Best Places to Stay in Cambodia

Best Places to Stay in Cambodia

Cambodia is one of the most popular destinations with travellers and many backpackers in Southeast Asia leave the region with fond memories of their time in the country. While the price of accommodation is very much to the liking of budget travellers, the quality can certainly sometimes be a little bit lacking unless you know where to look!

This article should hopefully help you find somewhere cheap in Cambodia’s main travel destinations without sacrificing on the bare essentials.

cambodia map

Here are some of the best places to stay in Cambodia:

Phnom Penh

phnom penh

The Phnom Penh skyline around the bustling Central Market.

The Cambodian capital has the widest choice of accommodation in the country and has some dirt cheap options. Most of them were in the slightly crazy Lakeside area near the Beoung Kak lake which was popular with travellers on the tightest of budgets. While the lake no longer exists, Guesthouses 10 and 11 as well as a few others are still there and offer basic rooms starting from $3 although don’t expect amazing facilities and certainly don’t count on hot showers!

The biggest hostel in the city with a lively social scene is The Mad Monkey Hostel. They have modern dorms as well as private rooms and offer a huge choice of tours and also have 3 bars and a restaurant. For solo travellers it’s the safest bet for finding somewhere modern, sociable and fun but still budget friendly.

There are plenty more cheap options in the centre close to the Central Market with prices starting from $4 or so but again the standard is variable. Other solid options with travellers looking to socialise include Velkommen Backpackers and Top Banana Guesthouse while Capitol 3 Guesthouse have cheap clean private rooms which may suit those seeking a bit more privacy.

Sihanoukville

Cambodia’s most famous beach destination has plenty of budget accommodation although some of the better options do sell out quickly during peak times. Sakal Bungalows offer everything from basic huts on the beach to better equipped air-con rooms with a nice sea view. If you’re looking to meet people then try The Led Zephyr Backstage Bungalows which have several bungalows that act as dorms from $4 a night and generally receive excellent reviews.

If you want to get away from the increasingly commercialised centre then Cinderellas Dive Resort & Beach Bungalows on Otres Beach provide a quieter alternative with beachfront accommodation from $6.

Kampot

mad monkey hostel in kampot

Pictured above – The Mad Monkey Hostel in Kampot.

Just a short journey from Sihanoukville and conveniently located for the beautiful Bokor National Park is Kampot. It’s quite easy to find a budget room in town as it is very small and the imaginatively named ‘Guesthouse Street’ has many offerings that cater to foreigners. Popular options there include the Magic Sponge and Blissful Guesthouse with prices starting from $3 for dorms and $4/5 for private rooms.

There is also a Mad Monkey hostel in Kampot which is one of the best places to stay in Cambodia. It is located on the riverside and boasts one of the few swimming pools in the town which can be a welcome relief from the heat.

Battambang

The riverside town is a good place to get to experience what life is really like for Cambodians and there are some interesting homestay and community options. BOVA (Battambang Orphanage Village Assistance) Village Homestay is a bit more expensive than most of the options featured here with rooms costing $12 but it includes the chance to eat Khmer cuisine and live with a local family. You can also provide some much needed help at the local orphanage so it’s a nice way to get involved with locals and make a positive contribution to the lives of young Cambodian orphans.

Contact sophornbb@yahoo.com for info.

If you just want cheap and friendly then try Tomato Guest House were beds start at just $2! Somewhat obviously you shouldn’t expect the height of luxury though.

Siem Reap

siem reap

You can help the local communities by supporting the Mad Monkey Clean Water project.

Located close to Angkor Wat, Siem Reap receives hordes of new backpackers every day so there are plenty of budget places to eat, sleep and drink. Beds start again at just a few dollars a night and private rooms can be found for as little as $5.

The Mad Monkey in Siem Reap boasts a rooftop pool bar and has plenty of fun events and trips to get involved with. You can also help support their important community based projects in and around the town.

Garden Village Guesthouse & Hostel is another sociable option. There are also plenty of small guesthouses close to Pub Street and the Night Market that can’t be booked in advance but be sure to ask to see the rooms before handing over any money. Also be wary of tuk-tuk and moto drivers who try to take you to specific guesthouses as they are working on commission. Either tell them exactly which hostel you want to go to or get off at Pub Street and find somewhere yourself.


This article was first published in February 2015.

Get our Backpackers Guide to Southeast Asia 2017-2018 for a more up-to-date summary of budget travel in SEA.


Backpackers Guide to Cambodia: Lakeside, Phnom Penh

Cambodia: Trippy Times in Phnom Penh’s Lakeside

Country Guide | Temples of Angkor Wat | Cambodian Genocide | Phnom Penh’s Lakeside

Introducing the Craziest Place in the World?

lakeside in phnom penh

NOTE – This article is over 5 years old & the info may no longer be reliable.

The lakeside (Boeung Kak) in Phnom Penh is an area a fair walk or short tuk-tuk ride from the centre and is one of the craziest place that you will ever visit. This bizarre wasteland is home to all sorts of freaks from all over the world. The Stone Roses and Bob Marley blare out from the bars and guesthouses 24 hours a day as 80’s Madchester meets Jamaica in a psychedelic heaven even if it looks more like hell.

It’s called the Lakeside because you guessed it there is a lake and a favourite backpacker pass-time in these parts is watching the sunset from the outrageously comfy chairs in one of the guesthouses while drinking cool Angkor beer and smoking high quality marijuana. In the middle of all this sweet local kids as young as 4 or 5 wander the main street and head into the bars trying to sell knock-off books and playing games on the phones of foreigners. In short this place is weird yet strangely charming and one way or another alot of fun. It’s a great place to stay when visiting Phnom Penh although it is constantly rumoured to be getting demolished so go there while you still can.

Drugs

Whatever your opinion on the subject, drugs are a major reason why many backpackers come to Cambodia. In Phnom Penh’s Lakeside district all the guesthouses sell marijuana and it is generally fine to smoke anywhere in them, check with the reception although they will probably try to sell you a huge amount when you check in.

The bars and guesthouses in the lakeside pay a small monthly bribe to the police every month so they don’t get any hassle. $10 gets an enormous amount of weed in Cambodia, so much so that you might never want to leave. The bars all sell spliffs and at closing time things can get a little bit crazy if somebody appears with mushrooms or cocaine.

The street is full of Cambodians and Africans selling every drug you care to think of. This can be intimidating at first but these people are friendly enough but desperate for money and often meth addicts, so it is obviously riskier buying from them and occasionally the police will come in and bust one of them. Head into any of the bars or guesthouses and you will see people smoking joints.

People who spend too long in Cambodia often go a little bit bonkers so if you are someone who enjoys taking drugs, some serious self-discipline is needed to prevent this from happening. If you are that way inclined then arriving in Cambodia and the lakeside especially you may feel as though all your birthdays and Christmas’s have come at once.

Eating, Sleeping & Drinking

Happy Pizza MarijuanaA lot of the guesthouses on the banks of the lake (on the right side of the main street when coming in) double up as 24 hour bars and restaurants so you could happily spend all day on the comfy seats looking over the lake with cheap and tasty food and drink brought to you. Most of the guesthouses are pretty much the same with rooms as cheap as $2 a night, so wander into a few, they will happily show you the rooms and pick one you fancy. The Number 9 Guesthouse is highly recommended!

There’s several curry places which are great if you’ve got the munchies doing 3 dish specials for $2 or thereabouts. There’s a few cool bars with pool tables and live sports and a few ‘happy’ pizza joints (non happy pizza’s are available but when in Rome….).

 

Country Guide|Temples of Angkor Wat|Cambodian Genocide|Phnom Penh’s Lakeside


This article was published in November 2011.

Word has it that the Lakeside area has since been demolished. Please comment below if you have more up-to-date info.

Get our Backpackers Guide to Southeast Asia 2017-2018 for a more up-to-date summary of budget travel in SEA.


 

Backpackers Guide to Cambodia: Understand the Cambodian Genocide

Cambodia: Witness the Horrors of Pol Pot

Country Guide | Temples of Angkor Wat | Cambodian Genocide | Phnom Penh’s Lakeside

NOTE – This article was published in 2011. Some info may no longer be accurate.

Background: Pol Pot & The Khmer Rouge

The Khmer Rouge were a Communist group which rose to power in the aftermath of the Vietnam War which had a devastating effect on Cambodia, leading to some 2 million refugees and the danger of a huge famine. Led by Pol Pot many hoped the regime would lead to a fairer more peaceful era for the Khmer people. Tragically though around a quarter of the 8 million population died from execution, overwork and starvation. Ethnic minorities and those in the skilled professions such as doctors and teachers were targeted in a horrific genocide. It is impossible to underestimate the brutality and shocking nature of this 4 year episode which the world turned a blind eye to and no-one has ever been brought to justice for. The Vietnamese invaded to put an end to the regime in 1978, but this was by no means the end of the Khmer Rouge influence in the country, often supported in the 1980’s by powerful western nations.

Today while the Khmer Rouge has gone and the world is no longer turning a blind eye to what happened, the descendants of those who ruled then are still among the wealthy elite. Their are two main sites in and around the capital open to visitors relating to the genocide that took place and both will give you a detailed account of what took place here. Visiting the killing fields and Tuol Sleng Prison is a must for anyone who wants to learn more about the genocide.

Tuol Sleng Prison

Tuol Sleng Prison Phnom PenhThis is the prison in the centre of town where the Khmer Rouge tortured thousands before sending them to be slaughtered at Choeung Ek. Originally a high school, the building was turned into a prison and torture house by the Khmer Rouge after their rise to power. Various gruesome methods of torture were used to extract often fake confessions. Around 20,000 people were held here between 1975 and 1979 including many foreigners. This was also the site of many executions, before the more remote fields at Choeung Ek became the primary location for executions.

Now a genocide museum, It receives many visitors from abroad and from local schoolchildren. It contains photos of the victims, methods of torture and a detailed history of the events that took place here and across the country in the late 1970’s.Easy enough to walk to from the centre or get a moto ride for under a $1. Entry is $2, open daily 8am-5pm.

Visiting The Killing Fields, Choeung Ek

mass grave in cambodia

The killing fields of Choeung Ek is the site where 17,000 men, women and children were brutally executed by the Khmer Rouge. There have been in fact over 300 mass graves discovered, so this is just one of the many ‘killing fields’ across the country. It is now a memorial to the victims with a small museum. A Buddhist stupa contains the skulls of around 5000 victims, while you can walk around the fields where human bones are still very visible.

Cycle or ask any tuk-tuk or moto taxi driver to take you out to the Killing Fields, just outside of Phnom Penh. $5 should be enough for a return trip (they wait at the gates till you’ve finished). Entry is $2, you are expected to buy a flower to place at the foot of the white monument containing the skulls, before starting your visit. Open 7am-5:30pm, allow 1-2 hours to see it all.

It is pretty grim and some would argue that this kind of tourism is wrong, but it’s undoubtedly somewhere you need to visit to understand the horrors that took place in Cambodia. Needless to say you should behave in a respectful and dignified manner at all times while here. Take off your shoes before entering the memorial stupa.

 

Country Guide | Temples of Angkor Wat | Cambodian Genocide | Phnom Penh’s Lakeside


This article was published in June 2011.


Funky 100 – 5 Things to do in Phnom Penh

BUSAN | PHNOM PENH | ACCRA

Get involved with the Funky 100!


Funky 100 – Number 9

5 Funky Things to do in Phnom Penh


Why you should Visit

Phnom Penh is a city of contrasts. There is genuine luxury in the form of magnificent temples but there is also a large amount of fairly desperate poverty. The streets are filled with monks, street vendors and young Cambodians going about their daily lives. It’s a relatively small city but one of the most entertaining and genuinely eye-opening places to visit.


1) Have a happy (laced with marijuana) pizza

happy pizza in Cambodia


2) Dine on food you have never seen in a traditional market place you wouldn’t believe.

market in phnom penh


3) Meet amazing monks and explore their colorful temples.

temple in phnom penh


4) Watch the people and the animals of the city live their normal lives, and yes the monkeys smoke and drink.

monkey smokes


5) Explore the sprawling streets of Phnom Penh. Unique architecture, motorbikes and tuk-tuks, street stalls and street vendors, a life you wouldn’t believe.

phnom penh


ericBIO

Eric has been traveling the world for years. Usually he travels slowly, trying to learn the languages and cultures of his host countries.

He spent 20 months traveling and working in Cambodia and now even speaks Khmer, the language of Cambodia. Now he is working on his travel memoir about hitchhiking around the world in 12 months on a budget of $2000.


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This article was published in January 2014.