20 Most Common Tourist Scams in Cambodia

Safety at Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Kampot, Battambang, Kep, Koh Rong, Banlung, Sen Monorom, Koh Kong, Kratie, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom, Chi Phat, Prey Veng, Stung Treng, Takeo

Cambodia

Source credit



Cambodia has firmly established itself on the tourist scene in Southeast Asia. Many visitors travel to Cambodia to see iconic locations like the stunning temples of Angkor as well as moving historical sites like the Killing Fields. Other reasons to visit include the delicious food, colorful markets, and the chance to take a river cruise along the mighty Tonle Sap that bisects this beautiful country.

Coupled with the low costs of visiting, Cambodia has seen an influx of tourists in recent years. However, this has also led to a rise in tourist targeted scams. Read on to learn how to protect yourself here!

 

A. TOURIST ATTRACTIONS/ACTIVITIES

1. Visa scam

cambodia visa scam

Source credit (good guide on steps to take)

This takes place at the land borders between Cambodia and Thailand. Although you will not even have entered the country yet, this is very definitely a Cambodian scam.

When you are queuing to obtain a visa from the Cambodian immigration authorities, you may be approached by people posing as Cambodian immigration officials. These people will offer to get your visa for you so that you don’t have to wait. However, this will cost much more than a normal visa on arrival.

An extension of this scam involves ‘officials’ approaching you in line and telling you that you don’t have the correct documentation for a visa. They also claim that you need to provide medical documents and immunization certificates. If you don’t have them, they can help facilitate the visa for you, again for a higher price.

Note: since late 2016, children require a visa (free in the past) as well, unless he/she has a Cambodian parent

Rule of thumb:

If you are approached when you are in line, the people in question are almost certainly not officials working for Cambodian Immigration.

Do not engage and only deal with the real officials at the immigration counter. A good tip is to say that you already have a visa and are just waiting to get your passport stamped.

 

2. Coin collectors

cambodian coins

Source credit

This is one of the most common scams in Cambodia and takes place in tourist hot spots.

This involves a friendly local who starts chatting with you and explains that they are an avid coin collector. They will first establish where you come from. Then, they say they don’t have any coins from your country and would love to have some to complete their collection.

They will offer to exchange these for Cambodian currency and promise to give you a fair rate. Once you hand over the coins, they will leave and you will find afterwards that they gave a very bad rate.

Rule of thumb:

Politely explain that you have just changed all your money and only have local currency. This ought to be enough for the scammer to realize that there is no benefit in asking you for foreign money.

 

3. Scam orphanages

Do you know that over the past 5 years, the number of orphanages in Cambodia has risen by 75%? Further, 75% of the children here are not orphans! These orphanages exploit poor families by claiming that their children can get free education and food there. However, there are also children who are “rented” by these orphanages so that they can get donations from tourists.

Regardless, much of the donations go to the owners of the orphanages, and little trickle down to the children. The children are also poorly treated and forced to act pitiful to attract donations.

Rule of thumb:

Do not visit these orphanages or donate to them. If you really want to help, check out restaurants that take kids and teach them hospitality skills. Or stay in NGO accommodation which help to teach and encourage Cambodian youth. Alternatively, donate to other legitimate/reputable organizations/charities.

 

4. Angkor Watt touts

Cambodia touts

Source credit

You will find tons of touts outside Angkor Watt. They sell guidebooks, maps, water, food, souvenir and what have you.

However, that is not the scam itself, the scam is the lies thrown about. e.g. claiming that the guidebook/map cost $20 when you can get it for $1 if you were to buy in the temple. Or claiming that no water or food is sold in the temple when there is, etc

Rule of thumb:

Just ignore them and enter the compound. Do not bother buying from the kids as well as little of the profits goes to them.

 

5. Incense/prayer scam

At Angkor Watt, do not accept incense sticks from anyone. If you do, they will show you how to make a quick prayer, and then charge you $5 for each stick.

Rule of thumb:

Firmly reject.

 

6. Tonle Sap floating village rice scam

Tonle Sap is Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake and you can find 3 floating villages on the lake. Most tourists are brought to the Chong Khneas floating village as it is the closest to Siem Reap. This village is a tourist trap and scam.

During the boat tour, you will encounter other boats pulling up and asking for one dollar. These are usually asked by a kid with a water snake around them. They hold the snake up you to you, which could be a ploy to intimidate you to pay.

After a while, the boat driver will start mentioning how the community around here is so poor that they cannot afford proper food and safe water. He will then suggest buying food or stationery for the community here.

You will be brought to a local shop, and be quoted crazy prices for rice (e.g. $50-$100), noodles, books, pencils, etc for the local school. You will be pressured to buy and then brought to the local school. What really happens is that whatever you have bought will not be given to the kids. Rather, they will returned to the shop with the spoils shared amongst the scammers.

At this point, the tour ends, you are brought back to your pick up point and tips will be demanded.

The whole thing is a tourist trap as well. There isn’t much to see and you might be scammed further, if you pay an inflated price for the entrance tickets.

Rule of thumb:

Don’t waste your time and money with this tour. If you really want to see floating villages, catch them in Vietnam instead.

 

7. Milk/food beggar with child scam

sick children sob story

Source credit

This is a scam that is often used in Cambodia (around Pub Street at Siem Reap) as it usually attracts sympathy. A local, usually a woman, will approach you in the street with a small child or a baby. She will explain that the child is very sick and needs medicine or baby milk which she cannot afford.

Many visitors feel compelled to help and hand over some money, but this is almost always a scam. The scammer will reject your offers of money, but will instead bring you to a shop to buy milk/food at inflated prices. After buying, the scammer will return the item to the shop and split the amount you paid earlier.

Rule of thumb:

Firmly reject. If you really want to help, check out restaurants that take kids and teach them hospitality skills. Or stay in NGO accommodation which help to teach and encourage Cambodian youth. Alternatively, donate to other legitimate/reputable organizations/charities.

 

8. Pickpocketing

Pickpocketing happens in Cambodia, particularly around crowded tourist attractions in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Scammers will stand close to you and press up against you as you enter crowded areas. They will then reach into your pocket or bag and take your phone or wallet.

Also beware of the kids following you around at Angkor Watt. They are just waiting for the right time to strike.

Rule of thumb:

Be vigilant about your belongings and try not to carry too many valuable items at one time. Leave some items like credit cards in your hotel safe and only carry as much cash as you need on person.

Also carry a photocopy of your passport and leave the original in your hotel safe.

 

9. Snatch theft

This happens quite a bit in Asia and also in other parts of the world (e.g. Sri Lanka, Philippines, Dominican Republic, etc)

Snatch theft in Cambodia is one of the more common problems that tourists face and it can be potentially very dangerous. This is done by thieves who drive past, usually in groups of two, and snatch items from tourists.

Usually the person on the back of the motorbike will lean over and grab your phone if you have it in your hand or rip your bag from your shoulder. This can be very dangerous as you can be dragged along the road at the same time.

Rule of thumb:

Choose a bag that fits across your body and hold it tightly to you so that it is difficult for thieves to snatch. Always carry your bag on the side of your body that is facing away from the road. Further, don’t wear obvious items like gold necklaces which can be easily snatched.

This also applies to other items like cameras and phone which should be concealed in a bag and not carried in your hand.

 

10. Invitations to visit a local home (gambling)

This is one of the most popular scams in Cambodia and usually takes place in tourist areas. It also takes place in other countries such as China, Malaysia, etc. As you are admiring an attraction or eating in a cafe, you will be approached by a friendly local who asks you where you are from.

When you tell them, they remark on the coincidence as one of their family members is just about to move to your country and is very nervous. They ask if you would mind talking to them so that they feel less stressed about the move and invite you for dinner at their home.

If you agree, you will often get there to find a gambling game in progress. You will be asked to join in and bet for money which you will then lose. A variation of this scam is that once you get to the house, you will be held at gun point if you refuse to participate in the gambling game.

Rule of thumb:

Be skeptical of anyone who says they have a family member traveling to your home country. This is because it is almost always used as the opening line for a scam. Firmly refuse and walk away.

 

B. TRANSPORT

1. Angkor Watt (sunrise) tuk tuk scam

angkor watt sunrise

Source credit

Tuk tuks have a really bad reputation in Asia (e.g. Vietnam, Thailand). It is no different in Cambodia, but of course there are good ones as well.

During your trip, you might have engaged a tuk tuk driver and he offers you a cheap price to tour Angkor Watt. This tour starts from watching the sunrise at Angkor Watt the next day, you agree and arrangements are set.

On the day itself, the tuk tuk driver shows up and drives you to the park entrance. Once the park tickets are bought however, the driver changes his mind and charges you an inflated price instead. Note: entrance is 5km from the park. At this point, you won’t see any spare tuk tuk around. In your rush to not miss the sunrise, you are forced to negotiate the price but still end up paying an exorbitant amount.

Should a price not be agreed upon, you will simply be ditched.

Rule of thumb:

Do not engage any tuk tuk drivers on the streets and do not be tempted by their cheap prices. Hire one through your hotel instead – they wouldn’t just ditch you.

 

2. Tuk tuk partnership

cambodia tuk tuk

Source credit

You might find your tuk tuk driver missing at the final leg of your tour. At this point, another tuk tuk driver will appear out of nowhere and offer to bring you back to your hotel.

Should you accept, you will find your first tuk tuk driver back at the destination (the hotel). The driver will claim aggressively that you have cheated him by not paying and taking another tuk tuk. An exorbitant amount is then demanded as compensation.

Rule of thumb:

Again, engage a tuk tuk driver through your hotel/accommodation.

Also do not pay any tuk tuk driver upfront until all services have been provided. If possible, try to get the driver’s mobile so that he remains contactable. If caught in such a situation, negotiate the price down.

 

3. “Official bus”/taxi – tuk tuk partnership after crossing border

cambodia tuk tuks

Source credit

After crossing the border from Thailand, you will find yourself hounded by touts. They will claim that you have to take the official bus to get to the bus station as it is illegal to take other modes of transport.

Should you accept their offer, you will be taken to the tourist bus station and put on an expensive bus. You will end up somewhere out of town, but in front of a travel agency with many tuk tuks. To get you to your accommodation, these tuk tuks will charge exorbitant prices.

Rule of thumb:

Instead of taking the “official” bus, approach the taxi drivers down the street instead (about 100 yards away). They are no saints as well, so do bargain hard.

Also, do not pay in full until reaching your destination. This is because some taxi drivers might break off halfway and send you to a tuk tuk in the outskirts. Lame excuses such as pretending that they do not know the way or that cars are not allowed in town will be used.

Ideally, keep your luggage in the car beside you rather than in the trunk. This is so you can leave easily without the risk of the driver running off with your luggage.

 

4. Non-metered taxis

Cambodia taxis

Source credit

This scam is a problem all over Southeast Asia and is particularly prevalent in Cambodia. Once you enter a taxi, the driver will tell you that the meter is broken or that it is cheaper for you to pay a flat rate.

However, this is a scam. You will be paying more for the taxi ride than you would if they used the meter.

Rule of thumb:

Ask if the meter can be used. Else, do your research to get a rough idea of how much your trip should cost and negotiate with that figure.

 

5. Non-direct routes

If you do get a taxi with a meter the driver will often try to find a way to inflate the fare. This will mean that they will drive all over town first before dropping you at your destination. Or they could drive deliberately through very crowded areas.

Rule of thumb:

You could consult the hotel staff how long a trip should take or simply do some online research. A good tip is to make the driver aware that you know where you are going and will not be easily fooled.

Also, if you have your mobile phone, look up the route using GPS and make sure are going the right way. Alert the driver if he seems to be taking a longer and less direct route.

 

6. Corrupt traffic police

Cambodia traffic police

Source credit

Traffic police will often stop foreigners in order to scam them. Many travellers rent a motorbike to get around in Cambodia and the traffic police will stop them at the side of the road. They will claim that you have broken the law in some way and demand you pay a fine on the spot.

Rule of thumb:

Make sure you do not break any traffic laws, that you have the correct license and are wearing a helmet.

If you are stopped when you have not committed a driving infraction, ask to go to a police station to deal with it officially. Often the traffic police will not want to do this and will let you go with a warning.

 

7. Motorbike theft

This often happens in tourist areas where many businesses rent motorbikes to foreigners.

Often a motorbike rental company will ask you to leave your passport with them as a collateral in exchange for a padlock and key. They also have a copy of the key however and someone who works for them will follow you and wait for you to park your bike.

They will then unlock it with the spare key and drive off so that you think it has been stolen. You will then have to pay the full cost of the bike to the rental company in order to get your passport back.

Rule of thumb:

Do not hand over your passport as collateral. Try to rent a motorbike from a reputable business. Finally, do consider investing in your own lock and key.

 

C. MISC

1. A rape accusation

This is one of the most disturbing scams in Cambodia and although it may be rare it does happen. The scam is targeted at male travellers who meet a local woman and become friends with her over the course of several days. At some point she will find a reason to be alone with you in your hotel room and will then leave.

Soon after that you will be approached by a gang of men claiming to be her brothers or other family members. They will accuse you of raping her. The woman will suddenly appear at the scene in tears and corroborate this story. The group demands that you pay some ‘damage money’ and leave Cambodia immediately, or they will press charges against you.

Rule of thumb:

Be wary of female locals who appear to be extremely friendly before you have even got to know each other. If possible, avoid being alone with a female in a situation that can be manipulated, such as a hotel room.

 

2. Fake police officers

This is a common scam in Cambodia and you may find yourself stopped by someone claiming to be a police officer. If you have done nothing wrong then it is unlikely that a genuine Cambodian police officer will stop you for no reason.

The scammer will ask for your passport. When you hand it over. they will make up a reason why you need to pay a ‘fine’ to get it back.

Rule of thumb:

If you are stopped for no reason by someone claiming to be a police officer, ask to see their identification. Threaten to call the hotline (number at end of this article) to verify their identification.

Also, ask to be taken to the nearest police station or consulate to sort out the problem. If they are a genuine police officer then they will have no problem doing so.

Another good tip is to always carry a photocopy of your passport so that you don’t have to use the original.

 

3. A friend who has been robbed

This scam has started to arise in Cambodia lately and is one of the most difficult to detect. It will start when someone at your guesthouse (a fellow traveller) befriends you. You may go out and visit some attractions together or they may buy you a drink at the bar. The idea is to earn your trust and make it seem as if they are a traveller as well.

Nearer to the end of your stay they will approach you and say that they have had all their possessions stolen. They can get a new passport but their local consulate needs them to pay and they don’t have any money.

This is often a scam and you will never see them again once you give them the money.

Rule of thumb:

This is a difficult situation and sometimes it may be true. If you really want to help, offer to go with your friend to their consulate and pay for the new passport to make sure their story is genuine.

If you don’t want to help or are not in a position to do so financially then politely say that you are unable to do so.

 

D. GETTING HELP

1. Emergency numbers to call

Cambodia police

Source credit

  • Police:  117
  • Fire Service: 118
  • Ambulance: 119
  • Tourist Police – Phnom Penh: 012 942 484
  • Tourist Police – Siem Reap: 012 402 424

Connect with Us!

Share with Your Friends!

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shares