Ideally located at the confluence of three rivers, the mighty Mekong, the Bassac and the great Tonle Sap, Phnom Penh is a vibrant bustling capital of Cambodia. The capital city is the gateway to an exotic land – the ruins of Angkor in the west, the beaches situated along the southern coastline and the delightful life of the ethnic minorities in the north-east.
The quaint rustic charm of the city lies in the glimmering spires of the Royal Palace, the flapping saffron of the monks’ robes, colonial and French-style mansions and tree-lined boulevards amidst monumental Angkorian architecture combined with the stunning views of the Mekong River.
Visitors also head here to explore colorful busy market places with a lineup of carvings, paintings, silk, silver, gems and even antiques. But the Phnom Penh experience is even more. From five star hotels and affordable guesthouses, alluring cafes and bustling bars, fine international dining and best street delicacies to neighborhood pubs, international discos, Phnom Penh is a truly incredible Asian exotica.
Things to know when coming to Phnom Penh
When coming to Phnom Penh, here are some things you should know:
1. Currency: The official currency is Cambodian Riel (KHR), but US dollars are widely accepted. Ensure that you have a mix of both currencies for convenience.
2. Language: Khmer is the official language, but English is spoken by many in tourist areas. It’s helpful to learn a few basic Khmer phrases to communicate with locals.
3. Weather: Phnom Penh has a tropical climate. It can be hot and humid throughout the year, with temperatures peaking between March and May. The rainy season lasts from May to October, so pack an umbrella or raincoat.
4. Culture and Etiquette: Cambodian culture is influenced by Buddhism. Dress modestly when visiting religious sites and remove your shoes before entering temples or someone’s house. It’s also polite to greet people with a slight bow or a “Sampeah” (placing hands together, similar to a prayer gesture).
5. Transportation: Tuk-tuks and taxis are the most common forms of transportation. Negotiate the fare before getting into a tuk-tuk or ensure the taxi meter is used. Be cautious when hiring motorbike taxis (motodops) and use reputable companies.
6. Street Safety: Phnom Penh, like any other city, requires caution. Keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded places. Avoid displaying expensive items and be vigilant against pickpocketing.
7. Attractions: Don’t miss the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, National Museum, and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. A visit to the Choeung Ek Killing Fields can provide insight into Cambodia’s past. Enjoy scenic riverfront walks and try local street food.
8. Health and Hygiene: Drink bottled or filtered water and be cautious with street food. Keep mosquito repellent handy, as dengue fever is prevalent in certain areas. Consider getting travel insurance and consult a doctor about necessary vaccinations before your trip.
9. Nightlife: Phnom Penh offers a vibrant nightlife scene, especially along the riverside and BKK1 areas. There are numerous bars, clubs, and restaurants catering to different tastes.
10. Local Customs: Show respect towards Cambodian customs and traditions. Avoid discussing sensitive topics like politics or the Khmer Rouge regime unless in appropriate settings.
Remember, it’s always useful to research more about local customs, safety updates, and attractions before visiting Phnom Penh.
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