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Phnom Penh

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Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia, located at the confluence of the Mekong and the Tonle Sap rivers.


Understand

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The Royal Palace

Despite being a bit rough on the edges, Phnom Penh retains its former charm as a leafy South East Asian capital with a nice riverside promenade and numerous beautiful Cambodian Buddhist wats, palaces, and other artifacts. A large infrastructure catering to tourists makes it easily accessible, and many consider it to be one of the friendliest capitals in Asia, as Cambodians have not yet become jaded by mass tourism. Widespread poverty can still be seen, as in all of Cambodia. Traffic jams (resulting from poor town planning) are a feature of city life, even till 9 PM.

It is a bit unfortunate that one of the tourist industry’s selling points for Phnom Penh has to do with wars that took place in the 1970’s (i.e. Killing Fields, Toul Sleng), as tourists may associate the city with these historical events when in fact Cambodian culture, including its art and music is quite remarkable and modern day Cambodia is a friendly and youthful place that has nothing to do with remote dark chapters in the country’s history.

Phnom Penh is slowly gaining high rise buildings, traffic lights, and Western style shopping malls, but overall remains one of the most undeveloped capitals in Asia. It does not have the huge colonial British architectural heritage like Yangon in Myanmar, and is light years behind Bangkok.

The beauty that made it a ‘Paris of the East’ before 1970 is hidden beneath the reality of modern day Cambodia, though there are a few French colonial buildings remaining. The wide boulevards and promenades envisaged by the French are mostly used as parking spaces and market stalls: pedestrians are not in favour. The Khmer temples and monuments found here are some of the most stunning examples of Buddhist architecture and art, and Phnom Penh has no shortage of these.

The innermost part of the city, known as “riverside” is where most tourists will go, as it hosts cafés and restaurants aplenty. Standard tourist sights are few, which makes the city a place to relax, watch the street life and absorb the local colour. Phnom Penh is a worthwhile destination for those who enjoy an ‘edgy’ experience as well as those interested in authentic South East Asian people and culture.

Tuk tuk and motorcycle drivers and beggars abound, especially in the tourist strip along the river. Cambodian drivers have a bad habit of engaging every single foreigner they see, so walking around you will constantly get stopped with offers for rides. Even expats living in the city have to deal with this constantly. The best strategy is: 1) keep your head down and walk briskly past drivers not making eye contact 2) if the driver who calls you is not close, just pretend you don’t hear or yell “no thanks” 3) if he is right next to you, just say “no, thanks” or if you really want to act like an expat say “aht-tey bohng” (for men up to age 50) or “aht-tey pooh” (for men over 50). This means no in Cambodian with the proper address. As soon as you make eye contact with them they see you as a serious customer and will try to sell you trips or make friends with you.

Weather in Phnom Penh, simply put, is of three types: 1) hot 2) too hot, and 3) too hot plus too humid. The Khmer call these the cold season, the warm season, and the rainy season, respectively. As of 2016 unfortunately the “cold” season seems to be disappearing and even when it should be hot, it’s actually too hot. This might be due to the El Nino phenomenon this year and hopefully following years will be back to the “cold” (i.e. 30 degrees celsius) again.

Weather is pleasant during the “cold season” from November to January, highs are around 30 degrees C. Staring February the temperature begins to rise, and by March the daily highs are 35-38 degrees C, making it hardly bearable. This is followed by the rainy season, which is more humid than rainy, as on most days it just rains briefly in the afternoon. Arguably, the humid heat of rainy season is even worse than the extreme heat of hot season. Occasionally, there are massive downpours that cause major flooding, making parts of the city inaccessible.

Motor vehicle generated pollution level could get very high, especially in the popular tourist area and therefore, you will feel your lung capacity drop after a few days. If you take any medication for issues such as asthma, take them with you.


History

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The Khmer people have a very rich and ancient history in the region, including the famous Angkor Empire which extended over a large part of South East Asia.
The 20th century was not kind to the Khmers, as they experienced an American bombing chiến dịch that killed half a million people, followed by possibly the worst genocide since World War II, perpetrated by psychopathic dictator Pol Pot and his Red Khmer, who wanted to institute an agrarian communist system.

In 1975 Phnom Penh was choked with up to 2 million refugees from the war between the then US-backed government and the Khmer Rouge. The city fell to the Khmer Rouge in 1975, who completely emptied it of civilians and allowed it to crumble for several years. The city’s small class of skilled or educated professionals was systematically murdered by Pol Pot’s henchmen, or fled into exile.

Cambodia’s developing economy and institutionalized corruption have concentrated wealth into a new rich class that now supports Phnom Penh’s new fancy hotels and restaurants. Increasing tourist numbers are also bringing about improving tourist infrastructure.

The unfortunate history of the Khmers in the late 20th century is, however, just one part of their history dating back to ancient times, and modern day Cambodians are upbeat and look to the future as opposed to dwelling on the past.


Orientation

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All of Phnom Penh’s streets are numbered. Though some major thoroughfares also known by their names and not numbers. 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 what was Boeung Kak lake).

House numbers, however, are quite haphazard. Don’t expect houses to be numbered sequentially in a street; you might find two completely unrelated houses with the same number in the same street.


Get in

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Ordinary Visas
Ordinary Visas (class ‘E’, sometimes misleadingly also called ‘business visas’) are the best choice for those wishing to stay for over two months with multiple entries, as an ordinary visa can be extended indefinitely. An ordinary visa costs US$35 at the border. Make sure you have the exact amount to hand it over. If you are asked for more money firmly insist that this is the correct price, it is also printed on the visa sticker; if it is missing there, it is missing for a reason. You might hear arguments that ‘some document is missing’ – just ignore it, smile, and very politely insist that this is the correct amount, hand it over, and deny any requests for more money.

Visa extension: The official prices for the extension of an ordinary visa (not a tourist visa!) in the immigration office next to the airport in Phnom Penh are:
US$30 for 1 month,
US$60 for 3 months,
US$100 for 6 months (multi-entry),
US$150 for 12 months (multi-entry),

Visa extension requests are only processed in the morning, every weekday between 8am and 12pm.

The waiting time is 7 days, for the 12 months extension it might be longer; also, in case there are any Khmer holidays inbetween.

In reality you might have to feed corruption by using a ‘visa agency’ with hugely inflated prices, e.g. because the officer determines that ‘a document is missing’ or the like, or in case you need the extension faster. These ‘visa agencies’ might be able to reduce the waiting time to 4 days.


By plane

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Phnom Penh International Airport (IATA: PNH) is the largest airport in Cambodia, located 7km west of the city.

The following airlines operate service to/from Phnom Penh:

The new terminal is a thoroughly pleasant and modern facility, and features a post office, ngân hàng (including ATMs), restaurants, duty-free shop, news stand, tourist help desk, and business centre. As of April 2011 there is no more departure tax to be paid at the airport – all taxes are now incorporated into the ticket price.

Fingerprinting is now in operation at the airport for International visitors arriving from outside of Cambodia and departing.

As of October 2016 all of the ATMs at the airport (both landside and airside) charge at least $5 for withdrawing USD. 1 exchange office in the baggage claim area, but has bad rates.

Duty miễn phí prices in Cambodia seem to be horribly inflated – alcohol and cigarettes cost half as much at shops and supermarkets in the city, like the Lucky Supermarket – so stock up on alcohol (put it in your checked baggage due to liquid restrictions for carry on baggage) and cigarettes before you come to the airport. For example, 1L of Absolut Vodka is USD21 at the airport, and USD11 at supermarkets in the city. Electronics are also overpriced (but at least they’re the genuine article) – and test out some of the antique shavers that are still on sale!


Getting from/to the airport

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There are numerous transportation options to get between the airport and the city, including taxi, shuttle bus, public bus, train, and tuk tuk. Taxi is fixed fare by zone, ranging from $12USD – $18USD.


Public transport

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Bus on the Phnom Penh BRT network

There are now air conditioned public city buses: Line 03 of the Phnom Penh City Bus line which began service in 2014. This new line runs between the Night Market and Chaom Chau Circle Garden. The fare for using the bus irrespective of distance is KHR1,500 (USD0.37) to the city centre. The bus stop is just outside the airport on the same side of the road, 100 meters from the gate. Operation hours is from 5.30 am (starting from the night market area – on the Preah Sisowath Quay road between St 106 & 108) to 8:30 pm.

The airport train service takes passengers directly to Phnom Penh Railway Station from the airport. The service takes 30 minutes and cost $2.50. The airport railway station is in the terminal parking lot.


Private transport

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Taxis from the public taxi stand at the airport cost a flat USD12 (October 2016), and tuk-tuks cost USD7 officially. Cash Only. If you are willing to lug your bags outside the airport fence you can catch a tuktuk into town for USD5-6 depending how hard you bargain. If you want to avoid bargain you can order tuk-tuk using PassApp application(you will need local sim card). Waiting time is not more then 3 minutes and price will be around USD4 to the city center(Nov 2018). When you finish your ride application will show the total price. For visitors on a budget without a lot of luggage, you can catch a motorcycle officially or unofficially, though be aware this ride can be extremely uncomfortable especially if you arrive during the afternoon or morning rush hour the trip can take about an hour in stop and go traffic. If you do catch a motorbike, the older types with the large flat seats are much more comfortable than the newer ones. A motorbike ride during rush hour on the back of a small seated newer bike is likely to be a very strenuous experience and highly not recommended. An expressway is in the works but in the meantime, it may take an hour to an hour and a half to get from the airport to the city depending on the severity of rush hour traffic.

Be aware during rush hour (3-8 pm) riding in on a tuktuk can be very dusty and polluted with traffic fumes. If you are sensitive to this, taking a bus or taxi is recommended.

While tuk tuks are THE way to get around, note that some drivers cannot read a map, so that pointing out a destination on a map may result in a prolonged conversation with random locals!


By bus

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Cambodia is finally aiding its development through improving its roads. Since around 2008, asphalt has been blazing trails into unexpected and remote places making for faster, year-round accessibility. The main highways that run on either side of the Tonle Sap from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, Battambang, Sisophon and Poipet (for Thailand) are both well paved and in good condition.

The quality of buses runs the gamut, with the less desirable buses being a few dollars cheaper than more comfortable buses (for example on-board movie). Safety standards are low and crashes (not always reported) are common with both ‘quality’ and ‘cheapie’ bus line alike.

The rather chaotic bus station at the southwest corner of the Central Market is the base for buses run by Mekong Express, Phnom Penh Sorya Transport, Capitol Tours, Giant Ibis, and GST Express. The other bus station is next to the night market, at the Northern end of riverside road (Sisowath Quay). Don’t rely on the displayed bus timetable, buy your ticket the day before and confirm the departure time with staff.

Tickets are available at the bus station. Guesthouses and travel agents throughout the city will also arrange tickets for a $1-2 commission. Now tickets can also be purchased online via camboticket.com Payment can be made online surely via MasterCard/Visa, WING money transfer and also Cash on Delivery (within Phnom Penh)

Some passengers have experienced valuables being stolen from their luggage when stored out of sight.

Stray Asia Bus is a reliable company and offers flexible travel passes which allow passengers to hop-on and off along their Southeast route. Stray buses are safe, have an english speaking guide on board and run to a reliable time schedule. Stray is a reputed New Zealand travel company who also operate in Southeast Asia.


International services

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Borders are not open 24 hrs: some night buses will wait at the border until it opens. If entering Cambodia, watch out for visa scams and avoid the Kumho Samco if coming in from Vietnam.

  • Bangkok (US$15, around 14 hrs) change of bus required at the Poipet border.
  • Ho Chi Minh City (US$10, around 6 hrs) no change of bus. Beware of border bus scams, see Cambodia section. Sapaco Tourist arrives close to the Olympic stadium. From there a tuktuk ride to North of the Royal Palace is available for around 1.5 USD (August 16).
  • Pakse (around 14 hrs)
  • The Four Thousand Islands region of Laos.
  • Vientiane (around 27 hrs) A generally inconvenient and stressful trip. Shambolic border procedure, multiple bus changes, through tickets not being honoured and nocturnal groping should all be expected. Travelling via Bangkok (theoretically also around 27 hrs but with tight connections) should be seriously considered as the 8PM BangkokNong Khai (Laos border, 20 km from Vientiane) sleeper train (13 hrs) will be safer and more comfortable than any overnight bus through Southern Laos. A third option is to catch a bus from Nong Khai to Nakhon Ratchasima and then a bus un to the border at Arunyaprathet from there you can catch a bus to Phnom Penh for around $7-10. If you get your connections right, you can do the journey in less than 20 hours. You will likely need to buy multiple tickets, but timetables are generally accurate and available on online.

Buses arriving from Pakse enter the city at night (around 7:30 to 8:00 pm) via Monivong Ave, leaving tired and emotional travellers prone to being preyed on tuktuk touts. Watch out!


Domestic services

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Phnom Penh is the domestic transport hub and direct buses run to just about every provincial capital, including far flung town like Pailin, Samraong, Banlung and Sen Monorom. The crowded peasant mover Paramount Angkor specializes in out-of-the-way towns, avoid it for intercity travel as it’s the same price as more genteel companies but does not guarantee a seat.

More frequently visited destinations include:

  • Siem Reap ($US5-10, 6 hrs) Capitol Tours (US$5) is the only company that runs buses to central Siem Reap. Other companies leave travellers at the mercy of tuk-tuk touts in an out of town bus station.
  • Poipet for Aranyaprathet in Thailand.
  • Battambang (US$5, 4 hrs)
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By boat

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Ferries kết nối Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and usually take 6 hr; tickets for foreigners cost US$35. 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.The boat leave 7:30am.
Fast boats leave every morning around 8AM from Chau Doc in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta and take 5 hr to reach Phnom Penh. The boats make the return journey the same day and leave Phnom Penh around 1PM arriving in Chau Doc in the early evening.

There are 3 choices of boat to Chau Doc:

  • Hang Chau Speed Boat (no pickup, tour guide, water, snack, insurance), leaves at 12:00, takes 4hours, Price US$22
  • Mekong Tour Slow Boat, leaves at 7hr 30 min, takes 7-8hours, price US$12
  • Cawaco hydrofoil from Can Tho ( contact directly for cost)[99]


By train

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Cambodia’s rail network has recently been restored and provides a cheap and comfortable way to travel. Services between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville restarted in April 2016, and trains between Phnom Penh and Poipet on the Thai border resumed in July 2018.
This service is operated by Royal Railways.


Get around

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Phnom Penh bus approaching BRT station

Phnom Penh’s main streets are in good shape; however some smaller streets and footpaths are rutted and pot-holed, clogged with garbage, stagnant water, parked motos, sleeping people and building materials. Many smaller streets bear either no or misleading signage, however Phnom Penh is logically laid out (see orientation) and navigating is not too difficult.


Public Transport

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Bus rapid transit network in Phnom Penh

Since 2014, air conditioned buses have run along three main bus routes across the city. Line 01 travels north/south along Monivong Boulevard going around Wat Phnom (stop 21), the Central Market (stop 30), near the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (Stop 41), Olympic Stadium (stop 37) and with some walking, the Royal Palace and National Museum (stop 35). Line 02 serves the western side along Mao Tse Tung Boulevard, going much further south to Ta Khmao, the closest stop (yet not walkable at 12km) to the Choeung Ek Killing Fields and the capital of the Kandal Province from, where 60% of residents travel to work in the city daily. Line 03 goes east/west Phnom Penh along the Russian Confederation Boulevard, stopping at the Phnom Penh International Airport, Central Market and Night Market. The fare for the public buses is 1500 riel (0.35USD) per voyage irrespective of distance. Students (provided you have your student photo ID), senior citizens, the physically disabled and Buddhist monks travel free as of 2015. Ensure you have the correct amount as no change is provided since you put the money inside a box near the front door, before being issued with a ticket. There are two bus stations on Line 03 that stop outside Phnom Penh International Airport connecting the airport to the city centre. The terminus station for Lines 02 and 03 is the Night Market in central Phnom Penh.

Public transport operates between 5:30am to 8:30pm and is supposed to run every 10 minutes on the high frequency Line 01. Outside these hours, other means of transport need to be found with a night time premium added when you haggle over the fare. The intervals may vary wildly (at least for some lines) – we waited more than an hour for the 4C bus from killing fields back to city. Be aware of valuables when using the public buses, as they may get crowded during rush hour. The driver and ticket inspector usually speaks little English so refer to key landmarks when asking about when to get off, or else ask around as it’s likely other passengers are able to help. Younger passengers, especially students are likely to speak English. Even better, use your smartphone’s GPS to keep track of the route and to know when to get off. To get off, push the bell button or else pull the string near the window. More information on buses can be founded on the Phnom Penh City Bus Wikipedia page

To locate a bus stop, look for an advertisement board with a large map of the bus routes on one side. Larger bus stops have shelters and sometimes queuing lines. As there is no dedicated bus lane, buses may come at irregular intervals earlier or later than the stated 10 minute frequency during peak time, depending on traffic congestion. Exit the bus using the rear door and have a map on hand so you know which direction to take to get to your destination.

Line

Terminus

Frequency
(mins)

Route

Stations

Key stops

Monivong Boulevard Kilometre 9 ↔ Okaha Suy Sophan Bus Terminal

10

Monivong Boulevard

66

Wat Phnom, Central Market. Further walking: Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Olympic Stadium, Royal Palace and National Museum

Takmao ↔ Night Market

15

Mao Tse Tung Boulevard

69

Ta Khmao

Chom Chay Roundabout ↔ Night Market

15

Russian Confederation Boulevard

49

Royal University of Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh International Airport

Transport tip for safety and budget conscious travelers
If the thought of riding a motorbike taxi through Phnom Penh’s suicidal street traffic and breathing in noxious carcinogenic fumes in Cambodia’s sweltering tropical heat isn’t your cup of tea, consider using the air conditioned public buses for most of your journey, and completing the final leg with a tuk-tuk or motorcycle taxi. Given the informal price hierarchy starting from:

  • Locals – who usually stick to drivers they know
  • Expats – who get charged slightly higher, depending on their bargaining skills
  • Tourists – who like in neighboring countries, are charged more

this should save a couple of dollars, enough to buy a few extra cans of beer, have spare change for physically disabled and land mine victims begging near tourist landmarks, or pay excess to your insurance company for that trip to Bangkok you never intended to make.


Private transport

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Motorbikes (but not self-drive cars)

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Motorbikes can be rented for US$5-6 per day, sometimes through guesthouses. Traffic is chaotic and dangerous, even by Southeast Asian standards – wear a helmet and drive carefully. If you’re not experienced with a motorbike, just don’t do it, as each year visiting foreigners die from motorbike accidents. Two rental shops are in Monivong Boulevard – Lucky Bike Rental and New Bike Rental. Vannak Motorcycle is in 130 street, near the riverside. Accept that paying US$1-2 police ‘fines’ is part of driving. Theft is common: park in designated guarded areas and pay a small parking fee or use a lock and chain, which should be provided.

To wear a mask, or to not wear a mask?
One noticeable trend in recent times amongst motordup passengers in Phnom Penh is the wearing of masks. Unlike Bangkok, no real time air quality monitoring station has yet been installed in the city so there currently is no data of PM10 or PM2.5 concentration, though given the rate of development, it is likely to be at similar levels to its neighbors. Surgical masks will not protect against micro pollutants, but will reduced the amount of dust in your nose at the end of the day, since Phnom Penh is a very dusty city


Motorbike-taxis (motodops or simply motos)

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Motorbike taxis should take you anywhere cheaply. A trip from Sisowath Quay to Central Market costs about 2,000 riel (US$0.50). Fares are higher at night and with more than one passenger. Often little English is spoken. No helmets are provided.

As of 1 Jan 2016, helmets for passengers are compulsory, or else the transport police can issue a USD$3.75 fine for non-compliance. Transport police tend to target tourist so bring your own helmet, as accidents are common on Phnom Penh’s roads.


Taxis

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Taxis are growing much more common with well more than 100 meter taxis now operating in the city. They can be found in tourist areas such as the riverfront and Street 51 bar area in the evening. Easier, call one of the taxi companies for pick-up. Non-meter taxis still run throughout the city and can be found along the riverfront tourist area and near major hotels. Fares must be agreed in advance. Fares vary; your accommodation provider may help.


Tuk-tuks (aka remorque moto)

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Tuk tuk sir?
Not having a ride will necessarily entail being pestered for one. Phnom Penh’s lack of coordinated public transport gives jobs to many poor provincial immigrants, who – with their wheels – harangue any pedestrian in the city centre, particularly tourists.

  • Agree a fare in advance. Be clear whether it is for one way or return and in total or per person.
  • “Do you know where this address is?” will always be answered by “yes”. Put it to the test and show a driver a recipe, while claiming it’s an address. Be patient and expect the driver to pull over mid-trip to ask passers by for directions even to the most obvious of destinations.
  • Don’t leave possessions exposed to snatchers. Women are often targeted.
  • The tuk tuk drivers outside the Foreign Correspondent’s Club are notoriously pushy and aggressive. Avoid them: walk half a block and hire someone else.

If you don’t want a lift saying “no thanks” generally works, better still try it in Khymer: “otday awkunh”.

Tuk-tuks consist of a motorcycle with a cabin for the passengers hitched to the back. They are cheap (Per tuk-tuk: US$1-3 for a trip in the city, $7 to the airport) and plentiful. Negotiate the price ahead of time and make sure the driver knows how to get to your destination. Driving standards vary. Drivers in tourist areas usually speak some English, but if going to a destination that is not well known it is best to make sure the driver really understands. Drivers generally do not know their way around and may stop to ask for directions. Most tuk-tuk drivers can be hired for the day (~$20-$25) or half day (~$12-$15). Tuk tuk drivers going the wrong way and driving around for long periods are unfortunately common. They don’t do this on purpose, they just don’t know where the place is and desperately want your business. If you see the driver going the wrong way, best to stop him and make him get a map or ask. If not possible, best to cut the trip short and find another one. Note that some drivers cannot read a map, which may result in a prolonged discussion with nearby locals!


Cyclos

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Cyclos are three-wheeled pedal cycle-rickshaws. They are slow, scenic, traditional and romantic, though waning in number.


Cycling

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Cycling can extend the horizons of the city. Ride slowly and be visible and predictable by avoiding quick turns. Bicycles can be hired for $1 to $3 per day or if staying longer you can buy a cheap Chinese style bike for $30-$50, new or second hand. A good place to buy is in the area around the top of St105, near St182. Having a bike greatly reduces the amount of annoying verbal ride offers by tuk tuk and moto taxi drivers. There are plenty of repair places in town to fix a puncture, pump up tires or do any repair work at cheap prices. A puncture repair costs $1.


Walking

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Walking can be a challenge. Remember little gives way to big here, pedestrians come last, even on the now cluttered, once grand, wide, French-built pavements! 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. There is almost no street lighting off the major boulevards, and walking at night is not recommended. Walking alone late at night can be very dangerous (bag snatching is common – be careful). Traffic signals and pedestrian crossings are generally ignored by drivers.

Local advice is to “just keep walking” – i.e. start crossing when you need to cross, and proceed at a steady pace. Drivers will see you and adjust their own speed accordingly.


Car

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Phnom Penh is notorious for its massive traffic jams, and rightly so. In addition, traffic is chaotic and motorcyclists seemingly suicidal. Therefore, most tourists consider driving in Phnom Penh a nightmare, and it is highly recommended that you stick to public transport and not try to drive yourself around.

Sisowath Quay as seen from FCC

Tuol Sleng Prison

The Killing Fields

France’s Cambodian colony was acquired late, and was generally neglected. Consequently there are not many colonial-era buildings, and those which remain are largely decayed. Notable exceptions are The Grand Post Office Building, Central Market and Raffles Le Royal Hotel. Generally any building in good condition, old or new, will be behind a big wall and security guards.


Money

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Cambodia has a dual currency system, where the US dollar (USD) and the Khmer riel (KHR) are used simultaneously. The Khmer riel is not usually used for large purchases. Cents of the US dollar are not in use, so change below 1 dollar is always given in riel. Prices for most products and services worth above a couple of dollars will be quoted in US dollars, especially to foreigners. If you carry US dollars, money changers are usually not necessary, except perhaps getting rid of extra riels before leaving the country. They are plentiful near the central market and display their rates on boards. The Cambodian Central Ngân hàng maintains the riel at approximately 3900 – 4100 to the dollar, be wary if rates are outside this range. Most vendors will accept US dollars and Khmer riel interchangeably at a rate of 4000 riel to the dollar. Larger, more established businesses like supermarkets, set their own rates, which is usually between KHR4100-4200. If paying in US dollars, you will receive change in the form of riel instead of in coins. For example, if a vendor owes you USD1.25 in change, you will either receive USD1 plus KHR1000, or KHR5000. Paying in this form is also acceptable. When accepting money in change or exchange, inspect the bills. Marred riel are acceptable tender, but the tiniest tear in a large US note (especially $50 and $100 bills) renders it unusable in Cambodia.

There are plenty of ATMs. They dispense US dollars and accept international cards. Most banks charge US$4-5 per withdrawal (your own ngân hàng at home may also add fees). ANZ Royal ngân hàng charges USD4 per transaction. Union Commercial Ngân hàng plc charges USD2 per transaction (Feb 2011). Inside Capitol Guesthouse there is an ATM for Canadia ngân hàng where you can make a safe withdrawal. FTB is also fee-free – there is one opposite the main terminal on Sisowath Quay.

Cashing traveller’s cheques can be problematic; even major banks may refuse to exchange traveller’s cheques of above USD100.

(let the buyer beware). Electronics will likely fail within days, fake watches abound, especially in the Central Market.
Only upmarket places will accept plastic (normally with a 3% surcharge). Changing dollars into riels is generally unnecessary, though the parsimonious will notice a small benefit. Small purchases with notes above USD20 can cause problems, though vendors will manage. Do not worry if a vendor runs off with your large note, they are finding change not robbing you.

Popular tourist buys include silk, silverware, handicrafts and curios (including Buddha figures), and made-to-order clothes (which are often of good quality). If you want to support businesses that are noted for supporting Cambodia’s culture and heritage, look for the Heritage Friendly Business Logo from Heritage Watch, an organization that promotes the preservation of Cambodia’s cultural legacy.

DVDs and CDs in Phnom Penh have a 20-30% failure rate; sunglasses from street vendors do not give full UV/polarized protection and will likely disintegrate within 2 weeks.

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. It has recently been beautifully renovated and its architecture alone is worth admiring.
  • O’Russey Market, (in Cambodian called Psar O’Russey) is very popular with the locals, particularly for buying bicycles and uniforms. Anything you can think of (stationery, jewelry, business shirts) is sold here, wholesale. Definitely worth a visit for the thrifty shopper.
  • Sorya Mall, currently Phnom Penh’s main Western-style mall, is nearby. Sorya (similarly to all other malls in Phnom Penh) is rather drab compared to neighbouring countries, and is crowded with stalls (like a traditional market – a strange juxtaposition). But it is air-conditioned and contains a range of cheap fast-food outlets as well as a well-stocked supermarket named Lucky Supermarket. Sorya Mall is on Street 63, close to the corner with Street 154. (NB: Don’t leave a moto with the Sorya parking people, who are known to steal helmets, and double the parking charges on a whim.) On the south-west edge of town is the even newer Sovanna Mall. Freezing air-con and modern shops make this popular too.
  • City Mall, Monireth Boulevard, (). Opened in September 2009, City Mall is a western-style mall in Phnom Penh (but does not look too new any more). The 3-floor mall contains a number of clothing stores, a branch of Lucky Supermarket, some electronics, as well as a couple of local pizza, hamburger and coffee outlets. There is also a Japanese restaurant on the third floor. The mall is a bit more spacious but not much bigger than the Sorya Mall, and less busy due to its less central location.
  • Russian Market, (Cambodian: “Psar Toul Tom Poung”). The “Russian Market” moniker following the Vietnamese occupation of the city in the 1980s, but many motodops are not familiar with the name. Real designer clothes at a huge discount price. A lot of the factories for Levis, CK, Ralph Lauren and many other brands are in Phnom Penh, 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.
  • Olympic Market, (). Olympic Market was built in 1994 and is a local favorite with shoppers looking for wholesale fabrics, everyone day wear, religious paraphernalia and traditional Khmer dresses. Buyers can look forward to big discounts in this market especially if they are buying in bulk. The market is well laid out and is one of the more modern multi-story market complexes. Buyer should definitely give this market a visit.
  • Aeon Mall. Opened in 2014, this is the latest and biggest western-style mall. There is a movie theater, ice skating ring, food court, and brand-name shops. There are 4 stories. Parking and getting in/out of the mall can be a challenge due to traffic.
  • Hidden Treasures, #9 Street 148, has antiques, art and curios from Cambodia’s past and nearby South-East Asian cultures.
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Beverage

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Alcohol is not expensive in Cambodia. Most of the people from expensive alcohol countries (eg. Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia) return to their home country using their full alcohol duty free allowance. Best to avoid last minute shopping at the airport since duty free prices are much more expensive than prices in town.


Books

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The pirated books that children try to sell for US$5 need to be haggled down (they buy them for US$1). Spend a minute or so leafing through before buying; quality varies: pages can be in the wrong order or missing, or the book is not the one described on the cover.


Clothes and accessories

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  • Beautiful Shoes, #138 Street 143, Boeung Keng Kong 3, (). They will make you a good quality pair of men’s business shoes for US$35-60.

Throughout the city, but especially in the Russian Market, there are tailors willing to make custom made clothes. A man can get a medium quality custom made shirt for US$12, or a high quality custom made shirt for US$15. Definitely worth the purchase, as you’ll never have a shirt that is as perfect of fit.

  • BR Shop, #54 Street 426, Tuol Tum Pung I, (). They will bring you many good quality of men’s and boy clothes for US$15-30. Visit [bronlineshop.com]


Optical Shop

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  • Seng Kong Optic, #48,50. Street 61, Psar Tmei I, Khan Daun Penh (). They have a wide range of choice of eyes wear from optical to sunglasses, goggles, clip-on, etc. What even cooler is that they even have vintage sunglasses and optical frames in reasonable price and the service is brilliant, you can get your glasses done in just 10 minutes! Most importantly, they have skillful optician who can fit your progressive lenses perfectly. Last but not least, they also have an up-to-date facebook page for you to hunt for the glasses you want before heading to the shop. Definitely a place not to miss.


Handicrafts and souvenirs

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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.
  • Friends ‘n’ Stuff, 3 locations: #215 street 13, #74 street 174, Russian Market and Intercontinantal Hotel. Friends ‘n’ Stuff shops sell products made by beneficiaries from various Friends-International projects as well as other consignment items.
  • 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 (), [100]. Features brightly-colored fun and funky paintings of Cambodian life – a welcome relief after visiting some of Cambodia’s more heart-breaking attractions.


Russian Market – jewellery

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There are many booths that sell fake jewellery and synthetic gemstones in the Russian Market. Don’t buy from a booth which cannot issue a certificate of warranty. Make sure you are entitled to a full refund if the item is different from what you were told. Don’t buy a 5-carat, ‘flawless’ chicken-blood ruby for US$500 and think that you have hit the jackpot. If your instinct tells you that the price is too cheap, remember the saying, “If it’s too good to be true then it probably is”. Buy jewellery and gemstones from a reputable shop established for many years, with a reputation to protect.
Cambodian Handicraft Association, (CHA), No 54 & 56, St 113, (), [101]. Handmade silk goods, jewellery, accessories and clothing made by women disabled from polio and landmines. If you ask, you will also be able to tour the shop, meeting the female workers and seeing where they study English. The products are absolutely beautiful and the majority of the silk is sourced from a local village, where it is all hand woven. The costs of running the project are covered by selling the artists’ work in the shop, they receive no grants or aid.


Electronics

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Phnom Penh offers some interesting culinary treats not found elsewhere in the country. These include French-influenced dining and Thai, Vietnamese, and Indonesian dishes. Khmer street restaurant are also found throughout the city, where a typical meal costs 2-4 dollars. Pizzas, banana pancakes and fried rice are always easy to find.
The riverfront hosts everything from stand-up stalls to fine French bistros. Stalls and street restaurants often lack hygienic practices: eating peeled fruit and vegetables and anything uncooked may have unintended consequences.

McDonald’s is not yet in Phnom Penh; Kentucky Fried Chicken is. Additionally, there are two Cambodian fast food chains BB World and Lucky Seven, each having a handful of locations in the city.
Central Market is a hawker food centre, food is cheap and the street eateries add to the area’s bustling atmosphere.


Exotic treats

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Duck embryo eggs are sold at the southwest corner of Sokun Mean Bun Street (Street 178) and Norodum Monivong Boulevard, in front of the green SSN building inside a large, high school compound. Also sold are days-old hatched chicks & frogs, all of which are eaten rather than just the legs. Skewered & grilled pigs ears, chicken claws, and gizzards are sold in the Central Market. Pigs intestines, cut into pieces & covered in sauce, costs US$1 for 100g. Grilled small crabs, lobsters, prawns are also sold in the market. Chicken feet are also sold in the open air restaurants along Street 154. Grasshoppers, crabs, worm-type animals and pupae are sold along Sothearos Boulevard from 184 Street to 178 Street.


Budget

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Take the cross river ferry to sit on mats and eat cheap hawker food while watching the sunset over the city.
The most recommended on this type are the Muslim restaurants at 86 St. north of Phnom Penh Hotel. Halal Foods Mumina on the north side of the street (in front of South China Airlines office) is recommendable. The guesthouses around this area are some of the cheapest offering rooms from US$4 per night. This area although in the farther north end is favored mostly by the French and Brits for their embassies are located nearby.

  • Baitong Restaurant, No. 7 St. 360, (). Authentic Khmer, Thai and Vietnamese dishes. They also have breakfast express and lunch Búp Phê set around US$2-3.75. 2 large rooms can be used for conferences, training and other events and a smaller room for meetings and private dinners. As of October 2012 they no longer do buffets.
  • bbq, a Korean franchise with 3 locations in Phnom Penh (Airport, Sorya mall and a very hip one in BBK). Reliably good Korean dishes (their Bibimbap was better than many I’ve tried in Korea), but also really good charcoal grilled and olive-fried chicken, steak, sandwiches and desserts. Quite affordable set menus of 3-4 dishes at around 15$, more than enough for a rich meal for 3.
  • Comme a la Maison, No. 13 St. 57, In a pleasant garden terrace. Laid-back but stylish French feel with warm service. Pizza and salads, ice-cream desserts.
  • C’est Wat Restaurant and Guesthouse, No. 9 St. 118, Located 2 min walk from the riverside. Test out the massive US$7.50 Sunday Roast with free glass of wine, or the huge $4 all day breakfast – pork sausages, back bacon, mushrooms, eggs, potato fritters, beans, toast, tea or coffee. US$0.75 beer 10AM-3PM.
  • Cocina Cartel, No 198b Street 19, located behind Royal Palace. Burrito bar style Mexican restaurant with full bar. Offers a free taco with cocktail purchase on Tuesday nights and all you can drink free beer with food purchase on Thursday nights.
  • Happy Herb Pizza, southern end of riverside restaurant strip. There are four happy pizza places clustered together with very simular names. While it’s illegal to smoke marijuana it’s fully legal to use marijuana as a flavouring/pizza topping. Pizza’s come in three sizes and an option of happy or very happy. Standard pizza $8.
  • Home Away From Home, Street 93. Small family run restaurant. Service is very friendly, but you may have to be patient if a bunch of people just ordered before you. US$2-3
  • K.K. Tandoor, Sothearos Blvd, (). Moderately priced Indian food with chicken tandoori, butter chicken and Naans. Air-con. You can get draft beer for a dollar.
  • La Croisette, cnr Sisowath Quay and Street 144. French pavement café, Open all day.
  • La Lotus Blanc, 402 Stung Mean Chey and n152 St51 Boeung Keng Kang. French and the Asian cuisines and quite a popular neighborhood hub. The food is prepared and served by students from the PSE.
  • The Mediterranean Zone, #119-121 Golden Sorya Mall, Street 51, hours: 1PM-6AM, price US$2.50-4.50. Air-con restaurant with great selection of food from the Mediterranean. Delicious. WiFi.
  • Evergreen Vegetarian House, #109, Street 130, between st 15 & 19 tin nhắn hộp thư online [email protected] hours: 6.30AM-2PM, 3.30pm-9pm, price US$1.5-8. Small restaurant with big selection of Asian (Japanese, Thai, Cambodian) vegetarian dishes, with and without mock meats. Delicious. Air-con. miễn phí tea served with the meals.
  • Warung Bali, #3D Street 178 No. 25 E0, Royal Palace. Small traditional Indonesian restaurant in one of Phnom Penh’s touristic area.
  • Amok Restaurant & Cafe, 2 St 278, (), ? +855 12 912 319. Nice cozy decor, with open air dining. Traditional Khmer dishes and other styles. The classic fish amok is well done, and the servings are large.
  • Anise, 57th St ()and 278 St,. Comfortable, nicely decorated corner restaurant with free WiFi and some good dishes from a varied thực đơn, including Southeast Asian. Their Club sandwich is excellent, if a little over-priced.
  • Atmosphere, No. 141C, Norodom Blvd. Fancy French restaurant. Quiet on an ordinary day but popular with expats.
  • Blue Cat, Street 110. Comfortable and friendly. Suitable for family dining with an international and Khmer thực đơn, and a respectable wine list. miễn phí WiFi
  • Casa Italia, Street 1 in front of hotel cambodiana, 092230207, delicious salads, pasta, and pizza made with fresh ingredients. Indoor dining with air-con
  • Dosa Corner, (). Small Indian eatery with excellent dosas () and other Indian favourites.
  • Duplex, Street 278, (Wat Langka). A cafe-restaurant with vegetarian dishes and meat specialties. Kombucha tea, homemade spirits and ice teas, djs and events at night.
  • Green Mango Restaurant and Bar, #170E Street 63. (), ? +855 23 720470. Western, Khmer and Mediterranean dishes. Excellent WiFi connection, good choice of music and friendly staff.
  • Java Café, 56 Sihanouk Blvd. Soups, salads and sandwiches in a cozy setting overlooking the Independence Monument. Good vegetarian options. Has a rotating art exhibition.
  • Brown Coffee and Bakery, #17 Street 214, (), [102], ?+855 23 217262. The coffee has Starbucks prices with hour-old taste. The baked items are not fresh — you will know for sure when the staff asks if you want your muffin or brownie heated.
  • Penny Lane Cafe, Corner of St. 111 & St. 242, (). Italian style cafe with air-con and outdoor areas. miễn phí WiFi.
  • Pop Cafe, No. 371 Sisowath Quay. Small modern Italian restaurant renowned for its fresh pasta.
  • Riverside Bistro, #273a Sisowath Quay [103]. In an old colonial style building withcomfortable outdoor dining and views of the Tonle Sap. Popular with local expats, tourists and affluent locals.


Splurge

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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. They are the wild children of the rich and powerful – magnates, politicians, police chiefs and military generals. They are almost always armed, and will always have a team of (armed) bodyguards ready to jump on anyone. If you’re there with a friend, stick to him / her. If you’re alone and looking, keep this in mind – anyone you see could be ‘owned’ by the said elite children. Proceed with caution! If in the rare case you’re told to ‘go away’ (they’ll mostly call their guards or become confrontational) – take the hint and go. These children, much like the rest of their family, are exempt from the law – even more so club entrance searches.

Places to hang out after dark are located mainly at the riverside area behind Sisowath Quay, including Street 104 and 136 with a high concentration of hostess bars. After midnight the nightlife concentrates around Street 51’s Golden Sorya Mall, where the two main discos Pontoon and Heart of Darkness and several hostess bars and beer bars are found. Some other bars and bar clusters that remain active after midnight are on street 136, 104, Sharky’s bar and Martini’s bar. A large part of the Phnom Penh nightlife is oriented towards male travellers and expats looking to meet local girls, this coupled with the vendor children, beggars and touts of all types definitely gives Phnom Penh’s nightlife an “edge” feel.

include Street 104, Street 278, and Street 108 around the Street 51 corner, which all feature restaurant bars, hostess bars, and guesthouses.

  • 69 Bar , [104]. Popular dance orientated hostess bar, bar top and balcony dancing.
  • Barbados, (), Hostess bar. Buy 5 beers and get 1 free.
  • Blue Cat, Street 110, (). Classy bar, friendly staff, fun popular place with free pool and a night club upstairs. cheap cocktails.
  • Blue Chili, 36Eo, 178. Str. (), mobile: +855 012-566353, tin nhắn hộp thư online: [email protected] One of the most popular gay bars in town.
  • Caress Bar, [105]. Where the Tonle Sap, Mekong and Tonle Basac rivers meet each other. Cruise the Mekong with style.
  • DV8 Bar, [106] on Street 148 (). Popular hostess bar with a good selection of spirits and company.
  • Elephant Bar, (). The classy bar at the classiest hotel in town, with frescos on the ceiling and live piano in the evenings. Try the , a mix of cognac and champagne dreamed up for Jacqui Kennedy in 1967. Expensive.
  • Equinox, Street 278, ()[107]. One of the best live music venues in town with weekly concerts from locals and expat bands. It’s also a 2 story cocktail bar featuring monthly art exhibitions by local and international artists, gaming room with a pool table and the unique bonzini foosball table of Phnom Penh, cool tunes, good food. Increasingly popular with expats. Happy hours 17:00-20:00.
  • FCC and Guesthouse, Sisowath Quay. Overlooking the river. Excellent place to meet professionals and travelling people. Happy hour 5-7PM.
  • Golden Vine, Street 108, (). Hostess bar with 8 ball table.
  • Green Vespa, 95 Sisowath Quay, (). Open from 06/00-late. Friendly pub and great single malt collection.
  • Heart of Darkness, Long established and infamous nightclub in Phnom Penh. It has a dangerous reputation, particularly after a fatal shooting in August 2005. The pistol-packing gangsters seemed to have moved on to other hangouts in recent years, still, discretion is advised, particularly where your pockets are concerned. Saturday nights are always packed.
  • Liquid, #3B street 278. (). Polished concrete, gun-metal grey floor, chocolate leather seats and fabulously backlit bar serving some of the best and most inventive cocktails in town. One of the only genuine slate pool tables in town. As much a mid-week bar as a weekend bar. Open 08:00-late, daily.
  • Loco Bar; Hostess Bar, #31, Street 130, Phnom Penh’s newest hostess bar.
  • Martini Pub & Disco, Street 95 (). Infamous girlie bar. 2 full bars, food US$2-6, burgers & fries, pizza, Asian dishes, gaming room, disco, outdoor big-screen showing movies or sports. A place for single men and loose ladies.

Surveys have found that the HIV rate among Cambodian female sex workers is about 13%.

  • OneZeroFour Bar, Street 104, [108]. Popular low-key hostess bar. The bar has a good range of single malt whiskies.
  • One3Six Bar, Street 136. Popular hostess bar. Good range of drinks plus they keep their 42 Below and Grey Goose Vodka in the freezer.
  • Pit Stop, Street 51. Popular hostess bar.
  • Rubies, Street 240. 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, (), [109]. Since its opening in 1995, Sharky’s has been rocking & rolling. Located upstairs on the first floor above street level. Large space, huge centre bar, outside balcony, and plenty of available seating. Most moto taxis will understand “Shockeee Bah”.
  • Show Box, #11 Street 330, () A two storey bar in an otherwise quiet neighborhood, Show Box bills itself as a venue for the Khmer contemporary alternative music and art scenes. Local punk bands, spoken word artists and international musicians perform regularly. $1 beer all day, everyday.
  • The Terrace pub, (). Relatively new British-owned pub. US$0.75/beer and friendly staff.
  • UpDownbar, Street 136, (). Relaxed atmosphere, with a bar upstairs and groundfloor.
  • VooDoo Lounge, Street 51, (). New bar with a good range of drinks, nice decor, air-con, happy hostesses and a pool table. Two other hostess bars nearby.
  • Zanzibar, Street 104. High energy hostess bar with reasonable prices and a pool table upstairs, very popular among expats.
  • Zapata Bar, Street 108, (). Stylish air-con hostess bar with a good range of drinks, and no pool table or food to distract you from the lovely ladies.
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Phnom Penh has a wide variety of accommodation, ranging from budget guesthouses (about USD5-20) to good quality mid-range hotels (USD20-50) to extravagant palaces with extravagant prices to match.


Budget

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The former Boeung Kak Lake with demolished guesthouse in Oct 2011

A good range of accommodation is available around the city. The budget traveller centre was the area still known as Lakeside, near the now filled in Beoung Kak lake. The colony of guesthouses has been decimated but not eradicated. Remaining businesses are desperate for clients, which makes prices very cheap. Guesthouses 10 and 11 still exist and offer rooms from USD4/night and USD3/night respectively. Services include laundry, internet, money exchange, ATM and restaurants, including an excellent Indian restaurant.

Street 258 (near the Cambodia/Vietnam Friendship Park), Street 51 (near Wat Langka) and Streets 111 and 172 also have some good budget options.


Splurge

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

  • Raffles Le Royal, 92 Rukhak Vithei Daun Penh (), ☎ +855 23 981888, (), [110]. 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 thorough 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 have baths and light switches from 1929 (plus broadband internet and walk-in showers). US$150/300 low/high season.
  • Intercontinental Hotel [111], 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 [112] , Monivong Blvd (), ☎ +855 23 991868, (),. Newly renovated with very nicely appointed rooms and suites.


Stay safe

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As in any big city, be wary walking alone at night.

Daytime bag-snatching and smartphone-snatching is common; western and local women are often targeted, but men also. Robbers often drive towards you on a motorbike from behind and will snatch while continuing to drive. Others are on foot. ‘Snatchers’ make a good income from selling their stolen booty to the phone shops. When riding in a tuk-tuk keep your bag and camera towards the middle of the tuk-tuk to protect against bag snatching. When on a motorcycle taxi, keep your bag between you and the driver or in front of the driver. Do not carry/wear your bag on your back. Snatchers frequently drag people off moving motorbikes in order to get their goods, resulting in injury.

Beware of guest house staff stealing from your bags in your room when you are away. Not even their safes are safe, this applies even in case you use your own padlock. Padlocks can be opened within minutes by use of pick locks. If you are going to lock in your valuables, it is better you use your own lock than the lock the guest house or hotel provides you. Smartphones, cameras and cash is what hotel staff look for. One such guesthouse where they steal from their guests is Monorom Inn next to Capitol Guest House. Police are rarely of any help, usually you need to bribe (the tourists) police 5-20 dollars to file a report and they will still appear lazy even though you know the suspect. At Monorom Inn they will give typical excuse that some tourists tried to break into the room or that other tourists have copied the hotel room keys. They may deny that some of the valuables you left in their deposit were never left in their saftey box. This kind of behavior is not new, it happened 20 years ago. Hotel staff target especially drunk guests who may not remember what has happened, so if you leave something in the safety box when drunk they may claim you didn’t. And if you fetch something from the safety box while drunk they may not give you all your items. So stay alert! Also few of the (english speaking and healthier looking) tuktuk drivers around Capitol Guest House pick pocket from drunk tourists. If you are drunk, make sure that the change in dollars you get from tuktuk or taxi drivers are not printed with a laser printer, you easily know fake from real by feeling paper of the dollar notes.

SCAM WARNING: As of April, 2015 Scammers are actively targeting foreigners. If anyone tells you they like your shirt or something similar, it’s them. Cambodians will never do this. It will always be a non-Cambodian. If this happens to you take a photo of them, If we start doing this this will freak them out. They are everywhere and really good at pretending to be normal people. They look for targets at malls, fast food places, on the riverside. They will always begin their conversation with a praise for your clothing or something you are wearing, followed by asking you what country you’re from, followed by when are you leaving?. The best way to end this conversation is to tell these people your flight is soon (give them a random time an hour or two from the current time) or alternatively say your chauffeur is waiting for you outside while you just get some things done.

Scammers and conmen sometimes work the tourist areas such as the riverfront, Hun Sen Park and the Sorya Mall. A group of scammers, operating, around the riverside target tourists. Their method is to start a conversation, make friends, claim to have a relative who is soon moving to your country of origin, and invite you to dinner at their house. Once you get there, they will apparently try to trick you into playing a rigged card game for money, and if that fails then they will give you stories about sick relatives and ask money for that instead. Worse yet, there have been reports of druggings in these situations, after which the guest is robbed and perhaps dropped at a hospital.


Stay Healthy

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As in most developing world countries, avoiding cold, uncooked food is desirable to prevent stomach upsets. Salads are also suspect at times. Ice is usually OK as it is made from filtered water in factories. You will often be able to distinguish two types of ice if you pay attention, the safe type of ice is cylindrical with a hole through it, you will usually be served with this kind of ice in drinks in common restaurants.


Unsafe sex

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HIV is carried by up to one in eight of Cambodia’s female sex workers. As many Asian clients refuse to use condoms, unprotected sex with a sex worker is extremely dangerous. NGOs have got the HIV rate in the general population down from around 2% to around 1% over the past decade but emerging liberal behaviour coupled with ignorance of safe practices may reverse this gain.


Bed Bugs

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Bed Bugs incidences have resurged in recent years and their spread is due to the high amount of international travel & a lack of awareness. Bedbugs are usually brought into buildings through our luggage. Their flattened bodies allow them to conceal in the tiniest cracks & crevices around the room and within the furniture. If bedbugs are seen, it is recommended to put the luggage outside, boil all clothes and sheets (or keep 3 days inside a plastic bag in a freezer). Many strains are pyrethroid-resistant and only high-end pest controllers (which is not common) can really fix this issue.


Telephone

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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 patchy and calls from abroad to mobiles in Cambodia are sometimes dropped, so be prepared to redial frequently.

To buy a sim card in Phnom Penh, just have your passport and expect to pay no more than US$2. 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. Most of the major networks have kiosks at the Phnom Penh airport located just after walking through customs where you can buy a local sim card, some credit and an Internet data package. If so, test that it all appears to be operating OK before heading off, such as by loading up a website page and checking your balance.


Internet

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WiFi is available in most of the hotels that welcome western tourists and backpackers. Speed and reliability is on par with neighboring countries.
There is no shortage of Internet cafés in Phnom Penh. Most are in the 1,500 riel/hour to 2,000 riel/hour bracket (~US$0.50)

  • Sunny Internet, 178 St, (), also Sisowath Quay, (). Provides a faster service at US$1/hr and is popular with tourists and expats.
  • Galaxy Website, Street 63, (). Excellent service, popular with Westerners.

Wireless and wired connections for laptops are available at a number of outlets. Most five star hotels provide high-speed broadband access, but at a premium. 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).


Post

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The main, impressive French colonial style post office is located at the intersection of Street 13 and 102, roughly between Wat Phnum and the Riverside, also selling postcards.
Another branch is more downtown, at the intersection of Sihanouk and Monivong Boulevard.
Both offices offer full range of postal services, including PO boxes for affordable prices, and are open 7 days a week.

Postage for international postcards is 3,000 riel (as of March 2012) – very nice picture stamps are available, philatelists: ask for mix and match options.
Letters and especially parcels to Phnom Penh’s post office frequently go missing, or are not made available to recipients for up to one year.


Cope

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


Embassies and consulates

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Hospitals

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Ascertain that the doctor has a Western medical degree. If not, get out: local training is poor and treatment can be fatal. Local hospitals are generally basic, including – the city’s largest. A doctor’s appointment should be made at one of the international clinics, which can also arrange transfer to a hospital in Thailand if necessary. The following clinics and hospitals are up to international standards:

The cost of a blood test for malaria in Calmette Hospital is around US$27.50.


Get out

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Cambodia

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Sihanoukville, Battambang, and Siem Reap are within a few hours reach. Watch out for guesthouses profiteering on bus tickets. 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.

Koh Dach : Just north of Phnom Penh, 3 km after the Japanese bridge is the small island of Koh Dach (500 riels ferry access). Nicknamed the “Silk ,Island”, this small, rural island in the Mekong is known for the many weavers who live and work on old silk looms. There are also a small beach and many temples, a good way to experience the Cambodian countryside.

Rates at May 2012, from , they do free pickup, it could be 1US$ cheaper to buy directly from the bus company station.

Destination

Bus Company (comments)

Departure

Duration

Cost

Siem Reap

Mekong Express (air-con, snack, water, toilet, tour guide)

7:00 8:30 12:30 14:25

6 hr

US$12

Apsara Khmer Travel (air-con, water)

7:00 9:00 13:30 15:30

5 hr

US$9

Gold VIP (air-con, snack, water)

7:00 8:30 13:30 14:30 (5 hr) 20:00 24:00 (6 hr)

US$9

Selia Angkor (air-con, snack, water)

7:00 9:00 14:00 15:00

5 hr

US$9

Virak Buntham

11:30 (5hr) 18:00 20:00 24:00 (6 hr)

US$9

Sok Sokha (cold towel, air-con, snack, water, toilet)

7:30 8:30 12:30 13:30

6 hr

US$8

Capitol (air-con)

6:15 7:30 8:30 10:15 12:00 13:30 14:30

6.5 hr

US$7

Phnom Penh Sorya (air-con)

7:00 7:45 8:45 11:30 12:45 15:15

7 hr

US$7

Sihanouk Ville

Phnom Penh Sorya (air-con)

7:00 8:00 9:00 11:30 12:45 15:45 17:00

5 hr

US$7

Capitol (air-con)

7:15 8:45 9:45 11:15 12:15 13:30 14:30

5 hr

US$7

G.S.T. (air-con)

7:15 8:15 12:30 13:30 13:15

5 hr

US$7

Virak Buntham (blanket,water, air-con)

1:30

4 hr

US$8

Kep/Kompot

Capitol (air-con)

7:30 13:00

4 hr

US$7

Phnom Penh Sorya (air-con)

6:45 7:30 9:30 12:45 13:45

5 hr

US$7

Kratie

Phnom Penh Sorya (air-con)

6:45 7:15 8:00 10:30

6 hr

US$8

G.S.T. (air-con)

7:00

6 hr

US$8

Battambang

Virak Buntham (air-con)

5:00 6:30

5 hr

US$7

Capitol (air-con)

7:00 until 14:45 (every hr)

5 hr

US$7

Phnom Penh Sorya (air-con)

6:30 7:45 8:45 10:45 12:45

6 hr

US$7

Koh Kong

Virak Buntham (air-con)

7:45 12:30

6 hr

US$9

Phnom Penh Sorya (air-con)

7:45 11:30

6 hr

US$9

Kampong Cham

Capitol (air-con)

8:15 14:00

3 hr

US$6

Phnom Penh Sorya (air-con)

From 7:15 until 15:45 every hr

3 hr

US$6

Preah Vihear

G.S.T. (air-con)

7:30

8 hr

US$7

Poi Pet

Virak Buntham (air-con)

20:00 21:00 24:00

7 hr

US$10

Phnom Penh Sorya (air-con)

6:15 6:30 7:45 7:30

8 hr

US$10

Capitol (air-con)

6:30 8:00 10:00

8 hr

US$10

Stung Streng

Phnom Penh Sorya (air-con)

7:15

9 hr

US$12

Rathanakiri

Phnom Penh Sorya (air-con)

7:30

13 hr

US$12

Mondulkiri

Phnom Penh Sorya (air-con)

8:15

8 hr

US$10


Vietnam

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Slow boats to Vietnam (US$9-10) are a scenic alternative to the bus (US$10, 6 hr). The 8 hour journey begins at 07:30 with a minibus to the boat, which then goes to Chau Doc in Vietnam, stopping for an hour at the border for immigration and a change of vessel. Faster boats (US$30 – jul2019) to Ho Chi Minh City take around 6 hours and depart 3-7 times per day. The journey can be also stretched into a 2-3 day Mekong tour (US$40-60).

Prices May 2012:

Destination

Bus Company (comments)

Departure

Duration

Cost

Ho Chi Minh City

Mekong Express (air-con, snack, water, toilet, tour guide)

6:30 7:00 8:30 13:00 14:00 15:00

6 hr

US$13

Sapaco Tourist (air-con, water, toilet)

6:00 7:00 8:00 9:00 11:30 13:00 14:00 15:00

6 hr

US$12

Khai Nam transport

5:30 7:00 8:00 9:00 10:00 11:00 12:00 13:00 14:00 15:00

6 hr

US$11

Virak Buntham

8:30

6 hr

US$11

Virak Buntham (blanket, air-con)

00:30 (night bus)

8 hr

US$12

Capitol

6:45 8:00 13:30

6 hr

US$11

Phnom Penh Sorya

5:45 6:45 8:30 11:45 13:30

6 hr

US$15

Hatien

Champa Mekong (minibus, air-con)

8:00rr

5 hr

US$15

Phu Quoc

Champa Mekong (minibus, air-con)

8:00

7 hr

US$27


Laos

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Buses to Don Det (US$19, 12 hr) leave at 06:45. The 27 hour journey to Vientiane costs US$46 and takes four different buses. The first leg is on the Don Det bus. Once over the border you’ll spend hours on cramped minibuses heading to Pakse before the final strech to the capital. The border is slow and bureaucratic, with endless form-filling and small bribes (‘fees’) to officials, long walks hauling your luggage between windows (500 m), and no-one much to assist with enquiries. There have been reports of various problems on the onward journey to Vientiane, including Lao companies not honouring tickets sold in Cambodia to nocturnal groping.

Prices May 2012:

Destination

Bus Company (comments)

Departure

Duration

Cost

4000 islands / Don Khong (boat not included probably)

Phnom Penh Sorya

6:45

10 hr

US$23

Pakze

Phnom Penh Sorya

6:45

12 hr

US$30

Vientiane

Phnom Penh Sorya

6:45

22.5 hr

US$50


Thailand

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Through tickets to Bangkok (14 hr, US$15-26) are generally unproblematic. You will change buses at the border. Anything more than US$15 is a bit steep given that Phnom Penh to Siem Reap should cost US$5 and that Siem Reap to Bangkok should cost US$10.

Prices May 2012:

Destination

Bus Company (comments)

Departure

Duration

Cost

Bangkok

Virak Buntham (through Koh Kong border)

7:45

>12 hr

US$28

Virak Buntham (through Poipet border)

21:00 21:30 24:00 24:30 (night bus)

>12 hr

US$23

Gold VIP (through Poipet border)

20:00 24:00 (night bus)

>12 hr

US$23

Angkor Express (through Poipet border)

6:30

13 hr

US$18

Capitol (through Poipet border)

6:30

13 hr

US$18

Phnom Penh Sorya (through Poipet border)

6:30

13 hr

US$18

Trat

Virak Buntham

7:45

8 hr

US$19

Koh Chang

Virak Buntham

7:45

9 hr

US$23

Koh Samet

Virak Buntham

7:45

12 hr

US$29

Pattaya

Virak Buntham

7:45

11 hr

US$29

Routes through Phnom Penh
PoipetPursat

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END

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 N noframe S 

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