Centuries-old temples, jungles, idyllic islands, and exotic wildlife — tourists from all over the world are discovering what Cambodia has to offer.
Besides getting their Cambodian visa sorted and flight seats booked, there are important health information and advice for Cambodia that international travelers should be aware of before heading to this Southeast Asian country. You will find the most important health tips — from food and water to insects and vaccinations — in this article.
Safe Food and Drinks in Cambodia
Eating and drinking safely is important when you are abroad. You don’t want to spoil your holiday and incur in medical costs that can be easily avoided with simple measures. Safe food and water habits will noticeably reduce the risk of experiencing diarrhea and other conditions related to consuming contaminated food.
Eating Safely in Cambodia
Since a great part of contaminations is caused by non-potable water, it’s important that you always peel fruits and vegetables before eating them, even when they’ve been washed.
Only eating cooked and hot food is paramount — avoid undercooked dishes and street food. Eggs are best consumed boiled and if you enjoy dairy products, make sure that they’re always pasteurized. Stay clear of wild game (also called “bushmeat”) like monkeys and bats.
You should always wash your hands carefully before eating or touching your face and mouth.
Drinking Safely in Cambodia
Only drink sealed bottled water while in Cambodia. In case you don’t have access to bottled water, there are ways to disinfect non-potable water like boiling and water purification tablets. Hot coffee and tea, sealed soda and pasteurized milk are safe to drink in Cambodia too.
Avoid tap water and ice in your drinks unless you know the ice has been made with bottled water.
Insects and Health in Cambodia
As it often happens in tropical and humid climates, a variety of diseases in Cambodia can be spread by bugs like mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas. Unfortunately, there are no vaccines available for most of these diseases.
There are many steps you can take in order to protect yourself from bug bites, including:
- Wearing clothes that limit skin exposure (long trousers and sleeves, hats, etc.)
- Using insect repellant (different ingredients will protect you from different bugs)
- Using a bed net at night or making sure the room is bug-free
- Checking your body regularly for tick bites, especially after spending time outdoors
Vaccinations for Cambodia
Vaccinations for Cambodia are not mandatory but highly encouraged. Check with your doctor at least 1 month prior to your intended dates of travel. Detailed information is also likely to be available on your government’s website.
Here’s a list of vaccine suggestions for Cambodia. Some are recommended to all travelers, while others are only recommended to specific groups.
Vaccinations Recommended to All Travelers for Cambodia
Measles. Infants should get 1 dose of MMR vaccine (not counted as the first round of routine vaccinations for children) before traveling. Travelers of 12 months and older should get 1 or 2 doses (28 days apart) depending on their vaccination history.
Regular vaccines. It’s important that you get up to date with your routine vaccinations. These may include shots for MMR, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella (chickenpox), polio, and more.
Vaccinations Recommended to Most Travelers for Cambodia
Most travelers are advised to get vaccinated against diseases caused by contaminated food and water — usually, hepatitis A and typhoid. That’s because even though you make sure to eat safely, Cambodia is a country at high risk of food and water contamination.
Vaccinations Recommended to Some Travelers for Cambodia
Depending on many factors, you may or may not be at higher risk of contracting certain diseases in Cambodia. For example, some travelers are recommended to get vaccinated against specific diseases because they plan to spend extended time in rural areas.
Factors to take into consideration when discussing your vaccination plan for Cambodia with your doctors are:
- The length of your trip
- What time of the year you’re traveling
- Whether you intend to visit rural areas
- Whether you intend to spend much time and/or sleep outside
- Whether you’ll be using needles (for medical procedures, tattoos, or piercings) or having sexual intercourse while in Cambodia
- Whether you’ll be working and/or spending time around animals.
Depending on the above information, your doctor may recommend that you get vaccinated against one or more of the following diseases:
- Hepatitis B
- Japanese Encephalitis
- Malaria (in this case, you won’t get a vaccine shot but will have to take prescription anti-malarial tablets as prophylaxis).
Remember that timing is everything when it comes to preventive healthcare. Together with applying for your Cambodian visa and defining your travel itinerary, you should talk to your doctor about vaccine options for Cambodia as soon as possible.