Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, is a fast changing city in the heart of South East Asia. While most people head straight to Siem Reap to see the marvels of Angkor Wat, there is a lot to see in Phnom Penh and there are lots of wonderful, independent hotels offering great value – but where to stay in the city? Read my tips for the Best Area to Stay in Phnom Penh, for first time and repeat visitors to the city!
Picking the best place to stay is really about selecting the right location for your visit, finding a hotel that matches your style and getting good value within your budget.
Best Area To Stay: Despite its fast growing population of 1.5 million people, Phnom Penh is relatively compact, making it easy to stay centrally and get to all the places you want to go quickly. There are two main areas I recommend for visitors, Downtown Phnom Penh and Boeng Keng Kang!
Downtown Phnom Penh – close to everything and lots of hotels! If you are a first time visitor to Phnom Penh, I recommend to stay in downtown Phnom Penh. You will be close to major sights, like the Royal Palace or National Museum and you’ll also be able to feel the vibrancy of this fast growing city. A stroll along the river promenade at sunset, plenty of restaurants for dinner and many bars and clubs with the city’s best nightlife offering are in easy walking distance. You’ll also find local markets and more tour operators and tuk tuk drivers than you’ll ever need!
A look at any hotel booking site (the official name of the district is Daun Penh) will provide you with an overwhelming choice of hotels. My personal favorites, The Plantation Urban Resort and the Blue Lime Resort are smack at the center of it all. Other recommended hotels, like the Aquarius or Manor House are a little further. You can click on any of the hotels above for my detailed review.
Boeng Keng Kang (BKK1) – get the vibe of the city! Because downtown is so convenient and has so many hotels, that’s where most of the visitors are staying. So, if you want to get the more relaxed vibe of the city, you can stay in BKK1, an upscale area popular with expats. It’s a mostly residential area, with plenty of upscale coffee shops, restaurants, bars and spas! You’ll find some of the old villas along quiet streets that made up this area not so long ago, mixed with fast rising condo buildings, international schools and commercial complexes with spas, coffes shops and stores. It’s a great place to hang out, people watch and soak up the life in Phnom Penh. If relaxing by your hotel pool, a day at the spa or a great meal are at the top of your itinerary, BKK1 is the place to be. The Manor House is just on the edge of BKK1, the Patio is near the center and the Rambutan Resort is at the Southern edge.
When picking your hotel location, keep in mind that walking on the crowded streets of Phnom Penh, often without sidewalks, is not that much fun. If you are not a fan of walking, your choice is a little easier – and you can quickly hail a tuk tuk, riksha or taxi with an app and for a few bucks – check out my Tips to get around Phnom Penh for more!
What’s your Style – Traditional Khmer, Modern City Hotel or Tropical Resort? In addition to the many standard, non-descript hotels you’ll find anywhere, you’ll have three types of hotels you won’t find in other regional cities:
Khmer Style – Some of the hotels embrace the Khmer architecture and decoration you’ll find at the temples of Angkor Wat, with elephant or buddha statues and dark, heavy wood decorations. If that’s what you want for your Facebook photos, make sure to check some online reviews, and you won’t have a hard time finding one. The Okay Boutique Hotel is a good example among the budget hotels.
Modern Urban Hotels – Some of the local developers seem to take their design cues straight from boutique hotels in San Francisco, New York or London, with brick walls, metal pipes and concrete floors. Add some lounge music by the pool and you could be in Miami. If you are feeling buddha overload and want a modern break in your hotel, the Aquarius Urban Resort or The Patio are right for you.
Tropical Resort Hotel – Something I haven’t found in other cities and provides a great break from the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh are a handful of boutique hotels that offer the experience of a tropical island resort, with low-rise villas, large pools and lush greenery right in the heart of the city. If you want to be in the city, without feeling it all the time, the Plantation Urban Resort or Blue Lime are the perfect fit!
Getting Great Value – How much? There are few international chain hotels in Phnom Penh and luxury properties like the Sofitel Phnom Penh are very expensive with rates around $250. Fortunately, there are many upscale boutique hotels that offer great service, stylish rooms and exceptional value at much lower prices! The hotels I reviewed and recommend are all in a range from $40-$150, making them much better value than the international chain hotels! To get an idea of current prices for your travel dates, check here!