Cambodia for many people still has a reputation of a dangerous country. Well, these people are wrong.
If you are not wandering off in far-away places you’ll not come across any landmine.
Pickpockets are active – of course – as they are in your country, just keep your wits about.
There is one thing that can be dangerous in Cambodia: the traffic, especially on the routes between towns.
Theft & Pickpocketing
Recently there has been in increase in pickpocketing incidents, especially in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
With almost no exception, these incidents occur when people do not take enough care of their personal belongings: a dangling camera or bag over your shoulder, riding a tuktuk or a moto while your bag is for grabs, or carelessly sitting in a cafe or restaurant.
One of the most common behaviours: riding on a rent-bike and just putting your bag in the front rack. By doing so, you are asking for trouble.
And of course you should not expose your wealth by wearing expensive jewelry. Remember, Cambodia is one of the poorest countries on earth and in the eyes of most Cambodians you are extremely rich.
Having said that, keep in mind that on the whole the poorest Cambodians are also the most honest. Pickpocketing is done by youths who are more often than not, not the poorest.
If you keep your wits about, like you would in any other big city in the world, you will have no problem at all and take home wonderful memories of the country’s gentle people.
Definitely the most dangerous aspect of Cambodia: the traffic. This country has a shocking number of traffic casualties, even more so if you consider the still relatively low number of cars.
In the cities it’s not so bad. Although chaotic for the western eye, traffic in cities tends to be slow and when accidents occur it’s usually limited to material damage.
You will see a quite different situation on the roads between towns: speeding cars and old trucks and minivans dangerously overloaded with people and goods.
Many visitors are tempted to hire a moto or even an off-road bike. You should be an experienced driver if you want to ride around Cambodia. Give yourself time to get adjusted to the traffic ‘rules’ and always wear a helmet!
Beggars & Sellers
In touristy places you will come across many beggars and children selling a variety of goods or services: flowers, books, shoeshining, newspapers etc. Should you buy from these children or should you give money to beggars? There is no definite anser to this.
One thing though we cannot emphasize strongly enough: do NOT give money to children. It only encourages others to follow this example and also turn to begging.
Furthermore, many of these child beggars belong to gangs controlled by adults. Your money will almost never help these children, but be used to buy booze or drugs. Sending children out to beg is a lucrative business. These beggars often make more money than an ordinary Cambodian earns by working. If you want to help a child, you could give him or her food, although even that is questionable. Better support one of the organizations working with street children, like Friends.
What about the sellers? Well, it depends. Some children support themselves by selling, others also belong to a gang controlled by adults.
How to determine whether a child is working for himself just to survive? You can’t.
So, it’s basically up to you whether you want to encourage child labour or not.