Is Cambodia Safe? 5 Essential Travel Tips for Visitors

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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.


Night market in Siem Reap Photo © Getty Images/Nora Carol Photography

Cambodia is pretty safe for travelers, but like elsewhere in Southeast Asia, it does have its share of petty crime and trouble with the police.

Cambodia is becoming an increasingly popular destination for travelers to Southeast Asia. Generally, Cambodians are warm, open, friendly and appreciative of tourists and the economic benefits. From bag snatches and pickpockets to rip-offs and scams, here are our top tips for staying safe in the kingdom.

1. Petty crime in Cambodia

The most common crimes in Cambodia are bag snatching and pickpocketing. Whether you’re in a tuk-tuk, on the back of a motorbike taxi or just wandering around the crowded markets or countryside, non-violent petty theft can happen anywhere.

Some thieves will simply lift your bag while you’re sitting at a restaurant, and others will make a quick snatch-and-grab from a tuk-tuk. The one to be most wary about is the moped snatch and grab. While the driver is concentrating on the road, the passenger will grab your bag and hold on tight. If the straps don’t break they will just drag you along the road with them. So, it’s best to let it go rather than risk serious injury.

2. Personal safety tips for Cambodia

Aside from leaving the backpack at home and only carrying the cash you need, here are our top tips for minimizing risk.

  • Stick to well-lit, busy areas and always be aware of your surroundings. When walking through a crowded place, carry your bag or backpack in front of you
  • Only carry the cash you need for the day, or use a hidden money belt. Don’t carry all your bank cards, and split them between your bags so you are never left without access to cash
  • Keep your valuables out of sight as much as possible
  • Leave your passport locked up at your accommodation. Take a photo to keep on your phone, or bring a scanned copy of the passport
  • Don’t carry cross-body bags over one shoulder, and when walking ensure that the bag is on the side of the street away from the road
  • Whenever in a tuk-tuk, ensure all your bags are securely inside the vehicle. When riding a motorbike try and put valuables in front of you, or between you and the driver if riding pillion. Don’t put your valuables in the basket on a bicycle
  • When using public transport always try to lock your bag and keep it as close to you as possible. Never leave your bag unattended on the bus while you go to the bathroom
  • When sitting at a bar, café or restaurant, try to select seats against a wall. Keep your wallet out of sight and keep your bag on your lap. Don’t leave it behind while you go to the bar or to use the restroom, no matter how fancy the place or how trustworthy your friends are
  • Don’t ever leave your valuables unattended when you’re on the beach. Even a wallet in a pocket of shorts tucked under a sunbed or on a deserted stretch of sand is still fair game
  • Always lock your door when you go to sleep at night and use a locker when staying in a dorm. Ask your accommodation what the security situation is, and if you are anxious about break-ins then ask if you can keep your valuables in a safe at reception. During the rainy season, robberies and break-ins happen more often.
  • Always backup your phone, photos, and important documents to the cloud as much as possible. If the worst does happen, you don’t lose everything.

3. Police corruption in Cambodia

One of the big issues in Cambodia is police corruption. The majority of police officers are not paid enough to support themselves and their families, so they often seek out small donations or bribes.

If you're traveling by car or moped you will most likely be fined at some point by the traffic police. This might be for something as simple as having your headlights on during the day (which, according to the locals, attracts ghosts), riding a bike without a helmet (which you must do to be covered by travel insurance), and not having the “correct” license.

There are a couple of ways to avoid police corruption here: forget the moped and take tuk-tuks and public transport everywhere. Avoid paying bribes – this encourages future behavior.

If you need to get a police report for a travel insurance claim, chances are you’ll meet more corruption. You will be charged for a translator, and the “stamping fees” will be a little higher than locals pay. It’ll set you back about US $10. Avoid the translator charge by asking a staff member from your accommodation to accompany you as a translator.

If you don’t want to be a part of the bribery/corruption/extortion racket, you can ask to escalate to a superior officer, but you’ll get sent to the provincial office and you’ll waste hours or days lost in the bureaucracy.

4. Drug crime in Cambodia

Drugs are illegal in Cambodia. When purchasing both legal pharmaceuticals and illegal drugs, you can never know exactly what you’re getting, and drug-related deaths, freakouts, and psychotic breaks are unfortunately not uncommon.

There are also plenty of police drug sting operations that can result in you ending up in a Cambodian jail indefinitely, with little or no legal help, a hefty fine or facing deportation. There aren’t many worse places to end up, so it’s definitely worth erring on the side of caution and avoiding drugs and similar risky situations at all costs.

5. Places to avoid in Cambodia

Pub Street in Siem Reap, and the bars around the riverside in Phnom Penh, can make for a very enjoyable night. Leave all your valuables at your accommodation and know your limits when it comes to alcohol. It’s always worth going with a friend and not walking home alone at night. Go, have fun, but keep your wits about you as much as possible, even if it means calling it a night one drink earlier than usual.

There are other shadier areas around Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville that are famous for girly bars and as places to pick up. These are generally best avoided, as it is all too common for a man to fall prey to a beautiful lady, only to go home with her and wake up 24 or 48 hours later with no memory and no valuables to be seen.

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  • Anon said

    I lived in Cambodia for quite a while and it was a warm, inviting, friendly place to live. There is a dark underbelly to all cities, and one of the crimes which often occur in Cambodia are termed 'love killings' they mostly happen to local women, and not uncommonly. It is where men fall in love with women they can't have and then for some reason rape them and kill them. I was a victim of one of these attacks and escaped with my life in tact. Luckily. Hang out in groups with people who you feel comfortable around. trust your instincts. if you feel uncomfortable don't worry about being rude, trust your gut. At the end of the day you are a tourist and an outsider with an ill equipped and corruptible police force. In saying all this talk to the locals, interact and enjoy the country, once you go there it gets in your blood and you will love the country forever- there is something so special about the place and people. I would not recommend going there as an attractive/young/single girl.


  • JohnW said

    skycambodia and Andrew ... I fully agree ...I have just returned from Cambodia after a 3 week trip.
    Never had any problem or felt unsafe as long as one uses sensible approaches to personal safety.
    Dont look an easy target and be covered in bling.
    I kept my iPhone in my front shorts pocket with a clip on it.
    Phnom Penn is interesting and cheap and fun.
    Siem Reap and the temples is a must do.
    Good advice finding a tuk tuk driver who is young happy and english speaking.
    I found one in Siem Reap and booked him every day for 5 days.
    He looked after me and took me to cheap places I wouldnt have found and was lots of fun.
    And he was happy he had a good customer and a good weeks work.
    All this for $15 a day. I also bought him lunch (not part of the deal) as I didnt see the point eating by myself.
    1 x thai beef salad 2 gin & tonics and a can of coke was $7US so an extra $7 for some conversation and a smiling face was a good investment.
    Just be sensible like some of these other posts suggest.
    As one of the posts states
    "talk to the locals, interact and enjoy the country, once you go there it gets in your blood and you will love the country forever- there is something so special about the place and people"


  • Ann Loscombe said

    My son will be going To Cambodia with the Peace Corps. How dangerous is it really? He will be there for 2 years and is very excited. He is not a tourist but will obviously be interested in everything to do with the country. Although he is excited, as a mother I am concerned that he might encounter more danger than he is prepared for. Not just robberies, but terrorists and people who are anti American.


  • Julie said

    We spent a few very short days there at the end of April. We always felt safe. We always negotiated a price for public transport before we left. I felt less safe in the trains at home Thani did in Pub street. Yes I am over 40, but we were out at night, always aware and always felt the locals to be safe people. Tell your sone to go to Phare Circus in Siemens Riep. Stunning physical theatre.(expensive at s$18.00, but so worth it.)


  • Lauren said

    I had a really unfortunate incident today in Phnom Penh. I got caught up in an incredibly elaborate scam set up, apparently involving the Filipino mafia. Google "poker scam Phnom Penh" or similar to hear other reports. I was drugged, mildly. I was able to bail before things took a turn for the ugly and did not lose money. Sure, I was too trusting, but I can't explain how incredibly well designed the whole thing was. And yes, of course, I never would have imagined I would be vulnerable to such a scam.


  • Finn said

    Lauren...I find it interesting that following an incident in which you were drugged and scammed by the Filipino mafia your first response is to get on the internet and come to the author/Phils defence. Let's just ignore that for a moment though and pretend it is plausible.

    Cambodia is a friendly, soulful and generous country. Yes you should be mindful and aware, but that is advise that applies to everyone, everywhere -at all times and is not exclusive to Cambodia or Cambodian people. I found this review incredibly disappointing. It completely ignores the best of Cambodia and instead panders to an audience that might be better suited on a cruise ship bound for Orlando.

    Perhaps a better screening process is needed for your writers :)


  • Amy said

    I just got back from a three week holiday in Cambodia. My friend and I are both single and in our twenties and before leaving were a bit concerned about this being a problem, this didn't end up being the case.

    I've been to Bali, Singapore and Vietnam before and while these places all have their merits Cambodia is by far my favourite after this recent trip. I have never encountered such happy people. By the second week I was much more confident engaging with the local people of Phnom Pehn than I have ever been back in my own home town.

    I am commenting now as I remembered reading this article before I left and wanted to say now that I think that it hypes up the danger tourists face. To be fair it is several years old now and Cambodia has changed. Yes, there are always risks and yes you need to use your common sense in a developing country where poverty is common. However, do not be afraid to travel here! You will find the majority of people you come across warm and helpful and not out to scam you.


  • CEO tech4life said

    Lauren... "I got caught up in an incredibly elaborate scam set up, apparently involving the Filipino mafia." You're 100% right! As an experienced traveler and regular visitor to Cambodia, I got intimidated and threatened by what turned out to be a Filipino couple when strolling around Wat Botum Park near the Cambodia/Vietnam monument on December 21st, 2015. A "friendly" lady tried to engage me in a conversation asking "Where you come from?" Knowing the scam, I ignored her question and instead gave her a piercing look. That alarmed her partner who suddenly turned up hurling all sorts of insults towards me. There was a crowd a I shouted for help (in Khmer!) but there seemed to be no police around. Luckily, I had the camera of my smartphone, which they seemed to fear like the devil fears the holy water. They quickly escaped on a motorbike, still screaming and shouting! I don't know who was more scared in the end...


  • james said

    as a regular visitor to phnom penh over the last 2 years and have a cambodian girl freind but i must admit i have come to the conclusion that the majority of cambodians are brain dead or mentially affected as they have no power of reasoning and every day is same,same to them, i fully realise that 83% of cambodians can not read or write or have never been to school so the fact that they show no pride in there city (go to the kandal market if you want filth and stench)and simply do not care to learn a few basic words in english , not even a thank you,as for help in a situation forget it as even the police turn there back if trouble appears and to report a crime or see a drug dealer selling drugs to children along the river do not waste your time as you will fobbed off, but of course if you offer some tea money they very quickly snap to attention,if one was to return in 500 years from now it would be just the same, same the way it has been for the last 1000 years,james.


  • Robbie T said

    My Chinese gf was thrown to the ground in an attempted motorbike purse snatching today at 3:30 PM in broad daylight on a bust street (136). Luckily she was not hurt other than some scrapes and bruises, and she kept her bag after the coward gave up when she refused to let it go. No one did anything to help even though there were numerous witnesses. A few even laughed. Please heed the advice of the OP if you want to visit PP, and think very carefully about coming at all if you do not wish to expose yourself to a lawless metropolis where youthful criminals pillage as they please. just google "Phnom Penh bag snatching" and see how many hits you see over the past DECADE. What a joke! Leaving early and never coming back.


  • Alex k said

    I was just walking down monivong at 4 pm and someone attempted to snatch my purse. I was walking the opposite way of traffic, to see traffic coming. And the thieves were going the opposite way. My boyfriend was walking closer to the road, to be sure I was safer on the inside of the road. I had my bag over my shoulder, across my chest and kind of under my arm, away from the road. I'm always extremely almost overly protective of it. And they still swooped in front of my boyfriend and grabbed the strap. I held onto the purse into they sped off. You can never be too cautious I guess. Enjoying the city otherwise. 2nd day in


  • Gary said

    Have now lived in Phnom Penh for 12 months. Visited Cambodia from Sydney for two weeks and fell in love with the place. We were lucky as a friend who had lived here over 25 years took us for a 6-day trip around the country visiting heaps of provinces and places out in the middle of nowhere. Absolutely love it. Went home, sold up and within a month and a half we were living here. It is our intention to live here forever. My wife and I live in a Khmer suburb where there are no other westerners. We are learning Khmer and find the locals are more than willing to help us. My teacher sets up his white board in our local restaurant for my lessons. As I’m learning the staff only take my order in Khmer. Sometime I think by the time I finish ordering breakfast it will be dinner time. We have established a free service to coach Khmer in the work ethics and obtaining jobs with western style businesses. we know we are starting to be locals when the local tuk-tuk drivers stop asking you if you want a ride. At the markets there are 3 prices: Tourist, ex-pat and local. We are now down to between local and ex-pat. If you don't haggle you pay more. They give you their lowest price, you give what you are willing to pay and you haggle your way from there. You have to be willing to walk away if you think you are getting the right price. Going with Khmer friends is fun and they can help guide in bargaining. You don't haggle with the street food cart sellers as there are operating at a bare minimum as it is.
    As with any city there is crime. And as with any other city you need to take care. Every now and then someone will try something on but as soon as you start to speak a few words of basic Khmer they quickly realise you know the game. I don't carry a wallet but have money and copies of my passport, license and vehicle rego papers in various pockets. My wife and I don't wear jewellery, only our wedding rings. We dress similarly to how our neighbours dress. We try to be home at night by around 10:00. Not so much to do with crime but the young blokes get drunk and are speeding around on their motos. Easy to get run over if not alert. Also our day, like the neighbours, starts at 6:00 so we need a decent sleep.
    I ride around the city by bicycle. Also have a large moto but use that out of town otherwise it is too much hard work getting through traffic. We have a regular tuk-tuk driver when we need one. If he is unavailable, he has someone he trusts come and get us. He gives a good price and we shout him lunch if we are out all day. When we were setting up our apartment he was invaluable in us getting a good price and good quality.
    I love the people here as they are friendly and welcoming. My attempts at Khmer are a never ending source of amusement to them. We hardly ever go near the tourist spots as they are too 'touristy'. Visited them when we initially came here to say we had been there. I visit the National Museum as I love history but it pays to read up on Khmer history so the exhibits then have some meaning. We often have friends come over from Australia to visit. The first place I take them is S-21 and The Killing Fields. This helps explain a lot about why Cambodia is where it is at today. Not nice places but definitely worth the visit.
    With the rapid development of Phnom Penh, it is possible for westerners to come here and stay cocooned from the locals. If you are patronising and feel superior and get upset by not getting the correct order in a restaurant or have to take time trying to get your message across to a non-English speaker, or don't like trying new and interesting food (spiders aren't too bad) or don't want to deal with beggars I suggest you stay home. Twice I have been stopped by police who have wanted to stroke my beard. It's a talking point with them. Remember you are coming to someone else's society. Corruption is a way of life but you soon learn to live with it.
    Cambodia really is the ‘Kingdom of Wonder’


  • Brandon said

    BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT THIS PLACE IS CRIME RIDDEN AND WE ARE THE TARGETS. The only reason all these kids have smartphones is because of tourists money. We dont come they dont get paid. End of story. I had my phone, watch and some cash stolen. And just tonight I was informed by a security guard some men were trying to seal my rental motorbike.


  • Thomas Hengstwerth said


    be on the alert in Phnom Penh. My wife got her bag taken in a violent way today as we stopped with the Tuk Tuk. A guy on a motorcycle drove by and just snatched her bag. The police here are unfortunately not very keen on helping they just take note. This is very unfortunate as the previous poster said, Phnom Penh needs tourist and if more of these things happen we will just stay away.


  • Jermaine said

    I'm feeling terribly worried now as I'm going to PP for a 3-days biz trip ALONE!
    God bless me.


  • daniel lane said

    i just spent 18months living in cambodia and i will never go there again , all cambodians will steal from you if they can , tuk tuk drivers are filthy crooks who prey on westerners , anything you buy will be fake even in big stores , dont eat cambodian food as they will cook anything even if it is rotten , all cambodia is very dangerous and rape is very common plus the police are so corrupt , they will only help after you pay them a big bribe,


  • john said

    There's some hysteria on here.
    Regardless of where you are, whether you are scammed or a victim of crime depends on your behaviour, awareness and level of common sense.
    Cambodians in the main are welcoming gentle and friendly.
    I know because l've been many times.
    Great and generally safe place to visit and explore, l 100% recommend


  • John said

    Like some of the other recent posters, I have been seriously considering Cambodia for retirement. After reading all this, Cambodia seems to be too dangerous a place for a single old man from the states. I don't want to retire in a place where I have to be on guard 24/7 and sleep with one eye open.


  • steven said

    Don't forget there is No police help anywhere ever for Foreigners in Cambodia..
    if you robbed, injured or friend murdered the first thing they will do is try to
    extort money from you and are not interested in what may have happened...


  • Anton Martinovich said

    Hi All Fri (Hello Everybody in Khmenglish),
    After 7 years in Cambodia, many of them running a bar/restaurant in Phnom Penh. I recently took all my notes on the all interesting differences there and made a free android app. It is politically no-so-correct, humorous, and a bit sarcastic (sarcasm isn't well understood by SE Asians) but gives you a lot of insight on WTF is going on in Cambodia. It's called Khmenglish and it is a 450 term Devil's Dictionary for the Kingdom of Wonder. It sums up the place pretty well, you can look at more info and get a free download here:

    Longtime ex-pats that have read it just giggle and say it is quite spot on. Safe travels, Anton


  • adam said

    Thanks, tips and information is very useful for my trip, I really like your article. I also want to provide important information for you who will come to Bali, dont forget to enjoy the best spa in Bali


  • Andy said

    I lived in Phnom Penh for a few years at the turn of the 00s. Apparently the security situation has improved exponentially. This kind of saddens me, because the enhanced rule of law is inextricable from the nefarious and now complete consolidation of power by you know who and his gang of thugs. I preferred the good old days when it wasn’t unusual for an expat to carry a tokarev.


  • howard said

    Iam a retired Brit been here last 3 years my advice wear a bum bag keep your money in it, dont wear jewelry keep your mobile in your pocket .DONT show off exspensive bags possestions.
    be wary of dogs
    Smile be freindly ,this is a very special unigue country, Forget Europe its nothing like that
    The people are lovely most speak some English yes they can be a nuiscance trying sell you things just smile and say no thank you and walk on.
    Dont ask for trouble yes you can walk around by yourself quite safe too
    My advice to Women stay in groups yes it is dangerouse especialy at nights especialy the beach in Sihanoukaville and the streets in larger towns .
    Cambodians welcome tourists most are desperately poor its a day to day survival for them so they are looking to make a quick buck anyway they can.
    dont be put of by some of the stupid things said here.
    Its a very special country totaly unigue lovely lovely people but not all so be very wary
    AVOID the police they will ignore you if you act sensible


  • Neil P said

    You say that police are corrupt because they are not paid enough, but hardly anybody in the country is paid enough and you don't see them being criminal like the police are. The police are abusing the power they have, they prey on the people instead of serving them. The probelm is not pay, it is their exploitative, immoral attitude.


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