Phnom Penh, the capital city of the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a former French colony and was once known as the Pearl of Asia. Today, it is the economic, industrial, and cultural center of the country. For tourists, Phnom Penh is the second most important city in Cambodia after Siem Reap. Its most famous landmarks are the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda, the Independence Monument, the National Museum, the Genocide Museum, and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. A more recent addition to the list of tourist attractions in Phnom Penh is the NagaWorld Integrated Casino & Hotel Complex. The city is connected with Siem Reap via a large number of day and night bus services that cost anywhere between 8 and 15 USD, one way. The buses are generally comfortable and the ride lasts for approximately 8 hours. It is possible to travel by bus between Phnom Penh and Bangkok on a single ticket. There are direct bus services between Siem Reap and Bangkok too, and as such Cambodia becomes a natural and easy extension of a holiday in Thailand. The following information will make your travel to Cambodia and Phnom Penh easier:
Which Currency To Carry
Though the official currency in Cambodia is Riel, it’s value in terms of USD is not much. One USD is equal to over 4000 Cambodian Riel. In fact, you do not need to worry because USD works as good as a local currency in Cambodia. There are bank ATMs that dispense USD, and everyone starting with your tuk-tuk driver to a hotel or restaurant will accept payment in USD. The official casino currency in NagaWorld Phnom Penh is also USD. Therefore, USD is the best currency to carry to Cambodia. And do carry lots of low denomination USD bills, such as 1, 5, 10, and 20. Avoid 2 USD bills. For some reason, common people in Cambodia do not like 2 USD bills. Other denominations are all OK.
Tourists from most countries in the world either get a visa-free entry or are eligible for Visa on Arrival / eVisa, which would cost 30 to 37 USD. Yes, the visa fee has to be paid in hard US currency. Please read the following articles for more info:
The following articles contain information on travel between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh and between Bangkok and Cambodia:
- Direct Bus From Bangkok to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh
- Road Trip from Siem Reap To Bangkok
- Mekong Express Bus Between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh Airport Prepaid Taxi
When you arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport, do look for a counter like this. The exact location of the counters keeps changing but you will see one after collecting your bags and passing through Customs. Prepaid Tourist SIM Card counters also must be close by. Typically, a tuk-tuk ride to your hotel should cost 7 or 8 USD and a taxi ride should cost 8 to 10 USD. This price is not per person but per vehicle.
If you are arriving in Phnom Penh on a bus, you will get a tuk-tuk from the bus station, that should take you to your hotel for 2 or 3 USD. Many, rather most, hotels in Phnom Penh provide free pickup from the airport/bus station for their guests. In that case, you will get a free ride to your hotel. You may tip the driver 1 USD.
Do not forget to buy your Cambodia Tourist SIM Card at the airport.
Where To Stay
The best area to stay in Phnom Penh is the Riverside. When searching for a hotel, select that area from the given options. Another good place is the NagaWorld Hotel where rooms cost upwards of 60 USD. Read this for more info: Where To Stay in Phnom Penh
See and Do in Phnom Penh
NagaWorld Casino & Hotel
If the purpose of your visit to Phnom Penh is to play in the casino, you may read my NagaWorld Casino Guide here.
A typical sightseeing plan for Phnom Penh will include the following:
- Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, and Stupa
- National Museum
- Wat Phnom
- Phnom Penh Riverside
- Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (Avoidable)
- Choeung Ek Killing Fields (Avoidable)
- NagaWorld Casino
Read Top 5 Tourist Attractions in Phnom Penh for detailed info.
You will find all taxi/tuk-tuk drivers carry a laminated card with pictures of all these and more attractions. They may even pester you to go on a tour with them. You may choose the places that interest you. Bargain with the driver about the price for the entire day. Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek are totally avoidable unless you like being sad. Some very bad things happened in Cambodia a long time ago. It is fine to preserve a memory of those bad times but it is not something that tourists should be so much interested in. If you are spending one day in Phnom Penh for sightseeing, start early and see Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, and Stupa, National Museum, Wat Phnom, and then reach the riverside by 5:00 pm. Eat something at one of the countless restaurants there, get a massage, and then head to NagaWorld to end the day. NagaWorld has a nice spa if you do not mind paying some 70-80 USD for a two-hour massage. You may read about The Spa at NagaWorld here.
Vegetarian food is available in plenty in Phnom Penh. You may try these two places in particular: