The following interview is from one of our readers, Celina.
Why did you decide to travel to Cambodia by yourself?
Last year I started backpacking after I did my A Levels and Cambodia was the third country I went to. After a long time in Malaysia and a lot of bad luck in this beautiful country, I needed a change. So I booked my ticket to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. I wanted to see how a mainly Buddhist country works and I missed the basic simple life of Nepal, an even poorer country than Cambodia.
Did you have any trouble traveling solo there?
Not at all! Before I went to Cambodia and during my first week there, I heard some scary stories about violence and thieves everywhere. But this wasn’t my experience in Cambodia.
Unfortunately I arrived the day before the three-day-water-festival in Phnom Penh. It was the first time in 3 years that the government allowed the festival to take place because back then lots of people died during the celebration. Because of that, everyone warned me and told me to not go outside for the first three days in that beautiful country.
Did you ever feel unsafe?
Those stories made me insecure in the beginning, but the longer I stayed, the less I worried. Besides that, I never felt unsafe.
Tell us about one of your favorite experiences from traveling alone in Cambodia.
I wanted to take the bus from Phnom Penh to Kampot. I already booked the bus ticket online and did some final shopping. Before I got on the bus, I tried to get some cash, but my credit card didn’t work. So I thought about my options: I could stay in Phnom Penh where I knew people who could give me a place to stay and lend me money, or I could take the bus with only $3.50 on me.
I decided to take my chances and take the bus. I had trust in the travel community. Luckily the bus company had a problem and they couldn’t give me a normal seat, so I got $2 refund. So there we go, $5.50, that’s a bit better.
On the bus trip, the people next to me were not really open, so I talked to some others during a break. I met a really nice German couple who told me they were going to a hostel that had rooms for $3 and I could take a tuk tuk with them. This couple lent me money for the next 5 days and were super sweet.
I love the traveling community because they always help you in bad situations. That is why I was never really scared while traveling.
Were there any special precautions you took to feel safer while traveling solo?
It was not very different from other countries. I tried to not be alone outside at night and listened to all the recommendations about hostels, etc. I think if you are respectful and helpful, most people will be nice and helpful, too. And the Cambodians are no exception.
Did you meet any other solo female travelers while you were there?
Yes, I met a beautiful Brazilian girl, who I travelled with for a couple of weeks in Cambodia and Thailand. She had the same good experiences like me.
What luggage did you bring with you to Cambodia?
At that time I had quite a big bag, not sure what brand. But as soon as I got home, I bought my current bag, the Osprey Farpoint 40, which I love!
Were there any items you were glad you brought with you or that you wished you had brought?
Besides a smaller bag, I didn’t miss anything that much. Though I would recommend taking a sleeping bag liner, just to sleep in it. I slept in some very cheap places and I felt a lot more comfortable with it.
>>See why another traveler always packs her silk sleep sack.
What’s your number 1 tip for females traveling solo to Cambodia?
Take a motorbike or scooter trip. You’ll be more independent and you’ll be able to see so many beautiful things off the tourist path. Especially in Cambodia, it is ridiculously easy to see the authentic Cambodian lifestyle.
About the author: Celina is a 20 year old student in Media IT in Bremen. She recently traveled to Nepal, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Hong Kong and Vietnam on a 9 month trip. She is from Germany and has seen a lot of places within Europe, as well as trips to Senegal in Africa and the USA. Her most important reasons for traveling are meeting fellow travelers and trying new food.
All photos provided by Celina except title photo.