So many places to choose from!
The Cambodian capital Phnom Penh has over a thousand hotels and guesthouses to choose from, scattered across all quarters of the city, so where should stay? Here is our take on two of the best areas to stay in the city, along with some suggested hotels and hostels.
While grabbing some digs overlooking the river might seem to be the obvious choice, do your research carefully as many of the riverfront places are really not great value—either because they command a hefty premium for the views, or because the property is old and just not of the best standards. Bear in mind that many of the riverside hotels have rooftop bars and restaurants, so you can always enjoy the view for the price of a drink (or three) without needing to pay for a room. That being said, at the budget end of the stick, we did very much like Onederz. If you are really set on a river view, another option is to consider AirBnb—there are quite a few privately held apartments for rent on the site.
Aside from absolute riverfront, our preferred area is off the river but within a ten minute walk of the Royal Palace. This area, roughly hemmed in by Street 178 to the north, Norodom Blvd to the west, Sihanouk Blvd to the south and Sisowath Quay (and the river) to the east is packed with excellent accommodation options both at the higher end and also at more reasonable rates. At the mid to upper-range, Penh House, with its terrific rooftop infinity pool is hard to beat, while the long-running Pavilion remains one of the destinations in the city for lovers with a fetish for colonial houses. Also in this area you’ll find two of our favourite digs for families, the pricier Kabiki and the more flashpacker-budget Artist Guesthouse. Another good option for families, the Blue Corner Hotel, is a little further out to the west.
Moving south over Sihanouk Blvd you more into the BKK1 area of Phnom Penh. This was originally the NGO quarter in Phnom Penh as they were attracted to the large villas gracing the area’s many tree-lined streets. Sadly, the villas are making way to towers of glass and brass and of all the downtown parts of the city, this is where you are most likely to encounter heavy construction—often running all day. Don’t be shy about contacting your hotel beforehand to ask after noise.
Aside from the towers you’ll find plenty of mid range, fairly forgettable (though still totally adequate) mid-range tower-style hotels. If you place functionality about style and charm, pick a price bracket and search on Agoda and Booking—if you want something a bit better, consider the Patio Hotel. If you want higher standards still, and a dash of romance, Villa Langka remains excellent. We also like the environmentally conscious House Boutique Eco Hotel, and the stylish Rambutan Resort, both in the far southern reaches of BKK1. Over in the Basac Lane area, we were well impressed with Hotel Corduroy, nearby Corner 9 is another good option. There are still a bunch of budget digs in this area, and while we’re partial to the well-aged Top Banana, the ever-popular Mad Monkey is also nearby as is Envoy hostel a couple of blocks further south.
When shopping around, always check the hotel website and Agoda and Booking (and any other OTAs you use) as we found huge variations in price. Huge. So let your fingers do the walking and you could well save yourself literally hundreds of dollars. As a single example when we stayed at Penh House, the room was $110 on their website and just $55 through an online agent. Bargain!
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
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Our top 10 places to stay in and around Phnom Penh