Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia and its biggest city at the same time. If you are traveling to Cambodia by plane, chances are pretty high Phnom Penh international airport will be your first stop in this Southeast Asian country. Especially if you are coming from Europe, USA or Australia.
However, it’s not the only international airport in Cambodia, there are two more – one in Sihanoukville, known for its beaches and as a gateway to paradise islands of Cambodia, and another one in Siem Reap, gateway to Angkor temple complex in the North West of the country.
Regardless of how you will be traveling to Phnom Penh and will it be your first stop in the country or fifth, here are some tips that I might be helpful for you.
Phnom Penh Public Bus is the Cheapest Way for Getting Around
It’s dirt cheap to travel by bus in Phnom Penh (under 0,5$ for a ride).
But… and here it’s important to mention it right at the beginning, there are only 3 lines at this moment, which it’s not enough, and from our experience these buses aren’t running too often. Though, on the website of Phnom Penh Municipal Government it’s written, that they are running like every 10 – 15 minutes. So I guess we can can assume that it’s just us, who weren’t lucky.
Best thing about public buses of Phnom Penh is that you can get from Phnom Penh international airport to the city center and back by bus, too. And it’s the same as cheap.
In this case you will need to take Line 3 bus. At the airport bus stop is few hundred meters from the entrance. Once you are out of the airport, cross the parking lot to get to the road. Bus stop should be on your left.
Cycling in Phnom Penh Is Easy
OK – it is as easy as cycling in chaotic Asian traffic can be. But it’s not impossible, trust me. Be it impossible or very hard, there wouldn’t be that much people cycling in Phnom Penh, both locals and foreigners.
Phnom Penh’s central part isn’t too big and the whole city is completely flat. Making it a very good place for cycling.
Hotels and guest houses in Cambodia, yes, not only in Phnom Penh, often offer bicycles for rent. At some places they are even giving bicycles for their guests for free. Anyway – rent usually isn’t more than 2-3 dollars per day for a simple bicycle.
Phnom Penh Goes to Bed Early
People in Phnom Penh are waking up early. Sun rises and life in the city starts. At about 6 AM (depending on the time of the year) streets may be already full with people. But in the evening they go to sleep early.
If in Malaysia we saw, that at 10 – 12 PM most of restaurants and cafes were full with local people, in Phnom Penh it was quite opposite. In April after 9 PM most parts of the city were empty and quiet. There are a lot of people living on the streets in Phnom Penh. So walking around the city at these hours we saw many people sleeping in their hammocks or in the back of pickup trucks, or preparing for sleeping. Walking there, if you aren’t used to it, may be uncomfortable and scary.
Of course, there are parts of the city where life goes on much longer and throughout the night as well, but it’s not something you see in too many places. When looking for nightlife head to Riverside, around Street 136.
You Can Find Everything at Riverside
If you want to have everything and at one place, except probably for peace, go to Riverside.
Cheap hotels and hostels. Expensive boutique hotels. Cheap eateries. Expensive restaurants. Fried insects and bugs. Night market. Tour agencies. Bus ticket counter. Bars. Prostitutes. Royal Palace. You will find it all at Riverside. Not only tourists spend their time at the Riverside, it’s also popular spot for picnics among locals.
Backpackers Seem to Still Love the Lakeside Area
Though, there is no lake anymore (some years ago it was filled to have more land for construction) and this part of the city looks completely different now. At least that’s what other travelers are saying. I can’t compare myself, because in April 2016 I traveled to Phnom Penh for the first time.
Anyway there still are some cheap hotels at Lakeside. It attracts budget backpackers like us. And we got an impression that people enjoy being there.
Cheap hotel room in Phnom Penh means 5-6$ for a double room with attached bathroom, fan and WiFi. Similar room with air conditioner will cost you starting from 10$ per night.
We at the same time were happy to move away from that part of the city, because we didn’t like going through all these sketchy areas to get to our hotel.
Do check out also Airbnb, if you want to stay in an apartment instead and live like a local in Phnom Penh! Register using my Airbnb link and you (same like I) will get a discount for your first booking.
One Day Is Enough for the Main Attractions of Phnom Penh
Few of the most interesting attractions of the capital of Cambodia are – Wat Phnom, Central Market, Phnom Penh Olympic Stadium, Russian Market and Royal Palace.
If at about 7 PM you find yourself near The Independence Monument, go to Wat Bottom Park. There every evening youngsters gather together to dance. It may not sound too interesting, but trust me – it’s something really cool. As some of them are dancing really good. And as a result you feel like watching MTV music video live on the street. To see more dancing people go to Phnom Penh Olympic Stadium in the evening before sunrise.
Food in Phnom Penh is Tasty
And the choice is big. If there is one thing I was surprised most about Phnom Penh, then it’s availability of good and different international food. Don’t get me wrong. I like Asian food. And I like Cambodian cuisine. But having a wider choice of tasty food has never been bad thing.
Be careful about it, though, haha. As you may end up cancelling the rest of your activities in Cambodia just to stay in Phnom Penh and eat.
If you still have some questions about traveling in Cambodia, contact us!
Disclosure: some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means – if you choose to book accommodation through these links, we may earn a small commission. This has no effect on the price for you.
Author: Kaspars Misins
Kaspars is a long term traveler and a travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they have been traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On We Are From Latvia they share their experience and things learned along the way.