TOURIST INFORMATION IN PHNOM PENH
The Tourist Information Center (TIC) Tourist Information Center for Phnom Penh is located at Preah Sisowath Quay, in front of Court of Appeal Phnom Penh, 12207, Cambodia, Tel: (855) 097 2473 773. It has some pamphlets, maps and information on travel, accommodations, tourist attractions, events and the like. The staff speaks English. A travel agency that provides tourist information is Holiday Destination Co., Ltd: 262D Monivong Blvd, Khan Daun Penh, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, Tel: (855) 023 218 585. Remember they are most interested in guiding you into one of their tours. Travel agencies in the downtown area are also sources of tourist information. There is a tourist information office at the international airport.
Erika Kinetz wrote in the New York Times, “One of the best ways to disentangle the city’s torturous — and tortured — history is to study its old buildings. Settle into a cyclo, a kind of bicycle-powered rickshaw, for a three-hour tour of the city’s architecture with Khmer Architecture Tours (855-92-870-005; www.ka-tours.org; the tours meet at the Phnom Penh Post Office, at Streets 13 and 102), a nonprofit group with very informative guides.
Although the city has been shaped by waves of French and Chinese, you’d never find that old Chinese temple (now inhabited by squatters) or that defunct Citroën factory without help. Also, don’t miss the work of Cambodia’s most celebrated modern architect, Vann Molyvann, whose midcentury modern buildings are disappearing fast. Two have been torn down this year alone. Group tours ($5 to $12) are given every other Sunday; private tours are also available (about $40 for three hours). [Source: Erika Kinetz, New York Times, September 19, 2008]
Orientation and Layout of Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh has been described as a city of water. Long and narrow, it is located at the confluence of three rivers - the Mekong, the Bassac and Tonle Sap. Some of its main streets were once canals. The city is divided into three sections - the north, an attractive residential area; the south or the French part of the city with its ministries, banks and colonial houses; and the center or the heart with its narrow lanes, markets, foods stalls and shops. The whole area including the outskirts of Phnom Penh covers about 376 square kilometers. Four major rivers, the lower Mekong, Bassac, upper Mekong and Tonle Sap Rivers, meet at the Chatomouk Junction in Phnom Penh. A channel on Vietnam’s Mekong delta links the city to the South China Sea.Extensive flooding is possible during the rainy season.
Phnom Penh is not the easiest place for getting around on foot. The city is sometimes dangerous; the streets and sidewalks are beat up; and places tourists want to visit are scattered around the city. Obstructions on sidewalks include product displays in front of stores, laundry hung out by residents, piles of wares stored in front of houses and parked vehicles. Walking in the city at night is not recommended. Street lighting is only found on major roads.Most tourists get around in taxis or minibuses arranged by tour agencies; many backpackers opt for cheaper motorcycle taxis.
Most of tourist sights are located on the west side of the Tonle Sap. The Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda, Wat Ounalom, the National Museum of Fine Arts and Wat Phnom are all near Tonle Sap. The Tuol Sleng Prison (the Museum of Genocide) and the markets are in other parts of the city. Monivong Boulevard is the main thoroughfare.
Phnom Penh consists of four urban districts and three suburban districts (khans). Each khan is divided into communes (sangkats). Sangkat include several villages (phums). Khans include: Chamkarmon, Daun Penh, Prampir Makara, Tuol Kork, Dangkor, Meanchey and Russei Kaew. Phnom Penh is located in the southern heart of the country and fully surrounded by the Kandal Province. The municipality embraces typical wet plain environment area of Cambodia: rice fields and other agricultural plantations. The Tonle Bassac, the Tonle Sap and the mighty Mekong are the three biggest rivers in Cambodia. They provide fresh water and other resources for the city. Phnom Penh is located at 11.55 degrees North and 104.91667 degrees East. The 375 square kilometer (145 square mile) area of greater Phnom Penh embraces some 11,401 hectares (28,172 acres) in the municipality and 26,106 hectares (64,509 acres) of roads. The agricultural land in the municipality amounts to 34.685 square kilometers (13 sq mi) with some 1.476 square kilometers (365 acres) under irrigation.
Streets and Street Numbers in Phnom Penh
The street names and numbers are a little confusing. Names and numbers have been changed suddenly and without notice and many maps have not kept pace with the changes. To avoid confusion, people frequently use both the old and the new street names and numbers when giving directions or listing addresses. Most of the posted street numbers reflect an old numbering system.
Phnom Penh has several wide boulevards, most of which run north to south. One boulevard crosses the city diagonally, and a few cross east to west. The city is laid out in a rough grid system, with odd numbered streets running basically north-south and even numbered streets running east-west. Main streets are identified by a number. Some larger streets also have names. The Odd numbered streets increase as you travel west from the Mekong River. With a few exceptions, even-numbered streets increase as you travel south.
According to ASIRT: Streets are not always numbered sequentially, and a map is frequently helpful in locating streets and addresses. Getting directions to specific destinations may be difficult. All streets have a Khmer name and a number. The numbering system is relatively new, and many residents are unfamiliar with it. Some residents cannot read and give directions only by landmarks. Few intersections have street signs. Many signs are faded and difficult to read. Street signs may be inaccurate. House numbers have no logical pattern. Adjacent blocks may have non-sequential numbering. Two houses on the same street may have the same number. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), 2010]
TRANSPORTATION IN PHNOM PENH
Phnom Penh is a fairly easy city to get around in. Though traffic is getting more congested these days, you can still travel the length of the city in less than 40 minutes. Taxis are fairly cheap and they are the easiest way to get around. Motorcycle taxis and cyclos are also available. Mass transport options are lacking. There is no subway or rail service. Don't bother with the buses. Most tourists get around in taxis or minibuses arranged by tour agencies; many backpackers opt for cheaper motorcycle taxis. Traffic has increased significantly as the city has grown economically.
According to ASIRT: “Taxis are available in a few locations in the city. Motos [motorcycle taxis] and tuk-tuks are the primary providers of public transport within the city. Most tuk-tuk and moto drivers in the city are from rural villages and are not familiar the city roads. Be certain the driver knows your destination before boarding. Few tuk-tuk and moto drivers speak English. Some do not read or write. Do not leave bags or other valuable goods exposed if using tuk-tuks or motos. Snatch and run thefts from vehicles stopped in traffic are common. Cycle rickshaws (cyclos) also provide transport. Motos, tuk-tuks and cyclos are not recommended, due to high road risk. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), 2010]
Bicycle Rental in Phnom Penh: A few guesthouses, (e.g. Capitol Guesthouse) have bicycles for rent for around $1-1.5/day. Bicycle stores are clustered near the intersection of Streets 182 and 107. They do not rent bikes, but a used bike can be bought for about $30-40 and resold for around $20. Motorcycle Rental in Phnom Penh: Motorcycles (100cc - 125cc) can be rented for $3 - $5/day. Tourists often rent 250cc dirt bikes, even if it's a bit too much power and weight for the slow city traffic (250cc for $10-13). For in-city driving, a 100cc is recommended. A 250cc is perfect for the poor roads outside Phnom Penh. Chaotic traffic makes cycling in the city challenging in the extreme. Roads outside the city vary dramatically in condition. If you do decide to ride, drive slowly, stay right, wear a helmet and remember that medical services are quite limited. You can rent motorcycles at Lucky Lucky Motorcycle on Monivong, near Street 184 in Phnom Penh or at Angkor Motorcycles on street 51 near the famous Walkabout Bar.
Taxis and Taxi-Like Transport in Phnom Penh
Taxis with meters are found mostly at the airport. Major hotels and main tourist areas. Cars that serve as taxis, unmarked taxis and unmetered taxis are more common. They can be arranged through your hotel or travel agent, and can also be found outside hotels along the Monivong Blvd. near Kampuchea Krom. A car plus driver costs you $20-$30/day. Shorter jaunts, for a minimum of $2-$3. 4WD vehicles will give you a ride for $60/day and up. Short and long term rental of a wide variety of vehicles.
Motorcycle Taxis (Moto or Motodup) : The omnipresent motos are the most common and fastest form of public transportation but are certainly not the safest. They are more prone to accidents and robberies than cars. Motos cost from 1000R-4000R for a trip in town and $6-$10 per day. Prices go surely up at night.
Cyclos in Phnom Penh: The humble cyclo can be a romantic and practical form of transport though not as safe as a car or fast as a motor. Cyclos are easier than motors and during a rain they offer a drier ride. They often charge twice as much as a motos and are notorious for overcharging tourists, but keep in mind that’s physical work. Joseph Freeman wrote in the Washington Post: Tuk-tuks, motorbikes and taxis have pushed the cyclo to the edge of extinction as a form of transportation, which is probably for the best. Riding in a cyclo is very uncomfortable ethically, as a human being is pedaling another human being around. But the shameful secret is that, for the passenger, it’s very comfortable physically. There may not be a better way to see the French footprint than through the slow roll of the cyclopousse. [Source: Joseph Freeman, Washington Post, January 23, 2014]
Roads, Traffic and Parking in Phnom Penh
According to ASIRT: Main streets are generally in good condition. Secondary roads and footpaths are often unpaved, pot-holed and deeply rutted. Dust levels are high in the dry season. Open sewers are a hazard. Pedestrians may encounter piles of garbage, livestock, stacks of building materials, sleeping people or parked motos (motorbike taxis) on sidewalks. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), 2010]
Traffic volume is growing rapidly. The road mix includes thousands of motorbikes. Streets are often congested. Road crash rate is high.Drivers’ lack of understanding of traffic laws contributes to chaotic traffic flow. Right of way is often established by vehicle size or aggressive driving. Risk is high for pedestrians trying to cross congested intersections. Risk is also high for first-time visitors and tourists unfamiliar with the chaotic traffic patterns. Many drivers drive on the wrong side of the road while atempting to make a turn or merge with traffic. Stop signs and functional crosswalks are rare. Drivers often ignore red lights and seldom yield to pedestrians, even when pedestrian traffic signals are present.
Some “Blackspots” in Phnom Penh ar: 1) Chak Angre Lue and Kraom (part of the NR 2), 2) Pochentong (along Russian Boulevard, from Pochentong market to the end of airport compound), 3) Bueng Trabek (in front of faculty of law and economics, and Bueng Trabek high school), 4) Kbaltnaol roundabout, in front of Toeuk Tla market, and 5) Chbar Ampao (east part of Monivong Bridge).
There are few parking lots or garages. On-street parking is scarce. In some areas, unofficial “parking attendants” guide drivers to on-street parking spaces for a small fee. Getting directions to specific destinations may be difficult. All streets have a Khmer name and a number. The numbering system is relatively new, and many residents are unfamiliar with it. Some residents cannot read and give directions only by landmarks.
Getting to Phnom Penh
Phom Penh can be reached by either domestic flights, international flights or overland and speedboat from neighbouring provinces. Mass transport options are lacking. Rail service is not available. Rail service is not availiable. Buses, mini-buses, taxis and pickup trucks provide transport to many cities. Inter-city bus transport operates out of the bus station near the Central Market. The only real train connects Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville. There is one train a day on Fridays and Saturdays and two on Sundays. It takes around 6½ hours for the train to cover the 264-kilometer distance.
Buses in Phnom Penh: Ho Wah Genting offers bus service to nearby destinations using modern air-conditioned buses. Get off or on at any point along the line. Buses depart every 15 minutes to one hour, daily from 6:00am-6:00pm. 1200R-12000R. The station is at the corner of the Central Market. Route #1: Koki, Kien Svay, Neak Luong, And Route #2: Takhmao, Takeo, And Route #4: Kampong Speu, Sihanoukville, And Route #5: Oudong, Kampong Chhnang, Route #6: Raw Kakong, Kampong Cham. Also near the central market (Southwest corner) you may find the biggest bus station in town. Sorya Bus Company takes you almost everywhere in the country where a paved road is available. The buses are a little bit older than from some other companies, but still featuring air-con and usual seats. The prices are reasonable (approx. $1 for 70-80 kilometers).
According to ASIRT: Phnom Penh Sorya Transport, Capitol Tours and GST Express provide transport between Phnom Penh and main cities in Cambodia and neighboring countries. Direct service is available to Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Vientiane, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Poipet, Koh Kong, Battambang, Kampot, Ratanakiri, Kratie, Stung Treng, Pursat and Svay Sisophon. Seats can be booked in advance ahead travel agents and some guest houses for a small fee. Mekong Express provides service between the city and Ho Chi Minh City or Sihanoukville. Cars also provide inter-city transport. Overloading is common. Fare is about $7 per passenger or $55 for all seats.
Phnom Penh International Airport: is seven kilometers (4.3 miles) west of city center.Taxis are available at the public taxi stand. Bring exact change, as drivers do not give change. Tuk-tuks and motorcycle taxis are also available. On arrival, taxis and motorcycle taxis (motos, motodups) can be hired just outside the arrival lobby. Taxis cost about $7.00 for the 20-30 minute ride into the city centre. Cheaper, slower and less comfortable, motorcycle taxis can be hired for $2.00 into town. A usual taxi to the airport from town costs about $5-$7. Allow a minimum of 30-40 minutes to get to the airport, as you might get into some traffic jams during the rush hour.
Port of Phnom Penh: The ferry port in Phnom Penh is on Sisowath Quay (the riverfront road) at Street 104, just north of the main riverfront park/restaurant area. If you are arriving in Phnom Penh, there are always motor taxis and car taxis waiting for fares. Motorcycle taxis run about R1500-R3000 and car taxis about $3-$5 to downtown hotels.
HOTELS IN PHNOM PENH
Phnom Penh currently has only a handful of deluxe hotels. The most expensive one is the Singapore-owned Le Hotel Royal. Rooms there cost between $290 and $2,000 a night, while employees only earn around $100 or so a month and even then they sometimes have go on strike to win meager benefits that have been promised them. Raffles Hotel Le Royal was ranked as one of the 50 best hotels by Travel & Leisure. Traditionally the best hotel in town has been the Sofitel Cambodiana. One of the few hotels in Phnom Penh with a river view, it contains 276 air-conditioned rooms, tennis courts, a swimming pool and two restaurants.
There are several dozens of standard tourist hotels and guest houses scattered around town. Many are located the downtown area and around the markets. The tour agencies in Phnom Penh and the hotel information desk at the airport can help you find a luxury or standard hotel. The Lonely Planet books and have good lists of cheap accommodation options. Hotel touts wait outside the airport for new arrivals.
Erika Kinetz wrote in the New York Times, “The Raffles Hotel Le Royal (92 Rukhak Vithei Daun Penh;, 855-23-981-888; www.phnompenh.raffles.com) is where journalists camped out in 1975 on the eve of the Khmer Rouge’s takeover. Today, the historic hotel still draws dignitaries and foreigners, with stately rooms starting at $300.The year-old Villa Langka (14 Street 282; 855-23-726-771; www.villalangka.com) is a welcome addition to the city’s small but growing list of boutique hotels. There’s a dark-tiled pool, a peaceful garden and tastefully designed rooms from $35 to $100. [Source: Erika Kinetz, New York Times, September 19, 2008]
There is an increasing number of guesthouses and hotels across the city catering for all pockets and tastes, from basic rooms with fans to opulent colonial suites with every luxury. No matter when you arrive, you should have no difficulty finding a room, although it's no surprise that the very cheapest room fill up quickly. Arriving in the morning stands you have a better chance of getting really inexpensive accommodation, as many people check out early to catch onward transport. If you intent to stay for more than a couple of nights it's worth asking about getting a discount at guesthouses and mid-range places. For hotel reservation, please visit: http://www.tourismcambodia.com/hotels/:
If you're looking for a cheap accommodation the Lake Side next to the only lake of Phnom Penh will be the place to pop in. There is plenty of very basic budget and mid-range guesthouses from US$1.5-10 per room and night. The sunsets from one of the wooden platforms over the Boeng Kak Lake are pretty famous in town.
On one of the most well-known guest houses in Phnom Penh, one traveler wrote: “T“Capitol Guesthouse, at the corner of bike street and Orussey Market is a famed old-timer. Opened in 1991, the guesthouse seems a relic from the era when Phnom Penh was still “Off the Rails”. Rooms start at US$3. Despite the bargain basement price they are relatively clean on the backpacker scale, while the restaurant serves basic, if unremarkable, Khmer fare. Capitol also organises a variety of day trips that are good value for lone travellers. All trips require a minimum amount of participants and the sign-up sheets at the guesthouse are empty most of the time. Groups are generally better off organising trips for themselves. The “sunset on the Tonle Sap” cruise costs US$6 per person for a minimum of six. Capitol also operates reasonably priced buses to several destinations in Cambodia and beyond.”
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, Fox News and various websites, books and other publications identified in the text.
Last updated August 2020