If you’re visiting Phnom Penh soon, you’ve come to the right place. After reading this guide, you’ll know which area to stay in, where to find the best restaurants and how to get around this busy capital city of Cambodia.
What to expect in Phnom Penh
There’s no such thing as rush hour in Phnom Penh. The capital city of Cambodia is always busy, packed with tuk-tuks, motorbikes, people and street food. It’s part of Phnom Penh’s charm and adds to the excitement of exploring this city. It’s the epitome of hustle and bustle.
Aside from the busy streets, Phnom Penh offers a glimpse back in time through its 1920’s French colonial architecture, a culinary journey with its plethora of restaurants and a thought-provoking history lesson.
Most people visiting Cambodia have heard of Angkor Wat and the Killing Fields. For Angkor Wat, you’ll need to head to Siem Reap, but to explore one of the most devastating sites in history, the Killing Fields, Phnom Penh is where to go.
Is Phnom Penh worth visiting?
There’s a quote written in Auschwitz referring to the holocaust that greatly applies to the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21 Museum), both of which can be visited from Phnom Penh — ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’.
Between 1975 and 1979, almost a quarter of Cambodia’s population died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge and communist dictator Pol Pot. The Killing Fields and S21 Museum played a central role in this.
Both of these sites force us to remember a gruesome and catastrophic time in Cambodia’s history, but it’s one that we have to face in order not to repeat it. That’s why visiting Phnom Penh and these sites is so important.
But don’t worry, your visit to Phnom Penh isn’t all doom and gloom, the liveliness and vibrancy of the city is guaranteed to lift your spirits.
How many days should you spend in Phnom Penh?
Phnom Penh is an excitingly chaotic city that can get slightly overwhelming after a while, so you need to find the perfect amount of time to visit Phnom Penh for.
We recommend spending three days here. This way you have enough time to see all of the main sites and get to know the city without having to rush. Though, It can be squeezed into two days if need be.
To help you make the most of your time in Phnom Penh, we’ve put together a list of the top things to do in Phnom Penh.
Where to stay in Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh is the largest city in Cambodia, split into a number of districts that each offer something different. It’s important to choose the right one for you, so here are our the favourite places to stay in Phnom Penh:
Location #1: Daun Penh — the centre of the city
Best for: exploring the historic centre of Phnom Penh. Daun Penh is where you’ll find the royal palace, government buildings and the most colonial architecture.
Who is it for: those that want to be close to a number of the top things to see in Phnom Penh.
Don’t miss: Wat Phnom, a 14th-century Buddhist temple. Plus, the cool contrast between the new and the old in this area.
Biggest downside: It’s one of the busier districts. If you still want to be close to everything but with a more relaxed vibe, we recommend staying on the Riverside.
Accommodation in Daun Penh
In Daun Penh you can find anything you want — hostels, guesthouses and cosy hotels that are tucked away from the chaos of the city.
There are a ton of places to choose from, which drives down prices. Private rooms start at around $10 a night.
Location #2: BKK1 — home to nightlife and expats
Best for: a vibrant and lively atmosphere. BBK1 is close to the centre of the city without being as hectic. Right on your doorstep you’ll have plenty of hipster cafes and fun restaurants.
Who is it for: those looking for nightlife. BBK1 is home to some of the best nightclubs and bars in Phnom Penh. But it’s not just for party-lovers, this neighbourhood is where you’ll find a lot of expats and digital nomads who are calling Phnom Penh their home for now.
Don’t miss: the rooftop bar at Top Banana Guesthouse.
Biggest downside: some people might prefer to be at the centre of the hustle and bustle. BKK1 has a more residential feel.
Accommodation in BKK1
BKK1 is where most of the high-end and boutique hotels are located. If you’re looking for a splash of luxury, we recommend staying in this area.
Also being the area for expats and digital nomads, this is a good area to find long term rentals and nice Airbnbs.
Private rooms start from around $12 a night.
Location #3: Riverside — the best place for river views
Best for: waking up to views of the river and enjoying delicious meals with this view too. There are plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants, as well as street food that line the riverbank.
Who is it for: almost everyone! On the Riverside you’ll find accommodation for all budgets and things that are of interest to almost everyone.
Don’t miss: some of the key monuments in Phnom Penh such as Wat Ounolom, the National Museum and the Central Market.
Accommodation on the Riverside
You’d probably expect to find some of the most expensive accommodation in the city here. Sure, there’s some pricier places, but you can also find some of the cheapest places too.
Sisowath Quay in particular has a lot of budget friendly options.
Private rooms with a river view start from around $15 per night.
Best places to eat in Phnom Penh
Being the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh is an exciting food hub. Here you’ll find everything from upscale Cambodian restaurants, local family-run spots and cuisine from all around the world.
With so many restaurants to choose from, we’ve narrowed it down to our three best places to eat in Phnom Penh:
Malis Restaurant — upscale Cambodian restaurant
Malis is an upscale Cambodian restaurant looking to showcase and preserve Cambodia’s spectacular flavours and dishes. They have a number of set menus to choose from, taking you on a culinary journey through Cambodia.
Set within a stunning courtyard thriving with tropical plants, the ambience is perfect!
Backyard Cafe — healthy food to make you feel good
When you’re travelling, the food (and drink) that you’re putting in your body isn’t always the healthiest, so it can be nice to put some goodness into your body for once.
Backyard Cafe is the place to do that with their fresh juices, vegetable bowls, healing teas and brunch dishes. If you’re vegan or vegetarian then you’ve found your haven in Phnom Penh! We will warn you that it is pricier than other places that you’ll find in Phnom Penh, but we guarantee that your body will thank you after a meal here.
Eleven One Kitchen — delicious and traditional Cambodian cuisine
If you’re looking for traditional Cambodian dishes at a Cambodian price, head to Eleven One Kitchen. Walking into this restaurant, you feel like you’re entering the jungle with the amount of plants that have taken over the dining area. With some of the food being served on banana leaves, the jungle theme continues.
Make sure to try the stir fried beef with red tree ants! It’s unique and delicious.
How to get around in Phnom Penh
Unfortunately for those of us who like to use our own two feet to get around, this isn’t the best option for moving around Phnom Penh. It’s not a very pedestrian-friendly city with its lack of pavements. And when there are pavements/sidewalks, someone’s usually parked on it, blocking your way anyway!
Most of the time, we recommend hopping in a tuk-tuk.
You’ll see these three-wheeled speed machines whizzing about all over Phnom Penh. To flag one down, all you need to do is stick out a hand and within seconds one is likely to stop.
Another way to hail a tuk-tuk is using the Grab app or PassApp — note that you’ll need a Cambodian number to be able to use PassApp.
The advantage of using an app to get a tuk-tuk is that you’ll be guaranteed that you’re paying a fair price. You won’t have to haggle like you do with the ones on the street. To give you an idea of fair tuk-tuk prices in Phnom Penh:
- Rides within the city should cost between $2-7
- Return trip to the Killing Fields costs $15
We agree that tuk-tuks aren’t the most comfortable form of transport, especially for longer journeys or if you have luggage. That’s when taxis come in handy! They’re more comfortable and often have air conditioning. The downside, they’re more expensive.
Like with tuk-tuks, you’ll find them driving on the streets and waiting outside popular spots in the city. You can also use Grab or PassApp to hail a taxi and guarantee a good price.
Top tip: Traffic in Phnom Penh can be pretty intense. Always leave some extra time before you’re meant to be somewhere, as it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll get delayed by traffic. Nobody wants to miss their flight for example!
Unlike most other Cambodian cities, Phnom Penh has a public transport system that’s actually relatively easy to use. Phnom Penh’s bus network now has seventeen lines, taking you to a lot of places you need in the city.
Getting public transport in a foreign country can be a little nerve wracking, but using the app ‘Stops Near Me’ takes away a lot of the anxiety. The app shows you the route map for all of the buses, lists all of the stops in English and even allows you to live track your bus!
Most of them are now air conditioned and a super cheap way to get around Phnom Penh. Each bus ticket costs $0.40.
How to get to Phnom Penh
|Leaving from||Duration||Prices from||See details|
|Phnom Penh Int’l Airport||30 minutes-1 hour||from $0.40||Phnom Penh Airport to Phnom Penh|
|Siem Reap||45 minutes-8 hours||from $10||Siem Reap to Phnom Penh|
|Sihanoukville||30 minutes-7 hours||from $8||Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh|
|Kep||3-4 hours||from $8||Kep to Phnom Penh|
|Battambang||5-6 hours||from $8||Battambang to Phnom Penh|
|Kampot||2.5 hours-4hrs 40m||from $7||Kampot to Phnom Penh|
|Ho Chi Minh||1hr + travel to/from airport-6 hours||from $12||Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh|
Now that you’ve finished reading this guide, you’re almost ready for your adventure in Phnom Penh. The next step is to create your personalised itinerary with our top picks of what to do in Phnom Penh. Simply choose your favourite activities and places to visit, and you’re all set to make lasting memories in Phnom Penh.
Phnom Penh is the largest city in Cambodia, split into a number of districts that each offer something different. Here’s a quick rundown of the best districts to stay in:
- Daun Penh is the city centre and historic area of Phnom Penh. It’s where you’ll find the Royal Palace, government buildings and the most colonial architecture. Here is the place to stay if you want to be close to the top things to do in the city.
- BBK1 boasts a vibrant and lively atmosphere. It’s close to the city centre, without being as hectic. There are plenty of nightclubs, bars, restaurants and hipsters cafes here.
- Riverside is, as the name suggests, along the river. You’ll wake up to river views and be close to plenty of cafes, bars, restaurants and street food.
Check out our favourite places to stay in Phnom Penh:
White Corner Hotel - Budget Friendly
As the name suggests, White Corner Hotel has a very white colour scheme both inside and out, giving it a clean and modern feel. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, providing everything that you need.
If you stay here, you’ll be located in the BBK1 neighbourhood, a very fun place to be staying. It’s also within walking distance of the must-visit S-21 prison.
- Clean and modern
- Great location
- Comfortable and spacious rooms
- Bikes are available
Private rooms start from $21 per night.
Stay Sweet Homestay - Mid Range
With only four rooms available in this intimate homestay, you’ll need to book Stay Sweet in advance if you want to guarantee yourself a room. The almost perfect rating is mainly down to the incredible owner, Panha, who provides a friendly welcome and the best recommendations.
Staying here you’ll also receive a discount at the local swimming pool and gym. The onsite restaurant is also a must-try, the food is delicious!
- Gets booked up
- Amazing owner
- Access to local swimming pool and gym
- Delicious onsite restaurant
Private rooms start from $30 per night.
TAO Riverside Residence - Treating Yourself
TAO Riverside Residence is located right on the river offering spectacular views. Most of the rooms have private balconies where you can relax after a long day of exploring and just watch the boats gliding along the river.
The rooms are mainly studio style with most rooms having their own kitchenette and seating areas. They’re beautifully designed and super modern, creating an environment you won’t want to leave. On top of that, the Wi-Fi is great!
- Amazing river views
- Private balconies
- Large and modern rooms
- Great Wi-Fi
Deluxe double studios start from $60 per night.
We are sorry that this post didn't meet your expectations.
Your feedback is very valueable to us
What was missing in this post? (TIP: If you want us to reply to your feedback, you can leave your email in this text box.)
Based in Bali, Maarten’s passion for travel is undeniable. In 2016, he decided to quit his job as a stock analyst and started doing what he always dreamed of: travelling through South East Asia and helping other people plan their trips. When he is not working on Gecko Routes, you’ll find him surfing in the ocean or exploring the best gems of Indonesia.