From watching the sunrise at the world’s largest temple complex to lounging on Koh Rong beach, Cambodia is a backpacker’s paradise. It’s cheap and well established on the backpacker circuit – but is Cambodia safe to travel alone?
In short, yes! While Cambodia may have a bit of a reputation, it’s actually very safe to travel, politically stable, and most visits hassle-free. According to the United Nations, Cambodia actually ranks higher in safety than countries including Thailand, Portugal and Nepal. In recent years, the focus on tourism in Cambodia has only grown and the Khmer people are very friendly and especially appreciate tourists and the business they bring. This innate hospitality is one of the reasons travelers love Cambodia and is the quality that makes solo travel ideal.
However, it is an unfortunate truth that Cambodians may still live in poverty, which you will see when you travel around. Meanwhile, even a bankrupt backpacker looks rich. You’ll be far richer than most locals, and it’s not hard to imagine how tempting the act of quickly grabbing a phone from an unsuspecting backpacker can be.
However, the risk of petty crime (i.e. pickpocketing and pickpocketing) in Cambodia is no worse than anywhere else in the world and violent crime against tourists is extremely rare. Traveling alone is a wonderful experience and safety concerns in Cambodia need not disappoint. As long as you stay sensible, keep your wits and do some research, you should be fine.
Planning a solo trip to Cambodia can be overwhelming, but you’re in the right place. Here are some of our top safety tips and tips for solo travelers in Cambodia.
BE CAREFUL ON THE ROAD
You might see a tourist riding a motorbike and think ‘great idea!’ Sorry to burst your bubble, but driving is the the most adventurous thing you can do in Cambodia. Road accidents are the leading cause of death, the roads themselves are problematic and if you are not a local, navigating traffic is very dangerous. We definitely don’t recommend driving in Cambodia – it’s best to leave it to the experts. Taxis aren’t really a thing in Cambodia, but tuk tuks are all the rage and can get you anywhere you need to go.
DO RESEARCH ON WHERE TO GO / AREA TO LIVE
If to stay safe while traveling in Cambodia, you should do your research on where to visit and which side of town to stay. Places like Kampot and Koh Rong are laid-back and full of tourists, but places like Siem Reap, Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh have shady areas that you want to avoid (as do all cities). A good rule of thumb is to choose an area with lots of hotels, restaurants, and other attractions. Remember: if the hostel/hotel you’re checking into seems shabby, you can always check out and go somewhere else! One of the benefits of doing an organized Cambodia tour is that all accommodations are hand-selected for quality, safety and location.
Can you name a Cambodian dish? It’s okay, Cambodia isn’t really famous for its cuisine, but once you travel in Cambodia, you’ll be amazed by the delicious curries and stir-fries, along with Western dishes if you need a break from rice. when backpacking through Southeast Asia. We’re a big fan of street food, so do it like the locals! Top tip: if it looks and smells fresh, it should be. If you’re nervous, look for somewhere busy. That way it got its seal of approval. And if meat or seafood sounds strange, trust your gut. Traveling to Cambodia can be a good reason to be a little vegetarian if you want to play it safe. We also don’t recommend drinking tap water, so bring a reusable bottle to refill at water purification stations so you don’t have to buy bottled water and waste plastic every time you get thirsty. Learn more about food in Cambodia on our travel blog here!
LEAVE VALUABLE ITEMS AT HOME, OR AT Least Be Careful With Them
The most common crimes in Cambodia are non-violent petty crimes such as pickpocketing and bag snatching. You’ll probably be taking your smartphone outside, so try not to walk around with it glued to your face or palm the whole time. It’s an expensive thing to lose to a snatcher! This also applies to other valuables – keep them close to you, or better yet, in your hotel room, or better yet, safe at home. Bring only the cash you need for the day and lock your passport at your accommodation.
NATURAL RISK AWARENESS
The time of year you travel to Cambodia is an important factor when it comes to safety. The rainy season (May to September) can cause flooding and due to poor drainage, urban areas are not immune to the effects of heavy rains. Definitely bring waterproof gear if traveling during these months! Cambodia is also HOT, so stay hydrated, wear SPF 50 sunscreen, and stay out of direct sunlight when possible. You can fight mosquitoes with mosquito repellent and some places will provide nets for you to sleep in. Also, be aware that snakes live in rural areas, and although they’re hard to come by, keep an eye out if you step into the wilderness.
Blend in and try to be discreet when traveling in Cambodia. The country is not too conservative, but you still need to cover your shoulders and knees in temples and holy places. When packing your wardrobe for a backpacking trip to Cambodia, remember that you don’t want to look like a total tourist! Keep designer watches and Hawaiian shirts at home and you’ll have fewer goals. And wandering around with a dangling back and stacks of money is certainly not the case (see: Leave valuables at home on)
CHILDREN WILL BE ASKING YOU FOR MONEY
It’s tough, but try not to give your kids money if they come to you. Giving money to beggars only helps families keep their children out of school (it’s free in Cambodia), creating a dangerous vicious circle. Instead, there are many NGOs that support your dollar.
BE WARNING SCAM
Along with children, fake monks will sometimes try to ask for money (common in temples on the outskirts of Angkor Wat), and if any of the locals seem too cocky or distracted, feel free to ask. keep calm about you.
Getting involved with drugs in Cambodia is a ticket to disaster. You never know what’s in it, you don’t want to mix with sketchy people and the punishment in Asia is unforgivable. It is not uncommon for backpackers to be arrested by the police. Not something you want to call home.
WE ARE STILL MINING
Despite relentless efforts to clear landmines – remnants of Cambodia’s dark history – many bombs remain unexploded. These places are mostly located in areas that are not visited by tourists, but whenever you are in a remote area, it is important that you follow the marked roads. Learn more about how INTRO Travel is working with Apopo and minesweepers to make Cambodia safer here!
GET CHEAP SIM CARD
Having data on your phone is a great way to access Google Maps on the go and stay in touch with others to let them know you’re safe.
A little common sense goes a long way
When traveling, it’s easy to relax in ‘holiday brain’ mode and get a little distracted on safety issues, but try to be wary of some common sense. Here are some basic safety guidelines that we recommend you follow while traveling in Cambodia:
- Stay away from areas that seem dodgy – trust your intuition
- Walk close to main roads and avoid small alleys
- Have a friend with you when you go out at night
- Don’t be completely wiped out in drinking nights
- Definitely don’t drink and swim at night – soaking in thin skin is tempting, but getting ripped off at night isn’t
- While you can leave your valuables on the beach in a country like Australia, it’s best not to do so in Cambodia
SAFETY TIPS FOR WOMEN TRAVELING ONCE IN CAMBODIA
Unfortunately, being a woman means traveling alone is a bit more risky, but we’re happy to announce that Cambodia is a great place to be a solo female backpacker . Thanks to Cambodia’s predominantly Buddhist population, sexual harassment is of little concern and you can walk around without a fuss. Here are some women-specific Cambodia travel tips:
- Cambodia has firmly established itself on the Southeast Asian backpacker route, meaning it is very popular with long- and short-term travelers, many of whom travel alone. Make friends with other female travelers – the best place to do this is at social hostels. These are great places to meet other people, so check reviews before booking and see if people have mentioned the hostel’s social atmosphere.
- It’s not a hard rule, but we recommend covering up a little more than you can at home. You don’t want to keep an eye on you for the wrong reasons! A good rule of thumb is to see what local women wear.
- Don’t touch monks – they’re not allowed to touch women.
- Take extra care when wandering at night. Try to go with a friend, but if that’s not possible, stay in well-lit places.
- Keep an eye on your drinks – bars and nightclubs in Cambodia are often safe spaces for tourists, especially in areas with high traffic. However, some places can attract a noisy and sketchy crowd at night. Getting drunk isn’t common, but it can still happen, so keep an eye on your drinks and don’t accept them from strangers. You are an independent woman and can buy your drink anyway!
SAFETY FOR LGBTQIA+ TRAVELERS IN CAMBODIA
Cambodia is generally a safe destination for LGBTQIA+ travelers. Same-sex relationships are legal in Cambodia but marriage is not, so same-sex couples are not yet common. Khmer people are generally friendly and accepting, but a lot of PDA (between couples of not at all orientation/gender) will attract the eye. Cambodia is not dangerous for LGBTQIA+ backpackers, but we still recommend limiting your emotions when in public. The good news is that there is a sizable gay community growing in Phnom Penh, and Siem Reap is also growing to accommodate the gay community with nightclubs and bars.
CAMBODIA TRAVEL INSURANCE
Do you need travel insurance for Cambodia? Sure! No matter how healthy (or lucky) you think you are, travel insurance will give you… priceless peace of mind. Accidents happen and medical care or lost baggage claims increase, trust us. Learn more about travel insurance and get a quote here.
With all this in mind, it will be very safe for backpackers to travel alone in Cambodia. Just remember to travel smart and you’ll have the trip of a lifetime in this breathtaking country. Read more top tips for solo travelers on our travel blog here!