Scams and Tourist Traps in Cambodia and How to Avoid


Cambodia is a beautiful country that is well established on the tourist trail in SE Asia. A major attraction to Cambodia is the world-famous temples of Angkor and the historical and moving sites like the Killing Fields. Other worthwhile reasons to experience the Cambodia Holiday is the lively and colourful markets, the delightful food, and taking a river cruise on the Tonle Sap.

In view of the relatively low costs of travelling in Cambodia, there has been a significant influx of tourists visiting the region. However, a consequence of this is the increase in scams that target the tourists.

Here are some of the most common scams and tourist traps in Cambodia:

Visa Scam
The visa scam is likely to take place at the land borders with Cambodia/Thailand. Even though you may not even be in the country yet, this scam is definitely related to Cambodia.

When waiting in the queue to speak to the Cambodian immigration authorities about obtaining a visa, there is the risk of being approached by individuals who claim to be real Cambodian immigration officials. They try to offer assistance to speed up the process of obtaining the visa and avoid the queues. But, this is certain to cost a lot more than waiting in line to buy the normal visa on arrival.

Also, this scam can include fake officials approaching you while in the queue and saying that you do not hold the right paperwork to apply for a visa. They may also say it is necessary to have immunization certificates and medical documents. If you don't have these documents with you, they will offer to get the visa for you, but the price will be a lot more expensive.

How to avoid: If you do have someone approach you while in the queue, they aren't likely to part of the official Cambodian Immigration staff. It rarely benefits to engage with these people and much more sensible to wait in line until able to talk to the immigration officials at the counter. A simple strategy to avoid unwanted attention is to say you already have your visa, but just in line to get it stamped.

scams and tourist traps in cambodia

Coin Collectors
The coin collector is a simple scam act that is common in the tourist hot spots in Cambodia. This scam starts with a local talking to you and saying how much they love to collect coins from around the world. They will act friendly and try to find out your country. Once, this is known they will say their collection doesn't have any coins/notes from your particular country. This leads to them asking to exchange their local Cambodian currency for your foreign currency at a fair rate. If you do go-ahead with this you will likely find that once they have left you alone, the exchange rate received was very bad.

How to avoid: the simple solution to this type of scam is to say you only have local Cambodian currency. This is usually enough to get the scammer to stop pestering you and move on elsewhere.

Angkor Wat touts
The world-famous Angkor Wat is the #1 attraction in Cambodia and for this reason attracts a significant number of touts. They are readily available to sell souvenirs, food, water, maps, guidebooks, etc. While it is not a scam itself to sell this type of merchandise, it is the actual prices that they ask. For instance, a map/guidebook is likely to cost $1 at the official shop, but the touts outside will be asking 20 times that price or more. Also, they say it isn't possible to buy food or water inside the Angkor Archaeological Park, but it is and at much cheaper prices.

How to avoid: Just ignore the touts outside the park and buy everything you need once in the compound.

scams in angkok cambodia

Tonle Sap floating village
Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in SE Asia and is home to three floating villages. A typical tour in the region is a visit to the Chong Khneas floating village which isn't too far from Siem Reap.  But this is more of a tourist trap with little to really see and plenty of other boats pulling up and asking for a $1 or more. Also, the boat driver may start saying the local community is unable to afford safe water and proper food to encourage you to give a donation. A further way to get more money from the tourist is to claim it is necessary to buy entrance tickets, but this isn't actually true.

Also, the tour can include a stop at a local shop with very high prices for pencils, books, noodles, etc. and you get pressured to buy stuff for the local school. But, the goods are rarely past onto the school with the money shared among those involved in the scam. Also, at the end of the tour when you arrive back at the pick up point, the boat driver is likely to demand a tip for his services.

How to avoid: the most practical step to avoid this tourist trap is simply to avoid this type of trip. There isn't really much to see here and if you are on the Indochina tour, the most interesting floating villages are found in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.

Tonle Sap floating village

Begging scam with children
The begging scam with children is rife in certain parts of Siem Reap and aims to attract sympathy. A local woman with a baby or small children will approach tourists on the street and say she doesn't have money for baby milk, medicine, food, etc.

Many visitors will want to help and offer to hand over a small amount to help cover the cost of the essentials, but in most cases this is simply a scam being played out. The local will try to get you to visit a nearby shop and buy food/milk at very high prices. Once this is done the person pulling the scam will return the goods to the shop and split the proceeds with the shopkeeper.

How to avoid: In most cases, it is best to firmly reject any requests for money on the streets. If you do wish to help, it is a lot more practical to donate direct to a local reputable charity or organization.