Spotlight City: Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phnom Penh is the largest and most populous city of Cambodia, with a population of about 1,500,000. Located on the banks of the Mekong River and Tonle Sap, Phnom Penh is Cambodia’s economic, industrial, security, political, cultural, and diplomatic center. The city has been noteworthy for its beautiful and historical architecture and attractions. Phnom Penh experiences high crime rates, including common petty crime. As a visitor to the city, you should be aware of a handful of safety tips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey.

Threats and Risks to Travelers in Phnom Penh

The general crime rate in Phnom Penh is high. The threat of violent crime cannot be discounted, and opportunistic crime for financial gain poses a high risk. Pickpockets and thieves frequently operate in crowded public locations, such transportation centers, market areas, special events, the river front area, and crowded buses. Take caution with your belongings when out in public. Purse snatching and bike theft are unfortunately common. Muggings and other violent crime also cannot be ruled out, and have been known to occur in public even during daytime hours.

Hotel staff have been known to enter rooms when guests are out and steal personal belongings. Local police are rarely cooperative, so it can be difficult to recover your stolen items. As a result, stick to reputable hotels only.

Traffic in Phnom Penh can be very dangerous, as locals drive aggressively and disregard traffic laws. Drive defensively and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

There are lots of scams that target foreigners in Phnom Penh. These can take the form of invitations to play rigged gambling games, confidence tricks, or fake personal appeals due to some tragedy. Never respond truthfully if a stranger asks when you are leaving the country or where you are staying.

Best Practices for Personal Security in Phnom Penh

Remain attentive at all times, as thieves can relieve you of your possessions very quickly. Be aware of personal space and exercise caution if you find people bumping into you haphazardly, as this is a common way pickpockets steal. Thieves can also work in pairs: some types of beggars can be insistent and distract you while another thief quietly pickpockets your person. Do not carry high amounts of cash on your person, and keep personal documents separate from your wallet to minimize the chance of loss. Avoid too much cellphone use in public, as this attracts thieves. If you are facing a robbery or mugging, do not attempt to use violence.

Try to avoid dangerous modes of transportation, such as tuk-tuks, as these also carry the risk of you being robbed.

Stay only at reputable hotels and don’t believe that a hotel room is a secure place to keep your valuables.

Whenever possible, stick to larger, well-lit roads and avoid side-alleys or isolated streets, especially after dark. At night, it is best to remain in areas with lots of people. If you can help it, avoid travelling alone. Entertainment areas near bars and clubs tend to attract the most crime after dark, so exercise caution.

What to Do in an Emergency

In the event of an emergency, dial 117 for police, 118 for fire and 119 for an ambulance. Be advised that assistance in English is not guaranteed. Contact the representation of your country in Cambodia as they may be able to provide further assistance. Phnom Penh maintains a tourist police force, which can be reached at 012 942 484. Be aware that the local police force has been plagued by corruption and is often ineffectiveness in providing genuine assistance.

Enjoy Your Trip!

Though it can be a rough place, Phnom Penh maintains the charm of a leafy South East Asian capital with an abundance of local cultural artifacts and a beautiful natural geography. In recent years, the city has seen fast development as high rises and infrastructure modernization begin to creep over. However, the city still remains one of the most undeveloped capital cities in Asia. Phnom Penh is known for being one of the most culturally-preserved cities in its region. The city is a great place to stop and learn about the fascinating culture and history of Cambodia.

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