"Pearl of Asia"
2 129 000
Population Density (km2):
Population Density (mi2):
Largest City in Cambodia
Avg. Summertime High:
Avg. Summertime Low:
Avg. Wintertime High:
Avg. Wintertime Low:
One of the main reasons to go to Phnom Penh is the beautiful French colonial architecture that can be found throughout the city. This is what once earned the city the nickname "Pearl of Asia" due to the beauty it possessed. A darker sight in the city is the "Killing Fields" and remnants of the Khmer Rouge Genocide between 1975 - 1979.
Kingdom of Cambodia | ព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជា
181 035 km2
Ranked 88 out of 195
16 719 000
Ranked 71 out of 235
Ranked 178 out of 194
Population: 2 129 000
Population: 2 129 000
Economy & Development:
Human Development Index:
Ranked 144 out of 189
Ranked 104 out of 189
GDP (PPP) Per Capita:
Ranked --- out of 225
Democracy & Freedom:
Ranked 130 out of 167
24 points out of 100 possible
Ranked 142 out of 180
Ranked 43 out of 162
9th of November
What Is Celebrated On The National Day:
The declaration of Independence from France. King Norodom Sihanouk had tried to declare independence since 1949, and in 1953 he was successful. Large celebrations always occur around the Independence Monument in Phnom Penh.
Facts & Codes:
UTC +7 (ICT)
Country Calling Code:
Province of Cambodia | ខេត្ត (Khétt)
Ranked 24 out of 25
2 129 000
Ranked 1 out of 25
Of National Population
Population: 2 129 000
Population: 2 129 000
GDP Per Capita::
Tropical Savanna Climate
UTC +7 (ICT)
Meaning of the Name:
Krong Chaktomuk, which is translated into "City of Four Faces". At that time it was officially named as Krong Chaktomuk Serei Mongkol (translated into "City of the Brahma's Faces").
Phnom Penher (English)
Phnom Penhois (French, Masculine)
Phnom Penhoise (French, Feminine)
Phnom Penh International Airport
10 km / 5 mi (W)
Pou Senchey District
The busiest and largest airport in Cambodia. It's still a rather small airport, and you're still pretty much inside the city limits as soon as you leave the terminal. A new airport is being built 30 km South of Phnom Penh, which is expected to open in 2025.
There are taxis outside of the terminal, and there's a guard available to help out and make sure everything goes smoothly. You get a piece of paper with price information from the guard. It felt well-organized and safe. There's a flat rate for going into the center. You could also catch a tuk-tuk for a much lower price, but less comfortable ride. When I was leaving the city I let the hotel I stayed with organizing a ride, and it didn't cost much more than a regular taxi. There's no train or rail-based options available.
Tram / Light Rail
Elevated Rapid Transit
There is a small network of buses, but your best option as a tourist is to use tuk-tuks (auto-rickshaw). Download the PassApp application, which is a local app that works in similar ways to Uber or Grab, but with the additional feature that it also includes tuk-tuk drivers.
Since the city is lacking public transport it has to be walkable. It is walkable in the sense that you can cover most of the city on foot. However, most streets lack sidewalks so you share the road with vehicle traffic, and it can be extremely hectic and intense on some streets.
Phnom Penh is not a great city in terms of accessibility. There are no sidewalks on most streets, traffic lights only exist on the largest roads, and traffic rules are seen as optional.
Cash Or Credit:
Cash. I used my card once, at the hotel when they wanted to have 50 USD in a deposition. Something they offered by either cash or card. When I said I wanted to use a card they tried to persuade me to use cash instead. That was the only place in Phnom Penh where I even saw that it was possible to use cards, and they didn't want me to use them.
Good To Know:
The Riel might be the official currency of Cambodia, but in reality, it is rarely used and the unofficial currency in use is the US Dollar. Do not bother with bringing or exchanging Riels and just bring Dollars, in low denominations (1 - 10) and in pristine condition. Any change that is less than a dollar will be given in Riels and not in Cents though so try to get rid of those small denominations before leaving the country.
What About English?
English is not widely spoken. In tourist environments, such as hotels and restaurants, most people speak only a little bit of English. Outside of tourist environments, you should not expect to find English speakers at all. I still didn't find it hard to get by, as people are very helpful.
The center is found between Preah Monivong Blvd and the Mekong River. Try to stay North of Preah Sihanouk Blvd, but South of Preah Ang Duong St. The area South of Preah Sihanouk Blvd (on which the Independence Monument is located) is evolving quickly and in a few years this might very well be the new popular area of the city. I stayed in the G Mekong Hotel on Preah Monivong Blvd and found the location to be perfect as it also allowed me to easily explore the back streets of the nearby neighborhoods.
If you read on the internet about Phnom Penh, you will often be warned about the safety issues this city supposedly has. It is easy to get the feeling that bag snatching is a thing that happens at every other intersection. When I arrived, I was a little bit worried about that. It didn't take long to realize that it isn't as bad as the internet makes it out to be. You need to be aware of your surroundings, but Phnom Penh didn't feel more unsafe than other cities in the region. I was only out during the day and spent most of the time at my hotel after dark. During the day I walked with my camera visible as I always do without feeling insecure. I also used my phone heavily on the streets, just take a step or two back from the traffic and you'll be fine.
It is however probably a good idea to keep an extra eye on your belongings, especially phones and cameras, while out on the streets in Phnom Penh. I was warned several times by locals to not use the phone near the roadway, but I also saw the locals do it themselves all the time.
Note: My assumption is of the basis that you will always take normal precautions when you're out traveling, just as you would do at home. Even the safest cities have bad elements and no matter how safe you might feel you must always take basic precautions. I'm always aware of my surroundings when I walk around, both with and without the camera. I am however a very typical tourist and it shows so I am a person that will undoubtedly draw the attention of those who targets tourists. If you can you should of course always try to blend in as much as possible, but with my big camera around my neck, it's impossible. That's two things that are good to know when reading my assessment of how it felt from a safety point of view.
- Download PassApp
The local Phnom Penh alternative to Uber and Grab, which allows you to order tuk-tuks through your phone for a flat rate and no haggle.
Phnom Penh has seen a significant influx of international fast-food chains in the last few years. Some of them are the usual suspects, such as KFC and Burger King. There are also a few chains that are not as common such as Carl's Jr and Genki Sushi. The corner of Rue Pasteur No.51 and Street 310 can almost be described as Fast Food Central since it contains three major fast-food chains (Burger King, KFC & Carl's Jr), with Genki Sushi just a few steps away too. This area is also where a lot of new construction is going on, and a new modern Phnom Penh is taking form here. There are no local chains that I found worth checking out.
I decided to go to Phnom Penh instead of Siem Reap (the reasons behind it can be found here) and I don't regret it at all. Phnom Penh is a beautiful, yet a slightly rundown, mix of French colonial architecture and Asian city planning.
Do I Recommend You To Visit?
Will I Come Back Again?
I would like to visit again in about ten years when the huge modernization project and all the redevelopment is finished.
Weather During My Stay:
Sunny, blue skies and very hot. A short shower in the afternoon of one day.
Not As Good:
Independence Monument - One of the major landmarks of the city, built in 1958 in honor of Cambodia's independence from France five years earlier (1953).
A busy street in Phnom Penh. Streets and intersections are not as well-organized as in Europe and North America, but they give an interesting street life.
A street in Phnom Penh
Sisowath Quay is the name of the riverfront area where much of the nightlife for tourists and expats in Phnom Penh is located.
The Central Market is a large marketplace built by the French during colonial times.
Inside the market, people are shopping and eating in narrow alleyways.
Market stalls outside of Orussey Market.
A street in central Phnom Penh.
A group of people eating by the side of the street. This is a very common sight in Phnom Penh.
Scooters are everywhere and the pavement of most streets is in questionable condition.
Oknha Nou Kan Street, also known as Street 105. The streets in Phnom Penh are mostly known only by a number. Some larger streets may have both a number and a traditional Western street name.
Keo Chea Street, also known as Street 184.
The Independence Monument stands at the center of a roundabout.
Parts of the Skyline of Phnom Penh here seen from the Independence Monument.
Phnom Penh sits on the Mekong River.
Modern Phnom Penh is rising in the area around the Central Train Station. Here are new skyscrapers and a Golden Stupa that is known as "Former Buddha Stupa".