The Phnom Penh travel guide

Phnom Penh was just like the Wild West. There were no rules, no law you couldn't break, and no drug your taxi driver didn't have in his trunk.

If you lacked any measure of self control, you didn't last more than a few months. I watched many men AND women lose it all. 

There was a brothels on every corner, next to a Bar serving .25c beers, and an Opium Den within walking distance.

The Lakeside in Phnom Penh was once a backpackers haven, but is now gone

Everyone stayed in a Guesthouse on the lake back then. we'd all gather to watch the sun set in the early evening. There was no better place to see it.

The once beautiful backpacker area known as the Lakeside was filled in with Gravel, and the stunning Sunsets witnessed there died along with it.

The Wild West was no more.

what remains of Phnom penh

I firmly believe that a country is only as good as its people, regardless of the amenities available, and the struggles we all face, no matter where we go.

Khmer people are the kindest, most polite people in all of Asia. They have also begun to find that as one door closes, another opens

There remains the warm weather, the low cost of living, the stunning beaches, a growing array of micro-brewed Ales, and the growing tourist infrastructure that is providing good jobs..

The nightclubs and bars remain open all night, as well as 5 blocks of hostess bars that cater to every whim. Whatever you desire, you can still find here.

There is a genuine movement towards honest tourism in Phnom Penh, and at the heart of it all is the magnificent  Angkor Wat in Siem Reao Province.

Instead of pushing drugs, drink, and depravity, the locals are now pushing tours to Angkor Wat, or running boats to the stunning beaches of Ko Rong Island.


Independence Monument Phnom PenhPhnom Penh now takes good care of the city compared to 5 years ago

why bother visiting phnom penh

The Government knew that they'd need a replacement destination for the growing number of tourists.

They chose a new area and began building it up with the Hotels, restaurants, pubs, and other utilities they'd need.

They knew the tourists would flock there if they built the area up right. They designated BKK1, or Boeung Keng Kang Muoy as the new Tourist destination.

BKK1 makes up about 2 blocks on the district it is in. BKK1, BKK2, and BKK3 make up the Ditrict named, Khan Chamkarmorn.

It sounds confusing because Phnom Penh has no Master Street Plan for the road system. The point I'm maing is that no matter BKK1 or 2, or 3, you'll be a few blocs away.

Khan Chamkarmorn.District is packed with both expensive hotels and some cheap ones. Check out the Hotels and Guesthouses that are available, and to gather your berrings a bit better.

Seems like a good time for a map ...

, some good restaurants, and some of the best pubs in well as decent food, travel agencies near to the 3 main areas of Phnom Penh.

independence onument,. It has been growing and specializing for the past 5 years.

It's located within walking distance of 

Sisowath Quay runs parallel to the confluence of three great rivers. They are the Mekong, Tonle Sap and Bassac rivers.

The hotels are more upscale in the Riverside area because of it's popularity, but the restaurants and pubs are more varied and suited for tourists.

Which just means more expensive.

If there is an area in the Capital City of Cambodia that is most cared for and where crime is least likely, it is on the Riverside at Sisowath Quay. The Riverside is the most developed area of Phnom Penh in terms of amenities for tourists. I stayed in the Paragon Hotel right on Sisowath Quay.

Here is a video we took of the Riverside from our balcony at the Paragon Hotel

The city serves as a transportation hub for further travel into Vietnam, Thailand, or up into Laos. I know the town pretty well after living here for 3 years yet the pace of change is incredible even to me.

The City seem

s to become unrecognizable every 2-3 months because of the changes.

Our City map is pretty darn terrible but we review the Best hotels in the Cambodia Capital City by actually going to them, checking the rooms and even testing their internet speeds.

Everything you'll need to know about The Capitol City of Cambodia is here whether you spell the city's name as Pnom Penh, Phnom Penn, Phnom Pen, or even Phnom Phen.

The city has gone through a massive makeover in the last few years. This year (2012) tourists will find a much cleaner and expansive city than just a few months ago.

In the past, visitors who could not adjust to rubbish filled streets and large numbers of beggars could give Phnom Penh a miss. But this city has transformed to become a much more welcoming tourist destination.

Finding your way around Phnom Penh is pretty easy. You can print out the Phnom Penh maps here if you'd like but they are rags compared to the stuff you can pilfer from any of the big hotels here.

Just walk into any hotel with your nose high and go nuts with the brochures, maps and day-old Newspapers. My personal favorite is the Phnom Penh Hotel. It is an audacious Palace full of helpful brochures and maps.

I once walked in there in shorts with a towel over one shoulder and fully enjoyed their wonderful pool.

If you get lost just remember that in the Cambodian Capital City, odd-numbered streets run North-South with rising numbers as you head West from the Riverside. Even numbers run West-East, increasing as you head South (with some exceptions, e.g. the West side of the now defunct Boeung Kak Lake).

House numbers, however, are quite a different story with no apparent rhyme or reason. Sums Cambodia up pretty well but then again my way of doing it may seem monkey-like to them.

So, don't expect houses to be numbered sequentially in any given street; you might even find two completely unrelated houses with the same number in the same street.

Getting from the Airport to the Center of Phnom Penh

You'll find Buses, Taxi Cabs, Motorbike Taxis and a even Cambodia's version of a Tuk Tuk waiting outside the Airport. Drivers will swarm you as you walk out of the airport and into the heat of the day or night. Their mission is to drive you into the center of town and charge you as much money as they possibly can.

It's generally $10USD for a Taxi (But they only begin the journey once every seat in the Taxi is spoken for) or $5USD-$7USD for a Motorbike Taxi. Prices double the moment the sun goes down and it can be a battle just getting to your hotel for less than $20USD. Drivers are aware that you have fewer options during the night.

I don't blame them but I don't like being forced into paying more than good value.

Now, I always book the airport pick-up and transfer service for my arrival in Phnom Pen. The Viator Airport Transfer Service costs just $12USD yet they meet you at the arrivals gate, carry your bags to an air-conditioned vehicle and drive you to the doorstep of any destination in the City.

It is the easy way to avoid the haggling and stress of organizing a ride into the City. It saves me time and money no matter how early or late my plane arrives.

Learn more about the Airport Transfer Service.

The 3 unique Areas of Phnom Penh

Sisowath Quay Mekong

Sisowath Quay runs parallel to the confluence of three great rivers. They are the Mekong, Tonle Sap and Bassac rivers.

The hotels are more upscale in the Riverside area because of it's popularity, but the restaurants and pubs are more varied and suited for tourists.

Which just means more expensive.

If there is an area in the Capital City of Cambodia that is most cared for and where crime is least likely, it is on the Riverside at Sisowath Quay. The Riverside is the most developed area of Phnom Penh in terms of amenities for tourists. I stayed in the Paragon Hotelright on Sisowath Quay.

Here is a video we took of the Riverside from our balcony at the Paragon Hotel.

Find more available budget Hotels in The Capital City of Cambodia or compare prices on more mid-range hotels.

  • The City Center

This area includes the Central Market as well as Street 51, which is the heart of the Phnom Pehn Nightlife. Some would argue the true center of the city but many regard the area in and around the Central Market as just that.

Phnom Penh Central Market Crowded

This is not the center of the action and is not a popular place to rent a guesthouse. The Central market opens very early and it is probably the noisiest area in the city.

A visit to the Central Market is a 'Must-See' and the nearby Soriya Center is the largest shopping center in all of Cambodia. Just 2 blocks away from the Central Market is Street 51. This road has the most concentrated collections of bars, nightclubs and outdoor 'Beer Stands' anywhere in the city.

Famous clubs such as 'The Heart of Darkness, 'The Pontoon Club' and 'Walkabout' all sit within yards of each other.

What To See In Phnum Penh City

There are many things to see in Phnom Penh. Unfortunately, some of the most famous tourist attractions are monuments to the Genocide of nearly a million people. This occurred during the rise of the Khmer Rouge and General Pol Pot following the withdrawal of US troops out of Vietnam.

It can be somewhat overwhelming to visit a Genocide Museum and then a mass grave-site afterwards. Fortunately, there are many other things to see and do and many can be covered in a single day. If you are short on time then consider one of the best Budget Tour Buses which stop at most of the 'Must See' attractions in a single day.

(Entrance Fees into places such as the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, Toul Sleng et al will amount to nearly $40USD. Make sure that the entrance fees are included in whatever Budget Tour you choose (Or it won't be much of a Budget Tour!).

Learn More about the sights to see in the Capital City of Cambodia on our Phnom Penh Tour page.

Phnom Penh Too Dangerous to Visit?

Many people say that Phnom Penh is too dangerous and opt instead to visit the much more dangerous city of Bangkok. Tell them what You have experienced in Phnom Penh and help us settle some fears.

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What Previous Visitors Had to Say About It

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Good Hospitals in Phnom Penh 
I'm going to Phnom Penh next month. I'm worried about getting sick or something and having to deal with hospitals in mud shacks and doctors with no teeth …

Helpful Police in Phnom Penh 
I just want to know if I can rely on the police to help me out if I have a problem while in Cambodia. I heard some bad things about them and wonder what …

Bangkok Dangerous? 
I lived in Thailand for two years and never seen Thai people even hardly fight with a foreigner. If you're looking to start trouble you will find it …

Is 7 Days in Phnom Penh Too Much? Not rated yet
Hello, My husband and I are going to Cambodia in February. We are not at all interested in seeing Angkor Wat so we were going to give Siem Reap a miss …

Weird and Wonderful Phnom Penh Not rated yet
My partner, my best buddy and I traveled to Thailand last year, with a view to travel to Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam too. Unfortunately, my girlfriend …

Wonderful Cambodia Not rated yet
I visited Cambodia for 3 weeks and stayed in Phnom Penh for several days. If you don't look for trouble, you don't find it. For the most part all of the …

Phnom Penh to Siem Reap Not rated yet
We are looking to a take the bus from Phnom Penh up to Siem Reap to see the temples at Angkor Wat. How far is the trip by bus and how long does it …

Phnom Penh Safer than Bangkok Not rated yet
I agree that Phnom Penh is not nearly as dangerous as many people have it in their heads. Maybe it's because of the genocide done by that infamous Pol …

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