Phnom Penh or Siem Reap

Which is Better Phnom Penh or Siem Reap?

Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are both cities in Cambodia but offer a very different vibe to visitors. With Phnom Penh been the capital of Cambodia has a big city feel whereas Siem Reap a bit more relaxed atmosphere but can feel very touristy at times.

Check out our travel tips to Cambodia before going and the best beers in Cambodia.

We are going to try to make it easier for you to compare Phnom Penh or Siem Reap by comparing their nightlife, things to see and do, accommodation and any other factors that may have an impact on your visit.

Phnom Penh or Siem Reap

Phnom Penh or Siem Reap are both great cities to visit for a variety of reasons. Siem Reap is a small city that is growing rapidly mainly cause it is home to the Angkor Wat.

And Phnom Penh is also developing at a fast rate as the capital. These two cities around 320 km apart or it takes around a 5-hour bus journey to go from one to the other.

Which One Has The Better Culture?

Both cities have a thriving and developing culture but Siem Reap is the cultural hub in Cambodia. It is one of the reasons why Siem Reap so growing in popularity. And Phnom Penh also has its own charms.

Phnom Penh Culture

Phnom Penh offers a lot around its dark history when Cambodia was ruled by the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot from 1975 to 1979. You can learn about just how brutal the regime was by exploring the killing fields and S-21.

Palace in Phnom Penh
Royal Palace

You can also explore the Royal Palace, there are a few temples around the city and you can enjoy Arts’ theatre show.

Siem Reap Culture

Siem Reap is home to the Angkor Wat. Which is a UNESCO heritage site from the Khmer Empire that stretches across more than 162.6 hectares with hundreds of temples and structures, just waiting to be explored!

Other than Angkor Wat, there is an amazing range of restaurants in Siem Reap to try. Also, there is are theatre shows regularly on. As well as war museums to visit.

What’s The Nightlife Like?

Cambodia is not known for its nightlife but there are some places that have a good nightlife. Siem Reap and Phnom Penh both have a good nightlife with Siem Reap a little more seasonal.

Let’s compare the nightlife between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Phnom Penh Nightlife

Phnom Penh’s nightlife is more of a big city vibe nightlife. You will find bars and clubs spread around the city. There are two main areas that you will find the best bars and clubs are.

  • Street 51 area
  • Riverside

Beers in Phnom Penh are affordable for example in the Street 51 area you can expect to pay between $0.75 cent to $1.50 for a beer.

Siem Reap Nightlife

Siem Reap’s nightlife is mainly on pub street and does not have as many options as Phnom Penh. Some resorts in Siem Reap will host daytime pool parties while others may have parties going on in the evening.

This depends on the resort you are staying in, as some resorts cater to families, therefore they will not be hosting parties.

Siem Reap Pub Street
Siem Reap’s Pub Street

Accommodation in Phnom Penh vs Siem Reap

Choosing the right accommodation is important regardless if it is in either Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. Siem Reap is a little touristy with a relaxed vibe whereas Phnom Penh has a big vibe.

Staying in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh has a good range of hotels and hostels. Some with pools ( not many) and city views. It is pretty easy to find a good hotel near Riverside with walking distance of the promenade, where prices can start from $12.

Staying in Siem Reap

Siem Reap has a good supply of good resorts, hotels, and hostels with pools and bars. The accommodation in Siem Reap is very affordable, especially in the low season.

What To Do See in Phnom Penh And Siem Reap

Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are both are blessed amazing places to see and do from amazing temples to learn about Cambodia’s history.

Here are some of the best things to do in each city.

Things To Do in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh has a lively nightlife and it is a great place to visit if you want to explore local temples and learn about Cambodia’s dark history.

Wat Ounalom in Phnom Penh
Wat Ounalom in Phnom Penh

Here is our list of things to do in Phnom Penh Cambodia.

  • See the killing fields
  • Enjoy Phnom Penh’s nightlife
  • Visit S-21 prison
  • Take a cruise on the Mekong River
  • Visit the animal sanctuary

Read more about things to do in Phnom Penh here.

Things To Do in Siem Reap

Siem Reap is popular mainly because of the Angkor Wat temples but there are a lot of other things to do in Siem Reap. As well as a great place if you want to relax and enjoy the nightlife.

Angkor Temples in Siem Reap
Angkor Temple in Siem Reap

Here is our list of things to do in Siem Reap Cambodia

  • Enjoy pub street
  • See the Angkor ruins. 
  • Visit the Landmines Museum
  • Enjoy the Floating Village
  • Visit the Lotus farm

Read more about things to do in Siem Reap here.

Which is Better Phnom Penh or Siem Reap?

The two cities offer two very different things. Siem Reap is a small and very culturally driven city, with a relaxed vibe and with good nightlife. It is a very walkable town with a lot of amazing restaurants too enjoy.

Whereas Phnom Penh is the country’s busy capital city offers a great nightlife and a commercial environment. Phnom Penh is very busy and like any big city, traffic is a nightmare.

Best Time To Travel To Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is constantly hot with it getting slightly cooler at night. This makes November to February with the lowest temperatures and rainfall. The dry season is from January to April, while the wet season runs from May to December.

The best time to visit Phnom Penh is between November and January, which are the driest, least humid and coolest months.

Zip Lining outside Phnom Penh
Zip Lining outside Phnom Penh

Best Time To Travel To Siem Reap

In, Siem Reap it can get very hot between April and May. And from June through November, expect a lot of rain. Whereas between December and January it is sunny and dry but not too hot.

The best time to visit Siem Reap is between December to April. But this is the high season expect it to be busy and bit more pricey.


Wrapping Up

Finally, in which one to choose really depends on your plans and interests. More than likely you will have to fly into Phnom Penh, Siem Reap does have an airport. For people interested in good nightlife all year round and learning Cambodia’s dark history then Phnom Penh.

For people interested in the cultural stuff, then it is Siem Reap is where there are temples, theater shows, museums with decent nightlife.

And that’s it for now! I’d love it if this post on Phnom Penh or Siem Reap Cambodia, which is better was helpful to you. Let me know if you have any questions and let me know if there is more to add.

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Phnom Penh or Siem Reap

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