It’s everywhere in Cambodia. On the money, the flag, the tourism posters. The first thing anyone in Cambodia asks you is, “Have you been?” In a nation that has struggled so much, that has suffered more than most — and more recently — and is still desperately trying to recover, there is no greater point of pride than the memory of when the Khmers were the masters of a vast empire.

Angkor Wat. It’s a must-see.

The temples are in Siem Reap, the good-time tourist town that centers around the foreigners who come to visit. Solo tourists are often worried about meeting people when they travel, but travel in Siem Reap is definitely not a problem. Angkor Wat and Siem Reap is pretty safe if you’re not silly about things. There are tons of great guesthouses starting at around $6 a night that include clean rooms, free wifi, and a good place to meet people. Some Siem Reap hostels and guesthouses even feature pools or gardens and most serve pretty inexpensive food.

How to get there

If you only have a short time to spend at Angkor Wat, it’s best to get out to the temples as early as possible. Tuk-tuks generally cost about $10-15 for the day to travel Angkor, Siem Reap — which isn’t so bad if you’re sharing but can be a little pricey for a solo traveler. However, it’s more comfortable to than a moto and much less expensive than a private car. Walking isn’t really an option. Lots of people do rent bikes but you should be in really good shape if you’re going to do this. Admission to Angkor Wat temples is also expensive at $20 per person for one day, $40 for a three-day pass, and $60 for a week. Crazy. Also, don’t eat the food in the compounds unless you’re really desperate. It’s overpriced and pretty bad: typical for tourist places.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat Temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Sunrise at Angkor Wat Temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia

The Angkor Wat temples are beautiful and anyone visiting can buy guides describing them in all the detail a traveler could desire. Going alone is wonderful because there is no pressure to move at someone else’s pace. Unlike a museum, the temples are totally open. Visitors can walk around them, inside them, even climb on top of them. Without outside pressure, a solo traveler can spend as much time playing Indiana Jones (which was actually filmed at Angkor Wat) as he wants and then skip through the less interesting parts. There is also less room for embarrassment when you’re sweating up a storm and you get templed-out and just can’t do it anymore! The temples really are remarkable but Cambodia is hot and walking around the vast structures can be exhausting to say the least. Eventually, you’re going to want to go back to town.

Back in town

Evenings in Siem Reap are a blast. Everyone has rested after a long day of temple hunting and is ready to go out and enjoy themselves, which makes it easy to meet people. During a waxing/mani/pedi session that came to $11 I met two American girls my age who were visiting Cambodia in-between overseas teaching gigs. They were a blast and we went to Viva for dinner and margaritas.

The food was delicious, the margaritas cheap and a bit weak, and we had a great time. After dinner we headed to the Blue Pumpkin’s sleek air-conditioned lounge for dessert.

Fish amok in Cambodia
Fish amok is a well known dish in Siem Reap

The next day, while stopping for a drink at The Warehouse (as a DMB fan, I felt obligated), I met two more American chicks who were thrilled to have someone else to talk to. We had a great time and after drinks we headed to the Red Piano for dinner. The food at the Red Piano is good and the ambiance and view from the balcony makes it definitely worth a visit. After the Red Piano we headed to Angkor What?, a pretty well-known backpacker bar. We met some English guys (but no Indiana Jones) and had a great time talking and drinking before we finally turned in.

Cambodia travel - Siem Reap, Battambang, Phnom Penh3
Silk weavers outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia

Siem Reap is one of those towns where it’s easy to be a solo traveler. Full of tourists, there are hundreds of guesthouses, bars, and restaurants to meet people. At the same time, the majesty and solemnity of Angkor Wat is perhaps best enjoyed alone. A solo traveler can have all of the time she needs to reflect on the beauty of an empire and still socialize the night away. Sometimes, towns centered around backpackers are just what the travel doctor ordered.

Your thoughts on "Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, and the solo traveler"

  • I *love* Siem Reap. SUCH a fantastic place - great food, crazy fun drinking establishments, and lovely lovely markets. It is truly an undiscovered gem - sure, everyone knows about Angkor, but exploring Siem Reap there is tons to see/do.

    on July 18, 2009 at 9:09 am Reply
  • Kat- Did you feel safe as a solo female traveler in Cambodia/at Angkor? I really want to go but none of my friends are in a place to make the journey with me. P

    on August 29, 2009 at 7:11 am Reply
  • Hi Paula, Kat's in transit up to South Africa at the moment. I'm sure she'll check in soon and get back to you. The best South East Asia forums are probably, so try there if it's urgent.

    on August 31, 2009 at 5:49 pm Reply
  • Hi Paula! Sorry for the delay, I just got to South Africa a few days ago and my internet capabilities are less than stellar! Yes, I felt completely safe as a woman in most of Cambodia and especially Siem Reap. It is a total tourist town and built around creating a fun and safe environment for tourists. I met people to hang out with every day that I was there and had a fantastic time. I also really liked going to Angkor Wat by myself because I was able to see the temples at my own pace. As for the rest of Cambodia, I lived in Phnom Penh for three months and never had any problems. The worst thing that happened to anyone I knew was that their bag was stolen from a passing moto. If you're smart and don't go walking around by yourself at 4am you'll be totally safe. So basically, it's like any other city... Feel free to email me with any more questions but yes, you're safe traveling alone in Cambodia and most of the rest of Southeast Asia!

    on September 4, 2009 at 10:00 pm Reply
  • Hi Kat, I'm very glad I found your blog, and plan on catching up on your other adventures around the world. I'm not going to lie, this post makes me want to visit Angkor Wat even more when I make the trip to Thailand this summer. Although I won't be alone, I'm sure you're travel tips will be helpful. This will be my third trip to Thailand, but I've never seem any of the Khmer ruins near the border. My family and I are so torn between staying in the country with our family, or taking the time to visit other neighboring countries....but I know Cambodia will be worth it. Anthony Bourdain's Cambodia Episode also contributed to my Angkor Wat fever. Thank you for your insight; you're very right about Cambodia suffering so much and still struggling to recoup their rich cultural past. Best of travels in South Africa! (I can't wait to read about your travels here, as I hope to one day go there as well.) Thanks again.

    on March 25, 2011 at 9:28 am Reply
  • […] Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, and the solo traveler – Indie … – Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, and the solo traveler. Posted on July 15, 2009; by Kat Calvin; in Cambodia; It’s everywhere in Cambodia. On the money, the flag, the tourism … […]

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