Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Sat March 12 2016

Opinion Home | Tales From the Leap

  • Shannon Wolf | March 12, 2016 11:00 PM ET

    Phnom Penh: Ditch the Tourist Traps and Head to the Underground Party

    Phnom Penh: Ditch the Tourist Traps and Head to the Underground Party

    PHOTO: If Phnom Penh taught me anything, it was that you should try everything twice. (photos by Shannon Wolf)

    The first time I had arrived in the capital of Phnom Penh was after hitchhiking on our way to Sihanoukville. We arrived late, the area we were in was far from safe and we ended up sleeping on the floor of a temple thanks to considerate monks.

    My second time in the city was to apply for my Indian visa and I can't say I was overly thrilled to be back. But I've been told not to judge a book by its cover. (Although granted, it’s hard.)

    However, after meeting incredible locals and having the opportunity to see the area through their eyes, a whole new city unfolded in front of me along with a thriving ex-pat community I never knew existed.

    What I've learnt is that Phnom Penh is an underground party city with an unlimited supply of quirky, hipster bars, clubs and eateries worthy to compete against some of the big league destinations!

    Final verdict? Meet locals. Meet ex-pats and get excited to stray far from the tourist traps.

    Best Accommodation: 88 hostel ($4-$6 a dorm)


    • Friendly staff

    • Nice hangout area

    • Clean and comfortable beds

    • Hot showers

    • Air conditioning

    • Lockers

    • Wi-Fi

    VIDEO: Discover the temples just outside of KampongCham, Cambodia 

    Worst Accommodation: Happy House Zone

    This is one of the worst hostels I have been to in all of my travels and I highly recommend all to skip this place. It's unfortunate because the rooms are modern and clean but the reception staff are some of the rudest I've come across which resulted in me leaving (and I have a high tolerance for BS).

    They lie about the cost of the rooms and availability, trying to scam you into paying far more than the actual cost, if you don't book a room for triple the price on they ignore your requests and will even go as far as selling your bed right from under you even though you requested to stay for a certain duration of time. They only care about their Hostelworld reviews and no one deserves to be treated with such disrespect and unprofessionalism.

    Must Do's:

    • Visit the Killing Fields.

    • Visit the Genocide Museum.

    • Walk around the Grand Palace.

    • Visit at least one of the hidden gems below.

    Phnom Penh's Hidden Gems:

    • Lost and Found: A cafe/lounge area with board games, chilled out vibe and comfy seating. Great for just hanging out and relaxing.

    • Backyard Cafe: Great vegan/vegetarian cafe with huge, delicious portions to match its high prices ($6-plus but so worth it!).

    PHOTO: Between mouthwatering lunches at Backyard Cafe to dancing the night away at Club Love, I couldn’t ask for a better experience!

    • Top Banana: Where else you can order not only beer but "whip its" at the bar for $2.50 (but I wouldn’t suggest doing them).

    • Club Love: Head here to get your dancing on. Great music by a great DJ!

    • Luigi's Pizza: Some of best pizza you'll have in Southeast Asia.

    • Che Culo: A gourmet bar and eatery locals and ex-pats love.

    • The Russian Market: Great to wander through.

    • The Cambodian BBQ: Great place to eat near the Russian Market.

    • Warung Bali: Has some of the best (and most reasonably priced) Indonesian food I've tasted since Bali!

    • Bassac Lane: Street filled with up and coming specialty bars (give the Library a try). Drink espresso martinis and passion fruit spirits.

    READ MORE: Vacation for a Cause at Cambodia's Green Leaf Boutique Hotel

    PHOTO: Jayson hanging out at one of the many cool bars on Bassac Lane.

More Cambodia


You may use your Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook information, including your name, photo & any other personal data you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on Click here to learn more.

Shannon Wolf Tales From the Leap

Shannon Wolf Shannon Wolf is a freelance photographer and writer, traveling across the globe with an open itinerary and no intent of stopping. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she left behind a fast paced life to truly live and not just exist in an attempt to inspire others to follow their bliss. At age 26, Shannon has visited 20+ countries on four continents around the world. She has travelled overland by chicken-bus and tuk-tuks, hitchhiked by fruit trucks and through islands on horse and buggy. She has slept in the jungles of Nicaragua, on benches in London, secluded hidden beaches and she’s only getting started.
Finding Your Transportation at the Cancun Airport

Vacation Packages