Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phnom_Penh-tourist-scamsSome people describe Cambodia as Thailand from 20 years ago. One of the main tourist destinations is Angkor Wat, a gigantic complex of 11th century temples, and one of the seven Wonders of the World. But impressive as it is, Angkor Wat should not be the only reason for your visit to Cambodia. The capital Phnom Penh was nicknamed “Paris of South-East Asia” by its French founders, but a lot of this glamour has been destroyed when the communist Red Khmer was in power, and has only recently started to slowly recover from the damages of the civilian war.

Cambodia has a cruel yet rich history, which can be experienced at the “killing fields”, Phnom_Penh-tourist-rip_offsthe remains of mass graves from the late 1970’s, when the country was under rule of Pol Pot, who ordered the killings of over 3 million Cambodians. Despite its horrific and tragic past, Phnom Penh fortunately is a very interesting tourist destination. You can walk on the boulevard along the Mekong River and stroll among cluttered market stalls. Or you can visit elegant Khmer temples and the colorful central market Psar Thmei.

Cambodia tourist scams

However, as in every tourist hotspot, tourists need to be aware of people trying to take advantage of the “all is well” holiday atmosphere which causes the traveler to be off guard when it comes to being tricked or scammed. The differences in culture and habits can be a bit confusing, even to the experienced traveler, and that gives those with dishonest intentions an advantage, especially with travelers who have just arrived after a long and exhausting flight.

  • The infamous Filipino Blackjack scam is also present in Phnom Penh, so be careful when someone tells you one of their relatives is coincidentally going to work or study in your home country and invites you for lunch.
  • The Cambodian police are eager to pull over foreigners on a rented motorbike, because they can fetch a higher bribe than from a local biker.

Except for the Blackjack scam, most of these scams are pretty harmless and won’t cost you more than a handful of Riel, but they could still make you feel like an idiot as soon as you realize you’ve been tricked.

Keep in mind: local Cambodian (or most Asian) people are generally very timid towards foreigners and will never spontaneously approach them or start a conversation. Even if they speak English very well, they’ll wait for you to make the first contact. Any local who is daring enough to approach tourists spontaneously will have an agenda of his/her own, even if they seem friendly and helpful at first. It’s that simple!

Cambodia-tourist-scamsBe on guard for these known scams and variations to them. If you happen to run into a new kind of scam, or if you have a story about how the swindlers work, make sure you tell us about it. That’s the best way to warn other travelers and to prevent them from falling into the same traps.

And most importantly: just enjoy your vacation. Don’t be discouraged by these stories, they don’t happen to everyone, and they don’t mean Cambodia is unsafe. On the contrary, 99.9 percent of the people are incredibly friendly, sincere and honest, especially away from the tourist hotspots, and are happy to welcome you to their country.

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