Is it safe to visit Cambodia right now?

If you’ve been following the news, you might be worried about visiting Cambodia right now. Protests by the opposition party (CNRP) have been going on since the August election that left the ruling party (CPP) with a thin margin of votes, a thin margin that the CNRP says they didn’t actually receive. Over the last week, though, garment factory strikes turned into violent demonstrations, and the government used force to clear Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park of protesters. So, what does this mean for you, you might wonder?

Phnom Penh riot police

Phnom Penh is in a state of alert, but a drowsy sort of alert.

Very little. While this may seem like the end of days for those reading the Twitter feeds of journalists in Cambodia, the reality on the ground is a lot different. “Stay away from the protest areas and you won’t even know it’s going on,” said long-term expat Ken Cramer, who has seen this sort of thing before.

While the protests in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park were going on over the last few days, I walked around the riverside, the city’s main tourist area. Had I not known about the protests, I would not have realized anything was out of the ordinary–everything in Phnom Penh is completely business as usual. Restaurants, bars and movie theaters are open and tourist attractions are not currently affected.

It’s important to note that while some of the protests have turned violent, no tourists or expats have been targeted. Both the CPP and CNRP are well aware that tourism drives Cambodia’s economy and no one wants to do anything to endanger those tourist dollars. So even when protests are happening at Freedom Park, the tourism industry has been entirely unaffected. The garment factory demonstrations have been the most violent, with several strikers being killed, but this took place outside of central Phnom Penh, in an area no tourist would ever find himself.

The best advice we can give is that visitors should avoid the protest areas and if they see anything that looks like a demonstration, protest or large group of people, it’s best to avoid the scene. Yesterday the protests were banned, and citizens are not allowed to gather in groups larger than ten people, but it remains to be seen if these rules will be followed. If you do see a protest, going to take photos, watching or getting involved is not advised, because when billy clubs start swinging they’re just as likely to crack your melon as anyone else’s.

Right now all of the protests are happening in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Kampot, Kep, and Sihanoukville are entirely unaffected. In Phnom Penh the worst that tourists may experience is some slight traffic delays when there are marches happening, but even those are fairly minor.

It’s likely going to be several weeks before the next stage of Cambodia’s political future becomes clear. If the situation does escalate, we’ll revise our advice at that time, but for now, don’t worry about coming to Cambodia.

10 Responses to Is it safe to visit Cambodia right now?

  1. engr caleb says:

    hi,is it safe to visit Cambodia from nigerians , because l have been worried , and l heard many Nigerians are be deported back to home country , please what is the cause of the problem and please l want to if its safe for me to visit now or should l wait?

  2. Lee Howard Wheaton says:

    I have an Adopted Family in Battambang. Angkor Wat in Siam Reap is worth the whole trip. Ignore Condescending News Stories. Siam Reap Airport is Nice and International. I have stayed at The Mekong Angkor Palace Hotel twice. The manager there is Outstanding. Plus Pool, Nice Breakfast, WI-FI, Visa. 021 Sivatha Blvd. (+855)(0)70350168
    Honest driver Ret Ret +855 (0) 77962696 in Battambang. Battambang has Bamboo Railroad ride. They may remember me as Mr. Lee the American.

  3. Alan says:

    I have planned a trip to meet my future fiancee/wife in Phnom Penh for a 2 week stay and to visit her parents who live some 45 miles from the city. I am very concerned to learn about kidney harvesting. How safe is it for me (U.S. citizen of 69 years) to visit her? This could be a deal breaker for me.

  4. Charles Bassett says:

    I think that people that only talk about the protests when addressing safety in Cambodia are really misleading people. Just last night in Phnom Penh I was on the riverfront, hundreds of people around but not a police officer in sight. I had someone try to steal my cellphone right from my hand, when unsuccessful he went on to target another tourists backpack. My friend yelled a warning to the man and he was able to hold on to his backpack.
    A few minutes later his guy was being beaten savagely by two other Cambodians while everyone just ignored it as if it wasn’t happening. No police, no one even tried to summon help. On Koh Rong I heard of many thefts every day, not to mention the tourist that was raped and murdered. Theft is every day even on the ferry and on the buses. This is my 10th trip to Cambodia, most likely my last.

  5. anita says:

    Hi, i will be be visiting phnom penh next month. Been searching for some news about the demonstration and stumbled on your blog. Is the Royal Palace area affected by the demonstration? Where is the location of the demonstration? Thank you for your reply, appreciate it.

    • Lina says:

      Don’t worry about it, Anita. Tourism has not been affected by any of the demonstrations over the last year and it’s not likely that will change. In the last few days there have been some marches that have caused a bit of traffic, but it’s very likely that nothing will be going on next month when peak tourism season starts. The Royal Palace area has not been affected.

  6. Ivo says:

    On the other hand it seems clearly that the government of Hua Sen does not respect the right to strike & demonstrate and that this government is willing to kill people for it. This comes close to brutal dictatorship.

  7. steve porte says:

    Yep. I just returned from three weeks in Phnom Penh and Battambang. Except for one small traffic jam, it was business as usual.

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