AUSTRALIA, Dec 27 (Reuters) – An Australian backpacker who bought bitcoin with cash, then traded it for dollars at a Brisbane hotel before heading home, says she now sells it online.

Catherine Lee said the experience was not something she expected to experience when she travelled to London from Sydney in November last year for a Bitcoin conference.

“I’ve been to Europe, and I’m not used to spending cash,” she told Reuters.

“It was a bit weird to think I’d be able to spend it at a hotel, or buy a beer or whatever and just go home with the bitcoins.”

Bitcoin, the digital currency used to pay for goods and services online, has gained in popularity in recent years and attracted attention from governments, including Britain and the United States, which have begun regulating it as a currency.

But it has also attracted criticism for its unregulated nature, including for people using it to evade sanctions and crime, as well as fraud and money laundering.

Lee said she began using bitcoins at a friend’s house in the US, and then on a trip to New York last year.

“They (Bitcoiners) are just so open about how they use them, so you’re never sure if you’re buying something legitimately or not,” she said.

“You can go out and buy stuff for $1,000 and you’ve got to get the receipt.

I bought some things for a lot less than that.”

Lee, who works as a teacher and is also a freelance graphic designer, said she did not think she had a good understanding of what bitcoin was or what it could be used for, but she liked the fact she could sell the digital coins online for cash.

She said she now has around $4,000 in bitcoin, but is not buying or selling it as much as she used to.

“People buy stuff and sell it, it’s like a bubble right now,” she added.

“If you’re going to go out buying things, you need to be aware of the risks of doing it and the risks associated with buying stuff on the internet.”

Lee said her trip to London was not an unusual one.

“In London, it has always been a pretty good place for buying stuff, for buying bitcoin and other digital currencies,” she explained.

“So, I’m really happy with how things went.”

(Reporting by David Colquhoun; Editing by David Alexander)