problems with license. You can restrain the risk simply by using tuk tuks and public transport. If you need a car, you must have Cambodian license. If you have an International Driving Permit, you can apply for a Cambodian license for $32. Some local travel agencies can arrange this for a fee. Driving or riding a motorbike without a licence may also invalidate your travel insurance in the event of an accident.
If you’ll have a contact with a corrupted officer you can always escalate to the superior officer, but spending a lot of hours (or more) on the station is not a perfect activity during vacation… If you’ll have to pay, better do it, but the best way is to avoid it. It’s not so hard and it won’t encourage the future behaviours.
Whatever you’ll do, don’t be hostile. Cambodian prison is not a place you’d like to visit…
There few more subjects that you must know about safety in Cambodia. It’s not only suspect characters, corrupted cops or drugs.
The darkest episode in Cambodian history – the Khmer Rouge has left something more than monuments of genocide that you can watch in museums. Some relics are hidden underground and they are extremely deadly – landmines.
Mine fields are often unmarked, so avoid the open spaces in rural areas, even near temple complexes. Do not pick up any unknown metal objects.
Below you can see the location of the fields in the country:
The problem of mines in the Kingdom is being slowly erased. Thanks to foundations and activists who risk their life to clear the fields from these horrible weapons. Recently Cambodia gained a big support from Norway to solve this problem.
There are also few but obvious precautions. Protect against mosquitoes. Cover up, use repellent, burn coils. Those little vampires may bite really painfully. Watch out for dangerous wildlife, especially snakes. When walking around rural areas keep your eyes peeled.
If you’ll need to report a crime or accident, please, remember the emergency numbers. 117 for police, 118 for fire, and 119 for ambulance. If you need to report a crime in Phnom Penh, go to the Central Security Office at Number 13, Street 158, near Wat Koh. In Siem Reap, the Tourist Police office is next to the ticketing booth for the Angkor temple ruins. In Sihanoukville, Battambang and other towns in Cambodia, seek advice from local police on which police station you should report to.
And the most important thing. Have a good travel insurance. Wherever you travel. Even in the safest place on Earth you can have some unpleasant happening, so be secured and obey all rules included in your insurance regulations. Choose your hotels wisely. Don’t look at the price and nothing more. Security doesn’t need to be cheap, but it must be efficient.
Cambodia is really worth visiting. Like all developed country, it has some darker places, but if you’ll be abiding the advices we were talking about, you can be sure that your visit will be safe, enjoyable and unforgettable.