Browse our Phnom Penh Tours
Pictures never do Phnom Penh justice. The serpentine spires of its royal palace, the stoic French colonial architecture, and the candle-lit pagodas are all postcard favorites. The real Phnom Penh, however, appeals to all your senses. Relish in the river breeze, and lunch on steaming noodle soup. Sit at a cafe and watch the lively streets of chatty youths and bright-spirited monks. As dusk approaches, surrender to luxury in a boutique hotel and relax to the vibe of the city.
Backyard Travel’s tailored Phnom Penh tours delve deep into the electric pace of this capital city. Our local Phnom Penh travel agency has all the insider tips to make your time here affordable and unforgettable.
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Discover Phnom Penh
On the lush banks of the Mekong, Phnom Penh is an ideal starting point for river cruises, bike tours through the countryside, and even visits to wildlife sanctuaries, for travelers looking for outdoor fun. But Phnom Penh’s lively streets are also a treat for gourmands. The growing list of fine-dining restaurants in the city serves up zesty local favorites like fragrant fish amok and tiger-prawn curries.
Take a walking tour of Phnom Penh, home to stately French colonial buildings like the Banque Indochine and the former French embassy. And of course, no city cultural tour would be complete without a trip to the incredible royal palace complex with its soaring golden Khmer spires. Don’t miss the life-size, solid-gold, diamond-studded Buddha. History enthusiasts should also visit the fascinating but chilling Tuol Sleng museum, which has exhibits chronicling the Khmer Rouge regime.
The guide and driver were helpful, entertaining and very friendly. The guide was knowledgeable and also told me about local customs and practices which you do not get from reading the guidebook.
Ms. Sophia Isaie (Cambodia, Jan 2015)
We had an amazing experience, what a wonderful guide Nak was - he taught us a lot more than we could have learned in books, but we really appreciated his overall sense of helping out local communities.
Ms. Lucie (Phnom Kulen, Sept 2013)
Organisation of the tour: Perfect, nothing went wrong anywhere. Guides: Generally excellent, one or two above that level. Drivers: all were excellent, calm and unflappable.
Mr. Alastair Sharp (Cambodia, Vietnam & Laos, Nov 2014)
Some Questionsabout our Tours of Phnom Penh
Yes, visas for Cambodia are required for most nationalities, but most are eligible for a visa on arrival at Siem Reap International Airport, Phnom Penh International Airport, and at most major border crossings (although we recommend checking in advance). These visas on arrival are valid for 30 days for a single entry, and cost US$30. You’ll need to bring one passport-sized photo and be sure that your passport has six months of validity after your planned exit date. Alternatively, you can pre-arrange an electronic visa (e-Visa) at this convenient, official website: https://www.evisa.gov.kh/. The e-visa will cost an extra $7 in processing fees.
Cambodian weather is similar to many other Southeast Asian countries, with two distinct seasons: dry and wet. The hottest and most humid months of March, April and May can see temperatures rise to a whopping 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). The summer rains fall daily from June to October, but skies clear up for gorgeous blue-sky days from November to February. These months make up peak tourist season, with low humidity and bright sunshine, so we recommend booking well in advance if you’re planning to travel any time from November to February.
Comfortable, casual lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton are best for traveling in Cambodia. In mountainous areas, temperatures drop rapidly at night so pack accordingly.
We believe that for many destinations, it pays to travel when others are not. Traveling during the monsoon season has its benefits despite the rain. We love seeing Angkor Wat in the summer, when it’s less crowded and the temples are covered in moss. The plains and rice fields surrounding Siem Reap also take on a vibrant green hue, and fewer travelers means more room to take in the popular spots. Also, the rain usually only falls in short bursts, providing some welcome refreshment from the tropical heat.
However, the blue skies, fresh air, and temperate weather of the high season (November to February) make this the best time to visit Cambodia. Although there are more tourists during these months, we at Backyard Travel do our best to steer you away from the crowds as much as possible.
Of course, we count a trip to the spectacular ruins of Angkor Wat among the best experiences in the world, but Cambodia is rich with lesser-known, lovely destinations. Preah Vihear, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the country’s less-traveled gems and one on the best places to visit in Cambodia. The ancient Hindu temple is built on the edge of a plateau that lets you view a vast expanse of the country lying below. Few people visit the historical city of Battambang, northwest of Phnom Penh, where you can drink in the quiet, old-town charm. Mount Kulen is considered the most sacred mountain in Cambodia, and a drive to the peak affords an exploration of a “lost city” as well as a dip under a beautiful waterfall. Or, you can always escape to one of Cambodia’s white-sand beaches, which tend to be quieter and less populated than the busy beaches of Thailand next door.
If you’d like to see Angkor Wat but prefer a more immersive, unique experience rather than simply sightseeing, you might consider our Insider’s Angkor trip, which takes you up above Angkor in a helium balloon, weaves you through the best temples such as Ta Phrom and Angkor Thom on privately guided motorbikes, and introduces you to aspects of Khmer culture only insiders see.
Cambodia’s not-too-distant tragic past may not have always ranked the country among the best family-friendly destinations, but today, Cambodia is shedding the shadow of its history and coming into its own. Not only are improved infrastructure systems and amenities making cities like Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Battambung more accessible to families, but a diversity of natural settings—such as crescent beaches, steamy jungles, lazy rivers, and quaint country roads—also offers a plethora of kid- and adult-friendly activities. Kids also love zipping around in a tuk-tuk, exploring the Angkor temples, and jumping into the swimming pools offered at most hotels due to year-round hot weather. The Khmer people are also extremely welcoming of children and strive to make you feel at home on your Cambodia family holiday.
If you’re dreaming of visiting Angkor Wat, the best and easiest way to go is to fly to Siem Reap, the northern town that serves as the jumping-off point to Angkor Wat. Situated near the famed ruins, Siem Reap has transformed itself into an accommodating and organized home base for tourists. International flights to Siem Reap are available from regional hubs such as Bangkok, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur, and domestic flights from the capital, Phnom Penh, are available every day. One fantastic alternative is to take a Cambodia river cruise from Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, which is a wondrous way to enter the kingdom.
These days, you can buy a SIM card in Cambodia with ease at any phone shop across the country. Cambodia has seven mobile service providers, but most travelers find pre-paid Cellcard plans the most convenient for their 3G data plan, affordability and English-speaking staff. Here’s a good tip: If you purchase a SIM card directly at a service provider’s office, you tend to get a better deal than if you buy a SIM card at any generic phone shop.
Although most high-end hotels, restaurants and bars in Cambodia now accept credit cards, it’s still safest to pay with cash, especially in out-of-the-way places. You’ll find that ATMs are common in all urban areas and tourism hubs, most of which will take international ATM cards. However, do carry enough kip, the local currency, if you’re heading to a remote area, as ATMs still haven’t made their way deep into the countryside.
We’ll admit that Cambodian cuisine is not one of the world’s most renowned, but it may come as a pleasant surprise to first-time travelers who aren’t sure what to expect. Like many aspects of Cambodia, the development of national cuisine was stunted by various historical and political instabilities and some of the traditional cooking styles and techniques have been lost. Thankfully, our locally based travel specialists have insider travel tips on Cambodia and know the restaurants and chefs who are re-igniting the Cambodian culinary scene. Siem Reap also has an excellent variety of restaurants, from traditional Khmer food to high-end fusion. (You need to try Cuisine Wat Damnak—it’s listed on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants and is fantastic!) If you’re craving a hamburger, Western food is quite common in the main tourist areas of Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang, and Kep.
Tipping is not expected but always appreciated in Cambodia. As most places, however, you should tip tour guides and drivers at the end of each tour. We recommend tipping your guide US$10 to $12 per group per day, and tipping your driver US$8 to $10 per group per day. At a restaurant, if you feel moved to tip, we recommend leaving about 10% of the total bill.
You may be surprised to find that accommodations in Cambodia offer some of the best selections in Southeast Asia. Design, boutique, and luxury five-star beach stays are all on offer, while Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, and Battambang are home to some of Asia’s quaintest boutique hotels. Just ask yourself what you fancy and plumb the depths of our expertise. Backyard Travel’s locally based travel specialists have inside knowledge and real relationships with many of Cambodia’s innkeepers and hoteliers.
No vaccinations are required to travel to Cambodia, except for Yellow Fever if you are arriving from a country where the disease is present (mainly parts of South America and Africa). However, we advise inoculation against typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A and B, tetanus and polio. Malaria is present in most of Cambodia and we recommend taking precautions, especially if you plan to stray off the beaten track. We always strongly recommend having comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical evacuation when traveling anywhere in Asia. Check your government’s travel advisory on Cambodia for the most up-to-date information.
Temples are some of Cambodia’s most interesting sights, but you’ll need to dress modestly to enter the buildings. Cover up from your shoulders to your knees, and avoid wearing shorts, miniskirts or tank tops. Keep in mind that locals value modesty, and it’s best to dress respectfully throughout the country. Remember to take your shoes off before entering a private home.
Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.
Please do not bring pens, sweets, chewing gum, etc., to hand out to children, as this encourages begging. Instead, there are plenty of opportunities to contribute or give back to Cambodia through the NGOs and initiatives that are aiding the country’s recovery from a rapacious war.
And, as always, please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
PHNOM PENHReal Travel
Sights & Experiences
MORE TRAVEL INSPIRATIONS & INSIGHTS
Far less laid-back than rural Cambodians, the capital’s residents are more worldly but still sincere and unassuming. Just stroll through the waterfront or the bustling bazaar for a taste of the Phnom Penh’s humble energy.
Phnom Penh is a sultry tropical city almost all year round. Temperatures are somewhat cooler in the winter, and the rainy season is from June to October. Fortunately, riverfront breezes offer a cool break any time of year.
Phnom Penh offers bars, restaurants, and a few nightclubs, many housed in attractive colonial buildings for an atmospheric touch. See a traditional dance, music, or puppet show at a local theater before dining on a terrace overlooking the Mekong.
French colonization has deep roots in Phnom Penh, evident in the beaux-arts buildings, stylish squares, and cafe culture. However, it is decidedly a Khmer and Buddhist city, as the scent of lemongrass and glow of prayer candles fill the boulevards.
Khmer is spoken by most of Phnom Penh’s residents. Displacements and migration have also made some minority languages common. French is spoken by some. Young residents and businesspeople are more likely to speak English.
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