All too often, Cambodia is wrongly deemed an unsafe destination – usually by those who have never been – and this is not the case. However, like anywhere else in the world, crime still occurs, and as a visitor to a foreign country, it can pay to take a few steps of precaution to steer clear of trouble.
Whether in the Kingdom of Wonder for a holiday or longer-term travel, many visitors seem to lose their common sense as soon as they step foot on Cambodian soil. Maybe it’s the excitement of being away from home, or the heat transforming brain matter to mush, whatever the reason the first question to ask yourself in any situation is, “Would I do this at home?” If the answer is no, then it’s relatively safe to say the same applies in Cambodia.
It’s more than likely you’ll be indulging in a beer, or four – it is a holiday after all. We all let our guard down after a few drinks so try not to get up to any drunken antics, such as getting into a booze-fuelled brawl with a local, arguing with a tuk tuk driver over a dollar or getting cheeky with bar girls. Guaranteed, it won’t end well – likely in hospital or with a spell in a cell.
While Cambodians are generally kind, generous and super-friendly, it pays to keep your wits about you as there are some crafty cons kicking about the country, which mainly target tourists. If something seems too good to be true, it’s probably because it is. Also, don’t be afraid to say no to a sob story, or probe for further information. And it’s not just locals to be wary of. Cambodia is full of foreigners and travellers who are on the make, so watch out there too.
While Cambodia is safe, it is also an increasingly popular holiday destination and with tourists comes opportunistic crime, wherever you are in the world. One trend that is on the rise, with foreigners particularly targeted, is bag snatching. This usually involves a couple of people on a motorbike who will grab a bag as they drive by pedestrians, and moto and tuk tuk passengers.
It’s advisable to leave valuables locked in the guesthouse or hotel safe, and only carry essentials. If walking then ideally take a rucksack or carry your bag on the shoulder away from the road. And while you may really, really want to snap that moto carrying a family of six with your sparkling iPhone 7, you’ll feel stupid when it’s whipped out of your hand by a passing motorbike.
Bag snatches aren’t just limited to pedestrians. Tuk tuks are increasingly being targeted, so don’t hang out of the side with your camera or leave your bag on the floor when travelling in one. Some bag snatchers operate in gangs, particularly at night, so be aware of them surrounding your tuk tuk – the same applies to motos.
When thieves target moto passengers is when it can start to get really messy. Losing your valuables is annoying, sure, but not the end of the world, however, many victims on motos have come off much worse. The major mistake many passengers make is slinging their bag across their shoulder, meaning if it is grabbed they come tumbling off the bike too, causing sometimes fatal injuries.
If you’re a lone traveller, or female, then fear not because Cambodia is full of like-minded globe-trotters and it won’t be long before you’ve forged friendships with people from across the globe.
Again, it’s worth taking a few extra precautions just to be on the safe side. Keep friends and relatives up-to-date with your plans and regularly check in – while making them jealous of your adventures. Stay in a reputable guesthouse and steer clear of those dodgy dark alleys at night.
In the modern world of technology, keeping in contact with others is simple. Getting a sim card loaded with internet data in Cambodia is easy, with them available almost on every street corner thanks to the country’s thriving mobile phone culture. All you need to remember is to bring your passport with you. This enables you to get in touch with fellow travellers and friends and relatives back home, if you need to.
Always remember to take a business card for the place you’re staying in case you get lost and need to get back. And if you’re going off the beaten track, then ask reception to write down any instructions or addresses in Khmer to give to your driver.
Another top tip is to save your location and destination on Google maps, which also serves as a great reminder of your travels when you get back home.