Phnom Penh is the vibrant capital city of Cambodia. It is known for its rich history, cultural heritage, and bustling urban atmosphere. It lies at the confluence of the Mekong, Tonle Sap, and Bassac rivers, Phnom Penh offers a fascinating blend of traditional Khmer architecture, colonial influences, and modern developments. In this article, we will make a complete overview of Phnom Penh for tourists.
I arrived in Phnom Penh following the Mekong River on a boat in the middle of a storm. just getting there is a proper adventure that you will enjoy there and still many years after recalling it. My first impression was very positive, the center has a lot of places for fun. After some days though, especially if you come from Vietnam, you will understand that the richness of this country is not as good as it should be. Many very young street sellers sold out everything for one dollar and cripple beggars frequently asked for money at their corners.
Nevertheless, the development arrives bit by bit. The city has seen increased investment, infrastructure improvements, and a rise in tourism, which has contributed to its overall economic progress. While there are still areas of poverty and inequality, particularly in urban slums, the city has also witnessed a burgeoning middle class and an expanding urban economy.
When visiting Phnom Penh as a tourist, you will likely encounter a mix of different socioeconomic conditions. It’s important to approach the city with an open mind, respect the local culture, and consider supporting local businesses and community development initiatives during your visit.
What is Phnom Penh about?
Phnom Penh is home to several iconic landmarks and historical sites that reflect Cambodia’s past. There are some must-visit places including the Royal Palace, a splendid complex with stunning architecture, the Silver Pagoda, which houses national treasures, and the National Museum, showcasing Khmer art and artifacts.
Along the scenic Sisowath Quay, the city’s riverside promenade, you can experience the lively atmosphere. You’ll find around an array of restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops, as well as fantastic views of the river. Shopaholics will enjoy exploring the bustling markets of Phnom Penh. The Russian Market (Tuol Tom Poung Market) is famous for its handicrafts, clothing, souvenirs, and jewelry. The Central Market (Phsar Thmey) is a grand art deco building offering a variety of goods, including textiles, electronics, and fresh produce.
Phnom Penh is a food lover’s paradise. Sample delicious Khmer cuisine at local eateries, try street food specialties, and don’t miss the famous fish amok, a traditional Cambodian dish. The city also offers a range of international dining options. The city has a vibrant nightlife scene, with numerous bars, clubs, and restaurants offering entertainment options.
Culture lovers can immerse yourself in Cambodian arts and culture by attending a traditional dance performance or a music concert organized by Cambodian Living Arts.
For those who love open spaces. Phnom Penh serves as a base for exploring nearby attractions such as the Mekong Islands, Silk Island, or the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center, where you can see various wildlife species and support conservation efforts.
The best of of Phnom Penh visits
Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda
The Royal Palace is a grand complex that serves as the residence of the King of Cambodia. Within the palace grounds, you’ll find the awe-inspiring Silver Pagoda, named for its floor adorned with over 5,000 silver tiles. The Silver Pagoda houses several precious Buddhist statues and artifacts.
Located on a hill in the heart of the city, Wat Phnom is a sacred Buddhist temple and one of Phnom Penh’s most iconic landmarks. It is believed to be the founding site of the city and offers a peaceful environment for visitors to explore.
National Museum of Cambodia
Situated near the Royal Palace, the National Museum houses an extensive collection of Khmer art and artifacts. It provides a comprehensive overview of Cambodia’s history and cultural heritage, including sculptures, ceramics, and religious relics.
Choeung Ek Genocidal Center (Killing Fields)
While a somber site, the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center is an important landmark that memorializes the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime. It serves as a reminder of Cambodia’s tragic history and provides insights into the atrocities committed during that time.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21 Prison)
Another significant historical site, the Tuol Sleng Museum is a former high school turned prison that was used by the Khmer Rouge as a detention and torture center. It now serves as a museum, displaying photographs, exhibits, and testimonies that shed light on the regime’s brutality.
Located in the heart of the city, the Independence Monument is a prominent landmark that commemorates Cambodia’s independence from France. The monument is particularly impressive when illuminated at night.
One of Phnom Penh’s most important Buddhist pagodas, Wat Ounalom is a spiritual and religious center. It houses several important Buddhist relics and is considered a symbol of Cambodian Buddhism.
Phsar Thmey (Central Market)
Housed in a beautiful art deco building, Phsar Thmey is a bustling market offering a wide range of goods, including clothing, jewelry, electronics, and fresh produce. It’s a great place to experience the local market culture and find unique souvenirs.
Sisowath Quay, the city’s riverside promenade, is a vibrant area with a scenic view of the Tonle Sap River. It’s a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, with numerous restaurants, bars, and shops lining the waterfront.
Vattanac Capital Tower
Standing as the tallest building in Phnom Penh, the Vattanac Capital Tower is a modern landmark that showcases the city’s evolving skyline. It offers panoramic views of Phnom Penh from its observation deck.
Where to stay in the place
When choosing accommodation in Phnom Penh, consider factors such as location, amenities, price, and reviews from other travelers. The Riverside area, BKK1, and Daun Penh are popular neighborhoods with a wide range of accommodation options and proximity to major attractions and amenities. It’s advisable to book in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons, to secure your preferred choice of accommodation. If you are backpacking though, you probably will find a random friendly hostel to stay.
- Hotels: Phnom Penh boasts a variety of hotels ranging from budget to luxury. You can find international chains, boutique hotels, and locally owned establishments. These hotels provide comfortable rooms, amenities such as restaurants, bars, swimming pools, and often offer additional services like spa facilities and concierge assistance.
- Guesthouses: Guesthouses are a popular option for budget-conscious travelers. They are smaller, family-run establishments that provide basic accommodation at affordable prices. Guesthouses often offer private rooms or dormitory-style accommodations, shared facilities, and a more intimate and local experience.
- Hostels: Phnom Penh has several hostels that cater to backpackers and budget travelers. Hostels typically offer dormitory-style rooms with shared facilities like bathrooms and common areas. They are a great option for meeting fellow travelers and enjoying a social atmosphere.
- Serviced Apartments: If you’re planning a longer stay or prefer more space and self-catering facilities, serviced apartments can be a good choice. These apartments come fully furnished and equipped with kitchenettes or full kitchens, providing a more independent and home-like experience.
- Boutique Accommodations: Phnom Penh has a growing number of boutique accommodations that offer unique and stylish accommodations with personalized service. These establishments often have a distinct character and design, providing a more intimate and luxurious experience.
How to get to the place
Phnom Penh has an international airport, Phnom Penh International Airport (PNH), which is well-connected to major cities in Southeast Asia and beyond. Several airlines operate regular flights to and from Phnom Penh. Upon arrival, you can take a taxi or arrange a transfer to your accommodation in the city.
If you are traveling from neighboring countries, particularly Vietnam, you can reach Phnom Penh by boat. There are boat services that operate along the Mekong River, connecting cities like Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) to Phnom Penh. The journey can take several hours to a day, depending on the starting point.
Phnom Penh is accessible by bus from neighboring countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. There are both direct and connecting bus services available. Many bus companies operate routes to Phnom Penh, offering different levels of comfort and prices. The Mekong Express, Giant Ibis, and Virak Buntham are reputable bus operators in the region.
Cambodia’s railway network was limited, and there were no direct train services to Phnom Penh from neighboring countries. However, plans were underway to extend the rail network in the future, so it’s worth checking for any updates on train connections.
Enjoy our discounts in the place
Useful information about Phnom Penh
What is the currency used in Phnom Penh?
The official currency used in Phnom Penh and throughout Cambodia is the Cambodian Riel (KHR). However, the US dollar is widely accepted and often used for larger transactions, particularly in tourist areas, hotels, restaurants, and major businesses. It’s recommended to carry a combination of US dollars and Cambodian Riel when visiting Phnom Penh for convenience.
Is it safe to visit Phnom Penh?
Phnom Penh generally has a moderate level of safety, but it’s advisable to exercise caution, be aware of your surroundings, and take common-sense precautions to ensure a safe visit.
What is the best time to visit Phnom Penh?
The best time to visit Phnom Penh is during the dry season, which typically extends from November to March. During this time, the weather is generally pleasant, with lower humidity and fewer chances of rainfall. Avoid the hot and rainy season from April to October.
What are the visa requirements for visiting Phnom Penh?
For tourists visiting Phnom Penh, most nationalities can obtain a tourist visa upon arrival. This is the easiest procedure. The requirements typically include a passport valid for at least six months, a recent passport-sized photo, and the visa fee. It’s advisable to check with the Cambodian embassy or consulate for the latest information and any specific requirements.
Best experiences in Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh has everything a visitor needs to have a great experience. Its natural beauty draws visitors from around the world- along with its numerous important sites and cultural heritage. As far as things to do in the place go, there are plenty of activities available for visitors.
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