SOLO FEMALE TRAVELER IN CAMBODIA
While the chance of finding yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time does exist, in general South-East Asian countries are incredibly friendly places, and mostly quite safe. You’ll be met with smiles.
If you are considering a solo trip for the first time, Cambodia is a great place to start. As a female traveler, you will feel safe here, can get by on a budget, and meet other people. It’s a great opportunity to achieve all of this, as well as discover amazing cultures.
Cambodia is relatively conservative country, both men and women wear loose-fitting clothing and keep their shoulders and legs fully covered. For female travelers, this rule is especially important, as it can mean the difference between enjoying your trip and experiencing unwanted attention. If you keep a few things in mind, you can stay cool, comfortable and culturally appropriate.
You don’t have to buy a new wardrobe. Bring loose-fitting T-shirts, tunics and blouses with sleeves, and loose-fitting pants and bellow the knee-length skirts in cool, lightweight fabrics like cotton. Young people in cities such as Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are increasingly embracing modern Western clothing, therefor you will see more young people wearing tight jeans and short tops. However in rural communities most people still wear traditional clothing and more conservative in their views.
Most Cambodians dress up casually except when they are attending formal events. The sampot is the national garment of Cambodia. The traditional dress is similar to those worn in the neighbouring countries of Laos and Thailand, however there are many variations between the different countries and social classes. Unless you are invited to a wedding during your holidays you will not need to buy any Cambodian traditional clothing.
VISITING BUDDHIST TEMPLES
Remove hats and shoes when entering the temple’s worship area. A pile of shoes outside the edifice indicates where you can leave yours off. Dress decently when you’re entering the temple. For female traveler this means: shoulders should be covered and below the knee-length skirt or trousers. Tourists understandably wear light clothing in Southeast Asia where climate is humid and shorts can offer more comfort. But respect should be on display..
A woman should never touch or hand a monk something. When this is breached, even brushing against their robes, it requires fasting to perform a cleansing ritual. A monk’s mother is not even exempt from this rule.
BEACH ATTIRE FOR FEMALE TRAVELERS
As a foreign female travel you can swim in bikinis trouble-free at tourist magnets like Sihanoukville and Kep, however adding a sarong to your beach ensemble may help deflect unwanted stares. Also, locals may take offense if you wear your swimsuit outside of the beach; be sure to get dressed before heading back into town. If you visit beaches with less of a tourist presence, do as the local women do and wear oversized T-shirt over your swimming costume.
TRAVELLING IN RURAL AREAS & STAYING WITH LOCAL COMMUNITIES
The key to Western female attire is about how much flesh and shape is revealed – try not to show more than the arms and lower legs. This is because western women get a lot more attention from local men, esp. if you are the attractive type. Though tourism is growing tremendously in this region and people are generally friendly to tourists, bad things still can happen. Lone female tourists should exercise more caution.
If you are staying with a local family, see what they are wearing and try to match your attire to theirs. Depending on how remote the area is and the local cultural background of the local community also influences how conservative they might be. Consequently your dress code needs to meet their traditional and culture.
So, to strike a balance between comfort and safety, I’d suggest knee-length shorts or skirts, and t-shirts with sleeves at the minimum. 100% cotton is the best material in climate like this, which you can easily buy at the local markets/shops and they’re super cheap.
Always, remember to remove your shoes before entering anyone’s home!
CITY SAFETY FOR SOLE FEMALE TRAVELER
As already said above, Cambodia and even their big cities are relatively safe for a solo female traveler. There are few things to have in mind:
- handbag snatching – Bag snatching is the main form of street crime, so carry you bag close to your body, wear a secure day bag or backpack around your body, over your head and shoulder, or thread a strap through your belt loop.
- walking on your own in the evening – If you are out at night, stay in well-lit areas and among people. Walk close to the kerb, face oncoming traffic, and avoid alleys. Keep your keys ready for arriving at your room.
- fellow male travelers – Be aware – you more likely to experience trouble from other fellow Western travelers then local Cambodian man.