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Phnom Penh

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Phnom Penh

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The Royal Palace

Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia, located at the confluence of the Mekong and the Tonle Sap rivers. Despite its reputation as a 'rough' city, Phnom Penh is easy to get around and is a great introduction to Cambodia.


For western visitors, Phnom Penh can be a rough change. It can be very hot and (in the dry season) dusty, its infrastructure is largely lacking, and it is very poor - much poorer than, for example, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Visitors who can't handle rubbish and dust in the streets, risky traffic, blocked sidewalks, prowling tuk tuk and moto-drivers, touts and beggars may not enjoy the city.

All that said, Phnom Penh has become far more pleasant and relaxed in the past five years or so. It is striving to architecturally become more of a 'developed capital', including high rise buildings, while still retaining much of the beauty that made it a Paris of the East before 1970. The city's French colonial buildings are beautiful, so its streetscapes make for a pleasant walk.

Cambodia's Department of Land Management still allows many architectural horrors to be built, though a determined group of Khmer architects is fighting the trend. Unhappily there are few green spaces as yet.

Infrastructure is improving - fewer power outages, streets are paved, rubbish is collected more frequently. Beautiful wide boulevards, fine colonial architecture and a parklike riverfront with cafés and restaurants aplenty help make Phnom Penh a worthwhile destination for some. Not necessarily for its standard tourist sights, which are few. But as a place to relax, watch the streetlife and absorb local color, Phnom Penh rates very high among Asian cities.


Those who find find Phnom Penh's current state lacking should recall the terrible times the city has been through in recent decades. In 1975 it was choked with up to 2 million refugees from the war between the then U.S.-backed government and the Khmer Rouge, and after it fell to the Khmer Rouge, it was completely emptied of civilians and allowed to crumble for the next four years. Most of the small class of skilled professionals were murdered or driven into exile. The city fell to the Vietnamese Army in 1979, but the new Cambodian government had no money to spend on urban improvement until the peace settlement of 1992.

As Cambodia's economy has recovered a small, new rich class has arisen in Phnom Penh, and a crop of new hotels and restaurants has opened to accommodate them and the tourist trade; there is now a large gulf between the very rich and the very poor, largely due to the level of the nation's corruption. A trip to the green-domed Sorya mall will transport you to the consumerist world to which the emerging middle and upper classes aspire.


All of Phnom Penh's streets are numbered, although some major thoroughfares have names as well. The scheme is simple: odd-numbered streets run north-south, the numbers increasing as you head west from the river, and even numbers run west-east, increasing as you head south (with some exceptions, e.g. the west side of the Boeung Kak lake). House numbers, however, are quite haphazard. Don't expect houses to be numbered sequentially in a street; you might even find two completely unrelated houses with the same number in the same street.

Get in

See Cambodia | Get in for general information on getting into the country.

See Cambodia | Get in | Visas for detailed visa information.

By plane

Departure taxes
International flights: US$25

Domestic flights: US$6

Both must be paid in US dollars cash. In theory, you can pay by credit card, but the option is usually unavailable.

Phnom Penh International Airport [3] (IATA: PNH | ICAO: VDPP) is the larger of Cambodia's two international airports (the other is at Siem Reap, the gateway to Angkor Wat). There are daily flights from all major regional airports (Bangkok, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, Luang Prabang in Laos, and Hanoi via Vientiane, Laos). Airlines include Asiana Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Vietnam Airlines, Korean Air, Lao Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Thai Airways, Silk Air, Dragonair, amongst others. The Malaysian low-cost carrier Air Asia [4] has daily flights from Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. The new terminal is a thoroughly pleasant and modern facility, and features a post office, bank (including ATMs), restaurants, duty-free shop, newsstand, tourist help desk, and business center.

The airport is about 11 km from the city centre. Taxis from the public taxi stand at the airport cost a flat US$9. Pay the fare at the taxi desk inside the door exiting the terminal, at which point you will be allocated a driver. For visitors on a budget without a lot of luggage, it's worth catching an official motocycle taxi for some US$2. Alternatively you can walk out to the main road and get a Tuk Tuk for about $5.

By bus

There are bus services to Phnom Penh from Poipet (on the border with Thailand) and from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam (US$8-10, 5-6 hours), as well as from points throughout Cambodia. Two of the largest bus companies, Sorya (formerly Ho Wah Genting) and GST, both arrive and depart from the rather chaotic "station" at the southwest corner of the Central Market. Capitol Tours runs buses throughout Cambodia and onward to Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta, where they link up with Vietnam travel giant Sinh Cafe. Advance bookings are advisable, and can also be sorted out by most travel agents and guesthouses for a token fee.

Many travellers arriving from Thailand break their journey with a detour to Siem Reap, site of the ruins of Angkor. Most buses depart from/to Siem Reap in the early morning, a few more follow around noon; the journey takes about 5 hours. There are also frequent services to Sihanoukville. Basic air-con bus fares start around US$3-4; double-deckers with comfy seats, toilets, drink, food and bus-hostess charge up to US$10.

By boat

Ferries connect Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and usually take 4-5 hours; tickets for foreigners typically cost US$20-30. Many (but not all) of these ferries offer the option of sitting on the roof, which makes for a much more scenic, albeit less comfortable ride than the bus; take sunblock, a hat, and enough water to last you for several hours just in case the boat gets stuck.

Fast boats leave every morning around 8am from Chau Doc in Vietnam's Mekong Delta and take 5 hours to reach Phnom Penh. The boats make the return journey the same day and leave Phnom Penh around 1 PM arriving in Chau Doc in the early evening.

By train

There is a very slow, once-weekly passenger train service between Phnom Penh and Battambang via Pursat. The journey is scheduled to take 14 hours but may be much longer, even though the distance by rail is only 275km. It costs US$5 one-way for foreigners.

  • Phnom Penh to Battambang - Saturdays, departs 06:20, arrives 20:00
  • Battambang to Phnom Penh - Sundays, departs 06:40, arrives 19:00

update: the service is suspended indefinitely.

Get around

Phnom Penh's main streets are in good shape; however other streets and footpaths are often rutted and pot-holed, clogged with garbage, stagnant water, parked motos, sleeping people, livestock and building materials. Many smaller streets either lack signage or bear misleading signs, however, Phnom Penh is logically laid out (see orientation) and navigating the city is not difficult if you know where you're going.

  • Motorbikes (but not self-drive cars) are available for rent, however Phnom Penh traffic is chaotic and dangerous even by Asian standards: public transport (other than motorbike taxis) is safer.
  • Motorbike-taxis (motodops, motodups or simply motos in local parlance) are ubiquitous and will take you anywhere for a small fare. A trip from Sisowath Quay to Central Market costs about 2,000 riel (50 US cents). Fares are higher at night and with more than one passenger.
  • Taxis are available at a few locations - most notably outside the Foreign Correspondents Club on Sisowath Quay. Taxis do not have meters, and fares must be agreed in advance. Fares vary, due to fluctuating fuel prices; ask hotel/guesthouse staff for assistance (hotels and guesthouses will organise taxis on request).
  • Tuk-tuks Cambodian-style consist of a motorcycle with a cabin for the passengers hitched to the back. They are cheaper than taxis and offer a scenic experience of the city. Their clientele is exclusively tourists, and most drivers in tourist areas speak some English.
  • Cyclos are three-wheeled cycle-rickshaws. Considerably slower then a motodop, and gradually becoming less common in the city, they are still popular with locals and foreigners alike. The nature of the seat lends itself to a quick and easy way to transport all manner of goods from one place to another, even other cyclos and the occasional motorbike as well.
  • Walking can be a challenge, as cars and motos sometimes do not stop for pedestrians. To cross safely, judge gaps in the traffic and proceed with care - give oncoming vehicles ample time to see and avoid you, or try to cross with the brightly coloured and revered monks. On larger roads, two streams of traffic travel in each direction, totalling four streams of traffic you have to watch for: thus constant 360 surveillance is required when crossing roads. There is almost no street lighting off the major boulevards, and walking there at night is not recommended.


1. As a huge number of scarred or maimed locals can attest, motorbikes - either as rider or passenger - are the least safe alternative. On a motorbike you are exposed to the worst consequences of the city's bad drivers and appalling accident rate.

2. To obviate later disagreements, bargain a fare before you leave.

3. Sometimes the only English a driver knows is something like "Yes, no problem" - leading you to believe he knows where he is going when he does not. Most tuk tuk and moto drivers in Phnom Penh come from rural villages. Incredibly, some cannot find Sisowath Quay or Sihanouk Boulevard. Notwithstanding, drivers are not above some bluffing to get you onboard. Make sure the driver knows where he is going before getting in/on.

4. Don't leave bags or other goods exposed to snatchers on motorbikes: such thefts from tuk tuks and motorbikes are now epidemic in Phnom Penh.


Sisowath Quay as seen from FCC
  • Sisowath Quay (often known as Riverside) is an attractive boulevard running along the banks of the Mekong and Tonle Sap. It is normally fronted by a pleasant park, however this has been torn up for floodworks and re-landscaping for most of 2008. The built-up side of the street is home to cafés and shops and the better class of bar, and is popular with tourists and expat Westerners prepared to run its gauntlet of touts selling drugs, girls and tuk tuk rides. (Unhappily there is no police presence in Cambodia's prime tourist stretch.) The esplanade along the river is equally popular with Cambodians, who come here in the cool of the evening to enjoy the quasi-carnival atmosphere. It begins at the Royal Palace (or rather, at the river-front park opposite the Palace), and is perhaps best experienced in the early evening. See A Stroll on Sisowath Quay for a self-guided tour.
  • The Royal Palace and the two magnificent pagodas in the Palace Grounds, the Silver Pagoda and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, are among the few public buildings in Phnom Penh really worth seeing. They were built in the 19th century with French technology and Cambodian designs, and have survived the traumas of the 20th century amazingly intact. See them early before it gets too hot. They are in any case closed 11:00-14:00, when all sensible Cambodians take a nap. Entrance fee is US$6.25 (25000 riel) for both. No extra fee for camera. No photography is allowed inside the Silver Pagoda and some of the Palace buildings. You're expected to dress decently (no bare legs or shoulders), but you can rent sarongs and oversized T-shirts for a token 1000 riel (plus US$1 deposit) at the entrance.
  • The National Museum (opposite the Royal Palace; admission US$3). Contains an excellent collection of art from Cambodia's "golden age" of Angkor, and a lovely courtyard at the center. Main attraction is the statue of King Jayavarman VII (1181-1219) in mediation pose. Unfortunately, no photos may be taken. The pleasant little park in front of the Museum is the site of the annual Royal Ploughing Ceremony, at which the success or otherwise of the coming harvest is determined. You may have heard stories of sightseers carrying umbrellas inside to avoid showers of bat droppings, but alas (?), the bats moved out after the renovation of 2002.
  • Wat Phnom (admission US$1) is on a hill at the center of a small park near Sisowath Quay, on St. 94. The temple itself is notable more for its historic importance than what you'll see there today, but the park is a pleasant green space and a popular gathering place for locals. A few monkeys keep quarters there as well and will help themselves to any drinks you leave unattended. If you like, take a ride on the elephant there. His owner is kind of inventory of Wat Phnom and always nice to tourists. However one circuit of the wat costs $US15, so this attraction is apparently pitched at wealthier tourists. Wat Botum, about three kilometres south near the Royal Palace, was historically the wat favoured by royalty. In the 1930s it housed a charming young novice named Saloth Sar, who "never caused anyone any trouble, never started fights - a lovely child". Later in life he changed his name to Pol Pot.
  • Independence and Liberation memorials - impressive Buddhist-style Independence Memorial, commemorating the departure of the French in 1953, dominates the centre of the city. Nearby is the very ugly Stalin-style Liberation Memorial, marking the Vietnamese capture of the city in 1979. Although the Cambodians were glad to see the back of the Khmer Rouge, they don't like the Vietnamese much either, and have demonstrated this by neglecting the memorial for 20 years. It seems to be used mainly as a convenient urinal.
Tuol Sleng Prison
  • Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21) (Street 113, Boeng Keng Kang 3, Chamkar Morn, Phnom Penh; tel. 855-23-300-698, fax 855-23-210-358) [5] was a school converted into Cambodia's most important prison in 1975. More than 14,000 people were tortured here before being killed at the Killing Fields south of Phnom Penh; only 8 prisoners made it out alive. The museum is easily accessible and a must-see for everyone interested in Cambodia's horrific recent past. The infamous "skull map" has been dismantled, although there are still skulls stacked in cabinets, implements of torture and disturbing photographs. For a introduction and further reading, try David Chandler's "Voices from S-21" (ISBN 0520222474). Documentary movie "S-21" can be purchased throughout Phnom Penh for US$1.50-2.
  • The Documentation Center of Cambodia (66 Preah Sihanouk Blvd. P.O. Box 1110 Phnom Penh; tel. 855-23-211-875, fax 855-23-210-358) [6] manages the museum as part of its mission to record the history of the Khmer Rouge, and gather evidence against Khmer Rouge leaders.
The Killing Fields
  • The Killing Fields at Cheoung Ek (entrance fee US$2), about 17km south of Phnom Penh, is where the Khmer Rouge killed many thousands of their victims during their four-year reign of terror. Today the site is marked by a Buddhist stupa packed full of human skulls - the sides are made of glass so the visitors can see them up close. There are also pits in the area where mass graves were unearthed. It is a serene yet somber place.
  • The Olympic Stadium Built in the 1960s for an Asian Games that never happened, this interesting complex in the Modern style has been sold off to the Taiwanese, in a murky deal by the Cambodian government. The new owners have not kept to pledges to renovate it, thus it remains a shabby shadow of its former self. However in the evenings a walk around the top perimeter is worthwhile: you can see hundreds attending exercise and dance classes, and get a view of the abandoned track below.
  • Stung Meanchey Garbage Dump, where hundreds of the poorest of the poor, including many small children, swarm over the refuse (which includes burning plastic and syringes) hoping to find anything of value. In addition to - or instead of - visiting the dump, you can stop by the impressive French NGO, "Pour sourire un enfant" [7] nearby, which takes in thousands of adolescents from the dump and its surrounding areas, and sends them out into the world two or three years later fluent in English and French, and more sought-after by employers than university graduates. PSE staff will give you a guided tour of their learning centre on request. PSE is also in need of foreign volunteer teachers who can commit a little time.
  • Phnom Penh's many orphanages are frequently visited by foreigners wanting to help out with time, money, food, school books, etc. But many are exploitative and poorly run. (Your money goes to the owner rather than the kids.) Try to get a reference to a 'legit' orphanage before showing up; and preferably phone first to learn a non-disruptive time to drop in. Cambodian childen are sheer delight, and none more so than its orphans. For many Westerners, time spent hanging out with orphaned kids is the high-point of their visit to Phnom Penh.



  • Hash House Harriers running club meets every Sunday at 2.45pm at the railway station.
  • Khmer massage, US$3 for 1 hour @ Apsara - 13 Ph. 63 (0900-2100hrs, 7 days a week). Tel: 092 294 024. Beware: although the price had an official quote in English, you may have to bargain to get the real price. Offers the local Khmer massage - a relaxing form distantly related to Thai massage. The massage environment is extremely cosy and you will even get a free platter of fruit after your massage is over.
  • Lighthouse Orphanage, Around 25 minutes from the center of Phnom Penh lies this small orphanage housing 70-80 Khmers aged from 1 year through to 18 years. Visitors are always extremely welcome at this completely independent organisation - expect to be greeted with smiles and handshakes from staff, quickly followed by a tour. However one should take some form of donation, ideally a bag of rice (ie. 50kg). (Sweets are not allowed.) If using a Tuk Tuk to get out there, the driver will be more than happy to show you something to pick up along the way. The children at Lighthouse love nothing more to have a chat and practice their english/french/japanese with you, have a game of soccer, or even just pose for a few photos. Do however think about the consequences of visiting an orphanage as a "tourist attraction". Respect the children's privacy and do not disturb their lessons. [1].
  • Mekong Cruises - boats leave every evening for a river cruise. Many provide snacks or dinners at sunset.
  • Mekong Island - a nice trip across Phnom Penh to enjoy rural life and see weaving households in a rural area.
  • Meta House Art gallery, bar, mini-cinema and production house. Shows free, high quality foreign and Cambodian films Tuesday to Sunday nights at 7pm, in the bar-lounge on the roof. N° 6, Phuong (St. 264), opposite Wat Botum.
  • French Cultural Centre movies [8] - Less English subtitles than there once were, plus an incomprehensible schedule and website (even the CCF staff can't decipher them), have now put these excellent movies out of reach of all but the most determined Anglophone.

  • Thunder Ranch shooting range, near Cheoung Ek. Moto drivers, apparently oblivious to the reaction most visitors have, will try to include this in a trip to the killing fields. Rumors abound that cows and other farm animals used to serve as targets, but this is probably no longer the case. Prices range from US$40 for an AK-47 to US$200 for a rocket launcher.


When shopping in Phnom Penh, be sure to look for businesses that display the Heritage Friendly Business Logo. Heritage Watch has launched a campaign that aims to encourage support for Cambodia's arts, culture, heritage and development. Businesses that are giving back to the community are certified as Heritage Friendly by the independent organization and permitted to display either a gold or silver Heritage Friendly logo. Look for the logo to ensure that you are supporting socially responsible corporate citizens!

Most things you buy in Cambodia will be of dubious quality: this especially applies to electronic goods of any kind. At least a third of anything electronic will cease to work within days, if it ever does.

As elsewhere in Cambodia, transactions are made in US dollars and in Cambodian riel, and only upmarket places will accept plastic (normally with a 3 percent surcharge). Take lots of low denomination US notes - notes above US$20 can be difficult to change. In place of coins you will get back riel, at a set exchange rate of 4000 to the dollar. There are a number of international ATM machines dispensing US currency around the city, including the Sisowath Quay tourist strip and in Sorya Market. They also work with international maestro cards. You can change USD into smaller denominations at the currency booths along the footpath on Sisowath.

Note that cashing traveller's cheques can be a big problem, and even major banks may refuse to exchange traveller's cheques of value above US$100.

Popular tourist buys include Cambodian silk, local silverware, traditional handicrafts and curios (including Buddha figures), and made-to-order clothes. (These are often of good quality, unlike electronic goods.)

Beware that DVDs and CDs you buy in Phnom Penh have a minimum 33% failure rate; with sunglasses bought from roaming street vendors it is 100%. Watches also approach 100%, including those bought in the Central Market. Pirated books are widely available from street sellers, but spend a minute or so leafing through the book before buying: sometimes they lack contents pages; or pages are in the wrong order, or missing; or the book inside the cover is not the book described on the cover.

The Art Deco dome of the Central Market
  • Central Market (in Cambodian called Psar Thmei - "New Market") is a 1930s Art Deco covered market near the Riverfront (Sisowath Quay) district. The market is well set out, and sells everything from flowers to video games. Sorya Mall, currently Phnom Penh's main Western-style mall, is nearby - less colorful than the traditional markets, but it is air-conditioned and contains a range of cheap fast-food outlets as well as a well-stocked supermarket named Lucky Supermarket. If looking for Sorya, go SOUTH of the Central Market. It's on a north-south street on the west side. Asking anyone in the Central Market will be futile, however they DO understand "Sorya". On the south-west edge of town is the even newer Sovanna mall. Freezing aircon and modern shops make this popular too, though the food court has given some Westerners food poisoning.
  • Russian Market (Cambodian "Psar Toul Tom Poung" - it gained the "Russian Market" moniker following the Vietnamese occupation of the city in the 1980s, but many motodops are not familiar with the name) offers the opportunity to buy REAL designer clothes at a huge discount price. A lot of the factories for Levi's, CK, Ralph Lauren and many other brands is in Phnom Pehn, however a lot of the clothes sold here are deemed unfit to be shipped abroad due to very small fault in the clothing which a majority of people wouldn't even notice, therefore they are sold at the Russian market. You can also purchase fake swiss watches and pirated software at low prices. It also has the best ice coffee in the city. Russian Market is located away from normal tourist areas, but motodop drivers who cater to tourists will know it.

Street 178, just north of the National Museum, is known as Artist Street and has many interesting boutiques.

  • Colors of Cambodia, 373 Sisowath Quay. Handicrafts from around the country.
  • Kravan House, #13 St. 178. Has a wide range of Cambodian silk products, including a wide range of ladies' handbags at a fraction of the price you would pay in a hotel gift shop.
  • Stef's Happy Painting, Sisowath Quay (near St. 178, directly under FCC), [9]. Features brightly-colored fun and funky paintings of Cambodian life - a welcome relief after visiting some of Cambodia's more heart-breaking attractions.

Antiques dealers in Phnom Penh are an unscrupulous lot and may sell goods that theoretically should not be exported from Cambodia. See Heritage Watch [10] for listings of bad apples. For better or worse, however, most of the "antiques" being sold are fake.

  • Hidden Treasures, #9 Street 148, has antiques, art and curios from Cambodia's past and nearby South-East Asian cultures.
  • Monument Books, [11] #111 Norodom Boulevard (near Independence Monument), has a focus on books about and from Cambodia - e.g. Angkor Wat, Khmer Rouge Regime, Cambodia history - in many languages. You can also get a good tea or coffee and cake there. A nice place to sip and read without being pestered.


Phnom Penh offers some interesting culinary treats you won't find elsewhere in the country. Many of these include French-influenced dining as well as Thai, Vietnamese, and modern takes on traditional Cambodian dishes. The standard pizza-banana pancake-fried rice backpacker fare is also always easy to find.

The best area to wander is along the riverfront where everything from stand-up stalls to fine French bistros can be found. Take great care eating from stalls, however. Peeled fruit and vegetables and anything uncooked should be regarded with suspicion.


Take the cross river ferry to sit on mats and eat cheap hawker food while watching the sunset over the city.

  • Camory Cookie Boutique, 167 Sisowath Quay (between St. 110 and 118), (), [2]. 9am to 8.30pm. A cafe-cum-development project that trains chefs and plows back money into humanitarian causes. The Sreh T'nout cookie, made from a rich combo of chocolate, nuts and palm sugar, is their best seller.
  • Chenla Restaurant, #13 Street 278, is a non-profit restaurant which employs poor students from the Phnom Penh area. Great Cambodian mains from US$2-3 and large fruit shakes for less than US$1. Go for a meal and enjoy the after dinner conversation with the enthusiastic servers who like to practice their english!
  • Home Away From Home, Street 93, is a small family run restaurant. Dishes are around US$2-3 and service is very friendly, but you may have to be patient if a bunch of people just ordered before you.
  • Jungle Bar and Grill [12], 273B Sisowath Quay, next to Riverside Bistro, has a varied international menu at very reasonable prices and a great happy hour. Free Internet and a great music selection.
  • La Croisette, corner of Sisowath Quay and Street 144, is a French sidewalk café that's open all day.
  • Setsara Thai Restaurant, #3D Street 278, is a very nice little Thai restaurant with a really good Thai chef, good music, reasonable prices and good service though a bit slow sometimes. They have some good French specialties as well.


  • Amok Restaurant & Cafe, 2 St 278, near Independence monument Phnom Penh. Telephone: (012) 912 319. Nice cozy decor, with open air sitting. The traditional Khmer dishes are excellent, and other items on the menu are good too. The classic fish amok is extremely well done, and the servings are large.
  • Anise, 57th St near corner of Sihanouk, is very comfortable with free wi-fi - but has rather ordinary food (e.g. fish and chips out of a packet), which is a little over-priced.
  • Bali Café, 379 Sisowath Quay, has pretty good Indonesian food, along with Asian/Thai/Khmer and Western fare. Try the Tahu Telur (fried tofu with eggs). Be careful ordering water or you'll get the small plastic bottle of Evian - at US$3!
  • Cafe Yejj, #170 Street 450, offers sidewalk seating and indoor seating both ground level and second floor. Reasonably-priced pasta, panini, burritos and local (Cambodian food). Particiaptes in breaking the cycle of poverty by training women-at-risk as employees. Service very good. VERY clean bathroom upstairs. Most dishes less than US$4.00. Located at the southeast corner of the Russian Market, less than 50 feet east of the corner of Streets 155 & 450. Sit inside if you do not want to be bothered by beggars. (October 2007)
  • Equinox [13] on Street 278 (near Street 51) has now opened a pretty good restaurant. Pizzas, baguettes, burgers, pastas and some more western specialities on the menu. Great indoor outdoor ambiance. Meat and salads come from a local organization who encourage and teach farmers in organic growing methods.
  • Friends Restaurant, #215 Street 13 (50m north of the National Museum) is run by and for a non-profit that rehabilitates Cambodia's street children, and does delicious international tapas and main dishes.
  • Frizz restaurant, #67, Street 240 [14] has traditional Cambodian cuisine, and also operates the Cambodia Cooking Class [15].
  • Garden Center Café, #23 Street 57 [16] is a garden setting café/restaurant that's popular with local ex-pats.
  • Khmer Surin, #11 Street 57 (south of Sihanouk Boulevard) is a rather romantic restaurant that serves delicious Khmer and Thai food. The traditional Khmer seafood dish, amok, stands out.
  • Lazy Gecko, #23B Street 93, Boeung Kak Lake, does a REALLY good hamburger.
  • Le Duo, Street 322 (between Monivong and Street 63) has excellent Italian food. Sicilian-born Luigi makes great pastas and pizzas.
  • Metro Café, on the corner of Sisowath Quay and Street 148 (opposite Riverside Bistro), is a stylish fusion of Asian and Western culture. Air-con. Good selection of small tapas-style dishes from US$1 and a great steak (about US$12). Free wi-fi.
  • Paris Bubble Tea, 285-287 Preah Monivong (not far from the New York Hotel) tel 023 990 373; is pleasant and has fun and refreshing Bubble Tea. Try the classic Pearl Milk Tea.
  • Riverside Bistro, #273a Sisowath Quay [17] occupies an old colonial style building and features comfortable outdoor dining with brilliant views of the Tonle Sap. Popular with local expats, tourists and local affluent Khmers. Try Khmer's "root of lotus".


  • 102, 1A, St. 102 (one block south of Le Royal), tel. 023-990-880. Probably Phnom Penh's top French restaurant, set in a modern, European-style surroundings. The food is quite competent and the onion soup is superb. Almost entirely undiscovered by tourists but popular with Phnom Penh's moneyed elite, so reservations recommended. US$30.
  • FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club), 363 Sisowath Quay. Modern colonial-style charm, superb views of the river and is a favourite expat hang-out that does particularly good desserts. Their signature cocktails, Tonle Sap Breezer and Burmese Rum Sour (US$4.50 each), are also worth a quaff.
  • Le Bistrot, #4D, Street 29 - French and Italian in an old villa.
  • Xiang Palace (Hotel Intercontinental) Chinese - expensive fine dining, dim sum.


Superficial security
Most of the time, Phnom Penh bars and clubs are safe enough and a lot of fun - however, some of the more "hip" places are popular with the notorious local "elite" youth (and their minders) who carry firearms and other weapons, and who are allowed to pass through so-called "security" checks without being searched.

Places to hang out after dark include Street 104, Street 278, and Street 108 around the Street 51 corner, which all feature restaurant bars, hostess bars, and guesthouses.

  • 69 Bar , [18] Popular dance orientated hostess bar, bar top and balcony dancing.
  • Barbados, south of Street 104 near the river, is a hostess bar. Buy 5 beers and get 1 free.
  • DV8 Bar [19] on Street 148 (near the riverfront) is a popular hostess bar with a good selection of spirits and company.
  • Elephant Bar, Raffles Le Royal. The classy bar at the classiest hotel in town, with frescos on the ceiling and live piano in the evenings. Try the Femme Fatale, a mix of cognac and champagne dreamed up for Jacqui Kennedy in 1967. Expensive.
  • Elsewhere on Street 51 is an ex-pat hang-out with platform seating surrounding a small pool, in a French colonial villa. Big party first Friday of every month, when the place is packed.
  • Equinox [20] on Street 278 (near Street 51) is a cocktail bar featuring paintings by local artist Soumey and photo exhibits by Isabelle Lesser, gaming room with a pool table and the unique bonzini foosball table of Phnom Penh, cool tunes, good food. Increasingly popular with expats.
  • FCC and Guesthouse on Sisowath Quay, overlooking the river. Excellent place to meet professionals and travelling people. Happy hour 5-7pm.
  • Golden Vine on street 108 next to VooDoo Lounge. Hostess bar with pole dancing and good food. Sunday roast recommended.
  • Green Vespa at 95 Sisowath Quay (near street 102). Open from 6am - late. Friendly pub and great single malt collection.
  • Heart of Darkness has long been the most infamous nightclub in Phnom Penh, closed in August 2005 after a patron was shot to death but is now back in business. Some seating is reserved for well-heeled (gangster elite) Phnom Penh local youth, so move if you are asked. While certainly not the safest place in the world, more nights go by without incident than not. A number of expats avoid it now, however. Saturday nights are always packed.
  • Martini Pub & Disco on Street 95 (one block off Monivong Blvd, across from the Total Gas Station) is an infamous girlie bar. Two full bars, food US$2-6, burgers & fries, pizza, Asian dishes, gaming room, disco, outdoor big-screen showing movies or sports. There some copycat Martini bars in other places like Sihanoukeville and Siem Reap, but this is the original. A place for single men and loose ladies.
  • Monsoon Wine Bar on Street 104 is an intimate, cosy wine bar. Try a glass of wine from the well-chosen international wine list or nibble on something from the small but excellent Pakistani menu. Chilled vibe, cool tunes, friendly service.

A note on hostess bars
Surveys have found that the HIV rate among Cambodian female sex workers is 25%.

  • OneZeroFour Bar [21] on Street 104 is a popular low-key hostess bar. The bar has a good range of single malt whiskeys.
  • One3Six Bar Located on Street 136. A popular hostess bar.Great range of drinks plus they keep their 42 Below and Grey Goose Vodka in the freezer, so the shots are real smooth.
  • Pit Stop on Street 51 is a popular hostess bar.
  • Rubies on Street 240 is a wine bar favoured by young ex-pats working for local NGOs. Busy with a cliquey atmosphere on a weekend night.
  • Sharky's Bar & Restaurant, #126 Street 130, Phnom Penh [22] Since its opening in 1995, Sharky's has been rocking & rolling. Located upstairs on the first floor above street level, Sharky's boasts a large space, huge center bar, outside balcony, and plenty of available seating. Most moto taxis will understand "Shockeee Bah". It's about three 1/2 blocks from the "Psar Thmei" (new market).
  • Sugar Shack [23] on Sothearos (the street in front of the National Museum and Palace) is a classy little hostess bar featuring a nice selection of wines, champagnes and single malts.
  • UpDownbar, Located on Street 136, across the famous 136 bar. Relaxed atmosphere, with a bar upstairs and groundfloor.
  • VooDoo Lounge on Street 51 near street 108 is a new bar with a great range of drinks, nice decor, air-con, happy hostesses, and a pool table. Two other hostess bars nearby.
  • Walkabout on Street 51 has food and good pool tables. Many freelance girls congregate here. Popular after hours bar, also has rooms available. Open 24 hours.
  • Zanzibar on Street 104 is high energy hostess bar with reasonable prices and a pool table upstairs, that's very popular among expats.
  • Zapata Bar on Street 108 next to VooDoo Lounge is a stylish air-con hostess bar with a good range of drinks, and no pool table or food to distract you from the lovely ladies.


Phnom Penh has a wide variety of accommodation, ranging from budget guesthouses (about US$5-20) through good quality mid-range hotels (US$20-50) to extravagant palaces (with extravagant prices to match).


Boeung Kak Lake, Phnom Penh

Low-cost backpacker accommodation is becoming more abundant by the week. Most is clustered either near the riverfront or at Boeung Kak Lake.

  • Chiva's Shack Guesthouse & Bar, #8, St. 130 (40m from riverside) Tel: 012 961073/012 360911 [24] is one of the newest low-cost guesthouses just off the Riverside. It has a great hang out area with tv, and wide selection of movies, games. The bar is reasonalbly priced, and has a pool table which is free to use. Be sure to visit their other location on the coast in Sihanouk Ville, a beach bar and restaurant with guesthouse attatched. Wild beach parties and great sunsets.
  • DV8 Guesthouse & Bar, #7 Street 148; 012 776 885 [25] is the legendary small boutique guesthouse located just off the riverfront; ground floor bar, second floor pool table. Rooms US$5-25.
  • King Guesthouse, 141th Street, off Sihanouk Avenue; tel. 012 220 512; has ample rooms available to suit your budget. Provides own daily bus service to and from Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Number Nine Guesthouse, #9 Street 93 Boeung Kak Lake; tel. 012 766 225 / 012 935 813 - well known and popular. Excellent sunsets by the lake. Rooms US$2-4
  • Number Nine Sister Guesthouse, tel. 012 424 240 - just around the corner from, but not as nice as, the original.
  • Rory's Guesthouse, #33 Street 178 (facing the Royal Palace and National Museum and 100 meters from the riverfront) tel. 012 425 702 [26] - rooms US$10-30.
  • Simon's Guesthouse, #11 Street 93 Boeung Kak Lake, tel. 012 884 650. Tricky to find but the layout of the rooms (with bathrooms or shared) allows for a nice, cool breeze. Rooms US$2-3.
  • Simon II Guesthouse, next to Simon's. The only place at the lakeside offering comfortable rooms with aircon and proper bathrooms. But here you pay more: US$12 and up.
  • Top Banana Guesthouse, #2 Street 278 [27] - A very laid back guesthouse with a cozy, sociable atmosphere and friendly staff. Rooms for as low as five dollars a night, and surprisingly good food. Just tell the moto to take you to Wat Lanka.
  • Capitol 3 Guesthouse, #207Eo, Street 107, Sangkat Beng Prolit, 7 Makara, Phnom Penh; tel. 023 211 027. Next to the Capitol Tours office and a terrific value at US$4 per night. Warm, friendly staff and quick laundry service. Five floors of squeaky-clean rooms that are out of the direct sunlight and never seem to get too hot - no elevators, though.


  • Cambodia Uncovered,[28] located in Boeng Keng Kong, St 370, 11B, this great boutique accommodation in central Phnom Penh offers a self-contained apartment for up to 4 people, along with satellite TV, DVD player, small veranda. Rooms are $50 single, $60 double, including breakfast. Advanced booking required. Also arranges off the beaten track boat trips, up-country travel, and cooking classes. Phone: (+855) 012507097 email: [email protected]
  • Frangipani Villas: Frangipani Villa-60s located at #20R, Street 252, Sangkat Chaktomuk, Khan Daun Penh (near Pizza World) & Frangipani Villa-90s at #25, Street 71, Tel: +855 (0) 12 687717, +855 (0) 23212 100, [29]. 1960s building with small garden and granito bathroom. Clean, environmental friendly, free hi-speed Internet access in each room, free laundry, breakfast. US$30-60.
  • Golden Gate Hotel, #9 Street 278, Sangkat Beng Keng Kang 1, Khan Chamkarmorn (near the Independence Monument) tel. +855 23 427618, [30]. US$15-40.
  • Paragon Hotel, 219B Sisowath Quay. Riverfront, near lots of good cafés. Rooms have bathroom, air-con, tv, fridge. No breakfast, but close to restaurants that serve breakfast. US$15-30.
  • The Pavilion, 227, st 19 near the Royal Palace [31]. Colonial building from 1920, lush garden, swimming pool, jacuzzi, free Wi-Fi, some rooms with private swimming pools. US$50-80. (New sister property Blue Lime: see rates and information on Pavilion website).
  • Blue Lime, 42 St 19Z (off St 19) down a little alley across the street from the Royal Institute of Fine Arts, which is at the back of the National Museum. [32]. The Blue Lime is a 14-room urban accommodation, with a lush exotic garden and a swimming pool, centrally located, between National Museum and Royal Palace. The rooms, garden and pool are modern minimalist, with concrete furniture, all covered by a free 1Mb/s wi-fi. US$40-50.
  • Hotel Cara[33], 18 Street 47 & 84 Sangkat Srass Chork, tel +855 23.430.066. A very nice hotel near of the river and port. Good rooms with hot shower, tv and a quite ambient. Some rooms with balcony. The front rooms may get noisy because of the main road, but the rooms opening on the side street are much better. One can ask the booking desk while making reservations. Very helpful staff. Free Internet access in the office area near the lobby but the breakfast is poor. US$ 35-50.
  • the billabong hotel[34], 5 Street 158, Sangkat Boeung Raing tel +855 23.223.703. Truly an oasis in the heart of the city. Swimming pool, well appointed rooms. Breakfast included. Alfresco dining poolside. US$ 36-65.
  • PKD1 Guesthouse[35], No. 40 Street 136 tel +855 12 769920. Clean and secure accommodation, fan or aircon, ensuite bathrooms, cable TV and Refrigerator. Just off the Riverside. US$ 10-15.
  • California 2 Guesthouse, 317 Sisowath Quay (on the riverfront, close to Wat Ounalom) [36] has nice clean rooms with bathroom, air-con, 'fridge, TV. Laundry service, free breakfast. US$15-25. Closed as of May, 2008, but their website says they are trying to reopen in another location.


There are a surprising number of 4 and 5 star hotels in Phnom Penh.

  • Intercontinental Hotel, Mao Tse Tung Blvd. A favourite among visiting dignitaries, but rather out of the way in the southwest corner of the city.
  • Phnom Penh Hotel, Monivong Blvd (just south of the French Embassy). Newly renovated with very nicely appointed rooms and suites.
  • Raffles Le Royal, 92 Rukhak Vithei Daun Penh (off Monivong Blvd), tel. +855 23 981 888, fax. +855 23 981 168, [37]. Phnom Penh's grand old hotel, originally built in 1929 by the French, used as a dry fish store by the Khmer Rouge but given a loving redecoration by the Raffles group in 1999. Walking distance to Wat Phnom and the river, excellent service, wonderful attention to detail and the "Landmark" rooms in the old wing still use bathtubs and even light switches from 1929 (plus broadband Internet and walk-in showers). US$150/300 low/high season.



Cheap SIM cards for GSM phones are available on almost any major street. A vendor should have an activated test card to be used to make sure your phone will operate on that network. Calls between mobile networks can be be spotty and Skype calls from abroad to mobiles in Cambodia are sometimes dropped, so be prepared to redial frequently.

It's now easier than ever to buy a sim card in Phnom Penh, just have your passport and expect to pay no more than $10. There are plenty of phone stalls around central market. Mobitel has the best coverage around the whole of Cambodia and seems to have cheaper calls. Be warned when sending and recieveing international SMS's and Calls as they only have about a 50% sucess rate of being recieved.


There is no shortage of Internet cafés in Phnom Penh. Most are in the 1,500 riel/hour bracket (a little under 50 US cents), but provide slow service, suffer occasional power outages and do not run firewalls or anti-virus programs.

  • Sunny Internet, 178 Street (opp Foreign Correspondents Club), also Sisowath Quay (next to the Riverstreet restaurant). Provides a faster service at US$1/hour and is popular with tourists and expats.
  • Galaxy Web, Street 63, near Sihanouk Boulevard. Excellent service, popular with Westerners.

Wireless and wired connections for laptops are available at a number of outlets - most five-star hotels (which provide high-speed broadband access, but at a premium), and a number of cafés along Sisowath Quay including the Foreign Correspondents Club (expensive), Fresco Café (under the FCC, also expensive), K-West Café (at the Amanjaya Hotel), the Jungle Bar and Grill, and Phnom Penh Café (near Paragon Hotel) and Metro Cafe (free).


Stay healthy

In seeking medical help in Phnom Penh, the groundrule should be: Ascertain that the doctor has a Western medical degree. If not, get out of there: local training is poor, and treatment is sometimes fatal. The medical standard of the local hospitals can be very basic as well. This also applies to Calmette Hospital - the number one hospital in Phnom Penh. If you need to see a doctor it is recommended you go to one of the international clinics. They can also arrange transfer to a hospital in Thailand if necessary.

  • American Medical Centre, #313 Sisowath (in the Hotel Cambodiana), 023 991 863 and 012 891 613 (out of office hours), provides health care of international standard.
  • Dr Marissa Regino-Manampan. Filipino MD @ 262B, Street 63. Clinic phone: 023-217 349.
  • International SOS medical and dental clinic, #161, St. 51 (Pasteur), 023 216 911, has local and foreign doctors providing the whole range of standard health care as well as a 24h emergency service.
  • Naga Clinic. N° 11, Senei Vinna Vaut Oum (St. 254), Tel: 023-211 300, Mobile: 011-811 175. Some of the Khmer doctors here are foreign-trained and competent - but a little abrupt and uncommunicative (in the Asian doctor style). The two French doctors are both competent and communicative, and tend to be favoured by expats. One of them, Dr Garen, speaks good English.

" Royal Rattanak Hospital", No 11, Street 592,Boeung Kak 2, Toul Kok, Phone 023-365-555. The second hospital of BDMS(Bangkok Dusit Medical Services PCL )in Cambodia. The hospital had been operated since March 2008,became the private hospital in Phnom Penh that is internationally renowned for the best patient care modern medicine has to offer.The hospital provides full operating secondary health care services including : Emergency medicine, General Surgery, Plastic Surgery, Orthopedic Surgery, Anesthesiology, Pediatrics, OBGYN, General internal medicine, Intensive care, Rehabilitation and Health Promotion etc.

As in most developing world countries, avoiding cold, cooked food is desirable to obviate stomach upsets. Salads and ice are also suspect at times.

Bring your largest pair of sunglasses, as Phnom Penh is dusty year-round (even to a degree in the wet season), and riding round in tuk tuks means a lot of the dust ends up in your eyes.

Stay safe

Crime-wise, Phnom Penh has a partly deserved bad reputation. In terms of armed robbery you are safer now than before - but not exactly safe. As population and incomes have grown, so has vehicle ownership - but not driving skills - meaning the city's roads are its most dangerous places. Augmenting that danger is the present wave of bag-snatching.

Armed robbery

There are still more bad guys with guns than in some Asian cities. Official figures (almost certainly underestimates) report an average of 50 incidents per month (Cambodians and foreigners), leading to 5 deaths and 10 serious injuries. Most commonly Cambodians are victimised for their cell phones or motorbikes. As of June 2008, Phnom Penh's Expat Advisory website reported a resurgence of armed robberies against foreigners - usually women - involving motorbikes with young men on them carrying knives or guns. (Often around Streets 51 and 57 in the wealthier area of town - but it can happen anywhere.) Avoid walking in quiet areas at night, try to find a dependable tuk-tuk driver, and don't carry unnecessary valuables or cash.

Additionally, there is street violence between groups of young men to watch out for; and the occasional street shooting. A man was recently shot dead on the dancefloor at The Golden Beach nightclub for bumping another dancer (burly security guards now flank the dancefloor); and on the first Sunday in July, 2008, a wealthy Phnom Penh resident's bodyguard opened fire on a tuk tuk driver in the middle of Riverside (Sisowath Quay) - Phnom Penh's busiest tourist street - after their vehicles collided. The shooter missed the tuk tuk driver, but hit a passing moto driver in the leg. (The police found that nothing was amiss, and sent the participants on their ways.)

Bag snatching

In recent times Phnom Penh has endured a wave of bag-snatching. In early 2008 The Phnom Penh Post reported - and many foreign residents attested to - a large upsurge in this crime, both in broad daylight and at night; in crowded streets and deserted ones alike. The victims are almost entirely Western women riding in tuk tuks or on motorbikes (either as passengers or drivers).

Sometimes these incidents are violent, with women dragged off moving motorbikes and thrown to the road. In November 2007, a 28-year-old French woman named Aurelia Lacroix was killed in one of these attacks - though Aurelia's death is just the tip of the iceberg.

When targeting pedestrians, thieves grab bags, or snatch mobile phones and purses out of hands.

If you must carry a bag - and preferably don't - when using motodops put it between you and the driver. In tuk-tuks put it under your seat. Apart from their appalling road safety record, motorbikes do not allow you to protect your bag as well as you can in a four-wheel vehicle.

Bag-snatching happens all over Phnom Penh, including outside popular expat hang-outs (e.g. Elsewhere) on weekend nights. Some moto drivers may be in league with the thieves. Moto drivers who work the riverside are generally quite reliable.

Unsafe sex

Most girlie bars catering to foreigners are in the cross-streets going back off the river, and there are dozens. Freelance girls are picked up at establishments like Heart of Darkness, Sharkeys Bar and Martini Bar.

Thus another Phnom Penh danger is HIV, which surveys reveal is carried by about one-quarter of Cambodia's female sex workers.

Additionally, certain high-risk sexual behaviours are emerging in recent Cambodian population studies: nearly 100% of men who have sex with men (MSM) also have sex with women; a new class of 'hidden' sex workers, such as beer girls and park-based prostitutes, is often out of reach of educators; there is very low condom-use among 'sweethearts', and many Cambodians have multiple sweethearts in one year; male clients persuade or force prostitutes not to wear condoms. (This happens to 67% of Cambodian prostitutes every week!)

On top of this, as of the first half of 2008 - according to interviewees in The Phnom Penh Post - the police have begun closing down brothels and beating up and raping prostitutes. This in turn is driving the trade underground, and thus into more dangerous waters where educators cannot reach.

NGOs have got the HIV rate down from around 2% to around 1% over the past decade. But it's possible these emerging behaviours will cause that to reverse.

If you engage in paid sex, use a condom - with water-based lubricant if needed - without fail. Have the necessaries ready in your room (or pocket) before you embark on a night out drinking: condoms can be hard to find at 2am with a number of bottles of beer onboard, but if you're in need, ask a driver to take you to a 7-11 or 24 hour shop.

The Asian-made condoms onsale everywhere - such as the Japanese brand Okamoto - are too small for most Western men. Your bargirl will often refuse to have sex with you if the condom doesn't fit right; and if she doesn't refuse, you are in danger.

If you don't know where to find a larger brand and size, you can buy Durex size 52.5's at the pharmacy one block behind the FCC, on the corner. (Or any such pharmacy with a large green neon cross.)


The worst area is the tourist strip along the river - where some Phnom Penh residents won't venture, for that reason. Here drivers tout not only rides, but massage, sex and drugs. However, most will accept a simple "No thanks" or two, or similar polite dismissal. They may want to engage in further conversation, but a polite, positive, dismisssive attitude will almost always guarantee being left alone in few moments these days. About the only place visitors will be bothered to any reasonable extent in 2009 is in the Riverside-area or the places most frequented by tourists. Older or disabled beggars in the market or other places will be happy or overjoyed to accept half or a quarter dollar (2000/1000 riel), and some older people might even try to invoke a blessing on you on the spot for your actions. Younger kids with modern needs may want a dollar, or try to sell you a (pirated) book that costs around five dollars.

There have also been instances of gangs of Vietnamese boys in this area who cause trouble such as pickpocketing and physically abusing tourists. Sadly, some foreign visitors cut short their stays in Phnom Penh after a day or two of such harassment.


Having said all that, the greatest danger in Phnom Penh is none of the above: it is getting hit by a motorbike - or thrown off one - in the city's unpredictable traffic.

Cambodia has arguably the worst drivers in Southeast Asia. Although traffic tends to be slower than Bangkok's and less dense than Saigon's, it is literally all over the road: two streams going in each direction at any one time; plus endless switching from one stream to the other.

Crossing the road in this city is dangerous. Constant 360 degree vigilance is essential.

Using motorbike taxis, or riding your own motorbike, in the stead of tuk tuks, will save you a few dollars a week. However an airlift to a Bangkok hospital will quickly make that seem like a false economy.


Get out

Sihanoukville, Battambang, Siem Reap and Angkor are within a few hours' reach; see above. Some companies also offer services to Kampot and Bokor National Park.

Several tour companies offer day-trips to Tonle Bati, which includes Ta Prohm, an Angkor-era temple not to be mistaken for the Angkor-area temple of the same name.

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