Situated in Southeast Asia, Cambodia comes with many of the same travel health recommendations that you would find if you were taking a trip to Thailand. There are a few differences, however, mainly concerning malaria prevalence. In this post, we will recommend pre-trip preparations as well as tips for staying healthy while you are in Cambodia.
Vaccinations for Cambodia
Technically, there are no required vaccinations for entry into Cambodia. That said, if you are coming from a country in Africa or the Americas that has a prevalence of Yellow Fever, you may be required to present a vaccination certificate upon arrival in Cambodia. Otherwise, see our recommendations below:
– Routine vaccinations, which include Hepatitis A and B. For a full list of routine vaccinations, please see our post on travel immunizations here
– Typhoid – After routine vaccinations, typhoid is the most commonly recommended immunization. It may be the only one that you need if you already have all of your routine shots.
– Rabies and Japanese Encephalitis are both optional and the need for these two vaccinations really depends on where you are going to be spending your time. If you will be mainly in remote rural areas, you should consider getting a JE vaccination. If you are going to be coming in close contact with animals, then it is recommended that you get a round of Rabies vaccinations.
Malaria in Cambodia
In general, there is a higher prevalence of malaria in Cambodia than there is in Thailand. In the areas around Lake Tonle Sap, Angkor Wat, and Phnom Penh you don’t need to worry about a malaria risk. For everywhere else in the country, however, you should be prepared.
As a primer, we recommend reading these two articles: Should you Take Malaria Prophylactics? and Which Malaria Prophylactic Should you Take. Those will put you in the right mindset before you go to a travel health clinic to have a consultation.
And, make no mistake, you should have a travel health consultation before traveling. The malaria threat is not the same throughout Cambodia, and in some parts of the country (namely in the western provinces), there are strains of malaria that are resistant to mefloquine, one of the drugs that is commonly prescribed for prevention.
Furthermore, it’s recently been reported that there is currently a strain of malaria in western Cambodia that is actually resistant to artemisinin, which is widely considered to be the most effective drug for treating malaria. This makes it all the more important that you have a proper travel health consultation and discuss prophylactic measures with a doctor.
Dengue fever is an endemic disease in Cambodia. You are more likely to come down with it in the rainy season or if there is a particular outbreak going on. Before traveling, you should check with the WHO website to see whether there is currently an outbreak in the country. While there is not a vaccine or prophylactic available to avoid dengue fever, there are a number of steps you can take to avoid mosquito bits. Take a look at our article on dengue fever here for more information.
The illness you are most likely to contract is less serious than many of the others listed above. Food preparation standards may not always be up to par in Cambodia, and even when they are, you may simply get unlucky and catch a bacteria that your gut is not familiar with. We would recommend reading our article on the prevention and treatment of traveler’s diarrhea here.
The tap water is not safe to drink in Cambodia, so you need to plan accordingly. You can of course purchase bottled water just about everywhere, but if you are planning on being in more remote areas or if you are concerned about creating plastic waste, you can consider one of these 4 water treatment options.
Other health considerations
The climate in Cambodia can be particularly harsh if you are not familiar with the tropics. The sun is intense and the heat can be oppressive during certain times of year. Sunburn and heatstroke are very real dangers. It is incredibly important to stay hydrated and to not overdo it when the sun and temperature are peaking. We would recommend reading this article on avoiding sunburn and choosing a good sunscreen here
As we stated above, you should of course have a travel health consultation before traveling to Cambodia. This guide offers you a solid starting point. You should also be sure to take out adequate travel insurance that includes considerations for your health. See our recommendations on travel insurance here.
Photo credit: flickr user mr. Wood