After spending just a couple of weeks in Phnom Penh we have fallen in love with the place. This is our list of the best activities to do in Phonm Penh on a budget. The prices below are true from July 2019.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
In 1975, Tuol Svay Prey School was taken over by Pol Pot’s security forces and was turned into a prison. This quickly became the biggest centre of detention and torture in Cambodia. It has now been turned into a museum so visitors can learn about the horrors of what happened there.
Whenever you look up things to do in Phnom Penh this is usually the first thing that pops up. We suggest doing a little bit of research online to decide if you would like to visit. Matt and I are both very interested by war history and so decided to go. The visit is extremely moving and not for the faint hearted, but it is extremely informative and very interesting to learn about. We suggest you get the audio guide with your ticket. There isn’t a lot to read and so without it you would be a bit lost on what you are looking at. Whilst this is one of the most popular activities it doesn’t come with a hefty price tag. Just $5 without the audio guide and $8 with the audio guide. We were also very lucky that on the day of our visit we got to meet a survivor of the prison Mr Chum Mey. We are now proud owners of his signed book.
The Killing Fields
Between 1975 and 1978 around 17,000 people who had be held and tortured at S-21 were transported to the Killing Fields. It is now a very peaceful open museum where visitors can walk around and learn what happened to the prisoners that were transferred here.
Again whilst looking for things to do in Phnom Penh this is up there with the museum. The Killing Fields are a little way out from the main city but we still recommend you visit as it really helps you to visualise how horrific these events where. Again it is not for the faint hearted so please have a read before you decide if you would like to visit. This is where the main memorial stands. Flowers are available to buy for $0.35 so you can pay your respects to the lives that were lost. Same as the museum we highly suggest you buy audio guide with your ticket. The price was $6 with the audio, we couldn’t see a price for without.
Secret Rooftop Pool
We know there are few rooftop pools in Phnom Penh but this is by far the best for the budget traveller! Now we would have never of found this had we not done some Couchsurfing. The local we stayed with actually told us about it and no one else seems to know about it, we visited twice and on both days we were at points the only ones up there and the busiest we saw it was one family and one group of friends.
If you would like to visit the pool, put Dinaley apartments into google maps. When you arrive walk through the car park on the right had side of the building. Go to the lift that is on the left and press H. This will take you up to the roof top. To use the pool for the whole day all you have to do is spend $2.50 each on food or drink. The food and drink is reasonably priced and if you’re not hungry you can grab a smoothie for that price. We found arriving at lunch time was a good time to go. It meant we could combine the price of lunch and the pool into one.
Riverside is an area in Phnom Penh so it’s completely free for you to explore. We spent a couple of evenings just walking by the river watching the boats go by. We found a great little local restaurant that faces the river, sadly we didn’t jot down the name but it is to the left of a restaurant called Happy Herb Pizza, so is very easy to find (located on Preah Sisowath Quay.) It serves everything from Western to Asian food for an extremely cheap price. Beer is just $0.50! One of our evening meals consisted of 2 soft drinks, bread, 1 Asian meal and one Western meal and came to $8! There are also a few shops you can hire bikes or electric scooters from to take a ride beside the river. We didn’t get time to do this so can’t comment on how much they are.
Cruise The Mekong River
For just $5 you take take an hour boat ride along the Mekong river. The starting point is just across the road opposite to the restaurant we mentioned above. The $5 also includes a soft drink or beer! They offer, daytime, sunset and night time cruises. Just turn up no need to pre-book, they run frequently so you wont be waiting too long. We took the night time cruise and it was lovely to be able to see the city all lit up from the water. When we head back to Phnom Penh we would love to give the sunset cruise a go!
Blue Chilli Bar
This one is up there with one of the best things we did in Phnom Penh. We enjoyed ourselves so much we forgot to get a single photo! This again we probably wouldn’t have found if it wasn’t for one of the Couchsurfer’s we stayed with. This is actually a gay bar but anyone and everyone is welcome. A lot of people go there for pre drinks before heading to the clubs. We went on a Friday night around 11pm where we got to watch the best Drag show we have ever seen! We are not big drinkers so we got a $2.50 beer and just enjoyed ourselves! There is no entrance fee. Click here to check out their website.
The Flicks Cinema
We found this by chance as it was just a 2 minute walk from where we were staying. The Flicks is a really sweet fully air conditioned local cinema. For $4 each you can use their cinema for the whole day. We only had the time to watch one film so we saw ‘The Killing Filed’s’. If you can only see one film and you have visited the museums we highly recommend this film as it gives you the visuals of what it would have been like. They also do really good popcorn! Or if you fancy they’ll order you a pizza and bring it in during the film. You can click here to see their schedule. You can also reserve your spot online, we did this but there ended up only being one other person there.
This comes up a lot online when looking for things to do but we actually found it by accident whilst looking for a bar. It’s a great place to have a stroll. But note it is not the most relaxing experience, the market is on a road where bikes and Tuk-tuks can fit down so you have to watch your back. We didn’t buy anything but loved looking at all the different meat, fish and vegetables they had to offer. If you’d love to watch it from a more comfortable spot check out out next recommendation!
Sundown Social Club Rooftop Bar
So this was the bar we were looking for. We had seen online it was good for a sunset so we wanted to go check it out. I again didn’t get any photos of the bar itself but it’s very Instagramable. It is on the same road as the market but fairly easy to find. Whilst there wasn’t much of a sunset the particular night we went, we had an amazing view of the market below! They have $5 meals and $3 happy hour cocktails. We didn’t eat just had a drink so can’t comment on how good the food is!
Despite initially ruling the Casino out thinking it would be too expensive. We decided to give it a go and whilst there are some pricey points we actually found it extremely affordable. We went into Nagaworld 2 first and from there you can go downstairs into a food court. The system in there is slightly different to the ones we have been to before, you decide what you want off the menu and then pick up a token with that number on it, then you take it to the till to pay and choose what you want to drink. They give you a number and when your food is ready they will bring it to your table. The most expensive meal in there is $5.
From Nagaworld 2 you can go downstairs again. Here is an underground shopping mall, all the shops were well out of our budget but we still killed some time by having a browse. From the Mall you can go upstairs into Nagaworld 1. We spent time in both of the Casinos watching people on the machines. Both of us decided we wanted to have a go but didn’t want to lose a lot of money. So we agreed to have $10 each and once it was gone that was it. We played for around an hour and ended up with $24 dollars. Not a lot but we were only playing for fun. We are not promoting gambling. If you decide to put your money in the machines please do so responsibly.
This is a big and pretty market which is free to walk around. We have heard it is a little bit of a tourist trap and the prices of items are a bit more expensive than if you went to a different market however we weren’t going to buy anything and just wanted to enjoy looking around and we definitely think it is worth the visit. I didn’t get the chance to whilst I was there but there is also a section inside that has lots of little salons offering nails and hair for ridiculously cheap and I know once we’re back in Phnom Penh I’m going to head back there to give them a go!
Take The Train To The Airport
This is a bit of a random one, again recommended to us by a local. You can get the train from Phnom Penh Railway Station to the airport for $5 return. It takes around 30mins each way with a 10min stop at the airport. The train ride is like nothing we have ever done before, parts of the journey you travel through poor areas where people’s homes almost graze the passing train, you can watch how men with flags warn the locals to get off the track as the train is coming, then other parts of the journey you are riding on the road and the train is beeping at the Tuk-tuk’s to get off the track in front! The local kids love waving as you go by so be prepared to have an achy arm when you get off!
Daughter’s Of Cambodia Visitor’s Centre
After seeing this online we knew we wanted to take a visit and it didn’t disappoint. This part cafe, part shop and part salon is perfect if you would like to support the local community. The charity helps to get trapped women out of the sex industry and offers them rewarding jobs, medical treatment, counselling and life-skill classes. We visited the Cafe and shop part. The cafe served great food and all the girls working there couldn’t have been any more wonderful, it really warms your heart knowing that by just having lunch you are helping to remove girls from sex work. Our lunch cost us $11 for two soft drinks and two main meals. We felt so strongly that we browsed the shop and decided on buying some bunting that had been hand made by one of the girls – this cost $12. We never normally spend in gift shops but we felt this was definitely a worthy cause. If you’d like to find out more click here.
That concludes our list of the best budget activities to do in Phnom Penh! Let us know in the comments if you have any more to add to the list. We will definitely be heading back! If you want to learn more about how we saved for our trip check out this post!