Keeping safe in Cambodia

When one hears of traveling in Cambodia, or to any developing country for that matter, the issue of safety and security always comes up. Is it safe to walk around? Will I get mugged, or worse, murdered? Is it safe to leave my bag unattended?

Rules to Keep Safe

One of the rules to keep safe, in Cambodia and elsewhere in Asia, is that do not do in Cambodiawhat you don’t usually do in your own country. If you don’t walk around in dark side streets in your city, why should you do it in Phnom Penh? If you usually keep your valuables close to you when you’re in a public place, why leave it unattended in Sihanoukville?

Another tip is to be observant, and be aware of your feelings. Do you feel that there is something not right in a situation? If you feel that way, leave immediately. Don’t try to rationalize. It is better to be safe than be thought of as rude.

Beware the Landmines

That being said, there are some things that one should be aware of when traveling to Cambodia. While it is true that the Khmer Rouge is history, there are still landmines scattered around in remote places and areas not frequented by tourists.

The landmines are not an issue for travelers who are already satisfied with seeing Angkor Wat, swimming at the beaches of Sihanouville, or staying in major cities. For the backpackers and adventurers who don’t want to go to touristy places, however, the landmines remain a danger. They are advised to take safety precautions and to stick to cleared paths.

Urban Safety Concerns

Within the major towns in Cambodia, the biggest threat is still criminal activities. There have been the occasional reports of snatchings, robberies, and assault in Sihanoukville and Siem Reap, though generally the cities are safe enough to walk around in even at midnight.

In Phnom Penh, such reports are more frequent. They usually happen at night, and to tourists who are on foot or riding a motorcycle. Some safety precautions include taking a car when going back to your hotel late at night, putting your bag in front of you when riding a motorcycle, and holding on to your camera when you are walking around. It goes without saying that you should always keep your valuables close to you.

Still, when somebody tries to rob you, surrender the money and don’t fight. The robber could have a gun or an accomplice who could hurt you. Let them get the money rather than risk your life.

The Bottom Line

Any of the above can happen to anyone anywhere in the world, except maybe for landmines. However, the most important thing you should remember when you travel is that the same safety precautions you take in your home country can—and should—still apply when you are off to the other side of the world.

Be vigilant and aware of your surroundings. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. And don’t be afraid to say no firmly if you don’t want a particular souvenir item or an expensive ride. Young schoolchildren in particular—especially in Siem Reap—speak passable English and can be extremely persistent in selling you postcards and bracelets. A better way to distract them when you don’t want to buy is to talk to them. Quiz them on their knowledge of geography, and you will probably be amazed.

Most importantly, however, keep an open mind. Seeing danger everywhere you go will be a disservice not only to you but also to the place you are visiting. Cambodia is a wonderful place to visit, and given the chance, you will probably see why some tourists have been ensnared by its old-world charm and never left.

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