Cambodia’s capital city is one of the most chaotic places we’ve ever visited. The fast-paced city is buzzing at all hours of the day. It can be a bit of sensory overload at times, but there are countless great things to experience in Phnom Penh.
When you arrive at Phnom Penh International Airport, it’s $2.50 per ticket to take the train into the city center. It’s a fairly easy train ride, and trains leave every 90 minutes. It definitely beats haggling with a taxi driver, though using the Grab app is a great option too.
Regardless of how you get downtown, here are some things you can’t miss during your first time in Phnom Penh.
1. Visit Central Market
The Central Market is a massive cross-shaped market built back in the 1930s. Today, it’s one of the busiest markets in the city and has a massive variety of stands selling everything from shampoo to fine jewelry. There are also plenty of food vendors there too, and the food court is located on the west side of the market.
Hours: 7 AM to 6 PM
Price: Free entry
2. Take a sunset river cruise
As you walk along the Tonle Sap river, there are plenty of options for river cruises. Some are shorter in length. Some are several hours and include dinner. There aren’t any specific booths to look for, but there are plenty of salesmen making pitches along the riverwalk.
Most of the boats will have drinks available onboard, making a river cruise one of the best ways to take in the sights. Prices are around $5 per person and drinks onboard run $2-3 USD.
Location: Along the Tonle Sap River
Hours: ??? to 10 PM (varies by operator, but last boat seems to leave around 9ish)
Price: $5 for a short cruise, up to $30 or so for several hours + dinner and drinks
3. Try Cambodian cuisine
Cambodian cuisine definitely has some French influence, but much of it can be quite the experience for Westerners. One great dish to try is Fish Amok which is a very popular dish. Ours was served beautifully in a banana leaf bowl and the flavor was much like a coconut curry.
To ease your way into Cambodian food, head to Romdeng. While it’s not the cheapest spot in town, the restaurant is exceptionally clean and has a very diverse menu to warm you up to Cambodian cuisine.
Hours: 11 AM to 11 PM
Price: $6 to $9 USD per dish at Romdeng
4. Try bugs
So now that you’ve warmed your palate up with something easy, it’s time to expand your horizons and try something a little on the crazy side.
Originally, Cambodians ate insects out of necessity, though overtime they’ve become a popular snack. There are a lot of different types of creepy-crawlies to try out while you’re in Cambodia!
You can usually find a stand without too much effort during the evening hours in downtown Phnom Penh. Choices include: water snake, crickets, mealworm, maggots, fried frog, tarantula, and cockroaches (though there will probably be more options).
From our experience, the smaller crickets are actually pretty good. Fried frog however, not so much.
Location: City wide, look for a street-hawker style cart
Hours: Varies, but we saw lots of options early-to-mid evening
Price: Cheap! $1-2 goes a long way. If you find a friendly vendor, they might let you try one or two bugs for free
5. Have dinner at the Phnom Penh Night Market
The Phnom Penh Night Market is one of our favorite night markets in Southeast Asia. The food is quite diverse, but the real reason to go is the dining style. In the center of all the vendors, there are a ton of mats laid out for customers to sit on. Just make sure to take your shoes off! It’s a fun way to dine family style.
Hours: 5 PM to 11 PM
Price: Free entry, price varies by dish. Easy to feed yourself for less than $5 USD.
6. Stroll along the Tonle Sap River
One of the most beautiful and (relatively) peaceful places to walk in Phnom Penh is the Riverside Park. It runs for about a mile north to south along the Tonle Sap River and is a fantastic place to watch a sunset or just sit and do some people-watching.
There are also countless bars and restaurants nearby so the location is really quite ideal. It also felt very safe – we walked though around 11:30 PM and didn’t see any reason for worry.
Hours: Open 24 hours
7. Have a cheap drink
For those that enjoy alcohol, Cambodia is a delightfully cheap place to visit. All across town, beers range from $0.50 to $3 USD. A good cocktail can be had for under $4. The prices vary based on the establishment, but it’s easy to find a cold cheap beer all over Phnom Penh.
Even the convenience stores are cheap. A can of Angkor goes for $0.68 at the 24/7 market by our hotel.
Location: There are countless bars in Phnom Penh
Hours: 24/7 (or close to)
Price: Starting at $0.50 per drink
8. Visit Wat Phnom
Located right in the heart of Phnom Penh, Wat Phnom is the tallest religious structure in the city. Foreigners will need to pay $1 USD to enter, but it’s a wonder place to visit, especially for such a cheap price.
Hours: 7 AM to 6 PM
Price: $1 USD for foreigners
9. Drink fresh pressed sugar cane juice
It’s no secret that the days in Phnom Penh can be hot. And what better way to cool off on a hot day than with freshly pressed sugar cane juice?
There are plenty of street vendors selling this delicious and refreshing drink for only about $0.50 USD per cup. They run the sugar cane through a press and then serve the juices over ice.
The taste, in our opinion, is like a sweet and creamy lemonade.
Location: Hawker-style carts and restaurants. Look for the sticks of sugar cane!
Hours: Morning to evening
Price: 2000 riel ($0.50 USD) per cup
10. Ride in a tuktuk
No visit to Phnom Penh is complete without catching a tuktuk ride. You won’t have any trouble finding one, if anything you’ll be asked if you want a ride about once per block. The best way to get a tuktuk is to call it through the Grab app. It’s very cheap to get around this way, as it cost us about $0.75 USD to go 1.5 kilometers.
You should be careful with your belongings while on a tuktuk. Our driver mentioned that motorcycles will zoom by and try to pick off any easily grabbed electronics, so keep a tight grip on anything you’re using while riding around.
Location: City wide. Best to call one through the Grab app.
Price: $0.50 to $0.75 USD per kilometer