Is Phnom Penh Safe? A Safety Guide to Cambodia’s Capital 🌆

Bassac Street – Phnom Penh

For many travellers, safety in Phnom Penh is a concern. We’ve all heard the stories about bag snatching and dodgy neighbourhoods and the capital can indeed feel intimidating. It’s sprawling, loud and buzzes with hectic energy. The first time I visited, I felt tiny, like an inconsequential speck in this giant theatre of everyday life. To be honest, the city scared me and I quickly started wondering why I hadn’t asked myself “Is Phnom Penh safe” before!

The good news is, after visiting more times than I can count over the years, I can tell you Phnom Penh is a safe city for travellers! If you take the usual precautions (read more about this below), you’ll likely have a trouble-free visit to Cambodia’s capital. 

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Is Phnom Penh Safe for Tourists? 🚨

Yes! Phnom Penh is safe for tourists! It might feel like an intimidating place but don’t let the sensory overload of this bustling city overwhelm you. Beneath the constant motion, the city is a charming blend of grit, excitement and smiling faces. 

Statistically, Phnom Penh is considered as safe as cities such as London or New York. While neither city has the best reputation, many of us would happily visit them so by the same standard there’s no need to be concerned when visiting Phnom Penh! 

As a whole, Cambodia is ranked 73rd in the Global Peace Index – an internationally recognised database comparing how safe countries are in comparison to each other. For reference, the 2024 GPI categorised Iceland as the safest country in the world in 1st, the UK 37th and the USA 131st. The same report put Thailand in 92nd and Vietnam as the 41st safest country. 

Even after dark, the parts of Phnom Penh you’ll visit as a tourist are safe!

The overwhelming majority of travellers who visit Phnom Penh do so with no issues at all. But as with all big cities, crime can and does occasionally occur. Make sure you follow standard safety precautions as you would in any city to limit the chance of you becoming a victim of crime! 

Crime in Phnom Penh 👮

Serious or violent crime in Phnom Penh rarely affects travellers or expats. However, snatch and grabs do occur in tourist hotspots, especially after dark. Pickpocketing isn’t unheard of in crowded places either. 

“My husband was pushed and had his mobile snatched whilst ordering a Grab back to hotel. On return to the hotel, we found out that a similar incident happened to another guest as well. Luckily, we had an old backup temporary mobile but the other guest had to replace his phone urgently so bought a new mobile from the local market which was most likely stolen from another tourist….”

Anonymous Member of the South East Asia Backpacker Facebook Community 

To avoid becoming a victim of a snatch and grab, don’t walk around with your phone in your hand and make sure your bags are secure against your body. 

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Is Transport Safe in Phnom Penh? 🛺 

Tuk-tuks can be the safest or riskiest way to get around the city. Most drivers are friendly, professional and courteous. But there are some unscrupulous drivers out there waiting to prey on unwitting tourists. 

Always be wary of hailing tuk-tuks on the street – especially at night. If there’s a line of drivers outside the bar you’ve just been drinking in, avoid them and pick up a ride elsewhere. Use Grab or PassApp, two of Cambodia’s best Uber alternatives, rather than hailing a ride on the street.

PassApp is the safest way to arrange a tuk-tuk in Phnom Penh!

If you have to arrange a tuk-tuk on the street, agree on a price before accepting the ride. Don’t let the driver take you to ‘his friend’s café for the best coffee in Phnom Penh,’ or convince you to try a different bar/club/hotel. Insist on going where you need to go.

Always be vigilant when inside a tuk-tuk, especially in slow-moving or stationary traffic. It’s not unheard of for people to reach in and snatch bags or phones before zipping away on motorbikes. To make sure you arrive at your destination with all your valuables, keep your phone and bag secure at all times. 

Buses coming in and out of Phnom Penh are as safe as buses in other parts of Southeast Asia. Just make sure your valuables are securely hidden away. This is most important when sleeping. Wearing a sling or fanny pack is the best way to keep your money, phone and passport safe. Ensure you’re off the bus in time to grab your bags too, otherwise, they may end up sitting in a vulnerable pile on the sidewalk! 

Is Phnom Penh Safe for Solo Travellers? 👨

Yes, Phnom Penh is safe for solo travellers. As with any big city, we don’t recommend walking around alone at night if you can avoid it but this is a normal risk reduction strategy, not anything particular to do with Phnom Penh. 

If you want to go out partying as a solo traveller, try to find some buddies in your hostel to go out with. The more people in your group, the safer you’ll likely be. During the day, you’ll likely have no problems getting around Phnom Penh alone. 

Find some buddies at your hostel before heading out for a night on the town!

Is Phnom Penh Safe for Female Travellers? 👩

Yes, Phnom Penh is safe for female travellers. However, you should always employ the same safety strategies you would anywhere in the world. Drink spiking isn’t unheard of in clubs and there are always whispers of predatory tuk-tuk drivers waiting for drunk women outside bars. Make sure you’re with a group when travelling around the city at night and use PassApp or Grab rather than hailing rides on the street. There are plenty of hostels offering female-only dorms in Phnom Penh. 

“I was warned about Phnomh Penh but actually liked the city, apparently it also depends on the neighbourhood you’re in.”

Merle Heijkoop, South East Asia Backpacker Community Member

Can I Drink Tap Water in Phnom Penh? 🚰

No, you shouldn’t drink tap water in Phnom Penh. In theory, the tap water is safe to consume – it’s cleaned in large treatment plants before being pumped out around the city. However, the ageing pipes and plumbing systems mean clean water is often contaminated before it reaches your tap. Consider investing in a filtered water bottle like the Grayl UltraPress or GeoPress rather than relying on bottled water when visiting Cambodia! 

👉 Read More: Can I Drink Tap Water In Cambodia? 

Safety Tips for Visiting Phnom Penh 🧷

The following tips will help keep you safe while travelling in Phnom Penh!

  • Be careful with alcohol – You are at your most vulnerable after a few too many drinks. That’s not to say don’t drink at all, there are some great bars and clubs in Phnom Penh, just be aware of your surroundings and remember you need to get back to your hostel. It’s better to leave a bar early still wanting another drink than to stumble out into the waiting arms of anyone wanting to do you harm! 
  • Say no to drugs – The above sentiment is true for drugs as well but with the added layer of needing to avoid the police too! If Cambodia’s strict drug laws aren’t enough to put you off, be very careful about what you’re taking and who you’re buying from. Tuk-tuk drivers may seem like a one-stop shop for all narcotics but most of them are just trying to make a quick buck. They may not even know the difference between the bags of Class A substances they have stashed under their seats and you could be in for a nasty surprise when that bag of coke turns out to be heroin. 
  • Keep your valuables out of sight – Out of sight, out of mind. Remove temptation by ensuring your valuables are hidden away. Most non-violent crime is opportunistic, so if your phone isn’t on display, it’s unlikely to be targeted! 
  • Keep small change accessible – This ties in with keeping valuables out of sight. If you need to pull out a pile of cash to pay for a bottle of water, you’re just advertising how much money you have. Keep small change in a separate pocket, so you can grab a few notes at a time when needed! 
  • Avoid altercations – It should go without saying that getting into an altercation is an easy way to get into trouble. If you’ve met someone with too much pride to back down in an argument, you never know how far they’ll go not to lose face. Just walk away. 
  • Be aware of red-light districts – Phnom Penh is home to several red-light districts. The largest of these is near Sisowath Quay. It’s easy to stumble into by mistake while exploring the area. While there’s nothing dangerous about this area per se, it’s quite seedy and the clientele attracted to these bars can be a little unsavoury. 
  • Don’t gamble with locals – Met some nice locals in a bar that want to play cards? It’s a scam. You’re going to lose and they’ll make sure you pay. Just politely refuse if anyone offers to gamble with you! 

“When I last visited Phnom Penh, I unknowingly stayed close to the red-light district (near Sisowath Quay). While it wasn’t somewhere I chose to hang out in the evenings, I walked through the area when heading out for dinner a few times and never felt unsafe.” 

Sheree, Editor at South East Asia Backpacker
You know you’re in the red-light district when classy bars like this appear…

Safety in Phnom Penh FAQs

Is it safe to walk around Phnom Penh?

Yes, it’s safe to walk around Phnom Penh. There are a few areas that you wouldn’t want to explore on foot but unless you’re looking for trouble, you won’t stumble across these as a tourist. The biggest risks when walking around Phnom Penh are traffic and the heat! 

Is it safe to walk around Phnom Penh at night?

Walking around Phnom Penh at night is very similar to walking around other large cities. It’s safe enough in most areas but if you’re alone, we recommend getting a taxi or tuk-tuk using PassApp or Grab, rather than walking. 

Do you need malaria tablets for Phnom Penh?

Malaria tablets aren’t recommended for Phnom Penh. However, if you’re travelling to Cambodia’s eastern provinces from Phnom Penh, you might need to start taking anti-malarial medication before you leave the city. You can buy antimalarials from most pharmacies in the city and they don’t cost much. 

Are there landmines in Phnom Penh?

While some parts of Cambodia are still blighted by landmines, Phnom Penh isn’t one of them. You don’t need to worry about landmines in the country’s capital. 


South East Asia Backpacker is a ‘travel diary for everyone’. This article has been written with the help of backpackers and local experts. We would like to thank…

🙏 Merle Heijkoop | South East Asia Backpacker Community Member 
🙏 Sheree Hooker
| Editor at South East Asia Backpacker Anon
🙏 Anonymous | South East Asia Backpacker Community Member

Tim Ashdown | Gear Specialist

After a life-changing motorcycle accident, Tim decided life was too short to stay cooped up in his home county of Norfolk, UK. Since then, he has travelled Southeast Asia, walked the Camino de Santiago and backpacked South America. His first book, From Paralysis to Santiago, chronicles his struggle to recover from the motorcycle accident and will be released later this year.

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