Solo Travel in Cambodia
Cambodia is a relatively safe country for women travelling alone although there have been a few reports of harassment, foreign women are generally respected by Cambodians. Just keep your bag close to you in the city and on motorbikes. Aside from Siem Reap there are not as many tourists as you would find in Thailand and the children you encounter may overwhelm you with their curiosity for your attention and desire to touch your skin.
Despite the genocide that people suffered under the Khmer Rouge, they are smiling people who live well below the breadline, and seeing them begging can pull at your heart strings especially at tourist sites and markets.
This country still has millions of undiscovered land mines from the Vietnam War which have disabled many Cambodians. Some victims of the land mines are seen begging or busking for money. Because of the mines don’t go off the beaten paths and always trek with a guide.
There’s something about Cambodia that draws you in, its soul, its tragic past and its people will leave a mark on your heart. It is a country that still ranks among the world’s poverty hot spots yet the people seem so happy. For women travelling solo, Cambodia is cheap to travel through, has great value guest houses (with an honesty policy for food and drinks) and is miles away from the bustle of other Asian cities.
Cemented roads don’t really exist here and you’ll be travelling along dirt tracks past small villages with chickens and goats roaming around and children running out to wave and shout “hello.”
Cambodia tourism is no stranger to dark tourism and remnants of the rule of the Khmer Rouge three decades before are now tourist sites in the capital, Phnom Penh. The Killing Fields are now a tranquil place with a memorial of the 70,000 people killed here in a glass case case of skulls. The S21 Prison, now a museum used to be a school until 1975 when the Khmer Rouge began their grisly regime. Read more about the Khmer Rouge here.
Phnom Penh is a centre of culture with a chilled riverfront, bars and restaurants, a bustling night market and a central market during the day where you can buy local cuisine from creamy coconut curries to fried maggots, locust and even tarantulas (apparently good for medicine).
There’s also the infamous Tuol Sleng Museum, the National Museum and the Royal Palace all within walking distance and many restaurants which are run by NGOs to train the underprivileged youth. You can even fire an AK47 at the local shooting range or take a cruise along the mighty Mekong from the Royal Palace.
Choose a guest house by the Mekong riverside to escape the noise and pace of the city. Guest houses also act as travel agents so you can book your onward travel.
The highlight of the country are in Siem Reap. The Hindu temples of Angkor Wat are one of the largest religious monuments in the world and were built in the 12th Century. It’s likely to be one of the most expensive costs you’ll encounter in Cambodia (£15 for 1 day or £25 for a 3 day pass) but a visit to these Khmer temples is simply magical especially at sunrise.
The site is really easy to walk around and make sure you don’t miss the Ta Prohm temple (the ‘Tomb Raider’ temple) which is bound by the roots of a giant strangler fig tree, or the Bayon temple; a Buddhist temple etched with smiling bodhisattva faces. Angkor Wat is a UNESCO Heritage of Humanity and a living temple which is still used by many Cambodians today as a Buddhist site.
To visit the site you need to stay overnight in Siem Reap, the cradle of Khmer civilisation but there’s more to Siem Reap than Angkor Wat. Hire a bike and visit the red sandstone Banteay Srei temple and the Cambodia Land Mine Museum and Relief Centre as well as the Butterfly Centre. You can buy Khmer ceramics, art or jewellery at the Khmer Ceramics Centre or even create your own piece of art!
Visiting Cambodia doesn’t just mean visiting the majestic temples of Angkor Wat. The country’s second UNESCO World Heritage Site is Preah Vihear temple, which sits on a cliff-top and offers stunning views of Cambodia and the Dangrek Mountains. Sambor Prei Kuk temples in Kampong Thom are even older than Angkor Wat.
Other temples are: the jungle temple of Beng Melea which can be combined with a trip to Koh Ker or Kbal Spean and Preah Khan, one of the remotest temples.
Battambang is the second largest city and lies in the northwest with more Angkor ruins but the city seems more like a town with rural villages close by.
When you’re all templed-out, take a trip to the northeast where Eco-tourism lies. Visit Mondulkiri for the Bousra waterfall and Ethnic Culture Centre. If you’re feeling stressed from travelling take a trip to the Sea Forest, a natural healing place in Loa Ka which is proven to cure you (and is even better at sunrise or sunset).
Visit Ratanakiri for Yeak Lom volcanic lake and Virachey National Park then treat yourself to a gem within the mining province; take your pick from sapphires, emeralds and rubies.
Also North is the unspoilt town of Kratie, a place off the beaten track on the route heading to Laos. Take a long tail boat to see the Irrawaddy river dolphins in the muddy waters of the Mekong (although you may only catch a glimpse of these unique mammals) or take the Mekong Discovery Trail through less-trodden paths across northern Cambodia. From here you can also travel further to the hill tribes for an understanding of indigenous life.
For nature lovers, the East has dense forest and lush jungles ideal for trekking past local villages. See orangutans in the Koh Kong Province or trek the Cardamon Mountains (but not by yourself as there are illegal loggers here) to experience Cambodia’s natural beauty.
See silk worms (a definite must) at Phnom Srok, the only remaining silk village in Cambodia and watch how Cambodian silk is weaved by the riverside at Mekong Blue in Stung Treng whilst enjoying the best coffee in Cambodia and cuisine with a Laos flavour.
Head south for snorkelling and sunbathing at Sihanoukville, the beach area of Cambodia which can be more expensive than the rest of the country. The beaches aren’t as picturesque as Thailand’s (Serendipity Beach is a rocky area) but they definitely aren’t as touristy and are a great place to chill out and relax.
Kampot is great for those who love adventure and Kep, once an area where the rich used to frequent, is now the best place for fresh crab. If you need solitude, Bamboo Island is nearby and will take you back to basics with no evening power or hot water.
Other places to visit in Cambodia are: Trapeang Roung for dense forests, waterfalls and river rapids and Chambok to experience of communities of rural life.
Trek in forests, go bird or wildlife spotting, explore villages and meet Indigenous cultures, Cambodia is a Kingdom of Wonder.
Be careful of the currents when swimming in rivers.
Happy herb pizza does actually contain happy herbs.
How long do I need?
Cambodia is on the route from Thailand to Vietnam so it depends whether you fly into the capital first or come via Thailand where’s it’s logical to visit Siem Reap first. In one week you can visit Phnom Penh, Angkor Wat and Sihanoukville.
Accommodation in Cambodia
From budget, mid-range and luxurious hotels, accommodation in Cambodia is a fraction of the cost you would find in the UK. Find boutiques and lounges in Sihanoukville, guesthouses and villas in Battambang or bungalows in Kampot.
Whether you want to stay in a riverview suite in Phnom Penh or a boutique hotel, you'll find somewhere for your travelling style. If you are backpacking in Cambodia there are hostels in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Battambang and Kampot. Airbnb connects you to locals in Cambodia where you can stay in a traditional Khmer house and other beautiful homes. Save $20 off your first stay.
GatG Favourite – Okay Boutique Hotel, Phnom Penh
We love this boutique hotel kitted out with typical Cambodian-style decor. It’s perfect for those wanting to explore the capital city. Prices from £30 p/n. Find Out More
GatG Favourite – Soria Moria Boutique Hotel, Siem Reap
If you are on a budget this cute boutique hotel is great value and only a 15 minute drive from the magical Angkor Wat. Prices from £30 p/n. Find Out More
GatG Favourite – Ren Resort, Sihanoukville
A beautiful futuristic-style property situated on the beach. We love this contemporary look in Cambodia. Prices from £49 p/n. Find Out More
Tours in Cambodia
If you feel more comfortable in a group for either part of your trip or the whole duration, G Adventures is a responsible tour company which mainly caters towards budget travellers. Most tours have an average of 10 people and there is no upper age limit. Once you book your trip you pay extra for any excursions you want to do when you’re there.
Adventures start from a 4 day Mekong River Adventure to a 41 day tour including Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. I have personally used G Adventures and recommend them as a solo female friendly company.
Intrepid Travel is similar to G Adventures with an average of 12 people on each tour. Over 50% of people using their trips are solo travellers. They tend to use hotels instead of hostels and have a more comfortable style of accommodation hence the trips can appear a bit more costly than G Adventures. They have tours for any length of time from a 3 day Secrets of Angkor Wat tour to 25 days Indochina Unplugged including Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
The following day tour companies have been recommended by solo females:
- Sam Veasna – Is a tour company helping to sustain Cambodia wildlife and communities through ecotourism. They offer day tours in Cambodia.
- Biking Cambodia – Cycle along the Mekong or explore the Cambodian countryside.
- Buffalo Tours – Offer day and 4 day tours of Angkor Wat as well as tailor-made itineraries.
Viator – If you prefer day tours, Viator has a plethora to choose from. As a TripAdvisor company each tour is handpicked and pre-vetted to make such you get the best experience. From watching the sunset at Angkor Wat to visiting a floating village you'll find something for any kind of solo.
Travelling Around Cambodia
Instead of taxis you’ll find more tuk tuks (you’ll need to use your bartering skills here) and motorcycle taxis.
Motorbikes are the cheapest and easiest way and you can hire them by the day to take you around all sites (the roads are really dusty so wear sunglasses).
There is only one train which runs from Phnom Penh to Battambang in the northwest so if you are travelling outside take the capital, take a bus instead (there is one to Sihanoukville).
Health and safety doesn’t seem to exist on the ferries so you may find yourself squashed on the top deck as only Cambodians have tickets for indoors.
The express boat is expensive but better than the slow ones and there are boat journeys along the Mekong from Siem Reap to Phonem Phen which takes 6 hours, as well as to Kratie.
To hire a car we recommend pre-booking car hire with Avis so you can collect your car when you arrive at the airport.
From the Airport
Phnom Penh – Taxis and tuk tuks run from outside the airport gates and are cheaper than booking one inside. A taxi will cost approx £7 and a tuk tuk £4 for the 5 mile journey.
Feel more confident with someone waiting for you at the airport when you pre-book a transfer with Hoppa, a reliable and safe service for solo females.
Travelling onwards (check visas before you travel)
As soon as you enter the overland border into Cambodia, children will walk with you and offer you an umbrella for the shade in exchange for a small fee.
To Thailand – From Siem Reap to Poipet is 7 hours by bus then 3 hours to Bangkok. Be careful about having to pay extra by a fake embassy here.
To Vietnam – From Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City by bus in 6 hours for £10.
To Laos – Phnom Penh to Stung Treng (via bus or taxi) then a ferry (£3) or bus to the road border crossing.
To Malaysia – Flights operate daily to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
To Burma – Fly from Siem Reap to Yangon.
Where can I go from here?
Vietnam – 1 hour
￼Laos – 1 hour 15 minutes
Burma – 2 hours 15 minutes
- Can I drink the water? No.
- Is tipping expected? No but salaries are really low.
- Fixed price or barter? Barter.
- Any ATMs? Only in the capital and main towns.
- Which side of the road do they drive? Right.
- Good for vegetarians? Yes.
- Any seven wonders of the world? No.
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Capital – Phnom Penh
Population – 13.4 million
Language spoken – Khmer, French & English
Flying Time to Cambodia – 13 hrs
Did you know? A large proportion of Cambodians have mental problems as a result of the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975.
Mind Body & Soul