How to Solo Travel Cambodia: Everything You Need to Know
I didn’t know much about Cambodia when I stepped off the plane in Phnom Penh. Admittedly, I chose to go to Cambodia because it was next to Vietnam, where I would be meeting up with a friend. Like many, I wanted to visit Angkor Wat. I also knew Cambodia is still a developing country and it’s one of the poorest in Asia. The country seemed promising yet daunting.
After spending a little over a month traveling solo in Cambodia, I’d recommend this friendly and underrated country to all solo travelers. It’s safe and there’s a well-established backpacking route that’s easy to follow. As always when solo traveling, use common sense and know the local scams and safety tips to protect yourself. But don’t hesitate to take on Cambodia solo. You’ll meet lovely locals and other travelers, and discover an often overlooked slice of southeast Asia with a fascinating history.
Is Cambodia good for solo travel?
With its friendly locals, cheap public transportation options, world-famous Angkor Wat, and small but growing backpacker scene, Cambodia is a great place for solo travel. Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are where you’ll find most travelers, but those aren’t the only places that solo travelers should visit. You’ll also find a lot of solo travelers in Kampot and the island of Koh Rong.
If you’ve traveled alone through southeast Asia, Cambodia is very similar and will be a breeze. Although there are easier places to tackle for first-time solo travelers, I think Cambodia is very doable. If you’re landing in Phnom Penh, just be prepared for the chaos and hustle and bustle of a large, populous city.
Cambodia is also very safe for tourists, with petty theft and bag snatching being the biggest things you should watch out for. See my tips for solo traveling Cambodia and you’ll be prepared to have a great time here.
Is Cambodia safe for solo female travelers?
Yes, Cambodia is safe for solo female travelers. I felt very safe there and was never harassed. The biggest thing to watch out for is theft. Pickpocketing and bag/phone snatching are pretty common, especially in large cities like Phnom Penh. Be careful with your belongings when walking on roads and riding in tuk tuks.
Also remember to pay respect when visiting temples by covering your shoulders and knees.
Reasons to solo travel Cambodia
Cambodians are hospitable and often curious about visitors. Cambodian children are also some of the friendliest I’ve ever met in southeast Asia. Expect lots of smiles, waves, and hellos, especially in rural areas and small islands like Koh Trong.
I had some of the best local tour guides in Cambodia. In Siem Reap and Battambang, my tour guides were incredibly knowledgeable and friendly. They shared so much about Cambodian culture and their own backgrounds. You could tell how passionate they were about sharing all aspects of the country – both good and bad.
Easy to get around
It was surprisingly easy to travel throughout Cambodia. The bus and van network will get you to all the popular, and even less popular, places. It’s reliable, with some companies being more punctual than others.
And if you need to travel short distances, like from the bus stop to your hotel, there are more than enough tuk tuks. To get around the language barrier with drivers and avoid getting ripped off, use a ride-hailing app. There are two that are widely used: Pass and Grab.
Vendors aren’t aggressive
It’s common to get off a bus and immediately be confronted by tuk tuk drivers asking where you’re going. In local markets, vendors have a keen eye for anyone approaching their stall and will pop out to answer questions or show you what they have. But I never found this behavior to be aggressive. They’re not persistently pushy, so it’s easy to politely say no and move on.
Easy to meet other travelers
Although Cambodia gets a lot less tourists than other southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam, you’ll run into plenty of other travelers. Popular places like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap have lots of hostels. Less touristy places like Kratié may not have hostels, but you’ll still meet other travelers on tours, waiting at the bus station, or at restaurants.
Wifi is widely available
All accommodations will have wifi, but it won’t always be fast. There were a few places where my accommodation’s wifi was so slow that I just used my SIM card. Since wifi speed can be a hit or miss, I recommend getting a SIM card. Data is cheap and coverage is good. I got a Metfone SIM card at the airport for $20 USD. It was good for 30 days and included unlimited data, but no talk or text. I had service everywhere I went, except in some areas of Angkor Wat. Metfone is the largest mobile provider in Cambodia, but Smart is another one that has good coverage. You can’t go wrong with either of them.
How to get around Cambodia
As a solo traveler, it was really easy and cheap to get around Cambodia. There’s several public transportation options, which are easy to book online or through your accommodation. Here are all the ways you can get around Cambodia and the pros and cons of each.
Bus and van
Over the month that I spent solo traveling throughout Cambodia, buses and vans were my main mode of transportation. They were the best and cheapest option for traveling between cities, and they run to pretty much all the places you’d want to get to.
Most of the time, you’ll be riding in a minivan that seats 15 to 17 people. Don’t expect much leg room, and there’s even less room when the van is packed full of luggage and packages. Although the vans can feel a bit cramped, the seats are pretty cushy and there’s air conditioning.
Tuk tuks are the best way to get around within a city, and they’re used by both tourists and locals. The small, compact open-air vehicles are adorable, fast, plentiful, and cheap. Plus, they’re extremely convenient to hail.
While you can flag down a tuk tuk driver on the road, you’ll need to negotiate the price for your ride. Instead, it’s easier to use either the Pass app or Grab app to order a tuk tuk. You can type in your destination and see how much it’ll cost before you request a ride. I would look up the price in both apps and go with whichever one was cheaper. In all cases, it was Pass.
Cambodia’s train network isn’t extensive, but it does reach some of the places that most travelers visit, like Phnom Penh, Kampot, and Battambang. For traveling long distances, taking the train can be more comfortable than taking a bus or minivan. You’ll have more room and there’s a bathroom on board. However, trains usually run slower, so it’ll take you longer to reach your destination.
Taxi or private car
If you’re not on a budget, traveling in your own private car is by far the most comfortable and convenient way to go. Instead of cramming into a van with others, you’ll have your own space, you can get picked up and dropped off exactly where you want, and you can call the shots when it comes to pitstops.
Taking a taxi or private car is going to be best when you need to travel long distances and when you’re traveling with a group. Although it’s the most expensive way to get around, having your own driver in Cambodia is still going to be much more affordable compared to elsewhere in the world.
Boats aren’t the main way that people get around Cambodia, so there are a number of downsides to taking them. There aren’t many routes served, it’s slow, and you’re limited to either cheap, uncomfortable boats or luxury cruises. Also, boats don’t run during the dry season (April through June) when the water is too low to sail.
You can take the boat between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, which takes over eight hours. That’s more than two hours longer than taking the bus. You can also go between Siem Reap and Battambang via boat. It takes double the amount of time than taking a minivan or bus, and you’ll need to be ready for a hot journey since there’s no air conditioning.
There are three commercial airports in Cambodia: Phnom Penh International Airport, Siem Reap International Airport, and Sihanoukville International Airport. Taking the plane is best for travelers who are short on time but not short on money.
Flights are typically more than $50 USD, but they can go for more than $100 if you don’t book far in advance. While direct flights are an hour, you may have one layover depending on the route you’re flying.
Cambodia travel itineraries
Cambodia can be enjoyed on both short and long trips. Most people visit just to see Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, and Phnom Penh, staying for a few days or up to one to two weeks. However, there’s lots more to see beyond those popular places – enough to fill a month or even more!
Tips for solo traveling Cambodia
With all this being said, you should still use common sense and take all the precautions you normally do when solo traveling. Here are a few tips and things to watch out for:
- Be aware of your surroundings, especially if you’re out alone at night. When in doubt, stick to places that are well lit and have people.
- Listen to your gut and stay away from any places that look sketchy.
- Hold onto your bags when riding tuk tuks or motorbikes so they don’t get snatched.
- Avoid holding your phone out to take a photo when you’re on busy streets. It could easily get taken by someone riding by on a motorbike.
- Leave valuables, like your passport, extra credit cards, and technology, in your accommodation if you don’t need it when going out.
- Stick to the defined trails and roads when you’re in rural areas and forests, since there are still unexcavated mines in Cambodia.
- If you’re renting a motorbike, take pictures of it to document the condition that you received it in. And if possible, avoid handing over your passport as collateral.
- Always confirm the price before getting into a tuk tuk or taxi.
If you’re ready to discover how wonderful Cambodia is, check out my Cambodia travel guide for everything you need to know and plan your trip.
More resources for solo traveling Cambodia
- How to Take Tuk Tuks in Cambodia Like a Pro
- 13 Best Places to Visit in Cambodia
- Cambodia Travel Guide: Planning and What to Know
- How Many Days to Spend in Cambodia
- Visiting Angkor Wat: Complete Travel Guide