Backpacking Southeast Asia Second Stop: Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Last Updated on June 12, 2020 by Tina

After spending two days in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, I traveled to my next destination, Phnom Penh (PP) in Cambodia. I only spent a night in PP because I didn’t want to spend my birthday there. A girl I met in Bali in May told me not to stay long in PP if ever I visit the place because she didn’t feel safe when she was there. A friend who has been there also said the same thing. He told me not to stay long in that city. So I listened to them. I planned my trip in such a way that I will only spend a night there then the following day I will travel by train to Sihanoukville. My original plan was to celebrate my birthday in Koh Rong Sanloem. But I never went to Sihanoukville and I will tell you the details in my next post.

Anyway going back to Phnom Penh, you might be wondering why I had to spend a night there. Why not just avoid it completely? First, if I wanted to go to Siem Reap to see the Angkor Wat, I still need to pass by PP. There are no direct buses from HCMC to PP. I need to travel first to PP then change bus to Siem Reap. Unless I am taking a flight, which is out of my budget, I need to take two steps. Second, I want to see as many as I can and I am a very curious person. I want to know if PP is really scary.

Getting to Phnom Penh

I traveled by bus from Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) to PP. If you want to know how my bus experience was, you can read my post about it here. The bus trip took about 7.5 hours of travel time from HCM to PP. I alighted at the bus station of Mekong Express and walked about 25 minutes carrying my big backpack to the hostel, Onederz Phnom Penh. Now that I think of it, I could have just booked a Grab tuk-tuk from the bus station to the hostel. But instead, I punished myself because I was trying to save some bucks just to succeed in the US$ 20 per day challenge. I really love walking but walking with a big backpack is not a very good idea.

Related Post: Postcards From My Southeast Asia Backpacking Trip

What I Did

Before you continue reading this post, I would like to warn you that this is not an exciting post. But I still have to write this because I am trying to document the things I did during my backpacking trip.

After checking-in at Onederz Phnom Penh, I went out to buy a sim card. I had a hard time purchasing one because people at the shop don’t understand/speak English. After a few minutes of sign language and a little help from a Cambodian customer who can speak English, I finally got my simcard and was able to connect to the internet. I had no idea what to see in Phnom Penh aside from the Royal Palace, S21 Museum and Killing Fields. I decided to just go for a walk until I get to the night market and stop and check out whatever interesting place I would see along the way.

There is a market near the shop where I bought the sim card. The market looks like one of the markets in the Philippines. Near the market is a big park. I don’t know the name of the park but in Googlemaps it was labeled as The Block. It is located across Cambodia Securities Exchange Office and National Treasury Office. Many locals hang out by the park. As I continued walking, I passed by Yeay Penh Statue and across is the Wat Phnom. I wanted to get inside Wat Phnom because it looks interesting but I couldn’t find the entrance and it was getting dark. I decided to head out to the night market instead.

Inside the night market are stalls selling clothes. There is also a stage where local musicians perform. I went straight to the food hall. After checking out all the food stalls, I decided to have fried tofu, fried crabstick, and fried squid balls. There are no tables in the food hall, only mats. After eating, I checked out the shops selling clothes. I bought a cute tee with an elephant print and then decided it’s time to leave. Although I didn’t feel unsafe in Phnom Penh, I still decided to get back to the hostel early because it’s the wise thing to do when you’re a female traveling alone. It isn’t advisable to walk alone at night especially if you are female (my hostel is just walking distance to the night market).


As with my previous post, I’ll be using the conversion rate of Php 52 for US$ 1 for this post. The official currency of Cambodia is Cambodian Riel. However, US dollar is the main currency used. Prices in most establishments such as hotels and restaurants are quoted in US dollars. Cambodian Riels are used only as small change at a rate of around 4000 Riels to US$ 1.

Bus to Phnom Penh- VND 330,968 (US$ 14.27 / PHP 742.04)

Lunch (2 viands meal + Coke)- US$ 3.50 (PHP 182)

Simcard- US$ 5.00 (PHP 260)

Dinner (assorted fried something)- US$ 2 (PHP 104)

Coke- US$ 1 (PHP 52)

1 bed in a female-only dormitory in Onederz Phnom Penh: PHP 353.54 (US$ 6.80)

Total expenses: US$ 32.57 (PHP 1693.64)

Total expenses excluding bus fare: US$ 18.30 (PHP 951.60)

Did I succeed in the US$ 20 a day challenge? If I’m going to exclude the bus fare from Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh, I did. I even have an excess of US$ 1.70. The budget I set was actually supposed to include everything. It’s impossible though because the fare costs more than half my budget for the day. Had I stayed longer in Phnom Penh, I might have been able to, but I only spent a day. In my succeeding posts, you will see that I actually failed in Cambodia because of bus fares and entrance fees.

If you have any questions regarding this trip, feel free to leave a comment. Subscribe to my blog if you don’t want to miss any of my posts. And please follow my Facebook page @iwentanyways and like my Instagram accounts @iwentanyways and @tnadeperalta for updates. You can also check out my backpacking highlights in my IG @tnadeperalta.

Related posts:

Traveling to Phnom Penh, Cambodia from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by Bus

Backpacking Southeast Asia First Stop: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

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