The dangers of travelling solo as a woman | Cambodia

imageTo say I didn’t have the greatest time in Cambodia would be an understatement, it was one of the worst countries I have ever travelled to and much of my time there was spent feeling unsafe and really vulnerable. Now I know there are a lot of people out there who will really disagree with this post, and I totally agree that many will have a different experience of Cambodia to mine, but I have to be realistic and honest about my experiences. Despite this, I want you all to know that I would definitely return there in future and that I haven’t completely written off the country. I know that I had a particularly bad run of luck when I was there and everything seemed to go wrong, and I would always advise any traveller to go to a country and make their own mind up. So this post is not about putting you off Cambodia, it is merely about warning of all the horrible things that happened to me and what I would do differently next time to avoid these situations. Now you have to remember that by this point I had travelled throughout Thailand, Laos and Vietnam solo by this point and was pretty experienced and confident about handling things on my own. I was also extremely excited about going to Cambodia and had expected to like it more than any of the other countries I had been to. So how did it all go wrong?

I had read a lot about Cambodia, but I definitely wasn’t prepared for the country. Despite travelling across Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, the level of poverty in Cambodia was far more shocking than any other country I have ever travelled to. Even knowing about the history, I hadn’t fully realised how third world it would seem in comparison to other parts of Asia – I expected it to be on a par with Laos but was quite shocked to see the conditions in which many were living there. The level of poverty has a direct impact on the level of crime and it is clear that a lot of Cambodians do see tourists as a way of making money quickly by robbing them. Not all, but there are a large number who see us as a way of making their life easier – but not in the way we are used to in countries like Thailand where tourism is a real industry. The fact that the police are far more corrupt than the average man on the street means it is an even more dangerous place for a tourist because the police also see us as a way of making money and will often target us. I know countless people who have been robbed in Cambodia, and even worse, I know so many people who have been messed around by police who are often in on the robbery and are making money off it. Motorbikes are a big one for this, I’ve heard of several cases where bikes were stolen after tourists hired them, then police refused to help and the bikes mysteriously turned up back at the original owners’.imageArriving in low season (May), just after Songkran meant the country was empty of tourists and this played a huge part in why my experience was less than I’d hoped. There’s safety in numbers and numbers were seriously lacking anywhere I went – this also made it difficult to find travel buddies as most were travelling from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh instead of the other way around. It meant that as a woman travelling alone, I was much more of a target and I certainly felt a lot more conspicuous when walking the streets. There were several times when I would walk a down the street and have to fend off the uncomfortable approaches of grubby tuk tuk drivers and strange, often drugged up, men who would try to follow me down the street. Some were aggressive with no provocation and others just didn’t seem to understand the word no. Their way of trying to encourage you to use their services was to hassle you non-stop, and not in the friendly way of the Thai’s or Vietnamese, it was intimidating. Areas like Sihounoukville and Phnom Penh were particularly bad, but in Siem Reap it was completely different and I actually felt safe for the first time in weeks. I think if I had started my time in Cambodia up in Siem Reap, I would have felt very differently, but starting at the other end really coloured my view of the country.

So what actually happened to me in Cambodia? Why am I making such a point of writing a post like this? Well it all started when I was robbed. I’d just arrived in Sihounoukville and the first person I met was my taxi driver who managed to steal $50 off me – trust me, I’m never careless with my bags and he managed to still get into them without me noticing until he had the money. I caught him at it and shouted at him, so he decided to get aggressive with me. Big mistake as I punched him to the ground and ran off – probably not the wisest move but it was instinct and it got me away from a bad situation fast. Luckily it was only $50 – it could have been a lot worse as my passport and iPad were with my money. So I arrived on a bad note, then a friend of mine was nearly raped in the back of a tuk tuk and had to jump out while it was moving to get away from some creep who jumped in the back as it drove down the road near Otres Beach. Then there was the awful bus crash I nearly died in after a lorry ran my minibus off the road and we crashed into a ditch – I would have gone through the windscreen if it weren’t for the driver grabbing me as I was thrown forward. The crash was horrible and the lorry didn’t even stop, but it was dealing with the police, ambulance and bus company after that was the worst part. The police had no idea what to do and were more concerned about me being British than the Cambodian girl with a broken hip. The ambulance staff were embarrassingly uneducated on how to treat the injured, it was scary how little they knew of basic first aid and hygiene – to the point I refused to go to hospital. The bus company knew nothing of the crash and told me I couldn’t go any further than Phnom Penh without my ticket – which was in the ditch next to the crashed bus – until I really kicked up a fuss. These are just some of the worst examples, but it was enough to make me pretty miserable during my time in the country. imageNow it may not have been the best experience of my life, but I always try to take something good away from every experience and I learnt a lot from my time in Cambodia. So what are my top tips for travelling Cambodia?

  1. Think very seriously about travelling there solo as a woman – whatever the websites and guide books say, it is a very different experience to travelling solo as a woman in Thailand or Vietnam or even Laos. I personally would never travel there alone again, and the vast majority of people I know who have loved Cambodia have either traveled in groups or solo as a man.

  2. Plan ahead with your personal safety – don’t travel if you will be arriving late at night because you will be a victim of tuk tuk drivers and those loitering in the streets. Think about learning some basic self-defence moves in case anything happens because I was really glad I felt able to defend myself when that taxi driver started at me.

  3. Realise when planning your movements that Cambodian tourist travel is pretty unreliable and slow compared to other parts of Asia. Also realise that whether you go for the most expensive and comfortable or the least, you are equally at risk of accidents. They drive like crazy out here and seem to have no real concept of death or injury – if I were to return I would probably skip the buses and just fly from one end to another.

  4. Remember that you are a woman. It’s sad to say that this should even be an issue in today’s world, but when visiting other countries it is important to remember that your gender does play a part in how you are viewed. I’m not saying it is right, but you are at greater risk of harm in some places because men will see you as easy pray for rape or robbery because you are less likely, in their minds, to be able to defend yourself.

  5. Play the numbers game. Do your research and plan your trip carefully. Realise that events like Songkran could affect the numbers elsewhere in Asia as everyone flocks to Thailand and Laos. I knew that there would be less people, but never expected Cambodia to be as empty as it was but I think it had a huge impact on my time there. If I returned it would be in the middle of high season.imageNow throughout all of this I want you to remember that although I had a bit of a rubbish time in Cambodia, it doesn’t mean that you will. It is such an important country to visit in so many ways – the history is heartbreaking and horrifying but it is something we all need to know about. The people can be incredibly kind and welcoming – but sadly I only saw this in my final days there. Don’t be put off by my experiences, just learn from them and don’t let the same happen to you. There is so much to be gained from seeing this country, and you will be helping the people to rebuild their country by creating a tourist industry and giving them a future. I will have several other happier posts coming up on the parts of Cambodia I did like and the better memories I hold of the country.

Tell me about your experiences of Cambodia – did you love it or hate it? Why? What advice would you give to travellers passing through?ย 

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64 thoughts on “The dangers of travelling solo as a woman | Cambodia

  1. Thank you for the post Lucy! I am currently volunteering at a school in Chiang Mai and have been thinking of going to the nearby countries like Cambodia and Laos during my off time. I guess I will now wait for another friend of mine (male) who will be joining me at the school soon. I am glad that you made it through the not-so-good experiences and that you are still willing to give the country another chance. I personally think that this is the best way to go about any first-time bad experiences. I also travel solo as a woman and I am from India which has its share of good and bad when it comes to women. But, I started my solo travel two years ago exploring my country and I am proud to say nothing bad or negative happened to me during my time on the road. This experience and the one that I read in your post makes me believe that every country and every experience cant be good or bad at all times. And, we must be very careful of every step that we take as a woman when travelling alone to countries which are still undeveloped or developing. Thanks once again for such a lovely post. I follow all your stories religiously and absolutely love them ๐Ÿ™‚ Stay safe and happy travels!

    1. Hi Aditi – no problem! I would definitely recommend going to both countries, and Vietnam as well if you have the time. It’s down to personal choice – I would definitely travel Laos and Vietnam by myself again but just not Cambodia – but I know others who would happily travel solo there. That’s really good that nothing bad has happened in your two years, but even if it does – just take it in your stride. It’s horrible when things go wrong but it helps us grow as a person and learn something – plus it makes you even more appreciative of when things go right! So happy to know you’re enjoying my posts and following, wishing you all the luck on your travels! I have more, much happier, posts coming up on Cambodia so be sure to stay tuned for them!

  2. What a shame you had a terrible experience in Cambodia, I was there solo in may 2013 and while there was a hard sell from tuk tuks I didn’t think it was any different from other countries in Southeast Asia. Good luck for the rest of your travels

    1. As I said, I know I had terrible luck when I was there and I know others who have had horrible times in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos while I had no problems whatsoever! It is a shame, but I won’t let it out me off, I love Asia so much and all the struggles just made me appreciate the good times all the more. So glad there are others who had a better experience than I did – thanks Emma

  3. Omg Lucy that’s shocking! I’m glad That you are Ok. I think you are very brave travelling solo…. Everyone has their own experiences I guess. Keep your wits about you! Xxx

    1. Thanks Chelsea – yeah and I’m just happy that even the worst experiences haven’t detracted from the amazing ones. I will! Xxx

  4. Interesting post! I’m in Cambodia right now – also a woman, and I usually travel alone, but thankfuly I’m here with a friend. We’ve been lucky (plus, my friend used to live here so she can speak some Khmer and knows how to handle herself and how to get around) with regard to scams, crime and general danger, but I would definitely not like to be here on my own. Some of the people here are wonderful and I’m having an amazing time, but this is probably also the least comfortable I’ve ever been while travelling. I’m glad to hear it hasn’t put you off for good – next time, take at least one friend and make sure to learn some basic Khmer before you go to kill the illusion that you’re a clueless tourist! ๐Ÿ™‚ I have a few posts up about my experiences (not all positive!) on my blog if you want to check them out: https://www.lajoiedelivres.com/category/travel/trips/cambodiathailand2015

    1. Hey Nicky, thanks for your comment. So glad to hear you’re travelling there with a friend, I know so many who have been fine travelling there but most of them have been in pairs or with a man – sad that should make such a difference but hey, that’s the world we live in. Fantastic that your friend speaks some Khmer, I’m sure that really helps! I’ll look forward to checking out your posts! Have a safe and happy rest of your trip โ˜บ๏ธ

  5. Sorry to hear you had such a rough time there! I was there in 2013 and was very lucky as a solo woman, I loved most of my time there and met some great people to hang out with but I did hear quite a few stories of people being robbed etc. Phnom Penh definitely made me feel a little uneasy at times, and the poverty is pretty shocking, but I loved Siem Reap, Otres Beach and Kampot. I hope you get to return and have a better experience!

    1. Thanks Katy – I was just very unlucky but a,ways good to warn people so they can be prepared and do things differently to avoid the things that happened to me. I’m so glad that you had such an amazing time there, I would definitely go back to experience it again but I would do things very differently now knowing what I know. I’d love to check out Kampot as I didn’t have time to get over there – I feel another trip to Asia coming on!

  6. Cambodians specialize in being incompetent, so if you go, consider yourself to on your own. It’s not if something bad will happen, it’s just when. I lived there 8 years and can say it has been getting worse and worse. I love it, it’s still fun, but it is a cursed country. I got out and I wouldn’t live there again or think about starting a business in a country where the national sport s lying.

    1. Thanks for your comment Dima, but I can’t help but feel you are being a bit harsh. A lot of these problems stem from the country’s brutal history which has clearly had a huge knock-on effect. It’s sad and hopefully it will be tackled by the government soon rather than being allowed to worsen. You might be interested to read some of the other comments on this page from travellers who have been there and lived there with no problems at all

  7. Oh dear. What a shame you have done such a disservice to the beautiful people in this beautiful country through your ranting and fear-mongering.

    I have lived in Phnom Penh more than three years and found it to be one of the gentlest, most hospitable places I’ve ever been. Wherever I went and whomever I met, I was greeted and treated with nothing but kindness. Your comments about the so-called “grubby tuktuk drivers” are directed toward many people who are my friends. Your fear-based “warnings” to women travelling there are based on the experience of, er, one. I have known dozens of women – young and old – who have travelled throughout Cambodia safely and happily. Some of them (horror of horrors) even stayed on to make a life there as it was so very special and touched their hearts.

    I understand bad things happen anywhere and that you had some dark experiences which coloured your view of the entire country. I had my bag snatched as did many of the people I know there but saw it more as a desperate act of poor people and took it upon myself to be more vigilant in the future.

    But to slam an entire country and its population of people, the majority of whom have suffered terribly and still smile and welcome you into their lives……shame on you. Please don’t come back. You are really not welcome here.

    1. Perhaps a little excessive to call my post ranting and fear mongering eh Gabrielle? I was going for complete honesty about my experiences to act as a warning to others, especially since while I was in the country I came across countless others who had been robbed, attacked, injured in car accidents and so on. It is always best to be informed so you can avoid these things happening to you. My warnings to women are based on the experiences of many – I admit in the post not all but enough for it to be worth mentioning as a warning. Your experiences have happily been good in PP which I’m glad about but how about the girl I met who had black bruises all over her neck and throat and was terrified to walk down the street after two men on motorbikes drove past and snatched her bag from her right outside her hostel? Or the two friends of mine who were in a tuk tuk that took them not to the museum but to a dark building where they were threatened and had money taken off them? There are good and bad sides to every place and I highlight the good also in my other posts which you can find here: http://absolutelylucy.com/?s=Cambodia
      The grubby tuk tuk drivers may be your friends but I feel happy to describe them like that after one tried to grab me by the throat and steal my money, and another nearly raped my friend. I’m sorry but if those are your friends, you need to rethink. That is not a desperate act of poor people, it is disgusting and cruel behaviour that can affect people for the rest of their lives.
      Re-read the last paragraph of my post – I may start out by sharing my negative views but I make clear that I would happily return to the country in future and that I treat this as a learning curve. A good attitude for any traveller, and especially considering my experiences. The fact that you are telling me I am not welcome in the country for sharing an honest viewpoint based on the evidence of my experiences suggests you have a very one-sided view. And thisis very sad indeed, to really experience a country you have to see both the good and the bad, otherwise you’re no better than a travel brochure.

      1. Lucy I know it is a year later….but I really appreciate your honest post. I did not feel that you were “slamming” the country as the previous poster said….instead I took it just as it was….you were sharing your personal experience so that others may in some way benefit from it. I am a 57 year old woman who will be accompanying my husband on a business trip to Bangkok. Somehow I got it in my head that since it is so close I should fly on my own (my husband will be working) to Cambodia to experience that country. Your post helped me to remember that for someone like me that doesn’t have a whole lot of travel experience it might not be the smartest thing to do. I appreciate your honesty and the negative feedback you received was not justified. I hope one day I will return to SE Asia with my husband or my children and that might be a better situation to visit Cambodia.
        Regards…Elizabeth

        1. Hi Elizabeth, thanks so much, I’m glad you felt that way ๐Ÿ™‚ I actually would really recommend that you do take the trip, even if you go solo. Remember I wrote this post to warn people to be proactive in their safety preparations, but not to put them off. Cambodia is an incredible country to visit and I can’t recommend experiencing the history and culture enough! Just be smart and be safe xx

    2. Hi Gabrielle,
      I am so glad you had a good experience there, I am thinking of working there for a couple of years.
      Could you suggest to me good areas to live in?
      Just to start me off on my quest to find somewhere good to live!

  8. I am a road warrior for work and play – have travelled around the world as a solo traveller and as with friends, family, loved ones.

    Sorry to hear you had difficulties: I’ve been twice to Cambodia, once as a couple, once solo. It is truly one of my fav places in the entire world and I never felt unsafe or ripped off, unlike many other places I have been.

    When I first started travelling and for years after, I always got ripped off on my first taxi ride. It baecame a standing joke.

    Now if at all possible, I try to get that first taxi ride organised before I arrive somewhere. In Asia, as soon as I find a taxi driver I like, I take his card and he becomes my driver.

    I hope no one is scared off going to Cambodia by your experiences. As I said it is truly one of the most magical places I have ever been

    1. Hi Nicole, thanks for your comment. It’s great to hear you’ve travelled there multiple times and managed to escape any problems during your time there, definitely gives me hope I’ll be fine when I return. I’ve always been fine anywhere else I’ve been and, like you, I always sort the taxi first to make sure. Sadly we had specifically chosen a recommend taxi driver when my friend was nearly raped in the back of the tuk tuk – just really bad luck and unfortunate situation. I too hope noone is scared off, that’s why I made sure to include the final paragraph about why I did love it and would return. I too saw the magic of the country – check out my other posts and see: http://absolutelylucy.com/?s=Cambodia

  9. As a longtime resident of Cambodia, I am not surprised by your experience and you definitely should publicize what happened. There is too much complacency on the part of authorities and even by Foreign Embassies to these unacceptable aspects blighting the tourist industry. Cambodia often basks in awards – for example – http://www.tourismcambodia.com/news/localnews/17556/cambodia-wins-world-travel-fairs-award-of-best-culture-and-heritage-tour-destination.htm. Whenever I get the chance, I make the point that the industry will only sustain in the long-term if visitors want to return and recommend friends to visit. The novelty appeal will soon fade. Your “Safety-in-numbers” advice applies as much to men. I would also add that it is worthwhile paying a little extra and pre-booking a place to stay that has its regular tuk-tuk or taxi-drivers to meet you wherever you arrive. If there is one consolation, at least you were not conned into the orphanage scam.

    1. Hi John, thanks for your comment. It’s interesting to hear your views as a resident of the country and in some ways I agree, it’s sad that tourists can’t rely on the authorities to protect them when needed. You’re definitely right about the tourist industry and you can definitely see that although the will is there, perhaps the education is a bit lacking in how to form this industry as has been done in Thailand and other Asian countries. Thanks for the advice.

  10. Great post Lucy. I have been living in Phnom Penh for many years and although your experience is unfortunate, I have actually felt very safe in Cambodia. OK, you’re 100% correct on the medical side of things and yes, scooters are stolen to order. The police are a complete joke and food hygiene is practically non-existent.

    1. Thanks Thavy, ๏ธglad you enjoyed it. I’m ๏ธglad to hear from expats who have moved there and had good experiences – it’s always good to hear the other side and to know that I was very unlucky but wouldn’t necessarily be again if I returned. Thanks for your comment.

  11. Very bad luck! I have been visiting Cambodia twice a year as a solo traveller and have been living here since 2012. I have never felt unsafe, never been robbed or been in an accident. I ride my own moto with only the tiniest of incident. The only thing I can relate to is pushy and rude tuk tuk drivers at bus stations and airports. I am sorry you had such bad luck ๐Ÿ™

    1. Thanks so much Tara, I know it’s such a shame so much awful stuff happened to me there, but you’re right, a lot of it did just come down to bad luck. I’m so pleased to hear from other travellers who have been to Cambodia multiple times and never experienced any of this – that definitely encourages me to try again and not feel nervous!

      1. Hi I am an Asian woman in the30s who will be traveling solo to PP next week and stay there for four days before flying to HK. After reading this post, I got really scared and concern about my own safety but I am very thankful for sharing your experience. I have joined three local tours activities through Travelocity all the tours provide round trip shuttle pick up at my hotel and round trip airport shuttle. Do you think I will be very safe just to follow the tour and eat at the hotel not roaming out in the street at all. Do you think it is safe to leave my valuables in the safe at the hotel while I go out with the tours. The hotel staff wouldn’t be able to open the safe right? Should I take taxi by myself? I am thankful for your post. Hope you can find time to answer my questions. From SAN Francisco, USA

        1. Hi Kitty, hope you have an amazing trip! Don’t feel scared about your safety or put off PP at all – just take precautions and you’ll be fine. I would recommend getting out in the streets as that is where real Cambodian culture can be found and you wouldn’t want to miss out n a real travelling experience would you? I would think it would be safe to leave valuables in the hotel safe – it should be fine and as long as you are careful with taxis you should be fine – perhaps worth pre-booking a taxi through the hotel rather than taking one on the street.

        2. Hi there, I just saw your post and was wondering if you had time and care to share any of your experience I would welcome that. I am accompanying my husband on a business trip and will be traveling “solo” while he is working. I lived south of you in Santa Cruz for 15 years but now live in CT. Hope your trip was great!

  12. Hi, I lived in Cambodia for close to 2 years, in Phnom Penh, and also travelled around the country. I am not surprised about the bus accident. It’s true, you can easily get into a traffic accident and you need to have a good health insurance for those situations, to call them. The country is in bad shape, as they keep investing only in developing buildings, instead of educating people. In that sense, there are horror stories. It’s a pity. I still took buses and cars to travel around, and luckily none of my friends got ever involved in any major car accident.

    The part that I am a bit more surprised is the dangers of traveling alone as a woman in Cambodia. I still have friends living there (some women have been there for 5 or 6 years). I did had my pursue pulled by a motorbike one time, and a friend of mine was robbed at home, but they didn’t touch her (and she was inside the home sleeping, by herself). Regardless of some incidents, I never heard of anyone being rapped or attacked by a cambodian.

    This makes me wonder if cambodians have a different approach to people who is living there and people who is just a visitor. I would take tuk-tuks at 3am in the morning by myself to drive me home, and never had any problem. I would always talk to the drivers in khmer (their language) – I didn’t know that much khmer – but enough for them to realise that I live in the country. I also lived in a cambodian neighborhood, which might also help.
    I don’t know if that makes that much of a difference, but in Barcelona for instance you also have more chances of loosing your wallet if they think you are a tourist, so might also be a universal thing. I don’t know.

    Sorry to hear about your experience, though.

    1. Hi Iria – great to hear from you. It’s interesting what you say about the country investing in developing buildings rather than education, I can definitely see that which is sad considering the history. The roads are definitely a concern, but this is true of all Asian countries particularly Vietnam and Laos – I had friends who witnessed some horrifying crashes in both and luckily were unharmed. The combination of driving too fast, having less of a concept of death and no seat belts is pretty risky. I definitely think you’re right about Cambodians having a different attitude to travellers vs those living there from the sounds of these comments – which is sad and not going to help the tourism trade. I’m ๏ธglad to hear your experiences have mainly been good, I do hope the violence and rape threats were a one-off as I would hate to think others have been subjected to this kind of welcome. Thanks so much for your comments.

  13. Very sorry to hear about your experience. Next time you should follow what you preach, “Play the numbers game. Do your research and plan your trip carefully.” Sihounoukville is a dangerous place if you are female or male. PP is fairly safe. But one should be aware. I have seen much more violence and dodgy places in Thailand and Laos than Cambodia and I traveled all those countries extensively. Those places are a walk in the park compared to Africa and South America. I don’t know how long or extensively you have traveled, but you sound naive. Consider these negative experiences as a learning curve. To be a solo traveler one must be confident,informed, resilient, patient and most of all respectful. Good luck to you with your future travels.

    1. Thanks Tyler, to be fair though o tried as much as possible to play the numbers game but it was just unfortunate timing. I knew when I went that the country would be quieter but no one could have predicted quite how quiet it would be. Even the locals said to me that they had never seen Sihounoukville that quiet. I did as much research as I could have when travelling to cambodia, a lot more than other countries and planned my trip accordingly. From speaking to many other travellers I had actually heard a lot of people say much the opposite about PP and SHV so it just shows you can research as much as you like, I don’t think anything can prepared you for a thieving tuk tuk driver to try and grab you by the throat to attack you, or for a man to jump in the moving tuk tuk and try and rape you on a Main Street just metres from your friend. You may have seen much more violence elsewhere but I never once saw any throughout the who,e of Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. Just for your own information, I have now been travelling a year solo, before that I have travelled extensively my who,e life to parts of Africa, Asia, Europe and the U.S. A shame you think I sound naive, I find that a bit offensive to be honest as if like to think I hold many of those qualities as a solo traveller. Perhaps take a read of some of my other posts and then judge as there is a great deal of travelling that does come down to luck as well. Good luck to you.

  14. Hi, I’m terribly sorry you had to face such horrible experiences during your travel in Cambodia. I’m Cambodian. migrated to the US in 1981, haven’t been back, yet, but I am looking forward to being there soon. I am saddened to hear that my people hadn’t been kind and/or helpful to you.

    I’m pleased to read that you haven’t given up on Cambodia.

    On behalf of my people, I’m terribly sorry.

    1. Hi Sojean, thanks so much for your comment, I really appreciate it. I would love if you would also read some of my other posts on the country which you can find here: http://absolutelylucy.com/?s=Cambodia
      I would hate for you to think I have only negative views of the country because I did also see an incredibly kind and wonderful side as well which I have also written about. It is a beautiful country and although I’m sad to have experience this side of the country, it has helped me to form a well-rounded view of the country. I will definitely be returning in the future and can’t wait to see more of the country.

  15. Wow that’s definitely a slam, regardless of if you mean it to be or not. I up and moved here alone by myself 4 months ago. I’m sorry that you had such a horrible experience because I’ve met nothing but wonderful, genuine, and helpful people. You do have to be really careful with your belongings in Sihanoukville, but there are so many other better beaches to go ( like Ko Rong Samloem) or the River town of Kampot. I feel pretty safe living in PP and while, yeah, someone’s tried to steal my purse, the same thing (or worse) could’ve happened to me in the US. It’s all about who you know and where you go. Don’t hang out at the riverside at night because you’re begging for trouble if you do. Do make friends with your local tuktuk and Moto drivers- they will help you out in a pinch. Like ANY woman, ANYWHERE always keep your wits about you and your guard up.

    1. Thanks for your comment Maura, sor you feel that way but I just had to be honest about my experience. I know that there are also amazing parts of Cambodia – feel free to explore my other posts on the country here: http://absolutelylucy.com/?s=Cambodia
      But my experiences were particularly horrible and there were many in a very short space of time, I think when you experience robbery, assault, attempted rape, almost manslaughter thanks to dangerous driving and repeated unhelpfulness and nastiness it does colour your view of the country. Not saying it couldn’t happe. Anywhere in the world but nothing bad had happened the whole way around Asia and then I spent most of Cambodia feeling scared and unsafe. I just wanted other travellers to be prepared as I had completely different expectations of the country. But as I say, it hasn’t out me off and I do plan to return to travel more of the country. I’m really glad you’ve had a totally different experience to me, and as i said, you should have a look at my other posts to get the full story.

  16. hi. i’m glad you put this out there, because cambodia can be an unruly wild west-type place. that said, it’s also breath takingly beautiful and has some really warm people. the history is hugely influential on the people, and the crime, and it is important to understand in order to prevent it from happening again.

    as a warning, this rambles a bit.

    i lived in sihanoukville with my ex, running a small business in 2013/14. we got to know the local expats and apparently crime has gotten a lot worse with how tumultuous the political climate in that part of the world (elections during that time threatened violent outbursts in different areas). cambodian tourism was severely affected and people resort to crime a lot more often as a result of the lack of income. thailand’s political climate affects this as well, as it is the primary tourism hub in SE asia and people will hop to cambodia to check it out. all of these things are things to keep in mind, as it will influence the number of people around you, and the safety in numbers really is a huge factor.

    i have countless stories of crimes committed on the local expats, and attempted ones. BE SMART and don’t impair your judgement unless you have someone on watch.

    MOTORBIKES:
    -do not drive drunk. lots of [tourist] deaths. everyone thinks it won’t happen to them, but it can. recently, it did to one of the highly-regarded members of the expat community. also, they will take pictures of your body for the news. more on this below.

    -use a recommended tuktuk instead–from an expat at a local business. they will then have some sort of accountability and will not recommend someone who will scam you, as their business could get a bad review as a result.

    -bikes are exhilarating during the day but watch out for gangs (empty streets!), dogs, and people riding double pulling up to you (esp at night). there’s a relatively new danger where they’ll actually KICK OVER YOUR BIKE WHILE RIDING and then the passenger rides it away. some people nearly get killed in the fall.

    -never give rental places your passport. use a “coveted” laminated copy. act like it’s super important. tell them the hotel has yours. also DON’T TELL THEM WHERE YOU’RE STAYING. pretend you don’t remember the name.

    -WEAR YOUR HELMET–new cop scam–if they see you’re foreign, you’re an opportunity. they’ll pull you over and “fine” you for not wearing it. (also, note that you can bargain if you act like you own the place, but be wary–cops and gov’t people are like the mafia to us. there are no rules and people have “disappeared”). it sounds paranoid but the expats are a very close-knit community in snooky (sihanoukville) and we discuss things that happen to each other and to our guests.

    STRANGER DANGER:
    be smart. DON’T GIVE ANYONE MONEY. they will see where you keep it. if you’re on the beach you better be careful. hide it carefully, don’t bring your purse, maybe take turns watching everything.

    there was one guy who spiderman’ed around the sides of buildings to break in. during the day. they caught him when he made the mistake of hanging around a gov’t official’s home.

    they also use mouse trap glue on the end of a stick to get through the grates on your window. some are very tenacious and will return if they think they can.

    lastly, women especially, DON’T USE DANGLY PURSES. we had a guest who actually had her bf walking ahead of her along the side of the road, and she had a spaghetti-string purse. a motorbike went by and they actually dragged her down the street a bit while grabbing it (they were unsuccessful but she was bleeding when they got back). do not keep your purse on the side towards the road, and don’t have one with thin straps that can be cut easily. they have gotten more violent than in the past.

    that’s all i can think of for now. there are great sites/fb pages we use for info and communications.

    one side note, once you see the genocide museum/site, and hear stories from the locals, it starts to make sense. they are a country of orphans. the educated, the “intellectuals,” were slaughtered. even pilots. then the soldiers who did the slaughtering were slaughtered (a fair number being teenagers). the atrocities are very much in living memory and my impression is that after something like that, your outlook on life and death is altered. death is fascinating to people, and death there is much more visible, though no less tragic. but they do not shy away from it–one day while watching tv, our staff got real excited about a story where a mob murdered a man who had killed his wife and daughter in a jealous rage. they show everything on tv, with maybe a black bar over the eyes. she was smiling and telling me to watch. once, on entering phnom penh via mini bus, there was a fresh accident where the motorcyclist was obviously dead in the middle of the road, shoeless. the passenger next to me leaned over to try and take pics with his cell phone. (he was khmer, not an expat). many other motorists were doing the same, and there was a small crowd watching. this is not exclusive to cambodia, but there was a brazenness that was jarring.

    sorry if this comes off as ethnocentric. i have other sentiments as well but these i felt were relevant to the safety aspect. it really is worth traveling to though. just be careful.d

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Amy, it’s great to hear from expats who have experienced living in the country as well as travelling through there. Your advice is great and would be useful for any traveller in Asia as a whole I think, as well a specifically in Cambodia. My main reason for writing this list was to make others aware of what I experienced, not to put them off but to make sure they don’t experience the same. I was as careful as I feel I could have been and yet was still the subject of some horrible treatment. But most importantly, even after what I exoerienced I would still go back. I found the history fascinating and devastating, and the people were so kind once I escaled certain areas. Thanks for your advice. If you are interested in reading some of my other lists on cambodia – about parts I loved, follow this link: http://absolutelylucy.com/?s=Cambodia

    2. Thanks so much for your comment Amy, it’s great to hear from expats who have experienced living in the country as well as travelling through there. Your advice is great and would be useful for any traveller in Asia as a whole I think, as well a specifically in Cambodia. My main reason for writing this list was to make others aware of what I experienced, not to put them off but to make sure they don’t experience the same. I was as careful as I feel I could have been and yet was still the subject of some horrible treatment. But most importantly, even after what I exoerienced I would still go back. I found the history fascinating and devastating, and the people were so kind once I escaled certain areas. Thanks for your advice. If you are interested in reading some of my other lists on cambodia – about parts I loved, follow this link: http://absolutelylucy.com/?s=Cambodia

  17. Interesting read! I’m planning on going to Cambodia sometime this year, alone. I’m sorry to hear about your experience. I was wondering though, how was your experience in Siem Reap?

    1. Thanks Jas – don’t let it out you off in any way – I was very unlucky but so many have had great experiences. I’m sure you’ll have more luck than I did. Siem reap was totally different to other parts I went to, it’s the most touristy area and is a lovely place – I would really recommend starting there to eas yourself in, I started at the other end of the country in Phnom Penh which gave me a very different experience. Hope you have an amazing time!

  18. Cambodia is not dangerous, cambodian are nice and helpful, and police are corrupt in almost every country in Asia, only difference in Cambodia you will pay less to police by 10 times…..unlucky is about luck so maybe your not kind of traveller who can go in theses places, Your post will only scared women to travel to a wonderful country, and about poverty yeah its hard but its real….hope you will have better chance in your travel but you should maybe skip 3rd word country….

    1. Actually Den, if you take a look at my other posts on Cambodia you’ll see I’m quite well-informed. I’ve been travelling in third world countries since I was born and am actually from a third world country, so I don’t think that has anything to do with it. Cambodian people – as I’ve said in other posts – are amazing and welcoming, but there are also a good portion of them who are not, more so than I have found in Thailand, Laos or Vietnam. Cambodia is a dangerous country to an extent, I’d love to hear you explain otherwise to my friend who was nearly raped in broad daylight. I wrote this post to inform women and travellers, not to scare them, as I said I would definitely return there in future despite everything that happened to me. I will never skip third world countries when it comes to travelling, I am just doing my duty as a travel blogger to I for. Other travellers so they can avoid the things that happened to me. It’s nothing personal, it’s just reporting facts.

  19. I’m here now and I’m booking the first flight out after the worst 4 days of my life. Got robbed. Stranded in the middle of nowhere. Taken to a brothel instead of a hotel. Saw child prostitutes. On top of this it’s the most exspensive country I’ve been to. It’s dirty. Disgusting. A living hell.
    And people recommend this place to me!!
    In Sihnouksville there were people having dog fights, nappies in the sea, rubbish everywhere and old white men with young sex workers. I stayed for 4 hours. I was terrified. So sad we both seem to have had bad experiences here. X

    1. Oh my goodness Sheree you poor thing! That’s awful! I hope you’re as safe as can be and manage to get a fight out soon – stay central while you are there, Siem Reap is the safest area and the most touristy so you will feel a lot more comfortable there, pick your accommodation well – I went for a hotel in the end and felt much safer. Don’t get tuk tuks alone unless they are the hotel’s ones. It’s definitely eye opening visiting Cambodia, especially Sihnoukville – hope you’re okay, I know how I felt after being there. Don’t let it shake you up too much and don’t let it make you fear travelling. Trust me, the very worst of my travel experiences happened there but the rest of Asia was incredible. Where are you headed to next? xx

  20. Wow, thanks for sharing. I’m travelling to Siem Ream next year. Certainly will take note on the necessary precaution to travel (even though I’m not travelling alone).

    1. You’re welcome ๐Ÿ™‚ Hope you have an amazing time. Don’t be terrified going there as I know lots of people who have been and have had no problems – I just want people to be aware of what happened to me so they can take precautions ๐Ÿ™‚ Cambodia is a beautiful country!

  21. God, Lucy, thank you for this post. I was researching Cambodia and wondering about solo travel there alone and being very paranoid about safety, this really has given me second thoughts about going at it alone. Thank you so much for this post! (And I’m so sorry that didn’t work out for you at all)

    1. Thanks lovely, it’s a shame my trip went the way it did, but don’t let it put you off going alone. I had a lot of bad luck when I was there, but I also had incredibly good luck for the other five months I spent travelling Asia – it all balances out. Plus I’ve had lots of friends travel solo there (including women) since these incidents occurred and they have been perfectly safe and loved the experience. Personally now, I would do it all over again solo, I would just be more cautious than last time, so don’t be afraid to do the same ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. cambodia is the worst country in south east asia by far, dirty,corrupt,smelly and poor infastructure. the roads and public transportation is awful,i would fly into siem reap and visit angkor wat then leave. anything else is a no no..

    1. I actually found Phnom Penh okay despite warnings from fellow travelers before I arrived, but I was just there a short time – I think it’s really important to visit this area so that you have context for the state of the country – some of the most important historical records for that country are kept at The Killing Fields and S21 which really help explain why the country is the way it is

  23. Hey, I’ve just recently moved to Phnom Penh and agree with a lot of what you’ve wrote here! I’ve looked up so many blogs promoting lone travel here from so many different women who’ve talked about being outrageous that people don’t think its safe. The truth is – it isn’t safe here. Don’t get me wrong I do enjoy living here, but I constantly have to have my whits about me and be alert because of all the crime that happens. I’ve never been to surround areas so maybe that’s why I’ve managed quite well! I’ve read some comments on here and don’t think it’s awful though! I’m glad you’re still promoting people to come here because it has been an amazing experience so far! Yeah some areas aren’t so great but it’s all about being street smart.Don’t walk around alone after dark, don’t have valuables on show, don’t drink too much, that kind of thing! Great post though, really enjoyed reading it. x

    1. Thanks for your post – it’s interesting to read the perspective of a traveler who has just arrived there. It’s so sad that you don’t feel safe there, but I totally understand why you feel that way. I was lucky and didn’t find Phnom Penh too bad, it was Sihounoukville that was the worst for me, but I’m sure you’ve felt much the same way as I did. I’m so glad you can see that I still encourage people to go, not just to write it off – so many pre-judged this post and felt I was saying don’t go, but I’m just trying to make sure people have the pre-warning that I didn’t. Safety is so important, especially as a solo traveler, and even more so as a woman. Great tips! Thanks xx

  24. Hi Lucy,
    This is a great post, and I am considering moving to Phnom Penh to work. What’s been holding me back has exactly been the safety. I would really appreciate it if I could get some recommendations on living there alone. As a young, asian female, I am slightly worried about my race and my gender affecting my ability to live and travel there by myself.

    Thank you for your help and really really need any advice ASAP as I have to respond soon ๐Ÿ™

    xx

    1. Hi Samantha, thanks so much, don’t let this post put you off in the slightest – I wanted it to serve as a warning to be prepared rather than a deterrent. Cambodia is an amazing country and I know there are a lot of expats living there, it would be worth seeing if there are Facebook groups you can join for expats in the area – that way you might be able to make some friends before arriving to give you peace of mind. Basically the same rules apply as in any area of the world, don’t take unnecessary risks, be careful with valuables and money, and be aware of the culture and history. There are reasons why Cambodia is a little risky but understanding the background to this will help you be more prepared. I personally would take the job, it sounds like an amazing opportunity and even if you decide you hate it when you get there, you can always leave, but if you don’t go you could regret not taking the chance ๐Ÿ™‚ good luck chick xx

  25. I’ve just returned from travelling Cambodia solo, and like you did my route ‘backwards’ to most backpackers i met, going from phnom penh to siem reap (with many stops along the way). I had a totally different experience to you, to the point where I would say I felt safer in Cambodia than anywhere else I visited. The locals I met stole my heart and showed nothing but kindness towards me. it is such a shame you had such a negative experience, but based on all the solo female travellers I met I do think your experience is (thankfully) quite the oddity, not the norm.

    1. Hi Christine, thanks for sharing your experiences! It’s so good to hear from someone who has has a safe and happy time there, I hate to think of my experience as the norm and know I was just unlucky, always good to warn people so they can be aware and prepared but I would never want to put anyone off from visiting such a fascinating country.

  26. Sorry to hear of your troubles but so pleased to read your sensible log and the range of comments.I lived in Saigon for a year in 92 and worked in SE Asia from 88 to 93.have been coming back ever since as a tourist and have seen many changes.No doubt Cambodia is one of the more dangerous places but the same rules still apply. Street sense is all important and drunkiness is a big factor in increasing risk.The Tuk Tuk is a real worry in Cambodia but using one from the hotel is a good way to lower the odds. Your experience with the driver is hard to avoid so maybe try to get a taxi or share if you can find someone. To those who take offence at the slur on the hardworking honest drivers l make this point,it is not a problem in Thailand and a small risk in Saigon but the drivers in Phonm Penh and surrounds only have themselves to blame for their reputation. Most are fantastic but one bad apple as they say. Poverty is a cruel state and makes people unpredictable. Bon Voyage.

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