A Traveller’s Guide To Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phnom Penh is a phenomenally beautiful place to visit. Full of amazing sites, great food, and beautiful people and culture. It should be on anyone’s travel bucket list.

While there are a million ways to enjoy any country here is my overview of my most recent stay in Phnom Penh. While it might not be for everyone, it is a good guide for first timers to get a good idea of what to expect

Accommodation

On my trip decided to splurge and stay at the Raffles Hotel.

A beautiful institution that makes you feel like you just stepped back into colonial times. The hotel and its offerings itself are beautiful, but it wasn’t located too close to the riverside area where there were a lot of cafés and restaurants. I would recommend this place only if you plan on spending a large amount of time enjoying it (I surely got my money’s worth).

They play up their historic element, even showcasing old black and white movies at their pool area with the hotel as a backdrop.

Hot Tip:

Merely mentioning you are staying at the Raffles Hotel is enough to have the drivers jack up their prices. So be aware of this and be prepared to bargain down. Also be mindful that you are staying in a roughly USD200 per night room, when many in the country wouldn’t see that much money in a couple months.

Restaurants

Here are some recommendations of some of the best places I ate

Malis

Located in a converted bungalow, this restaurant provides plenty of ambience and a menu a meter long (well, I mean close enough). You may be a bit too inundated with choices! We sure were. It’s also still relatively ‘cheap’ Dinner for two including drinks costs us only about USD60. That was starters and three main dishes. Their roasted eggplant… YUMMERS

We sure were. It’s also still relatively ‘cheap’ dinner for two including drinks costs us only about USD60. That was starters and three main dishes. Their roasted eggplantare a must try

Khmer Saravan

We happened to walk by this restaurant on our way back after the National Museum. Perhaps it was the tables of people (both local and foreign) that were a dead giveaway, or the walls plastered with thankful wishes from patrons, but this was hands down the best meal I had in Phnom Penh.. and the best value for money. Try the fish amok here. A local cuisine, it taste a bit like green curry but with a heavier taste. Absolutely delicious. Do not attempt to do anything heavy afterwards.

To-dos

One really should visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (Prison S-21) as well as the Killing Fields. They are both sad and somber experiences.

The Killing Fields comes with an audio guide (part of your entrance fee already covers this) which will take you about an hour and a half to complete. Well worth it as it explains the history behind the place.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum has also been updated to include the survivor stories of the seven who managed to stay alive at the end of the Tuol Sleng period. It gives you hope. Once in a while, a survivor can be found at the former prison happy to share his survivor story with you.

Hot Tip:

The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields are interlinked sites. I suggest seeing Genocide Museum first and then Killing Fields.

Such sadness and madness can really get to you, so I suggest breaking the trip up like so

  • Day 1: Genocide Museum + National Museum/ Central Market + Phnom Penh night market
  • Day 2: Killing Fields + Russian Market + sunset cruise

As it will help take your mind off the monstrosities of history. The markets are fun, colourful and filled to the brim with so many souvenir options. Head over to Central Market if gems and jewellery are your calling or Russian market if you just want to see the maze of a market that is organized by function/ type. They even have a wet market smack dab right in the middle of it all.

Hot Tip:

One must ALWAYS bargain or set a price before getting into a tuk tuk. Typically anywhere around the city will still only set you back USD2-3 per ride. We agreed to pay USD20 for a half day ride to Killing Fields (which will take you about an hour to get to) + a side trip to Russian market + the driver waiting for you while you go inside + final drop off

One of my favorite things to do in Phnom Penh remains walking along the riverside and just enjoying the sites and sounds. Its busiest at sunset where you could catch groups of children playing football, or older man kicking shuttlecocks at each other. Or even a large group of people exercising together.

Want another view? Head down to the pier and catch a sunset boat ride which takes you down along the riverside. USD5 buys you about 40 minutes on the boat and includes a beautiful view of the riverside buildings.

Phnom Penh is an easy and laid black place to check out with enough sites perfect for a long weekend. The pace is slow here, and as such there really isn’t a need to rush through anything. And if all else fails, make sure to get a massage! They’re very cheap and good.

I personally return to the Amara spa (riverside) whenever I go to Phnom Penh. It’ll set you back USD 25 for a beautifully relaxing one hour massage in a beautiful spa setting. It’s located right next to the night market.

Author: Araluen Centre

Araluen Centre are a high-quality art and travel blog with creative contributors from all over the world.