Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Travel to Cambodia: Health and Safety Tips

Health and medical:

Cambodia is a hot humid tropical country with a few specific health issues.  Most health problems are caused  by  heat, dehydration and  food hygiene.  In the last few years medical facilities have improved; with new clinics and hospitals catering for tourists and expats. 
A stay in hospital can be very expensive if you are not insured.
In Phnom Penh and Siem Reap treatment is generally good, with less need to be flown out of the country in the case of an emergency. In rural areas  Cambodia has a  long way  to go in terms of treatment for locals. Western organizations like IMPACT  are giving valuable medical treatment to those in rural areas and on the Tonle Sap Lake.
For visitors to Cambodia there are no compulsory inoculations; however some vaccinations are strongly advised. Below is just a brief guide. You should consult your Doctor or local travel clinic for specific advice. 

Hepatitis A, B  and Tetanus vaccinations are advised. Typhoid, Japanese Encephalitis & Cholera do occur in some areas of Cambodia and can also be inoculated against. 
Yellow Fever: An inoculation certificate is required if you are traveling from an infected area. It  is not normally necessary if you are coming from Europe or USA etc.
Malaria  and Dengue Fever are a risk in Cambodia; they are both carried by mosquitoes. Within towns and cities like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap areas, Malaria risk is low. Out in the country, one would need to be especially careful after dark. Long sleeves and light coloured trousers will help, as will a good insecticide spray. Doctors and pharmacies prescribe various types of Malarial pills. Some like Malerone are  very expensive.
Dengue fever: is less dangerous than Malaria, but it can be very unpleasant.  The mosquitoes carrying this disease are active by day. Unfortunately there is no vaccination available, so one should take similar precautions as you would for Malaria Particular care should be taken in the early mornings and late afternoons.
Salt deficiency and dehydration: can be a problem if not enough water is taken. Drink far more (water) than you would do in temperate zones and take plenty of salt with food.
Health Insurance: is essential as some medical facilities are not yet up to western standards. Healthcare  for Westerners is improving in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Outside of these areas you will need to use local Hospitals and clinics. These are improving but are not recommended unless there is no alternative.
Food hygiene: and water can be a problem in some areas . All western run and most Khmer run restaurants provide good safe cooked food. Ice is a problem outside of tourist areas as purified water cannot be  guaranteed. Bottled water is advised for drinking. 
We take ample supplies of clean bottled water for guests on all our tours.

If you are sensible and take reasonable precautions  you should have a happy and healthy time!

Hygiene and safety:

Toilets: There are good  WC/Restrooms at many of the main Angkor Temple Sites. They are of a decent standard with Western loos and are usually kept immaculately clean; You need to show your Temple Pass for free admission.

In the towns and bus stands etc WCs are mostly  good. Many Hotels and the better eating places  places have clean western style toilets. Standards can be  higher than neighbouring Thailand for example. 
Toilet paper is not usually supplied; so take tissues just in case. Only out in the country do conditions deteriorate; where facilities are basic or non-existent.

Safety Issues:

Transport: Like many countries in SE Asia  Cambodia traffic can seem very chaotic. The illusion is certainly reality as Cambodia has some of the worst accident statistic on this Planet. In 2008/9 traffic accidents killed or maimed more people than land mines!

The Government aware trying to improve safety by introducing many newTraffic Laws   Previously there was little enforcement and few decent roads in any case. With the improvement in roads, rapid growth in car and motorbike ownership;  the increase in traffic speeds has  caused many more severe accidents. 

Motorbikes (Motos): On Jan 1st 2009 helmet wearing for motor cycle riders became compulsory. This law does not appear to apply to passengers; who are at much greater risk! We strongly advise against using motos without a helmet. 

Motor carts or Tuk Tuks: The cute motor trailers have been a part of the tourist scene in Cambodia for many years. With tiny 125cc engines; tuk tuks appear a lot safer and are driven slower than their bigger and more powerful brothers in Thailand.  They are designed to take 2 persons only. some riders think they can cram 3 or 4 tourists on them; but given the braking system and the instability in the event of an accident; We do not recommend more then 2 persons on a tuk tuk!

Land Mines: Cambodia is one of the most heavily mined countries in the World; the large numbers of maimed beggars on the streets are testimony to this.  

Towns and tourist sights are safe.. Only if you go wandering off the paths in rural areas against advice will you be at risk.

It is a very sad fact of life here that there are a number of disabled beggars on the streets here. There is no social welfare, but there are disabled support groups like Angkor Association for the Disabled who train disabled people to develop their skills and improve the quality of life for their families. 

We are actively supporting the Angkor Association for the Disabled and welcome donations.

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