Why go to Phnom Penh?
Cultural experiences are everywhere, from temples to street food.
Traffic congestion and poverty can be overwhelming for westerners.
Phnom Penh is a vibrant, friendly and affordable stop on Mekong river cruise itineraries.
Phnom Penh Cruise Port Facilities?
There are two main ports in Phnom Penh -- the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port and port 2. Most river cruise ships dock at Autonomous Port, which sits just a short eight- to 10-minute tuk tuk ride from the center of the city. In addition, you can walk to the Central Market, the main pagoda or the gold leaf-decorated Royal Palace in just 20 minutes.
An ATM sits right outside of the port, making it easy to withdraw money as soon as the ship docks. In addition to tuk tuks, taxis are always plentiful in and around the port to transfer you anywhere you'd like to go. Note: The port does lock the main gate at 11 p.m. If you feel like walking, the area around the port boasts plenty of street carts serving Cambodian specialties (think grilled chicken feet), small shops offering some authentic (and some rather kitschy) souvenirs, trendy bars and some of the city's most famous sights, like the Silver Pagoda.
Good to Know?
Like many Southeast Asian capitals, motorbikes and mopeds are everywhere, traversing the roads with reckless abandon. It might seem like there's no rhyme or reason to the motorbike traffic, but they've got it down to a science. To cross the street, start walking across slowly when there's a break in traffic. Drivers will slow down or go around you. Don't dart across, or you're likely to cause an accident.
On Foot: The great thing about many of Phnom Penh's main sights are that they are all within walking distance of each other. If you're up for it, depart the port and walk for 20 to 30 minutes to get to the Central Market and waterfront park, 15 minutes to get to the Silver Pagoda and around 20 minutes to reach the Royal Palace. In addition, a walk to and from the Raffles Hotel (a popular spot for sipping cocktails) is only about 20 minutes from where ships dock.
By Tuk Tuk: One of the easiest and most affordable ways to get around Phnom Penh is on a motorized tuk tuk, which comfortably sits two to four people. In addition to affordability, these are the most reliable and safest modes of transport in the city, and plenty can be found around the main port, near the markets and around main sights like the Royal Palace or the Silver Pagoda.
Have your ship guide or concierge call a tuk tuk so you can ensure you're getting the best rate. (Most will negotiate on your behalf so you're not swindled.) In addition, many tuk tuk drivers will only charge around $10 or so for a two-hour tour of the city, which can help orient you to where the dock is and where the main sights of the city are located.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
Cambodia's currency is the riel. However, most vendors, restaurants, hotels and even the temple complexes take (and prefer) U.S. dollars. It's advisable to carry ample small bills, which come in handy for tipping, buying water and paying for tuk tuk or taxi rides. It's also advised to bring enough money to get you through your stay ahead of time, as ATMs are often out of order or not government regulated.
The traditional dialect of Phnom Penh (and most of Cambodia) is Khmer, an interesting language that blends the influence of Sanskrit and Pali, as well as dialects from the neighboring countries of Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. Although most tour guides, hotel employees and temple workers do speak conversational English, it's best to learn a few key words and phrases in Khmer.