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Travel Guide > Asia > Cambodia

Cambodia Health & Safety

  
 
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Health

As Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world, reliable medical facilities, doctors, clinics, hospitals or medication are scarce, especially in rural areas. For more serious ailments it is very advisable to get to Bangkok, or to Saigon as more specialists are available and repatriation to your own country is easier. Make sure that you have travel insurance which covers flying you to a city where you can be treated.

Local hospitals

Local hospitals and clinics in Siem Reap (and in the rest of Cambodia) can be in very poor condition and badly equipped and medicines are often past their sell-by date or made up of local mixtures of flour and sugar.

In local clinics, avoid getting an infusion to treat dehydration, as there is a risk of septicemia which is caused by bacteria entering their blood during infusions. The same goes for blood transfusions.

Vaccinations

Although no health certificates or vaccinations are required by visitors to Cambodia, it is recommended that you get vaccinations against tetanus, diphtheria, meningitis, a polio booster and especially gamma globulin shots (against hepatitis A).

Malaria

In addition to this, you should take a course of malaria tablets, as well as a mosquito net. The mosquitoes come out in force in Siem Reap at dusk. Take a medical kit including panadol, antihistamines, antibiotics, kaolin, oral rehydration solution (ORS), calamine lotion, bandages and band-aids, scissors, DEET insect repellent, etc.

Diarrhea

The most common ailment for travelers is diarrhea, which can deteriorate into dysentery, resulting in dehydration. Avoid untreated water, ice made from untreated water and any raw fruit or vegetables that may have been washed in untreated water.

Local water

The local water supply is not drinkable, so avoid. Bottled water is available everywhere and is very cheap and you should try to drink 3 liters a day if possible. Take water purification tablets with you or iodine crystals to sterilize water if you plan to go more rural areas. Boiling water will also make it safe to drink, and will not cause plastic bottle waste, or impart a taste to water.

If you do get severe diarrhea and become badly dehydrated, use an oral rehydration solution to help you overcome it as well as plenty bottled mineral water. However, if you have a lot of blood or mucus in your stools get to a doctor as you probably have dysentery and will need antibiotics.

Tap water in Cambodia is not suitable for drinking. Phnom Penh municipality claims that its water is treated and cleaned, and this is probably true; however by the time it gets to your tap, it's most likely been contaminated anyway. Bottled water is the only thing you should ever drink or brush your teeth with. Boiling water will also make it safe to drink, and will not cause plastic bottle waste.

Sunstroke

In the hottest months, March and April, the temperature can rise to 35°C, so use sunscreen and always wear a hat to avoid sunstroke.

Consult your doctor a few weeks before you leave to get the most up to date advice on which inoculations you need and what to take with you.

Please be aware that local prostitutes of both sexes carry with them many STD's. The official HIV rate within the prostitute population is 34%.

Medical services

Most medical services in Cambodia are not up to Western standards, and the rest are few and far between and very expensive. Should you become seriously ill or injured while in Cambodia, evacuation to Thailand or Singapore will be the most likely result. Because this can be incredibly costly, adequate insurance coverage is an absolute must while in Cambodia.

There are presently no vaccination requirements to enter Cambodia, unless arriving directly from Africa. Border officials have from time to time operated scams whereby travellers were "fined" for not having proof of vaccinations, however this now appears to have stopped completely.

Before visiting Cambodia, be sure to discuss prevention with a qualified specialist / travel clinic. It's especially important to review the relevant vaccinations (hepatitis A, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, measles, rabies, tetanus-diphtheria, typhoid, etc) well in advance; in addition, both malaria and dengue fever are endemic in some parts of Cambodia, particularly in heavily forested areas for malaria, though dengue fever can be found throughout the country.

HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is widespread and on the increase, with some surveys showing as many as 40% of commercial sex workers being HIV positive. If you intend to engage in such activities, be sure to use protection.

Safety

Cambodia is a safe and friendly country, with the usual exception for large cities late at night, particularly Phnom Penh, and unobserved luggage or wallets. Bag snatching, even from those on bicycles and motorcycles, is a problem in Phnom Penh. Be discreet with your possessions, especially cash and cameras, and as always, take extra care in all poorly lit or more remote areas.

Crime and corruption

Intending visitors should be aware that there is no real rule of law in Cambodia. Crimes may or may not be investigated; if perpetrators are wealthy or connected to the government they will often be untouchable by police and courts. This, combined with the country's high traffic accident rate, makes Cambodia a riskier travel destination than most. Some long-term expats lose a friend a year, or more, to crime and traffic. You should also be aware that the courts are corrupt, so contracts are not enforceable.

Land mines

Cambodia suffers from a legacy of millions of land mines left during the war years. However, to tourists, land mines present a minimal to nonexistent threat, as most areas near touristed areas have been thoroughly de-mined. Many tourists mistake electric or sewage warning signs along national highways for land mine signs. HALO Trust, a leading mine removal organization in Cambodia asserts that you would have to drive through the jungle for at least an hour north of Angkor Wat to come across any mines. The threat is to locals in extremely rural areas who rely on subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods.

All that said, in remote areas such as Preah Vihear (near the border) and Pailin (a former Khmer Rouge stronghold), exercise caution: ask for local advice and heed warning signs, red paint and red rope, which may indicate mined areas. Do not venture beyond well established roads and paths.

Prostitution

The age of consent in Cambodia is 15. Prostitution is theoretically illegal but widespread, although generally not overtly aimed at tourists (there are no go-go bars and such). Many bar and clubs, however, do have taxi-girls wandering the premises, especially in Phnom Penh. Bear in mind that Southeast Asia has a fast-growing HIV infection rate, so safe sex is a must in all cases. Cambodia has gained some notoriety as a destination for pedophiles, but under Cambodian law the penalty for sex with minors can be up to 30 years in prison, and such tourists may be prosecuted by their home countries as well.

Clinics in Cambodia

Hospital American Medical Centre
Provides health care of international standard.
in Phnom Penh
Doctor Dr Marissa Regino-Manampan
in Phnom Penh
 
Doctor International Sos Medical And Dental Clinic
Has local and foreign doctors providing the whole range of standard health care as well as a 24hr emergency service. This clinic is experienced with foreigners and with travel insurance requirements and will ensure that all documentation for insurance claims are... more
in Phnom Penh
Doctor Naga Clinic
US$30 for foreigners, US$15 for Khmers. Some of the Khmer doctors here are foreign-trained and competent - but a little abrupt and uncommunicative (in the Asian doctor style). The two French doctors are both competent and communicative, and tend to be favoured b... more
in Phnom Penh
 
Hospital Royal Rattanak Hospital
The second hospital of BDMS (Bangkok Dusit Medical Services PCL) in Cambodia. Private hospital open since March 2008,. The hospital provides full operating secondary health care services including : Emergency medicine, General Surgery, Plastic Surgery, Orthopedi... more
in Phnom Penh
Hospital Royal Angkor International Hospital
Owned by the Bangkok Hospital Group and caters specifically to tourists. The care is not cheap, but it is of a very high standard. There is a fully stocked pharmacy, General Surgeon, Orthopedic Surgeon, Pediatrician, etc. Fractures, intestinal problems, medicine... more
in Siem Reap
 




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