Cambodia is a fascinating country with a rich history and culture, and it is quickly becoming a popular destination for solo female travelers. As a solo female traveler myself, I have found Cambodia to be a safe and welcoming place to explore. In this blog, I will share my experiences and tips for other women traveling to Cambodia on their own, including must-see sights, cultural customs to be aware of, and how to stay safe while traveling solo. Whether you’re a seasoned solo traveler or just starting out, I hope this Cambodia Solo Female Travel Guide will provide valuable insights and inspiration for your own trip to this beautiful country.
When to go to Cambodia
The best months to visit Cambodia are November to April when rainfall is low but temperatures are still warm. It is essential that you avoid the monsoon season which is May-October. When I flew to Cambodia I flew on Christmas Day – it was quiet, relaxing and enjoyable – I’d recommend it!
Consider Khymer festivals and their timing. The biggest festival to be aware of is he Khymer New Year which is celebrated on 13th or 14th April. It is very much like Songkran in Thailand – they do throw water of people! If you are not a fan of that then avoid this time of year! It sometimes spills over by a few more days!
How to get to Cambodia
Although you can fly into Phnom Penh, most people travelling into Cambodia fly directly to Bangkok and take a flight from Bangkok to Siem Reap the next day. This is because Bangkok has more direct connections.
I made the mistake of flying to Phnom Penh from UK with Air China. There was a scary connection in China where they basically issued a ‘transit visa’ in China. If you have ever had issues with getting a visa for China before then this could halt your travel. I would avoid this route as it wasn’t a pleasant experience, but because I have heard of the odd traveller not get issued with a visa and not get through. The result? Deportation back to your original destination!
If you want to cut down on flights it is possible to fly direct to Bangkok and the travel by bus to Siem Reap in Cambodia. Be aware that it can be a long and uncomfortable journey and there are sometimes visa scams going on at the border.
Cambodia solo female travel – Is it safe?
Cambodia is generally considered safe for solo female travelers, but as with any destination, it’s always a good idea to exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings.
Like many developing countries, Cambodia does have some crime and safety concerns, such as pickpocketing and petty theft, so it’s important to be vigilant and avoid carrying large amounts of cash or valuable items. There is a report in a rise in pickpocketing since the Covid Pandemic. It has recently been reported in the Siem Reap Facebook groups that there is a gang of 5-7 pick-pockets working together to surround and distract their victims.
It’s also a good idea to avoid walking alone at night, especially in unfamiliar areas. Overall, if you use common sense and take the necessary precautions, Cambodia can be a safe and enjoyable destination for solo female travellers. Cambodians are generally very respectful of solo female travellers.
Travel Challenges in Cambodia
There are some travel challenges that you will face travelling solo in Cambodia – if you are expecting the same nicely tracked roads and good customer service as Thailand you are in for a shock. Cambodia is on another level!
- Bugs can be a big problem, especially in the jungles of Angkor Wat. There are mosquitos, scorpions and fire ants that can bite and sting you.
- The dirt tracks can be extremely bumpy and particularly challenging in the rain.
- Sometimes the language barrier is an issue – a few times I never got what I ordered, but then again I don’t speak Khymer – so what do I expect?!
- Healthcare can be extremely expensive in Cambodia, and if you get hospitalised the bill can rapidly go up and they will retain your passport if you don’t or can’t pay. Therefore good private travel insurance is essential for Cambodia.
- Bus journeys are particularly tough – I had a blown out tire on a bus, saw a bribe being handed for speeding and nearly choked from burning of rubber tires in the countryside. Oh, and there is that time when I booked through a third party and the Cambodian bus company wouldn’t recognise my ticket (read my Cambodian travel nightmare)! I would say avoid buses where possible and book private transfers or internal flights.
- Landmines – sadly there are still some areas that have not been cleared of landmines since the ousting of the Khymer Rouge (1979). If you want to learn about how these areas are cleared then read about the rats of APOPO.
Backpack or Suitcase for Cambodia?
The question of backpack or suitcase for Cambodia highly depends on whether you have a single base or decide to move around. Many people use Siem Reap as a base and focus on the temples of Siem Reap and then travel out from there on day trips. In this case, a suitcase would be fine.
However, if you plan on doing a backpacking route such as Kampot, Keep, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang then go for a backpack. The dust roads of Cambodia are not compatible with wheelie suitcases as a general rule!
What to pack for your Solo Trip to Cambodia
When you are planning for your solo trip to Cambodia there are a few essential items that you will need to pack:
- Bug Spray with DEET or alternative – You will need to wear this every day to keep the bugs away.
- Walking boots and thick walking socks – Scorpions can sting through canvas shoes such as Converse.
- Sarong – this can double up as a scarf, beach sarong, even a bandage in an emergency. Sarongs are so versatile making it an essential packing item.
- A re-useable water bottle – It is easy to dehydrate in Cambodia especially in the heat of the day. Most hostels have a drinking water fountain or supply where you can refill water bottles.
- Sun Screen – Essential to protect your skin. from the suns harmful rays. Go for factor 30 or above if possible.
- Dioralyte sachets – great for replenishing body salts if you do get dehydrated. You can also buy it there from the pharmacy – the most popular brand is Royal-D.
- T-shirts, cotton trousers and long sleeved linen tops (comfortable, light and suitable for temple visits). Other light clothing such as cotton dresses can be worn, but avoid ones with spaghetti straps – go for clothing that covers the shoulders and arms.
- Slip on sandals or flip-flops – you will need to take your shoes off when you enter temples and so these can be useful (in the more modern temples mores than the ancient ones of Anchor Wat).
- Lonely Planet Cambodia Guide – You might not always have internet access in Cambodia and so a printed guide book is a good thing to take.
- A Breathable raincoat – just incase the weather changes, this is always a good thing to have.
- A lanyard with a clear pocket – this can be very useful for putting your Angkor Wat pass in at Siem Reap, because you will need to get it out and show it at most temple gates.
Reasons to travel alone to Cambodia
There are many reasons to travel alone to Cambodia. My favourite reason is to take your time at the temples of Angkor Wat – not to feel rushed and to be able to do them at your own pace is a massive privilege.
- Do the Angkor Wat temples at your own pace.
- You are more likely to meet other travellers if you go solo.
- Devise your own schedule and itinerary without having to compromise.
- The locals are very friendly and welcoming!
- It is very cheap and so easy to do solo if you are on a budget.
How to get around Cambodia
In my experience, the most important thing is getting a good Tuk-Tuk driver! Tuk-Tuk is the main way to travel in Cambodia especially between the Siem Reap temples.
Cambodia Solo Female Travel – Where to go
Most travellers to Cambodia focus on Phnom Penh and Siem Reap (for the temples). However, if you have longer than a week or two to spend in Cambodia some other great destinations are Battambang, Keep and Kampot.
Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia. It is located on the banks of the Mekong River and is known for its rich history and cultural heritage. The city is home to a number of important historical and cultural attractions, including the Royal Palace, the National Museum, and the Silver Pagoda. Phnom Penh is also a major commercial hub, with a vibrant nightlife and bustling markets. In recent years, the city has become a popular destination for travelers, offering a mix of modern amenities and traditional charm.
Siem Reap is a city in northwestern Cambodia and is the gateway to the famous Angkor Archaeological Park. The city is known for its rich cultural heritage and vibrant nightlife (head to Pub Street!). Siem Reap is home to a number of important ancient temples, including Angkor Wat, the Bayon temple, and the Angkor Thom complex. The city is also a popular destination for travelers, offering a wide range of hotels, restaurants, and shops. In recent years, Siem Reap has become an increasingly popular destination for travelers from around the world.
Most people spend two or three days in Siem Reap and do the small circuit and then grand circuit of the temples. If you have more days to spend there are a few good add ons including the Rolls group and Banteay Srei.
- Day 1 – Angkor Wat Small Circuit – Angkor Wat, Bayon, Terrace of the Elephants and Terrace of the Leper King, Ta Prom and Banteay Kdei.
- Day 2 – Angkor Wat Grand Circuit – Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Som, East Mebon and Pre Rup.
- Day 3 – Roluos Group (am) and Banteay Srei (pm).
Tonle Sap is a large freshwater lake in Cambodia. It is the largest lake in Southeast Asia and is an important source of fish for the Cambodian people. The lake is fed by the Tonle Sap River, which connects the lake to the Mekong River. The lake is known for its floating villages, where many people live and work on boats and stilt houses. The lake is also home to a diverse range of wildlife, including many species of fish, birds, and reptiles. Tonle Sap is a popular destination for travelers, offering a unique glimpse into the traditional way of life of the Cambodian people.
Battambang was a very unexpected pleasant surprise for me. Battambang is a city in northwestern Cambodia. It is the capital of Battambang Province and is the second-largest city in the country. it boasts some excellent activities including the Battambang Bamboo train (such fun to ride!), the bat caves and Wat Sampau.
Battambang is also a major commercial hub, with a vibrant market scene and a growing tourism industry. In recent years, the city has become a popular destination for travelers, offering a mix of modern amenities and traditional charm. Eating rats on sticks? Check. Bats pissing on your head? Check. Elephant temple? Check!
Kampot is a city in southern Cambodia. It is the capital of Kampot Province and is known for its picturesque riverside location and laid-back atmosphere. The city is home to a number of attractions, including the Kampot Pepper Farm and the Teuk Chhou Rapids. The city has more recently become known for its vibrant arts and music scene, and is a popular destination for backpackers and travellers looking to experience the more laid-back side of Cambodia.
Kep is a small coastal town in southern Cambodia. It is located near the border with Vietnam and is known for its picturesque setting and laid-back atmosphere. The town is home to the Kep National Park and the Kep Crab Market. Most travellers combine Kampot and Kep into their trip together as they are just 40 minutes apart.
Top tips for Cambodia Solo Female Travel
To round off this blog, here are my top tips for you as a solo female traveller to Cambodia:
- Download the GRAB app for Taxis – you will be able to see how much you should be paying for your journey.
- Avoid travelling by bus and go for internal flights and private taxi transfers instead.
- Don’t leave your drink unattended or unsupervised in bars (to avoid spiked drinks)
- Avoid having valuables on show and keep your bag close.
- Dress appropriately – Wear light cotton clothing with long sleeves and trousers rather than shorts and spaghetti straps.
- Don’t go during monsoon season – avoid May to October.
- Look out for ‘beware of landmine’ signs – some areas are still being excavated.
- Although Cambodia has it’s own currency, the preferred method is cash in USD. Take lots of crisp dollar notes in low denominations – $1 notes are perfect.
- Don’t pay tuk-tuk drivers in advance and always pre-agree the price (and make sure that it is per journey and NOT per person!)
- Do not point your feet at Buddha in temples – it is extremely disrespectful in Buddhist culture.
- Do not wear Buddha on clothing or tattoos – it is offensive in Cambodia.