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Essential Phnom Penh Travel Tips – 9 Things To Know Before You Go


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Celisse Laing



Welcome to Phnom Penh, the bustling capital city of Cambodia! Located in the heart of the country, Phnom Penh is a vibrant and dynamic destination that offers a unique blend of rich history, captivating culture, and warm hospitality. Whether you’re a history buff, a food lover, or an adventurer, Phnom Penh has something for everyone.


As you prepare for your trip to Phnom Penh, it’s important to have some essential travel tips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. From visa requirements to cultural etiquette, this guide will provide you with the necessary information to make the most of your visit to this fascinating city.


Phnom Penh is a city that is constantly evolving, and it’s important to stay informed about any changes or updates. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to check for the latest travel advisories and consult with your travel agent or embassy before your trip.


Now, let’s dive into the essential Phnom Penh travel tips that you should know before you go.


Visa Requirements

Before you embark on your journey to Phnom Penh, it’s important to ensure that you have the necessary visa to enter Cambodia. Most visitors to Cambodia will require a visa, with a few exceptions for certain nationalities. It’s essential to check the specific visa requirements based on your nationality before your trip.


There are three main types of visas available for travelers: tourist visa, business visa, and e-visa. The tourist visa allows you to stay in Cambodia for up to 30 days, while the business visa allows for a longer stay. The e-visa is a convenient option that can be applied for online before your trip, allowing for a smoother and faster entry process upon arrival.


To apply for a visa, you will need the following documents:

  • A passport with a validity of at least six months from the date of entry
  • A completed visa application form
  • Passport-sized photos
  • The visa fee in US dollars

It’s important to note that visa regulations and requirements may change, so it’s advisable to check the Cambodian embassy website or consult with your travel agent for the most up-to-date information.


Upon arrival in Phnom Penh, you will need to present your passport, visa, and arrival/departure card to immigration officials. Make sure to keep these documents in a safe place throughout your stay in Cambodia.


Remember to respect the visa regulations and ensure that you have a valid visa before your trip to Phnom Penh. This will ensure a hassle-free entry and allow you to fully enjoy your time in this captivating city.


Best Time to Visit

When planning a trip to Phnom Penh, it’s important to consider the best time to visit in terms of weather and local festivals. The climate in Phnom Penh is tropical, with distinct wet and dry seasons.


The dry season, which runs from November to April, is generally considered the best time to visit Phnom Penh. During this time, the weather is hot and dry, making it perfect for exploring the city’s attractions and enjoying outdoor activities. The temperatures are more moderate in November and December, while January to April can be quite hot.


The wet season, from May to October, can bring heavy rainfall, particularly during the peak months of August and September. The rain can sometimes disrupt outdoor activities, but it also brings lush greenery and fewer crowds to the city. If you don’t mind the occasional rain shower, the wet season can be a more budget-friendly and less crowded time to visit Phnom Penh.


In addition to considering the weather, you may also want to plan your visit around local festivals. The most important festival in Cambodia is Khmer New Year, which takes place in mid-April and is celebrated with colorful parades, traditional music and dance performances, and water splashing. Other notable festivals include the Pchum Ben, a religious festival held in September, and the Bon Om Touk Water Festival, which takes place in November and celebrates the end of the rainy season with boat races on the Tonle Sap River.


Ultimately, the best time to visit Phnom Penh depends on your preferences and travel goals. Whether you prefer the dry season for outdoor exploration or the wet season for a more authentic cultural experience, Phnom Penh promises an unforgettable adventure at any time of the year.


Currency and Money Exchange

The official currency of Cambodia is the Cambodian Riel (KHR), but the preferred currency for most transactions in Phnom Penh is the United States Dollar (USD). It’s important to note that both currencies are widely accepted in the city, and it’s common for prices to be quoted in USD.


Before your trip, it’s advisable to carry a mix of both Cambodian Riel and USD in small denominations. This will come in handy for purchasing small items, paying for local transportation, and visiting markets or street stalls that prefer transactions in Cambodian Riel.


Money exchange facilities are readily available in Phnom Penh, including banks, official exchange offices, and hotels. It’s recommended to compare exchange rates and fees before making any transactions to ensure you get the best value for your money. Avoid exchanging money at unofficial or street vendors as they may offer less favorable rates.


Major credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants, and upscale establishments in Phnom Penh. However, it’s always a good idea to carry some cash for smaller establishments or places that may not accept cards. Be sure to notify your bank or credit card provider of your travel plans to avoid any issues with using your cards abroad.


ATMs can be found throughout Phnom Penh, and most accept international debit and credit cards. However, it’s always a good idea to have some cash on hand in case you encounter any issues with ATMs or if you plan to visit more remote areas where ATMs may be scarce.


When using cash in Phnom Penh, ensure that you have small bills as many street vendors and tuk-tuks may not have change for larger denominations. It’s also a good idea to keep your money and valuables secure, either in a money belt or a secure bag.


By being prepared with a mix of currencies and knowing where to exchange or withdraw money, you can ensure a seamless financial experience during your visit to Phnom Penh.


Transportation in Phnom Penh

Getting around Phnom Penh is relatively easy with several transportation options available for visitors.


Tuk-tuks are a popular mode of transport in Phnom Penh. These three-wheeled motorized vehicles are a convenient and inexpensive way to travel short distances within the city. Negotiating the fare is common, so be sure to agree on a price before starting your journey. Tuk-tuks are readily available throughout the city and can be hailed from the roadside or arranged through your hotel.


Motorbike taxis, known as “motodops,” are another common form of transportation in Phnom Penh. If you’re comfortable riding on the back of a motorcycle, motodops offer a quick and affordable way to navigate through traffic. Be sure to negotiate the fare and wear a helmet for safety.


For longer distances or more comfort, taxis are also available in Phnom Penh. Metered taxis are becoming more common, and it’s advisable to use these to avoid any overcharging. However, if you opt for a non-metered taxi, make sure to agree on a price before starting your journey.


If you prefer a more independent mode of transport, you can consider renting a bicycle or a scooter. Phnom Penh has a growing network of bike lanes and rental shops, making it ideal for exploring the city at your own pace. However, be cautious when riding in traffic and always wear a helmet.


Public transportation in Phnom Penh is limited, but there is a bus system available for those looking for an affordable and local experience. The Phnom Penh City Bus operates several routes throughout the city, and fares are low. However, the bus system can be crowded and may not be the most efficient option for getting around.


When it comes to road safety, it’s important to exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings. Traffic in Phnom Penh can be chaotic, with a mix of cars, motorbikes, bicycles, and pedestrians sharing the roads. Always look both ways before crossing the street and be mindful of traffic rules.


By familiarizing yourself with the different transportation options in Phnom Penh and taking necessary precautions, you can navigate the city easily and efficiently during your visit.


Language and Communication

The official language of Cambodia is Khmer, and while it is the most widely spoken language in Phnom Penh, you will find that many locals, especially those in the tourism industry, can communicate in English. This makes it relatively easy for foreign visitors to navigate the city and interact with the local population.


When it comes to communicating with locals, it’s helpful to learn a few basic Khmer phrases. Greetings such as “sous-dey” (hello) and “aw-kun” (thank you) will go a long way in showing respect and making a positive impression. Locals will appreciate your effort to learn their language, even if it’s just a few words.


In major tourist areas and hotels, you’ll find that English is commonly spoken. However, in more rural or remote areas, you may encounter limited English proficiency, so it’s advisable to learn some basic Khmer phrases or carry a translation app or phrasebook to assist with communication.


When it comes to written communication, the Khmer language uses its own script. However, in tourist areas, signs and menus are often available in both Khmer and English, making it easy to navigate and understand important information.


In terms of communication services, obtaining a local SIM card is a convenient option if you want to have reliable mobile communication during your stay in Phnom Penh. SIM cards can be purchased at the airport or local shops, and top-up plans are available for data and calling services. There are several mobile network providers in Cambodia, so be sure to compare prices and choose the one that suits your needs.


Additionally, free Wi-Fi is commonly available in hotels, restaurants, cafes, and some tourist areas in Phnom Penh. This allows you to stay connected and use messaging apps or internet-based communication services to make calls or send messages.


Overall, language and communication should not be a major barrier when traveling in Phnom Penh, as English is widely spoken in most tourist areas. However, learning a few basic Khmer phrases and having a reliable means of communication can enhance your interactions with the local population and make your experience even more enjoyable.


Cultural Etiquette

Respecting the local culture and observing cultural etiquette is important when visiting Phnom Penh. Cambodian society places high value on politeness, respect, and humility, and adhering to these cultural norms will enhance your interactions with locals and ensure a positive experience.


Here are some important cultural etiquette tips to keep in mind:

  • Dress modestly: Cambodia is a predominantly conservative country, and it’s important to dress modestly, especially when visiting temples or religious sites. Avoid wearing revealing clothing or showing too much skin.
  • Remove shoes when entering temples: It’s customary to remove your shoes and hat before entering Buddhist temples or pagodas as a sign of respect. Follow the lead of the locals and observe any specific instructions or practices.
  • Show respect to monks: If you encounter Buddhist monks, it’s important to show respect by lowering your head and not touching them. Avoid standing taller than a monk or taking photos without permission.
  • Use your right hand: In Cambodian culture, the right hand is considered clean, while the left hand is traditionally used for personal hygiene. When giving or receiving items, using your right hand is seen as more polite.
  • Ask before taking photos: Be mindful of cultural sensitivity when taking photos, especially of locals or in religious sites. Always ask for permission before taking photos of individuals, and be respectful of any restrictions or guidelines.
  • Be mindful of public displays of affection: Cambodian culture is conservative when it comes to public displays of affection. It’s best to refrain from overt displays of affection, such as kissing or intimate gestures, in public places.
  • Don’t point with your finger: Pointing with your finger is considered impolite in Cambodian culture. Instead, use an open hand or gesture with your chin to indicate directions or objects.
  • Accept and offer items with both hands: When giving or receiving items, whether it’s a gift or money, it’s customary to use both hands as a sign of respect and politeness.
  • Show respect to elders: Cambodian culture places great importance on respecting elders. When interacting with older individuals or those in positions of authority, use a polite and formal tone of speech and show deference.

By observing these cultural etiquette tips, you will demonstrate your respect for Cambodian traditions and create positive interactions with the local community.


Safety Tips

Phnom Penh is generally a safe city to visit, but like any other destination, it’s important to take precautions to ensure your safety. By following these safety tips, you can have a secure and worry-free experience in Phnom Penh:

  • Stay informed: Stay updated on the current situation by monitoring travel advisories and news updates before and during your visit. Familiarize yourself with local customs, laws, and regulations to avoid any misunderstandings or legal issues.
  • Keep your valuables secure: Be vigilant with your belongings and keep valuables such as passports, cash, and electronics securely stored. Consider using a money belt or a secure bag to minimize the risk of theft.
  • Use reliable transportation: Stick to licensed taxis or reputable transportation services to ensure your safety. If using a tuk-tuk or motodop, choose licensed drivers, negotiate the fare in advance, and be cautious of your personal belongings.
  • Be aware of your surroundings: Pay attention to your surroundings and be mindful of your personal safety, especially in crowded areas or at night. Avoid displaying expensive jewelry or carrying large amounts of cash.
  • Respect local laws and customs: Familiarize yourself with local laws and customs and abide by them. Do not engage in any illegal activities and be mindful of cultural sensitivities to avoid any misunderstandings or conflicts.
  • Avoid drugs and excessive alcohol consumption: Drug possession and consumption are illegal in Cambodia, and penalties can be severe. Avoid getting involved with drugs and drink alcohol responsibly to ensure your safety and minimize risks.
  • Use caution in remote areas: If you plan to visit remote or rural areas, seek advice from reliable sources and local authorities. Be aware of potential risks such as poor road conditions or wildlife encounters and take necessary precautions.
  • Stay hydrated and protect against the sun: Cambodia has a hot and humid climate, so it’s important to stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun. Carry a water bottle with you and use sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses when outdoors.
  • Trust your instincts: Trust your instincts and if something feels off or unsafe, remove yourself from the situation. It’s better to prioritize your safety and well-being than to take unnecessary risks.

By following these safety tips and exercising common sense, you can have a safe and enjoyable experience exploring the vibrant city of Phnom Penh.


Must-Visit Places in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is a city teeming with rich history, awe-inspiring architecture, and cultural treasures. Here are some must-visit places that should be on your itinerary when exploring the city:

  1. The Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda: Explore the opulent royal residence and marvel at the Silver Pagoda, adorned with silver tiles and housing a precious collection of Buddha statues.
  2. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum: Pay tribute to the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime by visiting this former prison turned museum. It offers a poignant look into Cambodia’s tragic history.
  3. Killing Fields of Choeung Ek: A somber but essential visit, these fields are a memorial to the victims of the Khmer Rouge, with a stupa filled with human skulls serving as a powerful reminder of the country’s past.
  4. National Museum of Cambodia: Discover a vast collection of Khmer art and artifacts, including intricate sculptures and ancient artifacts that showcase the rich cultural heritage of Cambodia.
  5. Russian Market: Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of this bustling market, where you can find everything from handicrafts and clothing to local street food and souvenirs.
  6. Wat Phnom: Climb the hill to visit this iconic temple and enjoy panoramic views of the city. It’s a serene place of worship and a great spot to escape the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh.
  7. Riverfront Promenade: Stroll along the scenic Tonle Sap River and soak in the lively atmosphere. The riverfront is lined with restaurants, bars, and cafes, offering a perfect place to relax and watch the world go by.
  8. Central Market: Explore this iconic Art Deco building and browse through a maze of stalls selling traditional crafts, jewelry, clothing, and local produce.
  9. Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center: Just outside the city, this rescue center provides a safe haven for rescued animals, including elephants, tigers, and bears. Visitors can observe these magnificent creatures up close.
  10. Street 240: Known as the “art street,” it is lined with boutique shops, art galleries, and charming cafes. It’s the perfect place to discover unique art pieces and enjoy a leisurely day of shopping and dining.

These are just a few highlights of the many incredible places to visit in Phnom Penh. Each location offers a glimpse into the city’s rich history and cultural heritage, making your trip to Phnom Penh an unforgettable experience.


Local Cuisine and Food Recommendations

One of the highlights of visiting Phnom Penh is indulging in its delicious and diverse cuisine. Cambodian cuisine is influenced by its neighboring countries, resulting in a unique blend of flavors and dishes. Here are some local culinary delights that you must try during your visit:

  1. Amok: Considered Cambodia’s national dish, Amok is a flavorful curry made with fish or chicken, coconut milk, and a mixture of spices. It is typically steamed in banana leaves, giving it a distinct aroma.
  2. Khmer Red Curry: This spicy and savory curry is a staple in Khmer cuisine. It is usually made with beef or chicken and flavored with lemongrass, galangal, garlic, and spices. Enjoy it with a side of rice or crusty baguette.
  3. Bai Sach Chrouk: A popular breakfast dish, Bai Sach Chrouk consists of grilled pork marinated in garlic, soy sauce, and coconut milk. It is served with rice, pickled vegetables, and a tangy dipping sauce.
  4. Lok Lak: Lok Lak is a stir-fried beef or chicken dish served with a tangy sauce made with lime, black pepper, and soy sauce. It is accompanied by fresh vegetables, lettuce leaves, and a side of steamed rice.
  5. Nom Banh Chok: This traditional Cambodian dish features thin rice noodles topped with a fish-based curry sauce and an array of fresh herbs and vegetables. It is often enjoyed as a breakfast staple or a light lunch.
  6. Kuy Teav: A comforting noodle soup, Kuy Teav is made with pork or beef broth and served with rice noodles, tender slices of meat, and an assortment of fresh herbs. This soup is a popular street food option in Phnom Penh.
  7. Fish Amok: Similar to the traditional Amok, Fish Amok uses fish fillets instead of chicken or beef. The fish is cooked in a fragrant curry sauce and steamed to perfection, resulting in a delicate and flavorful dish.
  8. Banh Chao: This crispy pancake is made from rice flour batter and filled with an assortment of ingredients, such as pork, shrimp, beansprouts, and herbs. It is best enjoyed by wrapping the pancake in lettuce leaves and dipping it in a sweet and savory sauce.
  9. Durian: For those feeling adventurous, try the notorious durian fruit. Known for its strong odor, the creamy and sweet flesh of the fruit is a delicacy in Cambodia. It is often enjoyed fresh or incorporated into desserts.
  10. Fresh Fruit Shakes: Don’t miss out on the refreshing fruit shakes available on the streets of Phnom Penh. Indulge in a variety of flavors, such as mango, pineapple, watermelon, and coconut.

These are just a few examples of the delicious Khmer dishes and treats you can savor in Phnom Penh. Don’t be afraid to explore the local street food scene, as it offers an array of mouthwatering delights that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving for more.



Phnom Penh is a captivating city that offers a unique blend of history, culture, and gastronomy. By following the essential travel tips outlined in this guide, you can make the most of your visit to this vibrant destination.


From ensuring you have the necessary visa requirements to understanding the best time to visit, being aware of cultural etiquette, and exploring the must-visit places, Phnom Penh promises an enriching and unforgettable experience.


Remember to always prioritize your safety by staying informed, keeping your valuables secure, and being cautious when it comes to transportation and unfamiliar surroundings. Respecting the local culture and customs will not only enhance your interactions with the friendly locals but also show your appreciation for Cambodia’s rich heritage.


Make sure to indulge in the local cuisine, savoring the flavors of traditional Khmer dishes and trying out street food delights. With its diverse culinary scene, Phnom Penh offers something to satisfy every palate.


As you explore Phnom Penh, take the time to immerse yourself in the rich history, visit the iconic landmarks, and embrace the warm hospitality of the locals. Whether you’re exploring the Royal Palace, delving into the country’s tragic past at the Genocide Museum, or simply strolling along the riverfront, Phnom Penh will leave a lasting impression on you.


So pack your bags, embrace the adventure, and get ready to create incredible memories in the captivating city of Phnom Penh!