Introducing the city

£1.00 | 5,345.72KHR

GBP | KHR

Gasoline £0.70 | 3,736.84KHR

One-way ticket £1.54 | 8,206.40KHR

Beer £0.77 | 4,103.20KHR

Main Course £2.30 | 12,309.60KHR

About Phnom Penh

The Royal Palace and French colonial architecture are tasteful alibis to the grandeur of Indochina. 'The Pearl of Asia' looks to the future with a determination that makes it hard to imagine the horrors of the Khmer Rouge from a little over 30 years ago.

Wat Phnom glistens centre stage on the west bank of the Mekong, its symmetrical spires and roofs glimmering amidst the surrounding city. Meanwhile, armies of motorbikes gun through alleyways and lanes to swing out onto tree lined boulevards; sky scrapers and malls sprout as the city gets serious about development and colonial buildings, damaged by war and revolution, are ever so carefully repaired.

The city gladly looks to the future, keen to move on from the murderous social engineering of the Khmer Rouge expelled from government in 1979. You should too, there's more on offer other than a sobering visit to the Killing Fields and Genocide Museum. Party hard in true Asian mega city style, shop in the blossoming young design scene and marvel at the Royal Palace.

Phnom Penh is very much a born again city, constantly delighting at new opportunities and new directions.

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Weather

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When Should you Visit?

Come November, the rains are petering out and until February it remains warm and dry.

The summer can be ruthless in Phnom Penh - 40 degrees Celsius is not unheard of and things get busy around March until May. The wet season runs from June to August and temperatures do not drop below 20 degrees Celsius. Rains that fall in the late afternoon can be disruptive to road transportation but itineraries that venture out of the city are rewarded with lush and green Cambodian countryside.

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Travioor top tips

Killing Fields
Drinking age
Water

Insider Info

  • Roland Joffé's 'The Killing Fields' is a harrowing introduction to the atrocities of the Red Khmer, starring Sam Waterston, John Malkovich and Haing S. Ngor, a now deceased prisoner of the Khmer Rouge.

  • There is currently no minimum drinking age in Cambodia. Parents be vigilant.

  • The tap water is heavily chlorinated but drinkable. Don't worry about salads, vegetables and brushing your teeth but bottled water is best for drinking.

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Food and drink

Main Course £2.30 | 12,309.60KHR

3-Course Meal £13.05 | 69,754.40KHR

Cappuccino £1.60 | 8,562.01KHR

Beer £0.77 | 4,103.20KHR

The Scene

We recommend sticking to local cuisine as Western imitation dishes are often pretty ho-hum.

The French influence makes a strong case against this but ultimately vegetable stir fries, marinated meats, soups and steamed fish, adorned with edible flowers, are superior in flavour and price. Common flavours are black pepper, Indian inspired spice blends and fermented fish paste (prahok). Fresh, exotic fruits often follow a meal to cleanse the pallet of the usual sour and salty ingredients.

There is a range of good eateries and restaurants in the Sangkat Phsar Chas district along the river to the south of Wat Phnom. Romdeng on street 174 specialises in Cambodian dishes. Try the Kampot pepper crab. Vegetarians won't struggle; there are plenty of options available.

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History

Phnom Penh’s Story

The fanciful origins of prophetic Buddhist statues delivered down the Mekong aboard a koki tree nor a brief economic flourish as a French protectorate were to set Phnom Penh in good stead. Its history as a capital, since the sacking of Angkor Wat in 1432, has been turbulent.

Monarchical strife saw it abandoned for 360 years at the beginning of the 16th century. A communist revolt germinated beneath French colonialism as it became overcrowded with refugees of the Vietnam war during the early seventies. Things had to get worse before they could get better and in 1975 the nefarious Khmer Rouge realised its insidious supplant of the Khmer Republic Government, following a slump in US military support.

The premeditated atrocities of the Khmer Rouge devastated a vulnerable and war torn country. Phnom Penh was evacuated and thousands death marched in leader Pol Pot's psychotic attempt to establish an agrarian society. Since his death in 1998, the city has begun to move past these horrendous times and emerge once again as a harmonious community.

Language

Chomreabsuor | Hello
Arkoun | Thank you

Khmer

It is little wonder that a city that sits on four converging river routes has such breadth of language. The central Khmer dialect is at home here, many older generations speak French. Mandarin is commonplace amongst the Chinese population and most speak English.

  • Bye: Leahaey
  • Please: Saum
  • Excuse me: Attos
  • Do you speak English: Tae anak niyeay pheasaeaangkles

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Need to know

+855 Dialling Code
117 | 119 Emergency Services

Get The Low-Down

  • In markets restaurants, try to avoid pointing with your index finger as its considered rude. Open your hand and gesture palm-up instead.
  • Dress respectfully in temples, which means no shoulders no knees and never touch a Cambodian on the head, the most sacred part of the body.
  • Practising sampeah (the subtly varying forms of placing the hands together and bowing in greeting) gives a head start in gaining respect and friendship.

 

VISA INFORMATION

Find out about the visa requirements here

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Travioor Recommends

1. Bullet Holes

The Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum are not the only reminders of the Khmer Rouge. Keep your eyes peeled for tell tale bullet holes in buildings.

2. National Museum

Instead of going directly to Angkor Wat, consider investing in a few hours here to grasp the basics of Khmer culture. It will maximise your understanding of the ancient city.

3. Royal Palace

Like many of the temples in Cambodia, uncovered knees and shoulders will see you denied entry. Be careful not to show the soles of your feet to the Buddha statues also.

4. Beggars

'I don't want food I just want milk' is a heartbreaking call from children. Be aware though when you buy the milk, it is refunded for half the cost to the store accomplice.

5. Shoes

If you are fortunate to be invited into someone's home, remember to remove your shoes and eat with your right hand.


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