Phnom Penh Travel Guide

It may lack the recognition of Bangkok or Singapore, but Phnom Penh has a well-deserved stake in Southeast Asia’s tourism industry. Here you will find a heady mix of colonial architecture, ancient temples and bohemian bars.

Phnom Penh’s most memorable sites are also its most disturbing. The Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum are gritty to say the least, but a visit to these sobering sites is essential to any visit. But it isn’t all gloom and despair, and conscientious visitors have ample opportunity to donate to the reputable foundations behind these tributes.

In true Cambodian fashion, visitors to the Killing Fields are hassled by touts pushing Thunder Ranch. A moment after visiting the country’s grimmest memorial to violent oppression you may find yourself swept away to a shooting range and handed a loaded AK47. It may be irreverent, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.

Anyone expecting a provincial backwater will be surprised. This city shook off the oppression of the Khmer Rouge in no time and plowed headfirst into the 21st century. Exaggerated tales of lawlessness and petty crime may have had a kernel of truth in the 1980s, but today’s tourists have little to fear.

Of course, Phnom Penh’s edgy charm can easily turn against tourists. Pay a visit to the amusement park on Sihanouk Boulevard and there’s no question that these rides have seen better days. Skip the Ferris wheel but do visit the decrepit park, which is an attraction in its own right.

Getting There & Away

Phnom Penh International Airport is a few miles out of town and offers regular connections to Siem Reap (1 hour) and Bangkok (1 hour, 10 minutes). Avoid flying with Royal Khmer Airlines and PMT Air, local carriers with dodgy safety records. Regional discount carriers like AirAsia and JetStar Asia have solid reputations. Siem Reap is 6 hours away by bus, and the road is in good condition.

Things to Do

Phnom Penh Attractions

Killing Fields

Ten miles outside of town, this monument consists of shallow graves and human remains that testify to the brutality of the khmer rouge.

Royal Palace

East meets west in this royal compound with its hints of french colonial architecture and glittering pagodas.

Genocide Museum

Also known as tuol sleng s-21, this evocative complex is filled with exhibits detailing the horrific events of the late 1970s. it’s easy to get emotional here so prepare yourself.

Wat Phnom

The city’s foremost temple is a must-see attraction boasting several stupas and 700 years of history.

Central Market

This tantalizing fusion of french colonial and traditional khmer architecture is the city’s one-stop shopping venue.

Friendship Monument

A politically charged tribute, the cambodia-vietnam friendship monument was built after the ousting of the khmer rouge. steer clear during protests.

National Museum

A comprehensive collection of artifacts from the angkor period, this museum is best visited during the royal ploughing festival after the yearly harvest.

Sisowath Quay

This is the city’s most prestigious dining district, lined with trendy caf├ęs serving authentic french cuisine at unbelievably low prices.

Stung Meanchey Garbage Dump

Not really a tourist attraction as such, this is the home of the city’s poorest inhabitants who scavenge the rubbish in search of something of value.