Phnom Penh nightlife is fun, diverse and laidback.

The cost of partying is still low, the venues cater to a wide range of clients, and the rules are relaxed: Several clubs close late in the morning and a few bars stay open 24/7.

The city attracts a mix of tourists (mostly backpackers but also many older people on group tours), low-budget expats (from guys on retirement to English teachers and NGO workers), small business owners and unfortunately, a lot of sex tourists as well. I noticed it is particularly easy to meet both locals and foreigners in Phnom Penh.

I only spent a couple of weeks there so this review will only scratch the surface of the things to do at night. Still, I managed to visit all the most popular bars and nightclubs, and discover a few that aren't on everyone's map. If you feel I forgot something, please share your own experience by leaving a comment.

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Phnom Penh Nightlife Map
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Nightlife areas + best hotels
One of the best things about Phnom Penh nightlife is that the bars and nightclubs are not too far from each other. You can spend a whole night partying, trying plenty of venues, and only spend a few dollars in taxis/Grab.

There are 4 main nightlife areas that you can visit in Phnom Penh:
1) The tourist area, including the riverside (which is also a red light district)
2) The expat & foreigners area of BKK1 (Boeung Keng Kang 1)
3) Bassac Lane area (for hip locals and younger foreigners living in Phnom Penh)
4) The modern area, where all the biggest nightclubs are located

Here is a description of each:

1) Nightlife in the tourist area
The tourist area is between Wat Phnom temple in the north, the Royal Palace in the south, the Tonle Sap riverside on the east, and the Sorya Shopping Center in the west.

If you are visiting Phnom Penh as a tourist, there is a 95% chance that you will stay there. It has everything: luxury hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, bars, cafés, and tourist sights.

The nightlife is everywhere, but it is particularly busy in a few streets: the 51st (Pasteur), the riverside and the streets 104th, 110th, 130th, 136th, 172nd, and 178th.

Recommended bars and clubs in the tourist area:
Pontoon Club (one of the most famous in PP, commercial music, lots of tourists and prostitutes).
Heart Of Darkness (similar to Pontoon but more trashy, popular with gays and transsexuals)
Vito (a bit further away, with retro music from the 70s and 80s)

Oskar Bistro (trendy restaurant, good food and music, expensive)
Bouchon (wine bar with live jazz every Wednesday).
FCC (Foreign Correspondent Club, a historical hangout spot for journalists)
Lone Star (American bar with Far West theme. Good Tex-Mex food and burgers. NFL/NBA/MLB on screens)
Larry's 110 Street Bar and Grill (upmarket American bar with good pizzas, pool tables, and pretty waitresses)

Sora Skybar (37th floor, chic, excellent cocktails, good for a date and dinner)

Bars open 24/7
Ostex 136 (also called Corner Bar, it is a popular "girly bar" that stays open all night long, in the same building as the bistro Ostro 136).

Hostess bars:
There must be at least 50 hostess bars in Phnom Penh, with most located on the streets 136, 104, 51 and 130. In general, they open at 7pm and have happy hours until 9pm.

Unlike in Thailand, they are not exactly prostitution places. Most of the hostesses are only interested in getting ladies drinks, on which they get a commission. Some will try to find a sugar daddy, but many of these now prefer to work more discreetly online.

The bars usually have games (Connect Four, cards), if not a pool table. So even if the girls don't speak English well, you have something to do with them. The music is often from a YouTube playlist and you can make requests as you wish as long as it's commercial and upbeat. On TV screens you'll have either sports or music video clips.
Recommended hotels in the tourist area
To be both near the nightlife and near the tourist attractions, I recommend staying near street 172. These hotels are perfect:

⭐ The Big Easy Phnom Penh: Popular party hostel with a busy bar
⭐⭐ Silver Mounts: Around 25$ per night
⭐⭐⭐ Ohana Hotel: Around 35$ per night
⭐⭐⭐⭐ Tao Riverside Residence: Around 60$ per night
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Hyatt Regency (affordable luxury at 140$ per night)

2) Nightlife in BKK1 (expat area)
Another area you might consider for partying is Boeung Keng Kang 1 (BKK1) which is south of Sihanouk Boulevard. This is where most expats live and it is more clean and less dodgy compared to the tourist area. Most "normal" bars are there, particularly on 278th and 282nd street.

Here are my recommendations:

Club Love (upstairs from Duplex, Western crowd, alternative music DJ)

Battbong Bar (upmarket bar and restaurant)
Duplex (live music bar and vegetarian restaurant with hippy crowd. Belgian beer and salsa).
Berlin Bar in Meta House (cheap bar at the German Cultural Center with electronic music)
Score (busy sports bar with a very large screen)

Eclipse (360° view, 23rd floor, classy, always busy for sunset. 6$ for a cocktail)

Recommended hotels in BKK1
⭐ Mad Monkey (one of the most famous party hostel in Phnom Penh)
⭐⭐ Homesyn Hotel: Around 20$ per night
⭐⭐⭐ Khmer Surin Guesthouse: Around 30$ per night
⭐⭐⭐⭐ Duong Chan Hotel: Around 60$ per night
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Hyatt Regency (affordable luxury at 140$ per night)

3) Nightlife near Bassac Street (hip area)
Next to BKK1, there is one small neighborhood that has developed into a busy nightlife area. It consists mainly of Bassac Lane and 308th street.

Being less creepy than the tourist area and cheaper than BKK1, it has become popular with a younger crowd, both foreign and local.

It is an exciting area, often very busy, with a nice mix of bars, cafés, restaurants and clubs. I'm only recommending two places because it's better to just go there and try whatever bar is busier.

HClub (small club, commercial music, open daily)

CanCan (fun bar with different events every day)

Recommended hotels near Bassac Lane
⭐⭐⭐ Times Hotel at Bassac Lane: Around 30$ per night

4) Phnom Penh's clubbing area
This area is in the south of BKK1, near Aeon Mall. It is more modern than the rest of the city and it attracts wealthy locals, including many Chinese Cambodians.

The nightlife here is mostly targeting rich Cambodians and you won't see so many foreigners around, apart from young expatriates.

The current popular venues are EDM6 Club and Epic 2. Both are upmarket nightclubs where most customers order bottles and stay in groups around a table. They play commercial music, usually EDM. Dress well if you go (shoes, pants, shirt).

In the same area, Darlin Darlin' is infamous as the city's most expensive hostess bar. Located within Naga World Hotel and Casino, it features live Top 40 music and DJ every night. Usually crowded with mostly Asians, including Japanese, Koreans, Singaporeans and some rich Cambodians as well. Avoid flip-flops and shorts.

Dating in Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh is not the best city for dating in Asia, but there are still plenty of opportunities. One problem is that Cambodia doesn't have a large middle class yet, which means that, as a foreigner, it will be more difficult to meet someone who speaks proper English, who is educated, and who can support her- or himself. Cambodia is also still a traditional and conservative country. Often, people will marry at a young age and it is not common, especially for women, to hangout in nightclubs.

In the most touristic bars and nightclubs, unfortunately, many girls make a living from dating or sleeping with foreigners. If you are looking for casual fun, you might be interested, but it gets more challenging if you want a long term relationship.

In more high-end venues, the Cambodians you will meet are often very rich and not interested to date someone who is a tourist.

This doesn't mean that it's impossible to meet someone, but I think it is better to focus on dating apps. The usual apps like Tinder, Bumble, Badoo, Skout and OkCupid have a surprisingly limited number of profiles. AsianDating is an interesting option for tourists because its members are specifically looking for foreigners and they don't mind long-distance relationships. This means you can start chatting with someone even before you've set foot in Phnom Penh.
Seeking is also trending among expatriates living in Asia even though it's more costly. It is a site that matches rich, older guys with young, pretty girls.

Phnom Penh nightlife tips

What to expect in Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh is still lagging behind Bangkok, Jakarta or Saigon. There are fewer skyscrapers, fewer modern malls, fewer cars, etc. This also translates into more poverty, poor public services (bad road maintenance, garbage) and average infrastructure (bumpy roads, slow internet, occasional power cuts).

That said, Phnom Penh can actually be a pleasant city to visit as long as you don't pay too much attention to the lack of cleanliness and the disorganization. You have a relaxed riverfront where you can stroll in the evening, several authentic markets, colonial architecture, great palaces and pagodas, good food and a genuinely nice population.

Best time to visit
The ideal time to visit Cambodia is from late November to early March. Be aware that during Christmas, New Year and Khmer New Year, the prices of hotels will increase significantly.

Avoid it in April. When I was there, the temperature reached 40°C (104°F) several times. May and October are hot as well. June to September is the rainy season which is both hot and humid.

Visa for Cambodia
As of today, almost everyone can get a visa on arrival. The cost is 30$ but you may have to pay 35$ if you cross by land (it's a scam but hard to avoid). If you arrive by plane, you won't have any issues. Bring 2 ID photos or pay 2$ extra.

You can get the visa in advance with the e-visa procedure, which costs 7$ extra. I don't really see the benefits of doing so though.

To make sure this information is up-to-date, check Visa Requirements to Cambodia before your trip.

Cost of partying
Drinks are cheap. 4$ will get you a cocktail and 2$ a draught beer in most venues (and half that price during Happy Hours). In trendy nightclubs, it will probably be 30-50% more expensive but still affordable. These may also have a cover charge on weekends between 5$ and 10$.

Cambodia uses two currencies, the US dollar and the riel. As of today, 1$ = 4,120 riels. You will end up with riels when your change is under a dollar. If you don't have any, it's ok. I used dollars for 99% of transactions, except small payments.

Dress code
You can dress any way you like in almost all bars and clubs. Only in a few elite nightclubs will you need to wear pants, shoes and shirts.

Getting around
During the day, you can use one of the two main transportation apps in Cambodia: Grab and PassApp. They are cheap, convenient and user-friendly. Grab is a more complete app that also offers food delivery services.

If you really want to save money, buses are very affordable and only cost about 0.40 cents per ride.

At night, you may have to use normal taxis or tuk-tuks. You have to negotiate the price in advance. Don't pay more than these prices:

Tuk-tuks : 5$ for a 20-minute ride.
Moto-taxis: 3-4$ for a 20-minute ride
Taxis: I usually try to get the meter but it's not always possible, especially at night. In that case, I give the same price as I would for a tuk-tuk. A taxi from the airport to the city center costs from $8 to 12$.

Renting a motorbike is convenient but dangerous. Beware of dishonest renters. You can rent one starting at $6 per day.

Internet access and mobile phone
For just $5, you can get a local phone number and internet access from your mobile. Don't spare this expense. You need the internet for so many things including to help you get around with Grab or PassApp.

Recommended providers are Cellcard and Smart. Both have special 30-day tourist packages.

The internet in Cambodia is sometimes restricted. Using a VPN like PureVPN will help you circumvent any restrictions. It is very convenient also if you wish to watch Netflix US or UK for instance.

Phnom Penh is safe by Western standards, but probably slightly more dangerous than other cities in Asia.

There are two main dangers, especially at night: Bag or phone snatchers and road accidents. Both can easily be avoided by being normally cautious.

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