Nov 08 2012
Dormitory rooms are a relatively new concept in Phnom Penh and the backpacker feel can be hard to find in the big smoke. With a large hang-out area and pool hidden behind a white wall, the three-storey Eighty8 Backpackers fills the gap. Two blocks from Wat Phnom to the north of Phnom Penh, it’s no more than a $2 tuk tuk drive to most places around town.
Eighty8 has a mixture of dorm rooms and private rooms, most ensuite but some with a shared bathroom. The large communal area downstairs includes a bar, restaurant and swimming pool, with free WiFi, a big TV and a pool table to pass the time. We were quoted $7 for a an air-con dorm bed, $22 for an air-con double room, and $15 for the fan-cooled three-bed room, with a shared bathroom.
Reception offer tours, bus ticket bookings and laundry — you pay a little extra for the convenience but it frees you up to explore the city, or lounge in a hammock.
The main accommodation is dorm rooms, with six or eight backpackers sharing a room, with air-con and an ensuite toilet and shower. There are mixed dorms and rooms exclusively for girls, although these get booked up quickly. The bunk beds are extra wide and freshly made every day. Custom-built lockers are designed to fit the mother of all backpacks, so even if you brought the kitchen sink, it can be safely locked away. Private rooms can be very large but those closest to reception and the bar are not the quietest.
The cheapest option here is a dorm bed. With some determined hunting you might find a private room for a similar price elsewhere in the city, but it would likely be grubbier, and certainly wouldn’t come with a pool. Couples and those who prefer uninterrupted sleep will benefit from spending a few extra dollars for the privacy of an unshared room, at a price that is difficult to match for the facilities available.
Feeling more boutique hotel than backpacker shabby chic, the private rooms are best booked ahead. The biggest dent in your wallet is the cost of food — Eighty8 sources meat from refrigerated butchers and washes ingredients in filtered water which bumps up prices. Some guests prefer the abundant cheaper street eats and local restaurants on the road outside – the hygiene standards may be lower, but so are the bills.
Eighty8 is popular with younger backpackers, who appreciate the regular parties with guest DJs and $1 draft beer. Solo travellers will find plenty of people to hook up with and there’s usually someone around the pool who might fancy a chat. The relaxed and friendly vibe means that some guests don’t move on as quickly as they planned, finding there’s more to do in Phnom Penh than they first thought.
Most alternatives in the immediate area are guesthouses aimed at the Khmer market, or hotels with price tags that are definitely in the flashpacker region. If Eighty8′s full but you still want to be sociable, try Happy 11 Backpackers, or head for the White Rabbit Guesthouse on Street 294 for cheap-as-chips dorm beds.
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