Health & safety
Phnom Penh is not as dangerous as people imagine, but it is important to take care. Armed robberies do sometimes occur, but statistically you would be very unlucky to be a victim.
Should you become the victim of a robbery, do not panic and do not, under any circumstances, struggle. Calmly raise your hands and let your attacker take what they want. Do not reach for your pockets as the assailant may think you are reaching for a gun. You will most likely get any documents back later via your guesthouse or embassy, as the robbers often want only cash and valuables. For the time being, even passports and credit cards seem to be returned. Do not carry a bag at night, as it is more likely to make you a target.
It pays to be cautious in crowded bars or nightclubs that are frequented by the Khmer elite. Many pampered children hang out in popular places, bringing their bodyguards along for good luck. This is fine until a drunk foreigner treads on their toes or they decide they want to hit on a Western girl. Then the problems start and if they have bodyguards with them, it will only end in tears, big tears.
If you ride your own motorbike during the day, some police may try to fleece you for the most trivial of offences, such as turning left in violation of a no-left-turn sign. At their most audacious, they may try to get you for riding with your headlights on during the day although, worryingly, it does not seem to be illegal for Cambodians to travel without their headlights on at night. The police will most likely demand US$5 from you and threaten to take you to the police station for an official US$20 fine if you do not pay. If you are patient with them and smile, you can usually get away with handing over US$1. The trick is not to stop in the first place by not catching their eye.
The riverfront area of Phnom Penh, particularly places with outdoor seating, attracts many beggars, as do Psar Thmei and Psar Tuol Tom Pong. Generally, however, there is little in the way of push and shove.
Flooding is a major problem during heavy downpours in the wet season (June to October). Phnom Penh’s drainage system is notoriously unreliable and when the big rains kick off, some streets turn into canals for a few hours. The Japanese government is currently reworking the drains and sewers along the riverfront, which may well ease things. The downside is that much of the riverfront promenade has been fenced off during this work, which is scheduled to continue until 2009.
It is important to be aware of the difference between a clinic and a hospital in Phnom Penh. Clinics are good for most situations, but in a genuine emergency it is best to make for one of the hospitals.
Calmette Hospital (426948; 3 Monivong Blvd; 24hr) French-administered and the best of the local hospitals.
European Dental Clinic (211363; 160A Norodom Blvd; 7.30am-12.30pm & 1.30-7.30pm Mon-Sat) With international dental services and a good reputation.
International SOS Medical Centre (216911; www.internationalsos.com; 161 St 51; 8am-5.30pm Mon-Fri, 8am-noon Sat) One of the best medical services around town, but with prices to match. Also has a resident foreign dentist.
Naga Clinic (211300; www.nagaclinic.com; 11 St 254; 24hr) A French-run clinic for reliable consultations.
Pharmacie de la Gare (430205; 81 Monivong Blvd; 7am-7pm Mon-Sat, 8am-noon Sun) A pharmacy with English- and French-speaking consultants.
U-Care Pharmacy (222399; 26 Samdech Sothearos Blvd; 8am-9pm) International-style pharmacy with a convenient location near the river.
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