Photo: Wat Lanka, Phnom Penh.

Medical care in Cambodia is generally awful — marginally less so in Phnom Penh — but at the same time, travellers often have lots of reasons to see a doctor here. Here are some things to bear in mind.

While local doctors are less expensive, most have not had the sort of medical training that most Westerners would deem sufficient, and because the educational system is so flawed, one can never be sure whether a doctor got their diplomas and positions through connections or “tea money”. It’s not surprising, then, that locals who can afford it head directly to Bangkok when they need treatment and emergencies see patients promptly evacuated over the border as well. Emergency evacuations are not cheap and as such travelling in Cambodia without medical insurance isn’t recommended. A number of clinics in Phnom Penh are aimed at the tourist and expatriate crowd but they are just clinics.

International SOS Medical Clinic
#161 Street 51
T: (023) 216 911, (012) 816 911
Open weekdays 08:00-17:30, Sat 08:00-12:00
Popular with expats, this is one of the pricier clinics in Phnom Penh, with consultations starting at $80. If insurance is covering your visit, head straight here. Western and Khmer doctors are available. 24-Hour emergency care available. Services available in English, French, Japanese and Khmer.

NAGA Clinic
#11 Street 254
T: (023) 211 300, (011) 811 175 (emergency)
Open 24 hours
Also popular with expats, this French-run clinic isn’t as pricey as SOS, with consultations starting at $35.

Calmette Hospital
3 Monivong Rd
T: (023) 426 948
Open 24 hours
This is the best Khmer hospital in Phnom Penh. Many people swear by it — others say it is the place people go to die. If you have good health insurance you will never need to find out which one is true.

Tropical and Travellers Medical Clinic
#88 Street 108
T: (023) 366 802, (012) 898 981 Open Mon-Sat 09:30-11:30, Mon-Fri 14:30-17:00
Long-term resident, very experienced doctor, and an eccentric character, Dr Scott promises not to submit you to unnecessary tests for conditions you’re not presenting any symptoms for. Expensive experience elsewhere indicates there is a distinct need for this. His prices fall between Naga and International SOS, with consultations starting at $50. Cash only.

Phnom Penh is flooded with pharmacies — look for the green cross that marks their location. The better pharmacies are air-con and will have staff who speak English. Check out Pharmacie de la Gare at #81Eo Monivong (just north of Russian Boulevard) or the U-Care Pharmacy on the corner of Sothearos Boulevard and Street 178. There are other U-Cares throughout the city, and their pharmacists offer the most helpful medical advice and speak English well. Naga Clinic also has a pharmacy, but they are rather pricey.

The risk of buying fake medications in Cambodia persists. Always buy medication in branded, blister-packed packages, check the company of manufacture and check the expiry date. Some chemists dispense unmarked tablets dispensed in bags -- avoid these!

Sexual health

The country’s 2010 HIV prevalence rate was estimated at 0.7% among adults, compared with a high of around 2% in 1997, according to government data. The prevalence of HIV increases among female entertainment workers and men who have sex with men.

You should be able to buy your preferred brand of birth control in Cambodia. Condoms are available at supermarkets and pharmacies, including brand names like Durex and others imported from elsewhere in Asia. OK and Number 1 are condoms released by PSI (an NGO) targeting low income populations; there should be no different in quality than those in the West, but you won't find the same variety of flavours and features. Do note too that condoms in Cambodia may be more likely to break due to exposure to light and tropical heat. So do make sure to purchase them from air-conditioned shops, check the expiry date and don’t use it if the condom feels dry, sticky or brittle.

Oral contraceptives are available, but possibly not under the name you are used to; the same formulas are released under different brand names in different countries. Depending on which pharmacy you go to, you might get brands from Australia, France or beyond. Write down (or check online) the brand name, manufacturer and dose of oestrogen and/or progesterone and any other ingredients in your current pill, or bring an empty packet with you. It can be difficult to find progesterone-only pills.

Family planning in Cambodia isn't as hard as you think.

STIs are on the rise in Cambodia, and the risk of contracting an STI/HIV is always a possibility in any casual sex encounter, regardless of the occupation of the person. Remember, some STIs such as HPV and herpes are passed on through skin contact, so can still be transmitted even when a condom is worn. You can access STI screening and treatment at SOS International or Dr Gavin Scott is known for his non-judgmental (and amusing) screenings.

Abortion was legalised in Cambodia in 1997. They are legal on demand for up to 12 weeks, meaning that no specific reason is needed to request an abortion. After 12 weeks, the law restricts abortions to certain situations only. Contact Marie Stopes International for details.


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Further reading

General ideas

Health & safety

Visas & immigration

Weather & climate

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Phnom Penh? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Cambodia.

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