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Where to Stay in Phnom Penh: Best Areas & Hotels, 2018

The Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh is a vibrant, exciting, and inexpensive destination. The city is located at the confluence of the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers, and most of the sightseeing lies close to the Mekong River, near the Royal Palace. The Riverfront District, along Sisowath Quay, is the vibrant heart of the expat, restaurant, and tourist zone, with many hotels located on or near the river. Known as the Central District or the Wat Phnom area, this is near the city's biggest temple, the Royal Palace, and the National Museum.

Boeung Keng Kang 1, referred to locally as BKK1, is home to a few colleges, as well as many of the city's embassies and NGO offices. Many diplomats and expat workers call the area home, so there's a local feel with good shopping and restaurants. Different from the Central District, the city's rapidly expanding Central Business District is about eight kilometers from the river and caters more towards business travelers.

Transportation throughout the city, mainly by tuk-tuk, is cheap and easy to find. A tuk-tuk is a scooter or small motorcycle attached to a two-wheeled, covered cart with a padded bench seat for two (or sometimes three) passengers.

Where to Stay for Luxury

Royal Palace
Royal Palace
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The Raffles Hotel Le Royal is considered the city's best hotel and oozes colonial charm and luxury. Located in the heart of the Central District, this luxury hotel was first opened in 1929, when Cambodia was part of what was known as French Indochina. The river is a five-minute walk, and sightseeing is easy; it's very close to the city's famous Russian and Central Markets. For foodies, the Restaurant Le Royal features the best in both French and Cambodian cuisine. There are two parts of the hotel; try for a room in the historic, original building, not the late-1990s built addition. There are several pools and a luxurious spa. The hotel also offers many curated culinary, cultural, and artistic activities and experiences. For example, you can cook with a Cambodian chef, explore the city's Art Deco architecture, or learn to dance from a local troupe.

The InterContinental Phnom Penh is in the city's rapidly developing Central Business District. This high-rise hotel is about 15 minutes by car from the river and other sightseeing locations. For relaxation, there's a large, Khmer-style outdoor pool with a pool-side cafe, and the hotel has five different dining options. There's a large, well-equipped fitness center and a salon/spa, with beauty treatments and massages. The InterContinental has its own art gallery, which promotes local artists and also features international art exhibitions. Music lovers should note the hotel is home to the annual Phnom Penh International Music Festival held each November.

The Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra is a riverside hotel, located a bit south of the Central District area, near BKK1. For foodies, the hotel's French restaurant, La Coupole, is not the fanciest in town but it's considered one of the best. For an extra level of luxury and amenities, there's a club floor. For the best views, try to score a room on a higher floor with a balcony. One side of the hotel faces the river; the other, the Royal Palace. Shoppers have easy access to the nearby Sorya Shopping Center, the best for buying new and luxury goods. There are several casual restaurants, a large pool, and a full fitness center. Breakfast is included in most rates, and the Wi-Fi is free.

Where to Stay: Mid-Range

Independence Monument
Independence Monument
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A fascinating mid-range choice is the White Mansion, which was the former US Ambassador's residence. Located in the tourist-friendly Central District area, not far from the Royal Palace, this boutique mansion hotel has beautifully outfitted rooms and suites finished in a modern Cambodian design. The hotel's Eric Kayser French bakery serves excellent meals, and is popular with non-hotel guests, too (it has the best croissants in Phnom Penh). There's also a nice-sized outdoor pool and a small spa. Try for a room with a balcony, as they have views over the local neighborhood.

Mane La Residence is a boutique hotel, created from a newly-built luxury mansion in a suburban, gated neighborhood. You're about 25 minutes from the river, away from the hustle and bustle of central Phnom Penh. Breakfast is included, and other home-style meals are available. The overall service is warm and personal. Rooms are large and well-appointed, but there is a bed-and-breakfast feel to the experience, with plenty of interaction with staff and other guests. A tuk-tuk is necessary for sightseeing, or the hotel can arrange a private car and driver for longer excursions or day trips.

The Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel is another excellent mid-range choice. Sokha is a Chinese hotel company, with a few properties throughout Cambodia. The hotels are popular with Chinese tour groups and can be crowded. This newly built hotel also has large rooms, multiple restaurants, and a large pool, and delivers real value for its price. The property is located on the peninsula in the river delta, requiring a tuk-tuk or car to access central Phnom Penh, but the rooms have appealing river views.

Where to Stay on a Budget

Market in Phnom Penh
Market in Phnom Penh
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The Anise Villa is typical of the small, family-run boutique hotels you'll find throughout the city. Although the prices are low, service is typically warm and personal - guests benefit from a higher staff-to-guest ratio than what is typically found in larger properties. Little touches like free Wi-Fi; free daily laundry service; and toothbrushes, toothpaste, and shaving kits in the bathrooms add to the non-budget feel of a stay here. Breakfast is included (both Western and Eastern options) and it's served outside, next to the pool. The location is good; it's in BKK1, in an area filled mainly with embassies and office buildings. The Royal Palace and museums are only a short tuk-tuk ride away.

The Patio Hotel and Urban Resort delivers a stylish, contemporary mini-resort experience at a budget price. The rooms are small but nicely furnished and carefully serviced. You'll also like the luxury amenities, like the rooftop infinity pool and plenty of cool public spaces where you can lounge and relax. The hotel is in the exciting BKK1 area, but it can be loud at night, so try for a room in the back. The breakfast area, also on the rooftop, is pleasant, and many travelers find the food a highlight of their stay. There's even a private driver airport pickup available for guests arriving via plane.

The Kravan Hotel is a small, budget boutique hotel with clean, well-appointed rooms and a caring, professional staff. The entire building is new, and this means the rooms have an attractive fit and finish, with new countertops, furniture, electronics, and bathrooms. Even with its low price, you get a fitness center, stunning rooftop pool, little restaurant, and even a small business center. Rooms on the higher floors have great views of the city. The location is in the Central Business District, about a mile from the river and the Royal Palace. Breakfast is included, but the menu is limited, with mainly Asian-style food (no pancakes).

Where to Stay for Families

Balloon seller in Phnom Penh
Balloon seller in Phnom Penh
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Boutique hotels don't always work for families, but The Pavilion provides an authentic Cambodian experience, and their Khmer-style triple rooms and deluxe suites can accommodate up to six guests staying together. Breakfast is not included, but it's delicious, reasonably priced, and served a la carte - not buffet style. Kids will love the Western food options always available at breakfast, and at all the meals (they have excellent cheeseburgers). Staff members are caring and helpful, and they can help set up a kid-friendly itinerary. There are two pools, one in the sun and one shaded, and every guest gets a complimentary massage. The location, only a block from the Royal Palace, is perfect for family sightseeing, with all the city's attractions close by. Families will love extras, like the inexpensive laundry service and free, fast Wi-Fi.

Where to Stay for Romance

Royal Palace
Royal Palace
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The Plantation (sister hotel to The Pavilion), accurately bills itself as an "urban resort and spa." The hotel provides a wonderful sense of privacy and luxury, despite its seriously central location near the palace. The property, which caters to honeymoon guests, is ideal for romantic getaways and can be the kind of place you don't want to leave. The lush, tropical gardens that surround the property and the small pool and artificial beach add to the secluded feel. Enjoy room service or dine at the hotel's romantic La Pergola restaurant, with some of the city's best French cuisine. The Plantation's Penthouse Suite provides 240 square meters of minimalist Cambodian luxury, overlooking the city. There are three terraces; an outdoor barbecue station; and a huge, outdoor Jacuzzi tub, perfect for two.

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