Solo Travel Destination: Phnom Penh, Cambodia

We are pleased to present a new Solo Travel Destination Post from Stefanie, a member of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. Stefanie is from the United States, and submitted the following report about Phnom Penh. Do you have a solo travel destination that you would like to recommend? Submit your description here, along with a few photos, and share it with fellow travelers!

Solo travel rating: (1 is easiest, 4 is most difficult. Please see chart below)

Languages spoken: Kmer, English, French

photo, image, tuk tuk, phnom penh

Nak, one of many friendly “tuk tuk” drivers, going out of his way to help me to the airport.

Reasons to go:  Phnom Penh is a city with a lot to offer! I lived and traveled around Phnom Penh alone for 5 weeks, because I was volunteering there as an English teacher.

If you’re traveling around Southeast Asia and are trying to plan the right amount of time to spend in this city, I would say you only need about 2-3 full days to see all of the tourist hot spots (The Killing Fields, The Russian Market, The Royal Palace, etc). However, if you really want to get a feel for how many Cambodians live, then spend at least a week here. It’s quite different than Siem Reap, because it’s a lot less developed for tourists, and runs with more Cambodian style.

I could spend a full two days just exploring the riverfront – between the amazingly cheap happy hours, the equally phenomenal massages by blind Cambodians at Seeing Hands Massage, and the sights to see along the river, this is a great taste (literally) of Cambodia for the solo traveler.

If you are traveling on a very tight budget, then it isn’t practical to stay ON the riverfront, as most guesthouses here will charge more. However, Phnom Penh isn’t a huge city, so even if you stay by the Olympic Stadium on the other side of town, the riverfront is still a reasonable 25-30 minute walk away. (If it’s after dark, please take a tuk tuk and watch your belongings! Robbery isn’t rare.) The tuk tuks here are usually pretty reliable, so for a solo traveler it is safe to get around town at pretty much any time of the day, just make sure you know the approximate location of your guesthouse so you can tell your tuk tuk driver where to head.

The biggest reason that Phnom Penh is such a great solo travel destination is that there are SO MANY people who want to help. In some cities, people are too busy for you. In Phnom Penh, a man can be 2 hours late for work, and his house can be on fire, and he will still take the time to help you find your way. In addition, it’s a very popular backpacker stop, so you will always be able to find expats to help you and to travel with!

If you are on the fence about whether to visit Phnom Penh, please go! It may be chaotic – full of traffic, and noise, and unfamiliar smells – but the city has a huge heart, and you will certainly benefit from experiencing it.

photo, image, riverfront, phnom penh

A view of the more tourist friendly section of Phnom Penh, the riverfront.

photo, image, umbrellas, monks

You will see monks everywhere- on motorbikes, smoking cigarettes, and yes- flaunting their rebellious purple umbrellas.

photo, image, independence monument, phnom penh

The Independence Monument- an example of a hidden treasure in a country with a very dark history.

Solo Travel Destination Rating System

Safety – 2 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)

Language – 2 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)

Navigation – 1 (1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)

Culture – 2 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)

Average Rating – 2 (1 is easiest, 4 is most difficult)


  • OppoR819GPS

    Cambodia offers a fascinating intrigue and it is an important place where you will find a wide diversity of cultures and people. For sure, you’ll not regret having a vacation here because it is like a break from the common countries you have been to.

  • Lise Griffiths

    Aw it sounds like Phnom Penh has a real soul. That’s lovely. If you want a really good recommendation for a good read, ‘In the Shadow of the Banyan’ is a fantastically gripping and sad story about a little girl’s perspective of the Khmer Rouge and the terrible events of that time. It is based on the author’s true story but written as a novel.