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Cambodia’s capital has a huge choice of venues for a great night out including fancy places to eat, drink and party plus plenty of backpacker bars and cheap eats on the streets alongside the river. For those looking for something more low-key, there are several night markets, including alongside the river on Sisowath Quay, with great street food and all the usual tourist fare.
Famous for its Pub Street, Siem Reap also has plenty of bars, pubs, clubs, and eateries to suit all budgets. While a walk down Pub Street can be fun for the spectacle alone, if it’s not your scene, there are also plenty of bars on the side streets such as Sok San Road, Steung Thmei Road, and The Lane. Be wary of the usual scams, beggars, and groups of street kids.
Once, the seediest part of Cambodia, Sihanoukville is in the midst of a Chinese upheaval, with the old beach bars being demolished to make room for huge casinos which seem to be popping up everywhere. There are still pockets of debauchery – if that’s what you’re looking for – but it’s not really recommended for a night out. In fact, these days you’re better off skipping Sihanoukville altogether and making your way to the islands from Otres instead.
A short tuk-tuk ride from Sihanoukville, Otres Beach is a great place to spend a few days. Home of the Saturday night Otres Market, featuring live music, food and craft stalls, and Kerfuffle, the famous all-night rave in the middle of the jungle, along with nightly parties and plenty of bars, Otres has a lot to offer the traveler looking for a good time. Other options include starry skies and bioluminescent plankton, with fewer problems than befall the bigger cities. Be careful when taking tuk-tuks between the beaches and the village at night, and definitely don’t leave your valuables on the beach if you pop for a late night swim.
The beautiful island of Koh Rong is as famous for its chill-out vibes as it is for its nightlife, including a monthly Full Moon Party on Police Beach. Leave your valuables behind, don't leave your drinks unattended and avoid walking home alone. There have also been several drug busts and reports of visitors being thrown in jail, so it’s best to stick to the booze.
Try to go out with friends or fellow travelers so you can relax more with someone watching your back. Leave valuables and bank cards at home where possible, and watch out for pickpockets, bag snatchers, street beggars, and drunks.
While drink spiking isn't as common as pickpocketing, it does happen. Local police have reported drink spiking incidents Sihanoukville, particularly in bar venues frequented by travelers.
There are things you can do to avoid falling victim, waking up hours later and wondering where your valuables have gone.
Drugs in Cambodia are rarely what they claim to be. Despite a no-tolerance law, there is a big problem with crystal meth/ice/yaba in the Kingdom, and it’s often marketed as speed or MDMA. Drug-related deaths are not uncommon, with powdered heroin being sold as cocaine and dangerously unregulated pharmaceuticals causing serious illnesses.
Police sting operations could land you in jail or see you being marched to the ATM for even the smallest trace of marijuana, so it’s always best to avoid them when it comes to illicit substances.
Drink driving is a big problem in Cambodia, especially with people on motorbikes and big cars. With the increase in vehicles on the roads, accidents are becoming more common. Don’t drive drunk, always wear a helmet when riding a scooter or bike and be extra wary when you see big trucks and cars coming from the other direction as they generally drive down the middle of the road at high speed with their headlights on full.
After dark, many of the tourist areas in Cambodia's cities come alive with sex workers. Be wary as Cambodia has a high HIV rate, particularly among sex workers. Pimps aren't far away in the background waiting to force a sale, so even approaching one of these girls is likely to cost you, so it's best to stay away.
More often than not, a polite "no" is all it takes to be left alone, but if that isn't enough, just head into the nearest westernized bar where generally speaking, locals won't venture.
There is a notoriously seedy element to some of the bars and areas in Cambodia, especially hostess/girly bars. If the scantily clad women don’t give it away, then the look of the clientele might. These are best avoided, as many women are exploited plus scams, drink-spiking, and pickpockets.
Be wary of any locals dancing with you in bars and clubs or paying you a lot of attention. You may get your wallet swiped, your heart stolen, and a knock on your door the next day when she shows up looking disheveled with several mean-looking family members in tow, claiming assault and forcing you to go on a walk to the nearest ATM.
Listen to 22-year-old British backpacker, Zoe Eleftheriou, who was riding a scooter in Siem Reap, Cambodia the unexpected happened – a petrol station caught fire and exploded just as she rode past, resulting in burns to more than 30% of her body.
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Local laws, how to avoid petty crime and deal with police corruption in Cambodia. Stay safe on your trip with these tips from our local expert, Cassie Wilkins.
Camera in hand, scholarship winner Kelly Beckta joins the celebrations at Angkor Wat.