Drinking Water & Ice: Is it safe?

Ice in Cambodia, is it safe?A question asked by many travellers: what about the water in Cambodia? Can I drink the tap water and what about the ice in our drinks?

Is it safe, or should I avoid ice in drinks?

Here we explain to you what is safe and unsafe.

What the difference is between the big blocks of ice and ‘clean ice’.

And what the quality is of the tap water in Cambodia.

Tap Water

The water coming out of the tap in larger cities like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is generally safe.

However, we still advice you not to drink it. Because, to make it safe, quite large quantities of chlorine are added to the tap water. So, the taste is not good.

It’s no problem though to use the tap water e.g. for brushing your teeth.
Cambodian boy drinking clean water


Tap water in the countryside (if available) should be avoided alltogether as the source and treatment of the water is not always clear.

Water in restaurants

If you order a glass of water in a restaurant, you will almost always get mineral water. This water comes out of large 25 liter containers, sold by the same companies that provide Cambodia with bottled drinking water. It’s perfectly safe.

Again, it might be a bit different in some restaurants in the countryside although getting tap water in your glass is really very rare. Cambodians themselves only drink mineral water, and they wouldn’t think of offering tap water to a foreigner.

If you are unsure whether a particular restaurant will serve you a glass of mineral water, just order a bottle.

Bottled water is available all over the country, even in the most remote parts. Just make sure the seal is still on and unbroken.

Different types of Ice

If you come to Cambodia you will see trucks loaded with large blocks of ice being transported to… bars and restaurants. This might be a frightening sight: Is that ice going to be in my drink?

The answer is no.

The large blocks of ice are used for cooling cans and bottles. This ice doesn’t end up in your drinks.

Well, to be honest, it shouldn’t end up in your drink. Again, in the countryside it might be the only ice available. Also, these blocks are way cheaper than what is called ‘clean ice’.
Large blocks of ice carried around in Cambodia

Clean Ice

So, how do you know whether the ice cubes in your drink are safe?

Well, easy: if you get chunks of ice in your drink, it’s probably not safe. If you get nicely rounded cubes with a hole in it, it’s clean ice.

Don’t worry: bars and restaurants in the larger cities will invariably use clean ice to cool your drinks.

Food stalls along the streets or in the countryside might use ice from the larger blocks (although there are quite a few serving clean ice as well).

What’s that in Khmer?

To help you communicate in Cambodia, a few expressions:
water: toeuk (sot)
ice: toeuk kork
clean ice: toeuk kork sot