What Not To Do In Cambodia As A Tourist
Cambodia is a Southeast Asian country with a multiparty democratic government system under a constitutional monarchy. It has a mixed economic system, as a planned economy with markets that include a variety of private freedoms combined with centralized economic planning and government regulation. Visiting Cambodia will definitely bring you unforgettable memories with majestical scenery and friendly and hospitable people. However, while Buddhism plays an important role in its culture and society, and culture shock is inevitable, there are some must-know things that you should pay much attention to and avoid when stepping on this beautiful land.
1. Don't Enter A Temple Wearing Your Footwear
Theravada Buddhism is the official religion in Cambodia which plays a significant role in almost 95 percent of the Cambodian people. And there is no surprise that there are plenty of temples in Cambodia. Famous temples include Angkor Wat, Bayon, Banteay Srei, Preah Khan, and so on. In their culture, feet are considered to be the dirtiest part of the body, and that's why no footwear is allowed in any place of worship, especially in temples. And you will find that shoes are not allowed in many homes and establishments in Cambodia. Hence, wearing shoes that could be slipped off quickly and easily is convenient during your traveling in Cambodia. Besides, be careful not to show the bottoms of your feet to anyone and especially avoid pointing them when visiting.
Monks in Temple of Cambodia
2. Don't Try to Touch Monks
Monks are highly revered in Theravada Buddhism and the Cambodian culture, which is expected to be understood and carefully paid attention to by tourists. People could take a picture of a monk only with their permission. A traditional taboo is that women should never touch a monk or give anything to them.
Another thing that you should be mindful of is not eating or snacking around monks afternoon because most of them are not allowed to eat during that time. If one is seated with them, the person must always sit behind and lower the monk, which is a way to show respect to the worship. If you want to talk to a seated monk, you should sit first and then start your conversation.
3. Be Careful When Talking About the Royals
The Royals in Cambodia are the sacred and inviolable people who are respected by the whole nation besides Buddhism. So, you must take care of your national currency (riel), which is printed on the image of the royals, and avoid accidentally stepping on them. You ought to be careful and mindful when talking about the royals and take care of things that carry their images, such as the national flag, money, etc. Otherwise, there may be a slippery slope of breach of laws.
Royal Palace in Cambodia
4. Do Not Use Your Left Hand
The left hand is considered impure and even dirty, which is used for daily hygiene in Cambodia. So, for the Cambodian, it will be impolite to give and receive from others only with the left hand. Local people do not use it to eat, touch people, or hand anything to anyone. Do remember to use your right hand or both hands when you want to give or receive.
5. Do Not Point at Anything
It is considered rude and impolite when you use one of your fingers to point at something in most cultures, which is no exception in Cambodia. Here, using your right hand, palming up, and keeping your fingers together to gesture is the appropriate method to point at something in shops, on the streets, or in a restaurant or eatery. Please keep in mind that never ever use your left hand to point at anything or anyone. This will bring your travel less conflict of the culture shock.
6. Avoid Wearing Jewelry
We recommend you not take a lot of jewelry when traveling in Cambodia. Dressing moderately and avoiding wearing flashy and valuable jewelry is acceptable in Cambodia. The bright shine of jewelry would show your identity as a tourist, which probably makes you an evident target for criminals and pickpockets on the streets and markets. It is also a sure sign for street vendors in the area harassing you to buy their products and wares. So, avoid unnecessary confrontations by leaving your jewelry at home.
Dressing Moderately Avoiding Flashy in Cambodia
7. Do Not Go for Elephant Rides
As people's awareness of animal protection is rising, elephant rides are generally considered a thing forbidden by the government and people in Cambodia. This activity was a hit for a while when people had not realized how much damage this caused to elephants. Those elephants that are offered for tourists to take a ride are often sorely mistreated in the tourism industry. The training to make elephants safe around people can be akin to torture, where young animals' spirits are systematically broken through social isolation and torture. Another major issue for the tourism industry elephants is their health condition. They are usually overworked, underfed, and beaten if they fail to perform properly. This combination of poor treatment and poor care often leads to the deep end of this intelligent and sensitive animal's life. This is considered an inhumane practice that many other local people disdain and is something tourists should be aware of and give a hand to when traveling in Cambodia.
8. Avoid Drinking Tap Water
Drinking tap water is not advised in Cambodia due to its lack of infrastructure and the addition of chlorine. Many locals use tap water for dishwashing, bathing, and laundry but not drinking water because it is not totally hygienic and safe for the human body. The purchase of bottled water in local groceries and stores will be a better solution for your thirst. You can also buy a gallon for a part of your trip and bring a reusable tumbler or jug for recycling to avoid consuming plastic waste, which is greener and more environmentally friendly.
9. Don't Neglect the Hygiene
There may be less well-maintained toilets or latrines that you could find. So do carry hand napkins and sanitizers to safeguard against diseases because of unhygienic exposure. What is also important during the special epidemic period is that always take a surgical mask when you are in crowds and wash your hands frequently if you touch things that have been handed in by many people. Besides, because of its geography and climate, the place probably has some mosquitos and insects. Therefore, be mindful to keep a mosquito repellent reachable during your travel and use it regularly.
10. Don't Touch Someone's Head or Show Feet to Them
Cambodian people consider the head as the highest part of the body, not only in position but also in status, which means the focal point of intelligence and spiritual substance. The Head is sacred and holy, which is worth treasuring, and that's why there is a prescriptive rule of not touching one's head in Cambodia. If you do so by accident, it could be thought of as an extreme insult, which probably would bring you a little trouble. Feet, which are at the bottom of the body, on the contrary, are thought to be the lowest part of the body and the symbols of uncleanness. So, showing feet to others could also be considered an insult to them in Cambodia.
11. Take Care of Your Belongs When Traveling in a Tuk-tuk
The tuk-tuk is one of the vehicles for tourists to enjoy the beautiful and vibrant scenery of the country. You will see the two-wheeled passenger carts everywhere, and the one-trip fee is reasonably around US$3. But do pay attention to some rules before you try once. First, have a bargain before you get into a tuk-tuk, which could save you money. Second, keep your luggage close to you and your smartphones in your hand or pocket. There could be some street criminals who are quick to snatch a phone or bag that is carelessly put. Besides, you don't need to take too much advice from the tuk-tuk driver because they probably don't have a comprehensive knowledge of where they are working.
Traveling is what you do to experience new things and culture, and culture shock can appear accidentally anywhere, whether you predict it or not. So have an open mind and let the country, the people, and the single meal in that place give you fresh experiences and feelings and allow your heart and view to fly. The above information for you to learn more about Cambodia and its culture is able to smooth and promote your travel plan and travel preparation.
However, there could be other petty things, from booking in advance to your practical travel route, which could cause your travel a bit of hassle. Odynovo and our staff will do the utmost to reduce your worry about traveling and elaborate a perfect travel schedule in private. You can drown yourself in the beautiful scenery and traditional local life of Cambodia and have a full picture of Cambodia naturally and socially.
Customize Your Dream Tour
- 1-on-1 Travel Expert
- Reply Within 24 Hours
- Private and Tailor-Made Service
What Our Clients Say About Us
CONTACT A TRAVEL EXPERT
1-to-1 Service | Reply within 24hrs | Expert's Advice
SUBSCRIBE TO WIN A FREE TOUR
Subscribe to our newsletter for a chance to win a free 12-day China tour! And more insider travel news, exclusive offers, and inspiration will be sent straight to your inbox.