Health & Saftey in Cambodia
Health & Saftey in Cambodia is often overlooked by many travelers. There is nothing as frustrating as waiting months to go on your holidays only to have a big damper put on it by having something go wrong once you are there.
Here are some Travel Safety tips to keep you healthy and safe while you are here in Cambodia, Like most Asian countries Cambodia has its fair share of things to make you sick or even worse other dangers that could see you back home cutting your visit short.
The climate here can be extremely hot and dry in the months of January to April, temperatures can reach 40c and higher during these months and care should be taken to prevent something more than a little discomfort.
Sunburns can be quite painful and even on cloudy days before you know it your red as a lobster. Keep protected by using either sun cream protection or wear suitable light but long sleeve clothing along with hats to keep the sun at bay.
Beware of even the smallest cut or scrape as they can become infected here very quickly, wash any cut or abrasion well and apply antibiotic cream to the wound keep it covered when outside so as not to expose it to the dust and dirt in the air at this time of year it is easy to see a small cut turn to something much worse. Cut’s on the foot area are best protected with full covered shoes if possible and in the wet season keep any cuts away from water. The streets here in Phnom Penh can become a knee deep river very quickly after a heavy downpour this water is not the cleanest and can be very contaminated an infection is almost guaranteed if you have a cut.
The dust and dirt in the air can also be contaminated in the hot season and it is best to wear eye protection not only for the glare but to prevent any eye infections. Respiratory illness is also common at this time of year, the simple use of a face mask can help if walking, riding or driving around in traffic on the streets of Phnom Penh. Shops sell them everywhere and they are cheap and effective.
Drink plenty of water during the hot season and keep hydrated as you will lose more bodily fluid through sweating. It is always best to have a bottle or two with you as you may not find clean drinking water in some places you may go. Always drink bottled water and check the seal is not broken. Water from the tap is not recommended to drink.
Whilst out and about in Phnom Penh you will surely come across and use Moto’s (motorcycle taxis), Tuk Tuk’s (three-wheeled motorcycle taxis) or Cyclo’s (three-wheeled bicycle taxis). All are a great way of exploring the city However, there are some good points to remember when using these modes of transport.
Always agree on a fare before setting out on a journey. Motos should be no more than $2 and Tuk Tuk’s $5 to cross the city. At night though add a $1 or $2 to the fare.
Don’t expect a driver to know where you want to go most drivers will just say yes even if they don’t know to get the fare. Many drivers can not read so showing them a business card of a place even if it is written in Khmer will not mean anything to them. Most markets, temples and major landmarks they are sure to know so you can use them to help you navigate to your desired location.
Keep small change to pay for your fare more than $10 is difficult for a driver to change. So keep some local Riel and small amounts of US dollars in your wallet to pay your fare.
The general lack of road safety in Cambodia is common all over the country. If you are thinking of driving here yourself keep this in mind. Not stopping at traffic lights, drink driving and general lack of road rules is very common, at night this climbs dramatically as police are not to be seen. Only experienced drivers or riders should use this option.
Cambodia uses US dollars as well as their local currency the Cambodian Riel. It is always good to keep small amounts of both on your person for general purchases. Do not carry large amounts of cash on your person especially at night.
When using banks and ATM’s keep in mind some fees are quite high $5 per transaction is not uncommon. Try to look around as some are fee free and this may be something worth checking out to save a few dollars.
Keep your money in good condition mainly US dollars as any cut, tear, rip, discoloration, missing piece or a note looking faded or worse from wear will not be accepted by most everyone even banks. The local currency is usually OK even with a few rips or tears but can also be refused.
When given change check that the change is in good condition if it has a tear ask to have another, unsuspecting travelers have been caught all too often with this and end up having to wait till they return home to change the damaged note.
When withdrawing money from an ATM also beware of skimming devices, they are not so common but have been seen here.
usually, ATM’s will issue notes in Large denominations so to avoid getting a $100 Dollar note enter a smaller amount like $80 to receive 4 x $20 notes. You can sometimes go hungry with a $100 note, I have heard people say as it can be difficult to change.
When exchanging currency from your home country into US$ or Riel Banks can offer a usually poor exchange rate. In Phnom Penh, there are a few money changers available that can offer a much better rate than the banks. Lee Hour Money changers are common and offer a good rate.
Like any City, Robberies, muggings and bag snatches can occur especially at night. Always avoid carrying large sums of money on your person. Keep valuable possessions like cameras and jewelry out of site and Hold onto your bags securely, even when riding in a Tuk Tuk or on a Moto Dop.
A few people have lost bags snatched from Tuk Tuk’s or of the shoulder of a victim riding on a Moto also jewelry has been torn from a person’s neck as a passing thief on a Moto grabs the necklace and drives off into the traffic.
Some Guest Houses and Hotels have also had problems with theft maybe from staff or even other guests. Be aware and keep valuables safe. Ask reception if they have lockers to keep your valuables, while this is probably the safest.
If out and about at night it is usually best to take a Tuk Tuk or Moto from A to B rather than walking, during the day walking is quite OK but at night especially when alone it is not recommended. Most areas are not well lit and muggings have been known to happen in situations like these.
Accidents & Sickness Tips
If you fall ill or have an accident while here in Cambodia it can ruin your vacation completely Travel insurance is recommended for this very thing. While the availability of good medical advice and practice is improving here in Cambodia, it is often the case that people are recommended to travel to Thailand for treatment when it comes to major accidents This can cost thousands of dollars if you have to be evacuated. It may be worth calling your countries Embassy or Consulate for advice. For minor illness or accidents, your hotel may know a reliable local clinic they can recommend for treatment.
Phnom Penh has a variety of street food now including Western and Khmer, to avoid a bout of food poisoning it is always a good rule to eat where the locals eat if you see many people buying from a vendor it is usually a safe place to eat. Water is probably best to be consumed from bottles, almost all vendors will have bottled water for sale for approx 50 cents.
Travel Insurance is one of the most overlooked parts of a holiday, it is normally the last thing you think about when planning a trip away whether it be for a short 2 week vacation or a long journey, most people tend to forget about the things that may go wrong and only think about the places they will visit, what they will do, what they will see etc.
I was, and somewhat still am the same. It,s not until the last minute that I think about Travel Insurance too. However, I have never been without it when I am away. (Well except once) Over the years I have seen so many things here in Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam all over Southeast Asia really, go wrong for people. From accidents to robberies, Lost belongings to adventure trips gone wrong.
Once we went on a 3 Day adventure riding trek on dirt bikes it was one of the best times I ever had, an experience I’ll never forget and one a fellow member of the group will not forget either, but not because of the adventure and excitement. Because of a simple mishap that had him in the hospital with a broken ankle and collar bone along with half his body covered in road rash. This accident cut his trip short. Although he had no insurance he was at the beginning of his trip and luckily had enough money to pay the evacuation and hospital bills. But that was the end of the journey for him as he had no money left after that and was off home without a cent in his pocket and more bills to pay.
Another person I knew was driving a rented motorcycle and had an accident with another local driver and his family the outcome was not good and apart from the expense of the repairs to both bikes, there was the expense of the medical bills also. With no insurance, he had to wire home for some money from his family to pay the cost somewhere in the amount of $4500 US dollars and yes it was his fault. Another lady Just recently was involved in an accident which cost her over $60,000 US dollars before she was able to even get on a plane to go home. I have also come across many people who have had their belongings stolen or lost including their passport and all their cash and cards along with cameras and phones etc, no Insurance either. I could go on and on with the stories I’ve seen and heard about but I think you get the point.
Insurance, when you are traveling, is a must and finding the right one for your needs is also a must.
When traveling to Cambodia Insurance is highly recommended whether you’re here for a week or two or like me here for years at a time, I am never without it.
There are so many companies where you can purchase insurance but it’s hard to find one you can trust. For Tips on what you should look for in a policy, you can go here to the Travel Insurance Page. But always read the literature for any policy you decide to go with and see what they offer there are many things to consider. It’s nasty work reading all the fine print but worth it, in the end, to know that you will get what you signed up for.
Many people have asked me who do I use and my answer is simple, “World Nomads”. My Family, Friends and I all use World Nomads. Because their travel insurance is simple, flexible and value for money. If you would like to know more about World Nomads Go Here.
The vast majority of travelers will have trouble-free trips throughout Southeast Asia and beyond. But accidents do, happen and although having insurance won’t stop the problems that may occur or make them go away, it does make them so much easier to deal with and gives you a great piece of mind. At the end of the day, buying travel insurance is a personal decision but we all feel it is of high importance and highly recommended for any trip away.