Phnom Penh is one of the cheapest places to visit in Cambodia and Southeast Asia. There are some useful tips and information designed to ensure you have a great holiday in this city.
Customs and etiquette
Western tourism is a relatively recent development in Cambodia. While locals in Phnom Penh embrace all the recent foreign interest, both sides still have plenty to learn about each other. Tourists who proceed with a heavy dose of respect are unlikely to make any missteps.
Be mindful of your feet wherever you venture, taking off your shoes when you enter a temple or a private residence. Pointing the soles of your feet at a person can be offensive, depending on the situation, so try to keep your soles facing down. Conservative dress is appreciated, especially in temples and the Royal Palace where shorts and bare shoulders are not appropriate.
Phnom Penh uses three forms of currency: Cambodian riel, Thai baht and US dollars. Local currency is least desirable, but recent economic stability has made merchants more apt to accept riel for small purchases.
Be advised that drifting exchange rates can make things confusing, and scammers may try to capitalize on tourists’ miscalculations when doling out change. Know the daily exchange rate between these three currencies and you’ll be immune to these tricks.
ATMs are much more common than they were even five years ago. The riverside quay is the best place both for ATM withdrawals and currency conversions. Banks, moneychangers and even a few merchants will be happy to exchange money, so shop around for the best rate.
Phnom Penh is humid and tropical, with high temperatures year-round. The coolest months are December and January, when days are comfortable and evenings can be lightly cool (think long sleeves or a light jacket). Factor in the lack of rainfall and it’s easy to see why tourists arrive in great numbers during the cool season.
By February things are starting to turn around, and the heat returns quickly. March and April can be uncomfortably warm and are best avoided. The few tourists who do visit at this time of year rely on lots of bottled water and intermittent air-conditioning to survive. Rains follow the hot season and last until October.
The transportation network in Phnom Penh has yet to come into its own, and today’s visitors spend a great deal of time riding around on moto (motorcycle ), taxis and cyclo (pedicabs). Private unmetered taxis are available, but these are relatively rare and fetch a premium. Be sure to settle on a price before boarding.
Phnom Penh International Airport (PNH) sees more than a million passengers every year. The few private taxis in town regular pass by the airport. They can carry passengers to the city center in 15 minutes for just a few dollars. Moto are much cheaper and more abundant.