2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary, Phnom Penh, Independence Monument at night

2 Days In Phnom Penh Itinerary: A Complete Guide

This city was considered the most beautiful French-built city in Indochina, hence the nickname the “Pearl of Asia”, this is Phnom Penh. So, what can you do with 2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary?

Phnom Penh is at the confluence of the Bassak and Mekong Rivers and is in the south-central region of Cambodia. The city has a tropical wet and dry climate with two distinct seasons.

In terms of tourism, while Phnom Penh is not as busy or famous as Siem Reap, there is still plenty you can see and do in the laid-back city.

Our trip highlights are:-

  • Royal Palace
  • Throne Hall
  • Silver Pagoda
  • Wat Phnom
  • Independence Monument
  • Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
  • Central Market
  • Sisowath Quay

Let’s find out!

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Where is Phnom Penh?

Phnom Penh, the capital and most populous city in Cambodia is located at the confluence of the Mekong, Tonle Sap, and Bassac river and is home to a population of 2 million people. 

The earliest known people inhabited the area during the 5th century. The Choeung Ek Archaeological site contains the remnants of an ancient civilization with a village infrastructure, irrigation, and an ancient brick temple that dates back to the Funan era.

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This city became the first capital of Cambodia after Ponhea Yat, the last king of the Khmer Empire, and the first king of Cambodia moved the capital from Angkor Thom to Phnom Penh. 

The city was then abandoned several times before being re-established as the capital by King Norodom. By the 1920s, the city was often referred to as the “Pearl of Asia” and during the Vietnam War, Cambodia became the base for the Viet Cong and the People’s Liberation Army.

The city began to return to normalcy after the Khmer Rouge was driven out in 1979. With reconstruction and a stable government, new foreign investments began to flood the city together with aid from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

Today, Cambodia has made significant development in improving the health of those in the rural areas, primary education, and early childhood education. While Cambodia has achieved economical and political progress, the nation still grapples with its legacy.

Visa Requirements

Everyone who intends to visit Cambodia must have a visa. This rule applies to everyone except citizens of Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, Seychelles, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Thankfully, you can apply for the Cambodian e-visa through the official website Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.  The online visa platform only caters to Tourist Visa (T) and Ordinary Visa (E). 

Alternatively, you can apply for a Cambodian visa on iVisa. Their visa application is simple, fast, and reliable. All documents are submitted to a team of approved immigration experts before submission to respective governments and are less complicated.

How do you get around in Phnom Penh?

The several ways to get around in Phnom Penh include using tuk-tuks, moto, bicycle rentals, ride-share, taxis, and buses. This city is not pedestrian-friendly, so always be prepared when crossing roads or navigating traffic. 


This is the most common form of transportation in Phnom Penh. The larger tuk-tuks are known as remoks and can accommodate 4 persons. These are good for short distances as they are affordable.

Don’t be surprised to see an Indian-made auto rickshaw on the streets of Phnom Penh. These auto-rickshaws are much smaller and lighter than the traditional Cambodian tuk-tuk.

Travel Tip:

Always confirm your fare and destination before boarding any of these tuk-tuks. If you are boarding after 10 pm, you can expect heavily inflated prices. Also, make sure to always have small changes with you when traveling on tuk-tuks as the drivers may not have small changes.  


A second way to get around Phnom Penh is by using a moto or motorbike taxi. However, at night, this may not be your safest option as it is common for drivers to be drinking when taking passengers back to their hotels.

Also, most of these drivers do not speak English and may not know the way to your destination, although they claim to know the way around Phnom Penh.


This is the latest addition to Phnom Penh’s public transportation. There are several options when it comes to ride-share as there are three players in the Cambodian market. These are Grab, PassApp, and WeGo


Private taxis can be arranged from your hotel and you probably can find many around the city. Do note that the rates are expensive. Although shared taxis may be cheaper, it is best to hire a private car through your travel agent in Phnom Penh for a comfortable ride.


Phnom Penh welcomed its first bus service with 11 lines that run throughout the city. The fare is fixed at KHR 1,500 ($0.38) regardless of distance. To make your traveling on the local bus easier, download the Stops Near Me App from Google Playstore

How many days do you need in Phnom Penh?

Ideally, you would need 2 days in Phnom Penh. Why?

Although Phnom Penh is the largest city in Cambodia, it is ranked 13th in terms of the estimated population. The city is also much smaller and is easy to get around.  

Day 1: Royal Palace Complex

On Day 1of our 2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary, we explore Phnom Penh’s royal palace complexes, the founding temple of Phnom Penh as well as the two iconic landmarks in Phnom Penh, the Independence Monument and the Statue of King Father Norodom. 

Royal Palace

2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary, Royal Palace Complex, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Photo by René DeAnda on Unsplash

The first of our 2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary was the Royal Palace of Cambodia Complex. This complex was built upon an old citadel named Banteay Keo and is divided into four main compounds.

The official residence of the King of Cambodia is Khemarin Palace which is within these compounds and is separated by a wall. The entrance is located on the west of the Throne Hall. The official residence is off-limits to the public.

What we loved about the Royal Palace of Cambodia Complex is that we only paid an entrance fee of $6.50 which allowed us to walk the well-manicured and beautiful grounds of the Royal Palace, the Throne Hall, the Silver Pagoda, and the Moonlight Pavillion.

A tour guide will set you back by another $10 which we did not take. You can expect to be disappointed if you expect the royal palace complex to be as grand as that in Bangkok. 

Does the King of Cambodia live in the Royal Palace? 

Yes, the current King of Cambodia, King Norodom Sihamoni lives in Khemarin Palace within the Royal Palace Complex. The king is in residence if you notice a flag is up. The palace is topped by a single golden prang. 

Throne Hall

2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary, Throne Hall, Royal Palace Complex, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Photo by Francisco Anzola on Wikipedia Commons

The second of our 2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary was the Throne Hall or Preah Tineang Tevea Vinnichay Mohai Moha Prasat translates to the “sacred seat of judgment”. This is where the king and officials carry out their duties in running and managing the country.

The Throne Hall is distinctively marked by three spires with the highest having the white four-faced head of Brahma. Inside the Throne Hall, you will see three thrones, one western-style and two traditional-styled thrones. 

The ancient nine-level throne can be seen. This throne is used during the king’s coronation while he is dressed in Royal Regalia. You can spot this throne as it is topped with a nine-tiered umbrella which symbolizes the universal powers of the king.

Silver Pagoda

2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary, Silver Pagoda, Royal Palace Complex, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Photo by Olaf Tausch on Wikipedia Commons

The third of our 2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary was the Silver Pagoda. This structure is also known as the Temple of the Emerald Crystal Buddha. The image above is the stupa in which the remains of King Norodom Suramarit are interred.

This ornate structure was once a wooden building. It was rebuilt and decorated with jewels and silver. The name Silver Pagoda is derived from the fact that the floor is covered with 5,329 silver pieces which weigh a whopping 1,125 kilograms.

Although most of its contents were damaged and pillaged during the Khmer Rouge era, this is the only temple to have survived under the Khmer Rouge. 

Who built the Silver Pagoda?

The Silver Pagoda was built by King Norodom Sihanouk whose ashes are interred at another stupa near the Silver Pagoda.

Moonlight Pavilion

2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary, Moonlight Pavilion, Royal Palace Complex, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Photo by Fumihiko Ueno on Wikipedia Commons

The fourth of our 2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary was the Moonlight Pavilion. This open-air pavilion is one of the most notable within the complex and was built for the king to view the parades. 

The pavilion was also used as a platform for the Royal Dancers and as a place where the king addresses the crowd. State banquets are also held in this pavilion. The current structure was built to replace an earlier pavilion built by King Sisowath.

Wat Phnom

2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary, Wat Phnom, Statue of Daun Penh, the woman founder of Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Photo by Leng Chan on Unsplash

The fifth of our 2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary was Wat Phnom. This place is about 1.3-miles or a 10-minute drive from the Royal Palace Complex. Wat Phnom is built on the only hill in Phnom Penh.

According to local legend, a lady named Daun Penh lived near the banks of the confluence of four rivers. One day, she saw a floating Koki tree and with the help of the villagers, she took the piece of wood, scraped it, and found five statues made of bronze.

The first four statues were statues of Buddha while the last statue was Vishnu holding a staff, a snail, and a lotus flower. The villagers soon built a temporary shrine on a raised platform and named it Phnom Penh or “Penh’s Hill” in her honor.

Who built Wat Phnom?

Wat Phnom was built by Daun Penh to house the statues she had found from the bark of a floating Koki Tree. 

How tall is Wat Phnom?

Wat Phnom is 46 meters or 150 feet in height. 

How much is the entrance fee to Wat Phnom?

The entrance fee to Wat Phnom is $1 and $2 for the on-site museum. The temple is open every day from 7.30 am to 6.30 pm. 

Independence Monument

2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary, Independence Monument, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Photo by Daniel Bernard on Unsplash

The sixth of our 2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary was visiting the Independence Monument. This monument is at the intersection of Norodom Boulevard and Sihanouk Boulevard in Phnom Penh’s city center.

The stupa structure was inspired by Banteay Srei, the “jewel of Khmer architecture”. The monument was built as a dedication to those brave hearts who perished during the war towards Cambodia’s independence.

At night, this monument illuminates in red, blue, and white which are the colors of Cambodia’s flag. On the east of the monument, there is a park that fills with locals in their daily activities. 

Statue of King Father Norodom Sihanouk

2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary, statue of King Father Norodom Sihanouk, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Photo by Screen Post on Unsplash

The seventh of our 2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary was visiting the statue of King Father Norodom Sihanouk. This statue is diagonally opposite and is a short walk from the Independence Monument.

This statue was built and dedicated to King Sihanouk’s relentless drive-in liberating the country from French colonialism. He served in multiple roles as Cambodia’s King, Head of State, and Prime Minister.

He became the King of Cambodia in 1941 and is recognized as a leader who set the path toward Cambodia’s independence from France. Although he was fond of Western culture, he was determined to see Cambodia become a free and independent nation.

Does Cambodia have a royal family?

Yes, Cambodia does have a royal family. The current lineage is from the House of Norodom. The earliest known ruler was Queen Soma who was the ruler of the Kingdom of Funan and is regarded as the first monarch of Cambodia.

Day 2: A Trip Into Phnom Penh’s Past

On Day 2 of our 2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary, we explored Phnom Penh’s past by visiting the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, and the National Museum of Cambodia.

After taking in all that somber history, we ended our day at Sisowath Quay where we relaxed as we watched the boats pass by. This is the best place to see how the locals end their day. 

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Khmer Rouge Security 21 Prison, S-21, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Photo by Marcin Konsek on Wikipedia Commons 

The eighth of our 2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary was the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. This secondary school was the site of Khmer Rouge’s Security Prison 21, hence the term S-21. 

The prisoners here were repeatedly tortured and coerced into naming their family members and close associates, who would then be captured and tortured. The prisoners in this facility were government officials, doctors, academics, monks, and engineers.

There are four main buildings on-site, Buildings A, B, C, and D with Building B holding the black and white photographs of those who passed through the camp. Building D houses the torture memorabilia while Building C holds the prisoner cells.

What happened in Tuol Sleng?

Tuol Sleng is the Security Prison 21 where an estimated 20,000 people were imprisoned, tortured, and executed by the Khmer Rouge between 1975 to 1979. The museum continues to be an educational and memorial site for Cambodians. 

Who survived S-21?

The survivors of S-21 were Bou Meng who survived by producing propaganda paintings for the Khmer Rouge, and Chum Mey who survived by repairing sewing machines for Pol Pot’s soldiers.

Chim Meth survived by emphasizing her provincial accent as she was from the same district as the Chief Prison Officer. Another survivor, Vann Nath survived because he knew how to paint. 

How much is the entry fee to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum?

The entry fee is $5 for foreign adults and $3 for foreign children between the ages of 10 to 18 years

National Museum of Cambodia

2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary, National Museum of Cambodia, statue of Leper King, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Photo by Marcin Konsek on Wikipedia Commons

The ninth of our 2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary was the National Museum of Cambodia. This museum is about 2-miles or a 10-minute drive from the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum of Cambodia.

This is the largest museum in Cambodia with about 14,000 artifacts dating from pre-historic to present-day Cambodia. The museum is a short 5-minute walk from the Royal Palace Complex.

The statue in the gazebo in the courtyard is that of the Leper King. This is the original statue of the Terrace of Leper King in Siem Reap. The current statue placed in Siem Reap is a replica. 

Among the must-see artifacts are the seated statue of King Jayavarman VII with his head slightly bowed which was found at Angkor Thom, a giant pair of wrestling monkeys from Koh Ker, and a reclining bronze Buddha statue from the West Mebon in Angkor.

How much is the entry fee to the National Museum of Cambodia?

The entry fee is $5 for foreigners aged between 10 to 17 years, and $10 for those 18 years and above. English, Spanish, French, and Japanese-speaking guides are available for $6. Audio guides that are available in 8 languages are $5 per person.

Choeung Ek Genocidal Center

2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary, Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, Phnom Penh Killing Fields, Killing Fields, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Photo by Arian Zwegers on Wikipedia Commons

The tenth of our 2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary was Choeung Ek Genocidal Center. This center is about 12-miles or a 35-minute drive from the National Museum of Cambodia. 

This is the site of the Killing Fields where the Khmer Rouge regime killed and buried more than a million people between 1975 to 1979. The atmosphere here is somber and grim as we walked through the green fields that contain the smashed bones of those killed.

A Buddhist stupa with acrylic glass walls that contain the skulls of at least 8,000 persons was built as a memorial to the victims who perished. The mass graves are visible and it is not uncommon to find a bone scattered on the surface.

Visitors are requested to contact or notify the memorial park officer if they find any bones or teeth. As there is an area where children were beaten to death, it is not advisable to bring children below the age of 12 years here.

How many people are buried in the killing fields?

A researcher concluded that at least 1,386, 734 victims of execution were buried in the killing fields. Others have mentioned that “most likely” 2.2 million victims are buried here. 

Is Killing Fields a true story?

Yes, the Killing Fields is a true story of two journalists, Sydney Schanberg and Dith Pran who cover the fighting between the fighting and Khmer Rouge forces. Although both have the opportunity to flee, both stay behind.

The first half of the movie explore’s Sydney’s guilt for putting Pran’s life in danger while the second half of the film sees Pran surviving the brutality of the Khmer Rouge.

How much is the entry fee to Choeung Ek Genocidal Center?

The entry fee for Choeung Ek Genocidal Center is $6 per person while the audio guide is $3 per person. The center is open daily from 7.30 am to 5.30 pm. 

Central Market

2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary, Central Market Phnom Penh, New Grand Market, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Photo by Amy Em on Unsplash

The eleventh of our 2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary was a visit to Central Market or Phsar Thum Thmei which translates to “New Grand Market”. This market is about 11 miles or a 40-minute drive from the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center.

When the market was completed in 1937, it was the largest in Asia, and today, its 26-meter central dome is one of the most photographed areas of the market. If you are planning to buy kramas, souvenirs, electrical items, and sarongs, this is the place to be.

Avid photographers would love the fresh market section which has a vibrant display of fruits, vegetables, and fresh seafood. 

Sisowath Quay

2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary, Sisowath Quay, Riverfront Promenade Phnom Penh
Photo by Daniel Bernard on Unsplash

The twelfth and last of our 2 days in Phnom Penh itinerary was watching the sunset at Sisowath Quay. This 1.8-mile stretch of riverfront strip is lined with restaurants, bars, cafes, and local vendors selling street food and souvenirs.

Once you are at the riverfront, make your way to the FCC Phnom Penh Boutique Hotel which is a three-story Art Deco landmark in Phnom Penh. The building has been refurbished and the hotel has 9 rooms with beautiful views of the river.

What are the best places to stay in Phnom Penh?

In our guide, we chose the three best places to stay in Phnom Penh for first-timers, for nightlife, and those with families. These are our favorite hotels as each stay was memorable and left us feeling positively happy.

Daun Penh for First-Timers

Daun Penh in Khmer means “Grandmother Penh”. She is revered as the founder of Phnom Penh. The two main landmarks in this area are the Central Market and the Wat Phnom. Our top choices for hotels in this area are described below.

Rosewood Phnom Penh

What we loved about the Rosewood Phnom Penh was the ultra luxuriousness of the plush furnishings coupled with splendid views of the Mekong river. The hotel has 175 rooms of which 37 are suites that are perfect for either business or leisure stays.

The positive reviews include friendly and helpful staff, clean and spacious rooms, and top-notch facilities. The hotel has an indoor swimming pool and is 500 meters from Wat Phnom and Central Market. 

Plantation Urban Resort and Spa

Our second choice was the Plantation Urban Resort and Spa. This lovely 1930s mansion has since been converted into a boutique hotel. This 70-room hotel perfectly blends serenity while situated in the center of the city. 

As you enter this resort, stop and appreciate the calm, peace, and tranquility of the hotel. With tropical plants, and within walking distance to the Royal Palace, the National Museum, and Sisowath Quay, you will not regret staying at this jewel in Phnom Penh.

Some positive reviews mention that this hotel has a great ambiance and is perfect for relaxing. The hotel is conveniently located with a fantastic breakfast and lovely and helpful staff. And, the landscape is simply gorgeous. I mean, who doesn’t love poolside cabanas?

White Mansion

What was once the home of the Ambassador of the United States, is now the White Mansion. This boutique hotel with 33 individually decorated rooms. What we loved about this hotel was its winding staircase which was perfect for photography enthusiasts like us.

The positive reviews about this hotel mention the friendly, helpful, and amazing staff while other reviews mention the clean, spacious, and grand rooms. With a huge balcony, comfortable bed, and warm showers, rest assured that you may not want to leave your room.

Riverfront for Nightlife

The Riverfront is a tourist attraction on its own. With restaurants, bars, street vendors, and souvenir shops, this is the place to be if you want vibrant nightlife. As the Riverfront park leads to the Royal Palace Complex, you can expect busloads of tourists.

For a pleasant experience, stroll along the promenade early in the day. If you to capture the sunset and the Royal Palace Complex at night, then visit during the sunset hours. 

What we loved about this area is that although it can be touristy, it has retained its local charm as you observe the locals coming to the park to relax, after a hard day’s work. You can see them walking, jogging, and simply interacting with each other, the good old way.

The Quay Boutique Hotel

What we loved about the Quay Boutique Hotel was its rooftop bar with stunning sunset views of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. With 16-rooms, we especially loved the friendly and amazing staff. Take note that although WiFi is free, the connection isn’t always that good.

The spacious clean room and a location along Sisowath Quay make this hotel a perfect place to relax and unwind, after a day of sightseeing. The Royal Palace Complex and the National Museum are within walking distance from the hotel.

Some positive reviews mention huge, well-furnished suites with balconies with made-to-order breakfast making this hotel worth every penny for your stay in Phnom Penh. 

Sokha Hotel

The Sokha Hotel is one of the largest hotels in Phnom Penh with 549 rooms and features an outdoor swimming pool. What we loved was the fact that this hotel is away from the hustle and bustle of the city. And, guests have access to the complimentary spa at Jasmine Spa. 

Some positive reviews mention the friendly and helpful staff, good breakfast options with clean rooms, and spacious rooms. Other reviews mention a comfortable bed and splendid views of the river. 

Sofitel Phnom Penh Pokeethra

What we loved about Sofitel were the wood furnishings that gave a warm ambiance while the mirror-to-wall windows gave the rooms a light and airy feel to it. This 5-star hotel has 201 rooms that are luxurious and comfortable.

Some positive reviews mention comfortable bedding, amazing staff, and clean rooms. The hotel is located in the heart of the city and connects to a mall which is convenient for any last-minute purchases.

Sangkat Boeung Keng Kang 1 (BKK 1) for Families

This is Phnom Penh’s most exclusive neighborhood and is often referred to as NGOville due to the fact that this is where most non-government offices set up their centers. Due to the large expat community, you can find a variety of international cuisine here.

And, that was what made us love this area. If you are looking for a neighborhood that has Starbucks, Coffee Bean, Big Apple, and Domino’s, this is the place to be. With these in mind, we chose these as our best hotels to stay here. 

Casa Villa Independence

What we loved about Casa Villa Independence was that the rooms were beautifully decorated with Khmer silk and traditional Cambodian decor. With 12 suites having their own private terraces, this hotel felt more like home.

The Independence Monument and the Riverside were an easy walk away. Some positive reviews mention that the rooms were clean and spacious while the staff was friendly and helpful. 

Mansion 51 Hotel and Apartment

With 37 fully equipped rooms, a separate living and dining area, and a dishwasher and refrigerator, the Mansion 51 Hotel and Apartment was the other place where we like home. Basic cooking utensils are provided so you can cook simple meals.

For some refreshment, swim in the outdoor pool that has city views. There is an outdoor playground and a fitness room, all of which are located on the rooftop. A sauna and steam room are also available.

Some positive reviews mention that the staff is warm and welcoming and the perfect location of the hotel which is near a lot of restaurants. 

The other reviews mention the poor command of English among the staff, limited choices for breakfast, and that the internet does not always work.

Palace Gate Hotel and Resort

The Palace Gate Hotel and Resort is a 54-room hotel set in a French colonial villa that exudes luxury. Each room is decored with French furnishings and is complete with modern amenities. What we loved was that all rooms had a balcony, which we where we had our morning tea.

The hotel is within walking distance of the National Museum, the Royal Palace Complex, and Riverside. Some positive reviews mention excellent staff and hotel with the location being close to major attractions. 

Other reviews mention the lovely rooftop bar and although breakfast choices were limited, the breakfast at the terrace and by the pool made up for it. This is a lovely place to stay. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Phnom Penh

Do you still have questions about Phnom Penh or Cambodia?

If it’s a yes, then we have you covered. Read on to know more about the other questions which you may have about Phnom Penh or Cambodia.

Is there Uber in Phnom Penh?

No, there is no Uber in Phnom Penh. However, the ride-share app that is available in Phnom Penh is Grab. You can either rent a GrabCar or GrabTukTuk with preferred rental packages that do not require pre-booking. 

The other rideshare options are PassApp and WeGo. The PassApp service includes rideshare for cars, tuk-tuks, and rickshaws while WeGo caters to larger groups with the Khmer Reumork, cars, and rickshaws.

Do they speak English in Cambodia?

Yes, they do speak English in Cambodia, specifically in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap as these cities are popular with tourists. The official language is Khmer and this is spoken by about 90% of the population, mostly in rural areas.

The major foreign language spoken in Cambodia is French while the minority languages are Cham, Vietnamese, and Mon-Khmer. 

The formal greeting for “hello” in Khmer is “chom reap sour” while “goodbye” is “chom reap lear”. To say “thank you” politely is “arkun” while “som dtoh” means “sorry” or “excuse me”.

How long is the bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap?

The bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap is about 6 hours and covers a road distance of 198 miles. Traveling by bus between these two cities gives you a glimpse of local life as it unfolds throughout the day.

While there are several choices for buses, the most popular tourist bus is Giant Ibis. In this bus, you can travel in air-conditioned comfort with free WiFi and snacks provided on board. 

Buy your tickets for the Universe Luxury bus and rest assured that you will have a comfortable journey to Siem Reap. 

What is traditional Cambodian food?

These are five traditional Cambodian food that you can find all over Phnom Penh and Cambodia as a whole. Be sure to include these must-eats in your trip to Phnom Penh.  

Samlar Machu

samlar manchu, Cambodian sour soup, Cambodian soup, Cambodian food
Photo by Saphabodi on Wikipedia Commons

The first must-eat in Cambodia is samlar machu or “sour soup” in Khmer. While the base ingredient of this dish is tamarind, there are several variations where tomatoes, pineapples, and celery are used to flavor the soup.

The other types of samlar machu include samlar machu yuon which is made with lobster, fish or chicken, pineapple, dried fish, and tomatoes. If it is made with fresh and dried fish, crab, and green papaya, it is samlar machu srae.

Num Banchok

num ban chok, Cambodian food, fermented noodle dish served at breakfast, Cambodian breakfast dish
Photo by Thomas Wanhoff on Wikipedia Commons

The second must-eat when in Cambodia is num banchok. This lightly-fermented noodle dish is usually served at breakfast. A popular Khmer folklore is associated with this dish.

The story goes that there was once an influential scholar named Thonchey who was exiled to China by a Khmer king. In China, the scholar began making num banchok to sustain his living.

As the dish gained popularity, the Chinese emperor called Thonchey to the palace to prepare the dish for him. While the emperor ate the dish, Thonchey sneaked in to peek at the emperor and promptly insulted him, only to be thrown in jail later on.

Thonchey was eventually released and was returned to the Khmer Empire. In recent years, the Ministry of Tourism is seeking to include this dish in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

Amok Trei (Fish Amok)

Amok trei, fish amok, Cambodian food
Photo by Marcin Konsek on Wikipedia Commons

The third must-eat when in Cambodia is fish amok. With a mousse-like consistency, this steamed fish dish is one of Cambodia’s oldest dishes that was once only served to the royals of the Khmer Empire.

Only three types of fish are used for this dish, the goby fish, the snakehead fish, or catfish. The dish is served with a side of steamed rice and is always served on a banana leaf or coconut shell.

Loklak Sach Koo (Beef Lok Lak)

beef lok lak, lok lak, lok lk sach kor, Cambodian food
Photo by Marcin Konsek on Wikipedia Commons

The fourth must-eat in Cambodia is lok lak sach kor or beef loklak is a French-inspired Cambodian dish that is made by stir-frying bite-sized beef with cucumbers, and lettuce, tomatoes, pepper, and soy sauce.

This dish is one of Cambodia’s national dishes and was mostly served at formal events such as weddings and anniversaries. This was because beef was considered a luxury that many could not afford to eat.

The closest relative of this dish is Peru’s lomo saltado which is cooked and served in a similar style. 

Num Pang Cheng (Spring Onion Pancake)

spring onion pancake, num pang cheng, Cambodian food, Chinese bread
Photo by Howard61313 on Wikipedia Commons

The fifth must-eat in Cambodia is num pang cheng or “Chinese bread”. This is the Cambodian version of the popular scallion pancakes that are found in China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

These pancakes can be served either as a main dish or a side dish which is made from dough, scallions, fennel, and sesame seeds. 

What is the best time to go to Cambodia?

The best time to visit Cambodia is between November to May which is during the dry season. While Cambodia has hot and humid weather all year round, the country has two seasons which are the monsoon season and dry season. 

The wet monsoon season is from June to October and while the rain may damper your plans, traveling during this period means fewer crowds and cheaper accommodation. 

Can you use US Dollars in Cambodia?

Yes, you can use US Dollars in Cambodia. Cambodia has an unofficial dual currency system with US Dollars being widely accepted and pegged at 4000 Riel to 1 USD. The official currency in Cambodia is Riel (៛). 

In rural areas, Riel is widely used while in the major cities of Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanouk, both US Dollars and Riels are accepted as legal tender. 

However, the Central Bank of Cambodia plans to reduce the dependency on US Dollars and encourage the use of Riel and the local digital currency, Bakong.

Is Phnom Penh worth visiting?

It’s a YES from us. Why?

  1. Dark Tourism. I mean, who wants to go on a holiday to see something depressing? However, Phnom Penh’s past is tightly connected to Pol Pot and his atrocities. Visit Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Choeung Ek Genocide Center and pay your respects to the 3 million people killed for being educated.
  2. Historical buildings. When Cambodia came under French rule, the legacies the French left included Baguette and the beautiful buildings that dot the city. Look out for the French-inspired Central Post Office, the National Library of Cambodia, and the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunication next to Hotel Le Royal
  3. Massages. If you are looking for the best value massages, Phnom Penh’s the place to get one. While spa massages can set you back by $100 in Bangkok or Siem Reap, you can easily get a full-body aromatherapy massage for $55 in Phnom Penh.
  4. Walks by the waterfront. After a day of sightseeing and a good foot massage, head to Sisowath Quay to relax and unwind. The atmosphere at the riverside is friendly, and relaxed, and has plenty of smiles. A perfect end to the day, don’t you think?
  5. Cuisine. While Cambodia’s cuisine is nowhere near Thai or Vietnamese in terms of international status, there are several must-eats when in Phnom Penh. From street-cart-lined streets to fine-dining and the unique street foods (fried tarantula’s, anyone?), Phnom Penh is a foodie’s delight. 

Phnom Penh is the place to be to experience Cambodia’s local vibe, culture, and food. While not as famous as Bangkok or Hanoi, Phnom Penh’s charm lies in its simplicity, the resilience of its people, and its blend of modern and ancient living in harmony.