We were told by a lot of people to stay in Phnom Penh for as little time as possible. We were told that it’s dirty and there’s nothing to do there. However, we found the capital of Cambodia to be a pretty fun place. You definitely can’t spend a week here, but it’s worth it to spend a few days. Make sure to visit the Killing Fields, as well as the Royal Palace. The side streets are fun to stroll through, and there’s a nice board walk along the lake. So be sure to give Phnom Penh a chance!
How to Get There
We took a bus from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam across the border to Phnom Penh. It’s about a 7 hour bus ride, including the time spent at the border. Make sure to pick a good bus company, as there are a few that will scam you. We took the Mekong Express for $15 plus visa and accomodation fees, and had an amazing ride. Check out our post on Crossing the Cambodian Border for more info.
We also travelled between Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Our minibus between Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh took about 4 hours and cost us $11 US with Giant Ibis. We took a night bus between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap that took 6 hours and cost $15 US with Giant Ibis as well. It’s really hard to sleep on the bus though, as the road is absolutely covered with potholes. Giant Ibis is reputable and reliable; the prices may be a few dollars more but the free water, air conditioning and lack of stress definitely made it the right decision.
Where to Stay
- Lazy Gecko – A basic hostel room with a fan was $10 US. The street it was on was what made it more fun! It is on a back street right beside Wat Bottom Park which is a nice green space with a couple national monuments. The small street is covered in hostels and restaurants, our favourite being Flicks 3. Good cheap food and drinks, free pool table, and it has a mini movie theatre! You can buy a day pass for $3.50 US and they put on 3-4 movies a day. We watched Jurassic World there which was awesome. You can check out their website here. Lazy Gecko was also within walking distance of almost everything in Phnom Penh we wanted to check out. You can book at Lazy Gecko online here.
What to Do
- Royal Palace – Similar to the Grand Palace in Bangkok, this complex is home to the King of Cambodia. The $6.50 entrance fee will allow you access to the grounds and countless beautiful buildings including the Throne Room and Silver Pagoda. The perfectly cut gardens and colourful rooftops make for great pictures.
- Killing Fields – A must see area of Cambodia that shows the true nature of the Khmer Rouge genocide which decimated a quarter of the total population of the country. 20,000 people alone were killed in these fields and buried in the mass graves marked at the site. Pieces of bones and pieces of clothing are still being found today. A large stupa filled with human skulls and bones of the people killed here acts as a memorial to this tragedy that only happened 40 years ago. It is an emotional experience, but we believe it was necessary to truly understand the culture and country we were in. Be warned that some of the stories and sights are very disturbing, so do a little research so you know what you are getting into. Feel free to email us for a larger description! The entrance fee of $6 US also gets you an audio tour which shares the history of the genocide and this specific location as well as stories from survivors. You’ll also need to take a tuk tuk, which takes 30-45 mins. We bartered our driver down to $12 for a round trip, he waited for us at the killing fields. It took about 2 hours to really experience the fields, but you could spend some more time and check out the museum on site as well.
- Wat Phnom – A cool smaller temple on the top of a small hill in the middle of a roundabout. It costs $1 to get into the temple.
- Wat Ounalom – Unfortunately it was a national holiday when we tried to visit this temple so we couldn’t go inside, but we walked around the complex and the temples were still something to look at. It’s also free which is nice.
- Monuments – Walking around Wat Bottom Park you’ll find nice green spaces as well as some cool statues. In the middle you’ll see the largest structure called the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument. If you walk to the south end of the park you’ll see food stalls and many kind locals enjoying some keep-up or some soccer. Across the street in the Neak Bahn Teuk Park there are some more monuments, the most important being the Independence Monument at the far west side of the park surrounded by a roundabout. The whole walk is a pleasant way to spend a few hours.
- Flicks 3 – If you need a rest, go catch some movies at Flicks 3. $3.50 US for a full day movie pass, they’ll play 2-4 movies a day. When we were there they had Inside Out and Jurassic Park, while they were still in theatres. You get to sprawl out in an air conditioned mini movie theatre covered in red pillows. You can also grab a beer or two to sip on while you watch.
Where to Eat
- Flicks 3 – Not only a good movie theatre, but it also had awesome food. Mostly american dishes, but they had a decent selection of Cambodian meals as well. The breakfast there was great.