Safe drinking water in Cambodia

A common fear amongst travelers to Cambodia is safe drinking water. Here’s a guide to where you can get drinkable water without using 4.6 million plastic bottles.

In Siem Reap, it’s estimated that 4.6 million water bottles are generated by the tourism industry alone, monthly. That’s not including local consumption. That figure is based on the average visitor stay and daily consumption, and number of visitors per year.

Maybe you’re thinking “it’s just a few days, I’ll just deal with the fact that my environmental impact is higher whilst travelling”. STOP right there. This is your chance to help Cambodia deal with its issues of overuse of plastic and as a tourist, your impact counts, no matter how quick your visit.

Siem Reap is a town estimated to have around 250,000 people living in it. An additional 2 million + visitors come to Siem Reap every year, as it is the gateway to the Angkor Temples and Angkor Wat. As a result, the huge increase of demand on resources is damaging the local environment and hindering local communities.

You can drink water safely even if it’s not bottled.

So when you’re packing your suitcase, be sure to put your drink bottle in!

Most cafes in all towns in Cambodia have large 20 litre refillable bottles or even water filtration systems and the majority of these places will be happy to give you a glass of water when you’re dining with them or even a refill in your drink bottle.

Some places you just need to ask; “Som dterk moy gy-au?”

In others it will be visible and easy to access by yourself.

Refill NOT Landfill is making drinking water even more accessible to people in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Battambang; by encouraging businesses to set up a water station that customers and visitors can use. They even sell nice drink flasks at many of these locations, just in case you forgot to pack yours. Profits of the sales are often supporting local projects and NGOs.

Even most ice is made from purified water these days. Just look for ice that is tubular in shape and you’ll know its safe. It’s still a good idea to avoid consuming ice that has come from a large slab, it’s uncertain whether this water has been filtered.

If you’re living in Cambodia, there are two good options for safe drinking water; a household ceramic water filter at a very affordable price of around $20, able to be bought at markets (there is a list on our DIY page) or a biosand filter which is much more robust for well water. We recommend Water for Cambodia and they also offer water testing for businesses and households.

One more thing – make sure to ask for no straw then you’re reducing two items of plastic and that’s a wonderful contribution to your travels in Cambodia.

Wondering what sort of bottle is best? We opt for glass or stainless steel, the safest options by far for drinking out of. Here’s a nice blog from Onya Life about stainless steel bottles. Many places around Cambodia and Southeast Asia sell bottles that are affordable and safe – try supermarkets, stores like MiniSo, second hand stores and ethical, eco minded cafes.

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