Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are both cities in Cambodia but offer a very different vibe to visitors. Phnom Penh the capital of Cambodia has a big city feel whereas Siem Reap has a bit more relaxed atmosphere but can feel very touristy at times.
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 in each city, the accommodation available, and any other factors that may have an impact on your visit.
In this post, we will go through which is better Phnom Penh or Siem Reap in Cambodia. So let’s get started!
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Phnom Penh Or Siem Reap
Phnom Penh and 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 Angkor Wat.
And Phnom Penh is also developing at a fast rate as the capital. These two cities are around 320 km apart and 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 of 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 about 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.
You can also explore the Royal Palace, there are a few temples around the city and you can enjoy Arts and theatre shows.
Siem Reap Culture
Siem Reap is home to 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 good nightlife. Siem Reap and Phnom Penh both have 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 where you will find the best bars and clubs.
- Street 51 area
Beers in Phnom Penh are affordable for example in the Street 51 area you can expect to pay between $0.75 cents to $1.50 for a beer.
Siem Reap Nightlife
Siem Reap’s nightlife is mainly on pub streets 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.
Accommodation In Phnom Penh Vs Siem Reap
Choosing the right accommodation is important regardless of whether 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 city 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 within 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 with amazing places to see and do from amazing temples to learning 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.
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.
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 to enjoy.
Whereas Phnom Penh is the country’s busy capital city and offers 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.
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 a bit more pricey.
USEFUL TRAVEL RESOURCES
Booking.com has a large range of properties from hotels, hostels, guesthouses, and resorts where you will find the best deals. Airbnb and Hostelworld also have a good range of places to stay at good prices.
Skyscanner is a flight search comparison website that searches millions of flights all at once. Ultimately it is the best flight comparison website online at the moment.
Booking Transportation & Things To Do
Rome2rio and 12Go is a great way to plan how to get anywhere by searching train, bus, car, and ferry routes. Especially useful in countries like Vietnam or Thailand. While Klook is great to explore things to do in each place.
Travel insurance is cheap and more than likely you will never need to use it but you will have peace of mind if something does happen, you are covered in case of an emergency. World Nomads have great customer service and competitive prices.
Check out our resource page for the best companies to use when you travel.
Finally, 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 is the place.
For people interested in the cultural stuff, then it is Siem Reap is where there are temples, theater shows, and 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.