Staying Safe After Dark in Cambodia

Tourism is big business for the country, but take care that you're not supporting the "dark" economy by inadvertently funding crime every time you step outside for a night on the town.


While a night out in the Sisowath tourist strip in Phnom Penh (also known as the Riverside) might seem inviting, with its waterside location and up market bars, even well trodden and busy places like these can be the haunts of some of Cambodia's less salubrious clientele.

Prostitution in Cambodia

After dark, many of the tourist areas in Cambodia's cities come alive with a plethora of Asian beauties plying their trade on an open market.

These love-you-long-time girls are the stuff of legends, but a night with one of these lovelies may leave you with more than just a lasting memory.

Cambodia has a startlingly high HIV rate, and with sex one of its best forms of income, that figure is set to rise. The practice is so common that is actually harder to find a street that doesn't have a few call girls propping up the local buildings. And with pimps in the background waiting to force a sale, even approaching one of these girls is likely to cost you, so it's best to stay away in general.

More often than not, a polite "no" is all it takes to get rid of them, but if that isn't enough, just head into the nearest westernized bar where, generally speaking, locals won't venture.

Cambodian Beggars

With so many Cambodians suffering from amputations resulting from a chance meeting with a landmine, it's no wonder that everywhere you look there are beggars lining the streets.

They range from incredibly young children to aging pensioners, and they'll suddenly appear at the doorways to pubs just as the next intoxicated tourist decides to head back to his hotel.

It may be tempting to hand out some money to these poor unfortunates, but if you do, it may not be the wisest move you've ever made.

Generally, the younger children will have "guardians" lurking somewhere behind them, probably forcing them to beg. As soon as you whip out your wallet, it's not the child you need to worry about anymore.

Keep your money hidden, and if you really do feel the urge, make sure that when you leave your chosen watering hole, you have a small number of low denomination coins in your pocket for that purpose.

Dealing with Traffic in Cambodia

It may seem obvious, but don't step out in front of traffic. This is clearly good advice for any time, any place, anywhere, but when we're talking late night Cambodian motorcyclists with a contempt for drink driving, and a lack of basic skill in the first place, it's definitely warrants a warning for those of you heading into the built up cities for an evening out.

Cambodian motorcyclists are renowned for misunderstanding the concept of a road, and take to driving wherever they can see a gap, so for the unwary tourist with one beer too many and a somewhat dodgy peripheral vision of their own, even the sidewalk can be hazardous.

Drink Spiking in Cambodian Bars

If you're offered a drink in a bar, and it's clearly a local who's chatting to you, then you've got to assume the worst and say no, because there is a chance it could be spiked.

Drugs are a regular feature on the Cambodian night scene, with amphetamine, cocaine and cannabis among the most popular.

Tourists who take proffered drugs run the risk of being forced into pay exorbitant prices for the privilege, or threatened with being turned in to local police.

More worrying, is this thankfully less frequent practice of spiking drinks - four hours later you wake up wondering where you are and why your wallet is no longer in your pocket.

To avoid this being a problem, only ever consume drinks that you've bought yourself or by one of your friends, and never leave it on a table or bar unattended.

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  • Rowdymac said

    "make sure that when you leave your chosen watering hole, you have a small number of low denomination coins in your pocket for that purpose." There are no coins in the local (Riel) currency, nor are any US$ coins used here. If you were in Battambang and had Thai Baht coins they may be acceptable. The problem is that currency exchangers will not accept them, notes of most currencies, if in pristine condition are acceptable. Far better to stock up on 500Riel notes, don't give out single 100Riel notes as even the poorest and most genuine of 'beggars' feel more degraded by this than a polite refusal.

  • James Bong said

    Local dealers working with corrupt law enforcement to extort tourists is a problem in a lot of countries, but not Cambodia. In Cambodia, the problem is the drugs are too cheap and too pure.

    Some of the local dealers even give away free coke. Yes, free good quality cocaine, flown half way across the world (by the Nigerians living there). Why would anyone want to give away free coke? Because half an hour after you sniffed that line, you'll be back for more, and more and more, until the hole burnt in your nose, heart and head is more than a mountain of white powder can ever fill.

  • Richard Brittain said

    In Cambodia don't give kids money if they are begging!!! It's the worst thing you can do. Give money to old people but not kids. There are some decent NGOs (Friends etc) working hard to get the kids off the streets and train them for a profession. if you give them money, they will never want to go to school or learn. They get used to the streets and love the freedom and the parents like the income they bring in.

  • Steve Kim said

    Don't leave anything hanging on your scooter. They will even take your girlfriends period pad. Also watch for st 41 and 49 drug dearlers eververwhere with guns waiting to rob you, The police know but dont do nothing. wonder nothing. wonder why

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