Why you should add Phnom Penh to your Indie/RTW trip
- To learn more about the culture and history of the Cambodian people, including the atrocities that they have had to endure.
- To throw yourself into the middle of a bustling Asian city.
- To experience an underrated food scene, especially compared to its neighbors.
- To visit a major metropolis on a backpacker's budget.
Accommodation options and Areas to stayWith the dissolution of the former backpacker ghetto at Boeung Kak Lake (though the lake is now filled in, there are a few remaining guesthouses that are very cheap), there isn't really a specific area that hosts a plethora of hostels and guesthouses.
Near the river (inside the grid between Street 100 and Street 240 and from the river to Street 51) is the near the most touristy areas of the city (and also near the most aggressive touts).
Phnom Penh is a large city and accommodations are spread out. There are a wide variety of options for every budget, from $5 beds to 4-5 star hotels.
The aforementioned Boeung Kak Lake still has a few guesthouses remaining that are very cheap, but considering this was a bustling backpacker ghetto as recently as 5 years ago, the remaining guesthouses are most likely on their way out.
Check out Street 258, Street 51, and Streets 111 and 172 for the most budget friendly options.
There are mid-range options scattered throughout the city and with varying levels of comfort and value. If on a long-term trip and without a a set schedule, we recommend either booking one night before arrival or arriving without accommodations so you can check out accommodations in person before booking several nights or a week. Quality varies tremendously and can be easily misrepresented online.
If you have the money to spend, there are a variety of 4-5 star hotels in Phnom Penh to splurge on.
Things to do
Check out the following article for top things to do in Phnom Penh:
How to best get to or from Phnom Penh
Air:Phnom Penh International Airport is located about 4 miles (7km) west of the city. If you are flying to Phnom Penh and it's not part of your multi-stop plane ticket, AirAsia is the most affordable option for airfare around the region.
Bus: If traveling around Cambodia or coming from a neighboring country, bus is the most popular form of transport. Quality varies and prices are rather cheap. The main bus station is located at the southwest corner of Central Market. You can buy tickets at the bus station, or for a few dollars more, most guesthouses and travel agents can arrange tickets and transport for you.
Keep in mind that not borders are not open 24 hours, so if coming from or going to Thailand, Laos, or Vietnam, make sure to get all the specifics of your journey before buying a ticket.
Boat: Ferries can get travelers to and from Siem Reap in about 6 hours.
If going to or from Vietnam, taking a boat is a unique and interesting form of travel that is unfortunately going by the wayside in the region. You can take a boat to or from Chau Doc in Vietnam each day, with speed boats (taking about 4 hours) and slow boats (taking 7-8 hours) available each day.
Getting around Phnom Penh
All the usual suspects are available for travel around the city, including motorbikes, motorbike taxis, taxis, tuk-tuks, cyclos, bicycles, and cars (we recommend against renting a car or motorbike unless you are very familiar with driving in large Asian cities).
Of course walking is a good mode of transportation to get most places in the city, though you will have to arrange some sort of transport for the Tuol Sleng Museum and the Killing Fields.
Travelers can visit Phnom Penh on just about any budget their heart desires. The most thrifty of backpackers can still get by on $10-$15USD per day, while a luxury budget could exceed several hundred dollars per day.
For those on a midrange budget who prefer a private room and a couple meals in nicer (meaning not street carts) restaurants, plan on spending about $30-$40USD per day.
When to go, Weather, Festivals, and HolidaysWeather: The rainy seasons runs roughly June through October. The hot season from February through May (very hot and humid). And the cool (highs are still in the 80s F) season November through January.
Festivals and Holidays: There are a few festivals throughout the year that will impact accommodation availability and pricing:
- April 14 - 16: Cambodian New Year
- May 13 - 15: King Sihamoni's Birthday
- September/October (moveable): Pchum Ben Festival (Ancestor's Day)
- October/November (moveable): Water Festival
- November 9: Independence Day