A very popular tourist destination, particularly as part of the South East Asia backpacker route, Cambodia is a relatively safe destination to visit. With millions of tourists welcomed inside its borders each year, Cambodia is used to crowds of foreigners, but there are some things that are important to note to ensure safe travel in this holiday hotspot.
Is Cambodia Safe?
Cambodia is a relatively safe destination to visit but there are high rates of petty crime and scams, especially in the tourist hotspots. Millions of tourists visit Cambodia every year without issue.
Environmental and weather safety
In rural and remote areas, it is crucial that you stick to marked paths, as there are many UXOs or unexploded ordinances still dotted throughout the countryside. These landmines have been the cause of loss of limbs and other casualties for locals and tourists alike, so as well as sticking to the marked paths, do not go close to or touch anything metallic in rural Cambodia.
Severe storms and widespread seasonal flooding, including localised flash flooding can occur without warning, particularly during the wet season from July to November. The Cambodia–Thailand land border is occasionally closed due to flooding. It is best to be prepared, especially in the wetter months, with waterproof clothing and a contingency fund to draw on if you need to catch a last-minute flight or spend an extra night somewhere, all in the name of safety.
Click here for a guide to weather in Cambodia
Safety in public places
Many locals are cashing in on the rise in tourism with scams or 'tourist traps' at popular sites like the Angkor complex. For instance, beggars – adults as well as children – locate themselves near temples and monuments and ask for money for a range of ailments and situations. Many are genuine, however some may be part of a larger organisation pooling money and sharing it at the end of the day. Beggars prey on tourists' guilt, so only give what you are comfortable to give, or ask your tour leader for legitimate local organisations that you can support financially.
Petty theft and small crimes, such as bag snatching, have been known to occur in Cambodia, especially later at night and in areas that aren't well lit. Be careful on motorbikes as well – thieves don't discriminate and may put your life in danger by dragging you off a moto in order to get their reward.
There are, on occasion, political demonstrations and protests that occur in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh. If you do find yourself in Phnom Penh during a demonstration, steer well clear, as there have been instances where such protests have become hostile and violent, sometimes to the point of gunfire.
Bars and nightclubs in Cambodia are usually very safe spaces for travellers, especially in high-traffic tourist areas. Some establishments, however, may attract a dodgy crowd and get a little sketchy at times. Some such bars can be known to sell nitrous oxide – a drug more commonly used in hospitals as an anesthetic, but also has effects of hallucination, laughter and euphoria. If you do wish to head out on the town, be aware of your safety and the people around, don't leave your drink unattended and refrain from ingesting any substance that may be dangerous to your health and/or land you in trouble.
Safety for LGBTQIA+ travellers
Cambodia is generally a safe destination for LGBTQIA+ travellers, but social attitudes towards LGBTQIA+ individuals are complex. For a detailed report on safety for LGBTQIA+ travellers in Cambodia, plus a rundown on queer culture in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, go here.
Safety for solo female travellers
In general, Cambodia is a destination that female travellers can feel comfortable and safe travelling through alone. Verbal street harassment is relatively uncommon in Cambodia and women can generally walk alone without being bothered. As with any country, it's best to walk in a group at night and keep away from rough neighbourhoods.
Read more about solo travel with Intrepid
Tips for staying safe in Cambodia
- Stick to marked trails in the Cambodian countryside
- Be wary of scams at tourist hotspots like Angkor
- Avoid drinking the tap water
- Read the Phnom Penh Post for breaking news and up-to-date info
- Be cautious when checking out Cambodia's nightlife
Is water safe to drink in Cambodia?
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