Which Scams Can Tourists Avoid in Cambodia?

As Cambodia’s popularity continues to grow, so are the number of scams targeting tourists. On top of boasting a slew of epic temples, Cambodia is home to a staggering amount of casinos. Even though its citizens were technically banned from gambling in 1996, these rules are loosely enforced. Combined with the country’s booming tourism sector, the stage has been set for a massive casino industry. In total 52 legal gambling facilities operate within 14 cities. This diverse amount of venues provides a grand total of 1,548 table games and 6,430 pokies machines. 

Even though the capital Phnom Penh steals the show, there are plenty of lesser known cities entertaining punters. Thanks to the influx of Thai tourists, the largest casino in Cambodia is located in Paôy Pêt. Even though it’s the most lavish, this isn’t the only city that’s been changed by gambling tourism. During the last two decades, the once sleepy beach town of Sihanoukville has undergone a dramatic transformation. Boasting 16 gambling facilities, it’s currently the largest gambling center in Cambodia. 

While the extent of the gambling options vary wildly, the same scams keep popping up in each city. Cambodia is a country that was rocked by a horrific genocide, and the effects of this tragedy echo till this day. Corruption and poverty run rampant, and these disparities set the stage for plenty of scams targeting tourists. Fortunately, these traps are easily avoided when visitors know what to avoid. For this reason, we compiled a list of the top tourist scams in Cambodia. This country is a shrewd punters’ paradise, so learn how to escape the pitfalls that most tourists fall into!

Top Tourist Scams in Cambodia

Investigate your country’s visa fees before coming to Cambodia.

Scam #3: Hidden Visa/Border Fees – For many visitors, the shenanigans start before they even step foot in Cambodia. This country has recently experienced a massive uptick in visitors, and plenty of nefarious officials are intent on cashing in on the trend. From requesting unnecessary medical checks, proof of vaccinations to other irrelevant paperwork, the amount of hidden requirements is endless. Many times, these documents will be demanded by government officials before you even reach the visa issuing desk. 

To avoid getting hustled, make sure to have your passport photo and exact change in US dollars on hand. Don’t talk to anyone until you reach the visa issuing desk, and try to arrive by plane if possible. Do your research on your country’s visa fees ahead of time, and stand firm if higher payments are requested. They can’t extort bribes out of informed visitors, so do your research before visiting!

Cambodian Thieves
Don’t get extorted for your passport.

Scam #2: Inside Job Rental Bike Thefts – When travelling throughout Cambodia, most visitors end up renting a motorcycle. While this is a fun way to get around, there are plenty of hidden traps surrounding it. Out of the numerous scams, the most alarming is the inside job motorcycle theft. Instead of settling for the rental fees, some agencies get creative. They hire people to follow their clients around for a few days and rob the bike when customers least expect it. From there the agency files a police report with crooked cops and refuses to return the client’s passport until they pay $1,200 for the bike. 

There are no coincidences in Cambodia, so refuse to leave your passport with any rental agency. A photo copy is more than sufficient, which makes any agency requesting a physical passport suspicious. Another trick is using your own bike lock, since the agency will pass a duplicate key to their complimentary lock to the thief. To further minimize the odds of getting swindled, try to rent from foreigner-run agencies. These companies routinely deal with tourists, which makes them less likely to risk ruining their reputation.

Cambodian Scams
Police traffic stops are thinly veiled scams.

Scam #1: Traffic Stop Bribes – Out of all the possible scams, this one is almost inevitable when driving in Cambodia. Due to the massive amount of confusion surrounding local traffic laws, Cambodian traffic police have become entrepreneurs. They routinely set up checkpoints in touristy areas, and purposely pull over foreigners with the sole intent of extorting them. To avoid this trap, wear a helmet and don’t pull over if they wave for you to stop. It’s more expensive to chase you than to wait for the next victim, so don’t hesitate to avoid these seasoned scammers. Occasionally Cambodian police try to hit fleeing drivers with batons, so give them a wide girth.

If you do happen to get pulled over, there are still ways to minimize the damages. The main reasons for pulling tourists over are for not wearing a helmet and having their headlights on during the daytime. If you aren’t breaking any of these rules, refuse to pay and drive off. These tickets only cost two dollars each, so make sure to have spare change. Police checkpoints are usually held in the same spots during the daytime, so ask your hotel about them before hitting the road. These scams are rampant, but with the proper preparation they can be avoided. Cambodian police can’t be trusted, and this inconvenient truth makes driving strategically essential in Cambodia!

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