Cambodia is a captivating country that boasts a rich history, vibrant culture, and is fast becoming a popular destination for solo female travelers. As someone who has embarked on solo adventures in Cambodia, I can attest to its safety and welcoming atmosphere. In this guide, I will share my personal experiences and provide valuable insights and inspiration for women seeking to explore Cambodia on their own. From must-see sights to cultural customs and safety tips, this guide has got you covered.
When to Visit Cambodia
The best time to visit Cambodia is between November and April when rainfall is at its lowest and temperatures remain warm. It’s essential to avoid the monsoon season, which typically falls between May and October. Personally, I flew to Cambodia on Christmas Day, and it turned out to be a quiet, relaxing, and enjoyable time to visit. Consider the Khmer festivals and their timings. The Khmer New Year, celebrated on the 13th or 14th of April, is a significant festival to be aware of. However, if you’re not a fan of getting drenched in water, it’s advisable to avoid this time of year.
Getting to Cambodia
While it is possible to fly directly into Phnom Penh, most travelers choose to fly into Bangkok and then take a flight to Siem Reap the following day. Bangkok offers more direct connections, making it a convenient entry point. I made the mistake of flying from the UK to Phnom Penh with Air China, which involved a scary connection in China. If you’ve had visa issues with China before, this route may not be pleasant. To avoid any hassles, I recommend flying directly to Bangkok and then taking a bus to Siem Reap. Although the bus journey can be long and uncomfortable, it allows you to skip unnecessary flights and experience the country’s landscapes.
Carvings at Angkor Wat temple complex
Safety in Cambodia
Cambodia is generally considered a safe country for solo female travelers. However, as with any destination, it’s crucial to exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings. While petty theft and pickpocketing can occur, using common sense and taking necessary precautions can ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. It’s advisable to avoid walking alone at night, especially in unfamiliar areas. Cambodians are generally very respectful of solo female travelers, but it’s always wise to remain vigilant.
Me at Angkor Wat
Travel Challenges in Cambodia
Traveling solo in Cambodia may come with a few challenges. For instance, bug bites can be a nuisance, especially in the jungles of Angkor Wat. Expect bumpy dirt tracks, potential language barriers, and expensive healthcare if you require medical attention. Bus journeys can be tough and unreliable, so it’s advisable to opt for private transfers or internal flights. Additionally, some areas in Cambodia have yet to be cleared of landmines, so it’s crucial to stay informed and cautious.
Me at Ta Prom
Backpack or Suitcase for Cambodia?
The choice between a backpack or suitcase depends on your travel plans. If you intend to stay in Siem Reap as a base and explore the nearby temples, a suitcase would suffice. However, if you plan on embarking on a backpacking route that includes Kampot, Kep, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Battambang, a backpack is more practical. Cambodia’s dusty roads are not suitable for wheelie suitcases, so opt for a backpack to navigate the terrain comfortably.
What to Pack for Your Solo Trip to Cambodia
When packing for your solo trip to Cambodia, consider these essential items:
- Bug spray with DEET or an alternative to keep insects at bay.
- Walking boots and thick socks to protect against bites and stings.
- A sarong, which can serve multiple purposes in various situations.
- A reusable water bottle to stay hydrated (most hostels provide drinking water).
- Sunscreen with a high SPF to shield your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.
- Dioralyte sachets or similar to replenish body salts if dehydration occurs.
- Comfortable and light clothing, such as t-shirts, cotton trousers, and long-sleeved linen tops. Avoid spaghetti straps and opt for clothing that covers the shoulders and arms.
- Slip-on sandals or flip-flops for temple visits that require shoe removal.
- A Lonely Planet Cambodia guide or a printed guidebook for offline reference.
- A breathable raincoat for unexpected weather changes.
- A lanyard with a clear pocket to hold your Angkor Wat pass in Siem Reap.
A moto without a helmet! On the way to Preah Vihear
Reasons to Travel Alone to Cambodia
There are numerous reasons why traveling alone to Cambodia is an incredible experience. One of the highlights is the opportunity to explore the temples of Angkor Wat at your own pace, without feeling rushed. Additionally:
- You are more likely to meet fellow travelers when embarking on a solo journey.
- You have the freedom to create your own schedule and itinerary without compromising.
- The locals in Cambodia are known for their friendliness and warm hospitality.
- Solo travel in Cambodia is budget-friendly, offering affordability without compromising on experiences.
- Cambodia offers a great variety of food, including plenty of vegetarian and vegan options.
Getting Around Cambodia
From my experience, having a reliable Tuk-Tuk driver is crucial for navigating Cambodia, especially when visiting the temples in Siem Reap. Tuk-Tuks are the main mode of transportation within the country and provide convenient access to popular destinations.
Where to Go – Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Beyond
While most travelers focus on Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, there are other fantastic destinations worth exploring if you have more than a week or two in Cambodia. These include Battambang, Kep, and Kampot.
Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, sits on the banks of the Mekong River and offers a wealth of historical and cultural attractions. The Royal Palace, National Museum, and Silver Pagoda are among the city’s highlights. Phnom Penh is also a bustling commercial hub with a vibrant nightlife and lively markets.
Siem Reap, located in northwestern Cambodia, serves as the gateway to the famous Angkor Archaeological Park. The city is renowned for its rich cultural heritage and vibrant nightlife, particularly Pub Street. Siem Reap is home to many ancient temples, including Angkor Wat, Bayon, and the Angkor Thom complex. Most visitors spend two to three days in Siem Reap, exploring the temples through the small and grand circuits.
Tonle Sap is Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake and plays a crucial role in supporting Cambodia’s fish supply. The lake is famous for its floating villages, where locals live and work on boats and stilt houses. It also boasts diverse wildlife, including fish, birds, and reptiles. Tonle Sap offers a unique glimpse into the traditional way of life in Cambodia.
Battambang, an unexpected gem, is a city in northwestern Cambodia. It provides travelers with excellent activities, including the Battambang Bamboo Train, bat caves, and Wat Sampau. The city combines modern amenities with traditional charm and is a growing tourist destination. From eating rats on sticks to experiencing bats flying overhead, Battambang offers unique and unforgettable experiences.
Kampot and Kep
Kampot, located in southern Cambodia, is known for its picturesque riverside setting and laid-back atmosphere. The city is famous for its Kampot Pepper Farm and the Teuk Chhou Rapids. It has also emerged as a vibrant arts and music hub, attracting backpackers and travelers seeking a more relaxed side of Cambodia. Nearby is Kep, a small coastal town with a beautiful setting and the popular Kep Crab Market. Most travelers combine Kampot and Kep due to their close proximity.
Top Tips for Cambodia Solo Female Travel
To wrap up this guide, here are some essential tips for solo female travelers exploring Cambodia:
- Download the GRAB app for taxis to ensure fair prices for your journeys.
- Opt for internal flights or private transfers instead of buses.
- Never leave your drink unattended in bars to avoid the risk of spiked drinks.
- Keep your valuables out of sight and your bag close to you at all times.
- Dress appropriately, favoring light cotton clothing with long sleeves and trousers over shorts and spaghetti straps.
- Avoid visiting during the monsoon season from May to October.
- Pay attention to “beware of landmine” signs in some areas, as there are still excavations taking place.
- Although Cambodia has its currency, USD is widely accepted, so bring crisp dollar notes in low denominations.
- Don’t pay tuk-tuk drivers in advance, and always agree on the price beforehand (per journey, not per person).
- Show respect by not pointing your feet at Buddha in temples, as it is considered extremely disrespectful in Buddhist culture.
- Refrain from wearing clothing or displaying tattoos with images of Buddha, as it is offensive in Cambodia.
Enjoy your solo adventure in Cambodia, immerse yourself in its rich culture, and create unforgettable memories!