Scams in Cambodia
A few tips and tricks that will help you stay safe in Cambodia, as well as scams to be on the lookout for.
Safety is always important to me when I travel. Which is why I did not like Cambodia as much as the other SE Asian countries I visited. During my two and a half weeks there I think that I only once saw a police officer. That was when some kids tried to pickpocket me as he was laughing and looking. That kind of set the level of things for me and although nothing else happened during my stay there, it definitely made me feel more uneasy at times.
Here are some scams to lookout for while in Cambodia(or all of Asia really) and tips to help you stay safe:
Traffic Police Bribes
As in most countries in SE Asia the police in Cambodia are very corrupt. They might pull you over and just make something up on the spot in order to have you pay for their next beer. Even if you talk yourself out of their first accusation they will keep coming with them until you give up and pay.
They target tourists because they can pay more than the locals. You can see them wearing light blue, batons and often blowing a whistle to pull you over. If they do and you have broken any traffic law, it probably is a very good idea to pull over. However if you have not broken the law, stopping would only complicate things. Do keep in mind that Cambodia also has the military police, they have guns and don’t mess around. If they tell you to stop, do it immediately.
How to avoid this scam:
Follow all the traffic laws, for example if you are riding a motorcycle make sure to use a helmet even if the locals do not.
Learn where the traffic police usually stands and you can avoid them. Know the alternative routes.
Don’t stop for them, they probably will not chase you because they can just stay put and way for the next tourist to come along. Accelerate past, u-turn or turn down some other street if you can.
The laughing kids
This is one of the scams or whatchmacallit that happened to me. I was walking on a street and all of a sudden this pack of four to six of kids runs up to me. They all look super happy and they hug me and cheer and laugh a lot and it is all joyful and surprising. Until you feel them grabbing your keys, phone and wallet. Luckily I pushed them all off before they could take anything but let me tell you they don’t give up so easily. And as I wrote in the text above this one, a police officer was looking the whole time and he was probably ready to charge me with assault had I been using to much force against the kids… So watch out for that.
There are countless horror stories to read for anyone about the borders of Cambodia. People have been getting scammed and mistreated there for a long time. And even though I get the feeling that it is getting better, it is still good to think twice and to stay vigilant. At the border they might try to overcharge you or rush you saying that you will not get in if you not pay etc. etc.
The easiest thing to do to avoid any hassle at the border is to simply get a E-VISA on beforehand. Apply online, I got mine within 3 hours of applying on a Sunday afternoon. It costs the same and you can enter the country easily with it. If you do not have the E-VISA then make sure to bring at least 30-40$ and a passport photo.
Baby Milk Scam
This is one of the most common ones and also one of the sickest ones. What happens is you meet a mother with a baby, she asks for money for milk because she can not feed her baby. She brings you to the store and point it out, you pay her and she is so thankful and happy. But, once you leave she will resell that milk and this is the worst part: In most cases it is just a baby she borrowed to use for this scam. She will walk around with that baby along in the sun just to make some easy cash of someone with a kind heart. For shame.
These are just a few of the many scams that you have to watch out for in Cambodia. Also note that these scams happen in other countries of SE Asia as well.
Hopefully you will be as safe as ever while in Cambodia but I know that I could never really relax there as I could in Laos or Thailand. So be smart and think twice! 🙂