Why Cambodia Is My Least Favorite Country in SE Asia

The Khmer Kingdom is enticing to a lot of people for its many timeless attractions, including Ankor Wat, the world’s largest Hindu temple, it’s untouched, uninhabited islands, and its rich, yet sad history.

Cambodia has a lot to offer, but personally it’s been my least favorite place to travel in SE Asia. Why? Because it seemed like some of the worst things happened while I was in Cambodia. Now, I know every traveller hits rough spots during their travels, but I slowly found out that these things weren’t only happening to me…


Tourist Prices Vs Local Prices


It doesn’t end with just being ripped off and charged an extra $1 for a bottle of soda outside Ankor Wat. This double standard of charging tourists way more than locals even extends into the commercial convenience stores, where the prices listed inside the store are actually created for tourists, since often times they are as much as you might pay back in your home country!



Lots of robberies happen at Ankor Wat


Based on the local average Cambodian salary, we know that the locals can’t possibly be paying those prices in those convenience stores, and I soon found out that this is exactly the way it is in Cambodia. I didn’t find this anywhere else in SE Asia, even in ultra touristy Thailand. Yeah, now and then a tuk tuk driver in Thailand might overcharge you for a ride, but it’s not like the 7 Eleven has two different prices, one for locals and one for tourists. I just found that Cambodia took this to the extreme.



The Theft


I never felt comfortable traveling alone around Cambodia, unlike in Thailand, Vietnam and other countries. From the moment I crossed over the border on the bus from Vietnam, I was met with shady immigration officials who made everyone get off the bus and tried making everyone hand over more money than the visa actually cost, so we had to argue and fight with them just to get a fair deal.



And when I was dropped off at the bus station, it was no better. Tuk tuk drivers and the shadiest dudes would be standing right near the bus stop, eye raping all the travelers as soon as they got off the bus. And the moment I stepped inside the hostel, there was a sign on the wall that was stating how you shouldn’t walk around carrying any kind of bags at all, since the motorbike drivers will grab onto your bag and not let go when you’re traveling in the back of a tuk tuk, so often times tourists would end up being pulled out of the tuk tuk if they didn’t let go of their bags.


This made me ultra paranoid, so I ended up carrying a money belt around with me wherever I went. I never felt safe walking around Cambodia, even in the broad daylight. I always felt a creeping fear that I was going to be jumped and mugged any minute. When I was at Ankor Wat on a steaming hot day exploring a temple, a little girl walked up to me and tried tugging at my camera, and the next minute she hopped on my back and tried opening my backpack. I tried getting her off me and managed to get away, and in the distance saw a shady guy who seemed to be operating behind the scenes from behind the temple. So there are lots of child gangs who rob tourists blind behind Ankor Wat, so always be careful when traveling alone, even in touristy areas such as Ankor Wat.



Whenever I would take out my phone to check out my GPS someone would run up to me, and would say “put your phone away, it will get stolen” so I was too scared to even take out my mobile. I’d also met a couple from Canada who’d been badly bloodied up and had their phones smashed after they’d been robbed and assaulted in a massage parlor in Siem Riep.


The Terrifying Bus Rides


Now, I’m a well seasoned traveller and have had my fair share of shady, uncomfortable bus rides before – I’ve even crossed the border of Nepal/India from Kathmandu down to Varanasi, on a local bus, which was a 27 hour tormenting ride on a bumpy, shady local government bus in the excruciating heat with 1930s Bollywood music blaring. But Cambodia took this shadiness to a whole new level. I found the bus drivers rude, arrogant and reprehensible. Not only this but they drove like they were blind, unlike in India where they drive with a little more sensibility.


Sometimes I ended up having to hitchhike because of the horrible bus conditions


Entering the country by bus wasn’t easy, with the extremely rude bus drivers who would never announce the various stops, so myself and other travellers ended up having to literally jump off the bus while it was still moving because the bus drivers refused to let us off, and I ended up having to hitchhike from the border of Thailand back to Battambang.


The Rubbish


And I thought India was bad for this – Until I arrived in Cambodia. Not only are most of the roads just piles of red dust and rubble, but mountains of putrid garbage of all sorts blankets the roads in most of the cities. It’s everywhere, even around the touristy areas such as Ankor Wat – And no one bothers to pick it up. At least in India the people tend to take some pride in their environment – and with the sheer numbers of human bodies it is a bit difficult to keep up with. But in Cambodia, it was just gross.


Lake outside Ankor Wat


The Aggressiveness


Often times I would hear shady tuk tuk drivers and locals treated travellers like garbage, and would say things like “Fuck you give me more money” and literally looked at me and everyone like a walking ATM machine. I was constantly getting ripped off wherever I went, and whenever I tried to argue, I was met with hostility and rage. Even in India, where people attempted to rip me off at every corner for being a gori, whenever I’d try and negotiate a price they’d work with me – Not so in Cambodia. They demanded a high price and would just walk away if they didn’t get it. I was ripped off when renting a motorbike, at my hostels, and on just about everything else, including bottled drinks. This was among one of the many things that left a bad taste in my mouth and made me never want to return to Cambodia.




The Human Slavery


It seemed like Cambodia was the epitome of the SE Asian sex slave trade. There were even signs inside the hostels, warning pimps and slave traders that the police would be called if they were found out to be staying there. Everywhere I turned, it seemed there was a balding, middle aged old pervert coddling a 14 year old Cambodian girl, which like every other instance of seeing this made me sick to my stomach. It’s sad when you see women like this being exploited, but unfortunately that is the way things work in corrupt, impoverished countries, and the men just come to take advantage of this.


How some locals live in Siem Riep



I wanted to have fun of course, but I had the worst time. In Cambodia I witnessed a bottomless pit of poverty and human shame. It just seems strange to me that Cambodia is so popular on the backpacker’s trail of SE Asia, even though to me it’s not safe at all for a solo female traveller. I’d travelled around India for months at a time, and felt safer in remote parts of India than in Cambodia. As a solo traveller I do not want to be in a lawless country where crime is rife and guns are legalized.


Sunset on Koh Rong Samloeum


What were your experiences like in Cambodia? Where would you rank it on the list of SE Asia countries to explore? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments! Don’t forget you can like and share my article with the social media links. I’d love to keep giving you tips and advice so feel free to follow me by clicking on the Follow Box below. And don’t forget you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube!

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  1. johnnyb says:

    I recognise much of my own experience in this description.
    I didnt feel threatened but, just scammed everywhere and being just an atm machine, they will not bargain as you said.
    Everything is overpriced, they would ask 2 dollars for small bottles of water , once the bottle was clearly filled with tap water and sealed back, it literally tasted like mud and we were all sick with fever for the day after.
    I found also that combodian people were lazy compared to the rest of SE asia.
    I would not recommend going there right now, should probably wait 5-10 years and it will probably get better, poverty is reducing very fast in this country.

    1. Hi Johnny,

      Yeah I hear you, I felt the same!! Oh no I’m sorry you had to go through that and got sick because of it! And yeah I felt so too they were really kind of nasty people in a lot of ways, I don’t see how some people were so in love with the place. And yes it is booming and growing and will be catching up there with it’s neighbors in no time!

      Xx Blossom

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