The first time I visited the Phnom Penh nightlife scene was in 2002. The bars and pubs was not as it is now, it was more dark and hidden. I just remember we hired two motorbike Taxis for 5 USD a night and asked them to take us to many different nightlife spots and that’s what happened.
We got from the Famous Martini Bar and Disco to the Vietnamese Massage Whorehouse Villas where you get a beer in a can for 1 USD and sit on a plastic chair while suddenly out of nowhere about 30 Khmer and Vietnamese girls came outside all around us and then the old lady asked us which ones we would have in the room.
Now the Phnom Penh Nightlife scene has changed a lot.
With the help of Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s nightlife has boosted as well in Siem Riep as in the capitol city. With new bars and clubs opening every month and a lot of the old beer bars being renovated, the city gets it’s nice vibe from former colonial buildings and Asian Buddhism Architecture and is well ready to be the new hub for the next coming years. Food wise there is no problem as a lot of restaurants from different cuisines have opened their doors in the last 15 years to the Western and Expat community.
Arriving and things you should now – some prices as of 2011
Airport Transfer by Tuk Tuk : 7 USD, about 30 minutes or less, depending on traffic.
Airport Transfer by Car/Taxi : 10 USD
Cambodian Visa: Bring a passport photo, that’s it, no photocopies of your passport, you get the application form in the airplane, just fill in the form, give them the picture and of course pay the 20 USD for the VISA.
ATTENTION, There is an Aiport Tax when you leave Cambodia of 25 USD, everybody has to pay this extra, so make sure you got some extra currency for this. Credit Cards are also accepted.
Prices range from 8 USD to 250 USD in the new Naga Hotel, I had a good room with airco in the Walkabout Hotel in Street 51 for 14 USD. There are a huge amount of Guesthouses in town, the choice and location is yours.
It is also very easy to travel in between the Phnom Penh nightlife, as the Bars in Phnom Penh are all close to each other. If the distance is not more than 3 kms the fare of a motorbike is always 1 USD and not more than 5 or 10 minutes away. That’s right, the Cambodians use USD as their main currency, which was funny, even in a local supermarket in a big mall not far from the Central Market the prices of the products were also listed in US currency. Although you can change your Thai Baht and Euros almost everywhere in Phnom Penh city, taking USD is the most easy way to buy your beers and nightlife company. A can of Anchor Beer is priced between 1.25 and 2 USD, a barfine is about 10 USD in the beer pubs. Sigarettes start from 0.75 USD (Ara Brand) to 1.25 (Marlboro).
The Riverfront is the place to start the evening as the main bars and restaurants are stretched along Sisowath Quay and some of the side streets that go into the city. Restaurants close around 10PM to midnight but a few bars open their food and beer flow for a nice 24 Hours a day (my kind of town).
Walking into the nightlife scene you better start with Street 136 which has a few nice bars, my favourite was Sizzlers, with Candy Bar a second closest. The bars are full of Khmer Girls or hostesses that will clean the rat shit of your can before opening it and then give you a small backrub massage. I was very surprised by the nice way the girls treat their customers, to break the Ice it’s always good if you know a few dirty words in Cambodian Language, but do be careful not to be offensive, I always use lick pussy or S- dick as a good starter. Ask in one bar, memorize it and use it in all bars later, of course not immediately when you walk in but after a bit of small talk and a few polite words as Thank you and Good day, you start the dirty dictionary.
More bars on Street 104, with a weekend night market next to it and more hostess bars sits at the corner of Streets 108 and 51.
Some of the clubs are also worth a visit, as the Pontoon and Riverhouse Lounge on the Riverfront and the Famous Heart of Darkness in Street 51, where more bars are located like the Shanghai and the Walkabout and the Zeppelin. Street 51 is also a good place if you want a late night snack.
A lot of the Nouveau Rich visit the Heart of Darkness as it has been a HIP nightlife spot in Phnom Penh for a couple of years. I have visited this street only four times and two times I have seen fighting or some form of aggression going on, the first one last year was a runaway motorbike with two young Khmers on it, while being chased by runners trying to catch them on the bike, even one guy threw both of his shoes to their head, never knew what they did, probably stole something or some money. Then my last stay here there was a street fight going on, when I took some pictures somebody warned me I better not do that if I valued my life, that they had guns and would not hesitate to use them. Being quite drunk I decided to rather have one last beer with two hostesses than getting further into the brawl outside.
The Walkabout kitchen and bar is open 24h, Zeppelin Café opens it’s kitchen until at least 4:00AM and there are a couple of late night restaurants in the new Golden Sorya Mall opposite the Heart of Darkness.
Check out the Bayon Pearnik magazines and the After Dark Issues from The Cambodia Pocket Guides available in most guesthouses, bars and Restaurants for free. It will keep you updated on all recent additions of the nightlife scenes, livebands and offers free maps and tips.
Emergency Numbers Ambulance: 119 and 023 724 891 Police Hotline: 117
Tourist Police: 023 724 793 and 012 942 484 Fire: 118 and 012 786 693
For live music bands visit the Memphis Pub with live rock & roll and blues Monday through Saturday, Sharky Bar serves up rock&roll most weekends with sometimes international bands on invitations, 136 Bar and Velkommen Hotel have live music on Fridays and Riverside Bistro also.