The 10 Best Backpacker Activities in Phnom Penh

Sunset over the river
Sunset over the river | © Arian Zwegers / Flickr
Phnom Penh is a backpacker’s paradise. It is a compact city, with surrounding areas packed full of fun activities and adventures geared towards the travelling crowd. Here are 10 of the best backpacker activities in the Cambodian capital.

Snack on street food

Sampling the diverse range of street food available across Phnom Penh is a must on every visitor’s list of things to do. However, fear of spending the next few days glued to the loo puts many people off. Leave it to the experts and sign up for a street food tour. Phnom Penh Food Tours is a top choice, offering a morning jaunt across the capital or an evening of scoffing some of the finest street food in the city.

A child handles a live tarantula at a stall in Skuon © Marissa Carruthers

Go on a booze cruise

At dusk, the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers in Phnom Penh are dotted with boats taking tourists on sunset cruises along the capital’s waterways. There is a wealth of tour operators offering cruises in a varying degree of budgets, quality and styles. If you want to party on the water, the best way is to gather a group of friends, head to the pier on Sisowath Quay armed with bags of beers and food, and ask to hire a boat for a couple of hours.

Party on the water with some drinks © bridgesward / Pixabay

Souvenir shop at the market

After spending a few weeks in Cambodia, backpackers should have picked up a few essential phrases. Put them to good use with a trip to the market to haggle for souvenirs. Toul Tom Poung and Phsar Thmei (Central Market) are popular with tourists, with Orussey Market the go-to place for locals, where more bargains are to be had.

Toul om Poung: Street 444

Phsar Thmei: Street 136

Orussey Market: Street 182

The Art Deco design that forms the hub of bustling Central Market © Davide Calabresi / Shutterstock

Feast on films

If you’re in the mood for a duvet day of feasting on films, then head to The Flicks, which screens a selection of independent movies, documentaries, box office hits and foreign films. For $3.50, you can snuggle into the beanbags and set up camp there for the day. Meta House also screens free documentaries and films every evening.

The Flicks: Street 95

Feast on films © annca / Pixabay

Play beer pong at Top Banana

Top Banana Guesthouse & Rooftop Bar

Bar, Restaurant with Rooms, European, Asian, $$$
Top Banana is a popular guesthouse and rooftop bar
Top Banana is a popular guesthouse and rooftop bar | © Top Banana

Top backpacker hangout Top Banana doubles up as a guesthouse and bar, and can get lively in the evenings, especially at weekends when live music, DJs and performers provide the party energy. Beer pong is a popular game played here, and a great way to meet fellow travellers and forge friendships in a fun environment.

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Watch Khmer boxing

A great way to spend a Sunday is to hail a tuk-tuk and head slightly out of town to the CTN TV studios, about six kilometres along the Tonle Sap River. From about 1pm, the studio welcomes free visitors through its doors to watch the Kun Khmer (Cambodian boxing) matches that are screened live across the country. Bring along a few beers and prepare to get sweaty and be deafened in the packed crowd. If you fancy pulling your privileged traveller card, then foreigners are invited onto the less crowded stage along with more affluent Khmers and guests.

CTN: Road 5

Watch Khmer boxing © Marissa Carruthers

Make a pool party

Eighty8 Backpacker Hostel

Eighty8 Backpackers in Phnom Penh | © Eighty8 Backpackers

Eighty8 Backpacker Hostel has a reputation as the traveller party spot, with the spacious bar and guesthouse hosting parties pretty much every night. During the day it’s chilled, with guests relaxing on the many sofas and seats that dot the space, updating social media or making new friends over a game of pool. However, in the evening the atmosphere changes as the energy steps up a gear and the crowds start to trickle in. Live music and DJs commonly get the party started, with the swimming pool often at the centre of the booze-fuelled action.

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Meditate at Wat Langka

Wat Langka is one of the country’s most famous pagodas, with the grounds full of ornate buildings, a sprawling temple and golden Buddha. It is also home to hundreds of monks, who are happy to welcome – appropriately dressed – visitors to explore the grounds. Every Monday, Thursday and Saturday, from 6pm to 7pm, and Sunday, from 8.30am to 9.30am, monks lead free meditation sessions, which anyone is able to join.

Wat Langka sits in BKK1 © Marissa Carruthers

Take a brewery tour

If you happen to be in town on the first Friday of the month, then spend the evening at Kingdom Breweries. Its famous Thank God It’s Friday nights take in a tour of the brewery, polished off with a drinking session of Kingdom draft beer in The Taproom and burgers and fries from Mike’s burger. The event runs from 6pm to 11pm and costs $13 USD.

Kingdom Breweries: National Road 5

Enjoy an evening of beer © pxhere

Go quad biking

Join the Mad Monkey Hostel crew for an adrenaline-charged adventure on the back of quad bikes. Petrol heads can choose from a range of tours, including driving though pristine paddies that dot the outskirts of the city at sunset and exploring the outlying countryside and villages. A fun-filled way to spend the day.

These recommendations were updated on July 4, 2018 to keep your travel plans fresh.