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Phnom Penh Gay Travel

Phnom Penh gay travel is ideal for the history buff. Here’s wolfyy’s advice for where to stay, things to do and nightlife in this gritty city with a dark past.

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The Gay Travel Experience: Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phnom Penh is a common stop for backpackers making their way between Thailand and Vietnam, usually passing through Siem Reap as well. An important piece of advice for the gay traveler is that Phnom Penh is not a city for those seeking luxury.

Definitely worth a visit, gay travel to Phnom Penh will be an eye opener to local Cambodian society.

gay travel Phnom Penh
streets of Cambodia
gay travel Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is one of the poorest cities I have visited in my life. This doesn’t make it a bad place at all. In fact, I think it’s crucial for gay travelers to see the way different societies live their lives around the world. Phnom Penh was humbling. I am glad I went, but I will say that one time was enough.

streets of Cambodia

As you will read at the end of this article, the gay community is well tolerated in Cambodia. Phnom Penh has hosted pride events in years past, and LGBT citizens are not widely discriminated against, as in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

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Gay Phnom Penh: Where to Stay

Airbnb rentals and hotels in Phnom Penh are cheap. You can find a budget accommodation for as low as $17 per night. I stayed in a small Airbnb just south of the central market. This area was fantastic because there were plenty of restaurants, coffee shops and convenience stores nearby.

Phnom Penh Temple

In general, any four or five stay hotels in the Khan Daun Penh area will be suitable. This is the center of the city, which is mostly walkable.

Phnom Penh Temple
cambodian temple

If you decide to look on Airbnb, especially for higher-end accommodations, beware of misleading advertisements or listings for luxury apartments with rooftop pools. I have heard that these listings (usually with no reviews) can be different from what is posted online.

cambodian temple

A final suggestion regarding your stay. If you plan to be in Phnom Penh for an extended period of time, I recommend seeking a quality hotel that has some sort of backup generator. 

City-wide blackouts are common if there is not enough rainfall to produce electricity at hydroelectric plants. I experienced several blackouts that lasted about 4 hours during the 5 days I was there. 2019 has been a very dry year for Cambodia.

gay friendly hotel Siem Reap

Make sure to read the travel tips section of this wolfyy gay travel guide regarding safety in Phnom Penh. These precautions may influence your choice of accommodation.

Phnom Penh Experiences for the Gay Traveler

Take a walk along Tonle Sap River during sunset. I loved observing the local life in this area, and it’s one of the most developed parts of the city. There are dozens of nice restaurants along the road that follows the river’s edge.

Phnom Penh cafe

Wat Ounalom was a great temple to see for about an hour. The area surrounding the temple is full of local monks and tourists in this area are sparse. I must admit, I found some adorable cats and I befriended one. 

Make sure to take a look inside the temple. There is a beautifully colored offering table that glows incredibly. Also, take a walk to check out the Royal Palace nearby!

gay travel local to Cambodia
gay travel local to Cambodia
Phnom Penh cafe

E-Mart Coffee was my go-to spot for a nice air-conditioned café with good food. I did a fair amount of work (on this wolfyy website) while in Phnom Penh, and so I visited E-Mart almost daily. Everything is very cheap, staff are friendly and the space is cozy.

Tuol Sleng S21 Genocide Museum

The famous Tuol Sleng Cambodian Genocide Museum is an absolute must while visiting Phnom Penh. I must warn you, this place is terrifying. I’m a guy who isn’t fazed by much. However, the combination of the intense audio guide and the gruesome and raw remnants of the torture shook me quite a bit.

S21 genocide museum
genocide museum Phnom Penh
S21 genocide museum

If you are sensitive or highly affected when it comes to stories about death, you may either want to skip the museum, or perhaps go along without the audio guide (to spare you the most gruesome details).

genocide museum Phnom Penh

All in all, I would recommend going and purchasing the audio guide if you are up for it. I think it is important to learn about the history of Cambodia and genocide in general.

Where to Eat in Phnom Penh

For the best local food, head to P.P. Pub Street. This complex may look a little run down, but the food is incredible! I ate at both of the main restaurants and had some insanely flavorful food. Plus, beer is only $1!

cambodian restaurants

Prices of food in Phnom Penh can range quite a bit. A dish of local street food can cost $2 USD while a meal at a restaurant along the Tonle Sap River can cost over $30.

cambodian restaurants
Phnom Penh street food
Phnom Penh street food

I had a delicious dinner at La Croisette Italian Bistro, located along the Tonle Sap River. I had been drinking so much Southeast Asian beer, that I switched it up for an Aperol Spritz. The fried squid was perfect.

Phnom Penh Nightlife

Phnom Penh doesn’t have much of a wild nightlife scene, let alone a gay scene. However, there are dozens of street-front bars where you can grab yourself some cheap drinks. 

There are a few bars that generic gay travel websites mention and promote, however I chose not to try them and would not go for a couple of reasons.

PP pub street

The first is that pickpocketing is very common. Secondly, since there wasn’t much of a straight nightlife scene, I couldn’t imagine I would have enjoyed myself in a Phnom Penh gay bar. Better to save your energy for the museums and such. After all, Phnom Penh is not a nightlife destination. For nightlife, wait until you get to Siem Reap!

Phnom Penh gay travel
PP pub street
Phnom Penh gay travel

Most nights I would peruse the streets looking for a good spot to enjoy a beer or mojito. Most establishments are more or less the same, offering delicious Southeast Asian dishes and cocktails of all kinds.

I had been traveling Southeast Asia for a few months before visiting Phnom Penh, so I wasn’t as affected by street food. However, Cambodia is a place where it is much more common to encounter some stomach issues with street food.

Phnom Penh Gay Travel Tips

Upon arrival to the border, I was shocked at the fact that Cambodia operates using the U.S. Dollar! The country actually uses a mix of both United States Dollars and the local Cambodian Riel. 

The Riel is such a small denomination compared to the Dollar, so Riel bills are used as change. Hence, no U.S. coins are used. Only bills are exchanged, which in my opinion is quite convenient!

things to do in Phnom Penh
temples in cambodia
things to do in Phnom Penh

As mentioned earlier in the article, be conscious of the fact that city-wide blackouts are common if there is insufficient electricity to meet demand. Locals are forced accept these inconveniences as part of life. One way or another, you should plan around or anticipate this reality.

temples in cambodia

Visas to Cambodia cost about $40 USD. Make sure to bring enough cash if you are crossing the border by bus, as there are no ATM machines anywhere near the border crossings.

If tuk-tuks are not your thing, download the Grab Taxi application. This app is used widely in many cities throughout Southeast Asia. It’s very cheap, and best if you’re traveling around the city late at night.

fried rats street food
genocide museum

In my opinion, you should avoid giving money to beggars. 99% of the time, I do not give money. But, after seeing the extreme poverty of this city, I once gave some extra change to an old woman.

fried rats street food

Even after I was kind enough to give her all of my Cambodian bills, she continually asked for more. I did not appreciate that, and for this reason I avoid giving money to beggars. It’s just asking for trouble.

Is Phnom Penh Safe?

Cambodia is a bit different from the rest of Southeast Asia in terms of safety. In Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore etc., crime is relatively low and so there’s not much to worry about. Contrarily, there is a high crime rate in Phnom Penh, so please heed these next few words of caution.

safety in Phnom Penh

Firstly, do not walk along the streets with your cell phone in your hand, not paying attention. It is very possible for someone on a motorbike to fly by and grab it. If you are going to check your phone, stop over onto the sidewalk away from traffic.

safety in Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh gay travel LGBT
genocide museum

Similarly, wear your backpack with both straps or simply secure whatever bag you have to your body so it cannot be swiped. Only carry an amount cash that is necessary, and don’t flash large-value bills. 

Interestingly, when paying with a twenty-dollar bill, locals tend to chuckle. Your best bet is to get change from a local coffee shop or convenience store.

Siem Reap temple tips

I did not encounter anything too suspicious while in Phnom Penh, but I personally may not have been a target since I’m a tall and rather large man.

For the rest of you gay travelers heading to Phnom Penh, travel smart and protect your belongings. Don’t trust just any guy off the street and always take precautions. If anyone is overly friendly or follows you, just walk away.

Gay Life in Cambodia

The gay rights situation in Cambodia is very similar to Vietnam, in that same-sex sexual activity is legal as well as the fact that there aren’t any protections for the gay community. 

Overall, there isn’t much opposition to same-sex marriage or the LGBT community in general, according to 2015 polls by TNS Cambodia.

Siem Reap travel
Siem Reap temple tips
Siem Reap travel
Although there are no official protections for gay citizens, Cambodia’s government has expressed acceptance for the community. In most instances, the country falls back on laws protecting “all citizens,” but does not expressly grant the rights to the gay community.

The international community has pressured Cambodia to move forward with enacting legislation that explicitly grants rights and protections to LGBT citizens. So far, no laws have been passed. We therefore must remain hopeful and continue to hold Cambodia accountable for protecting their citizens.

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Traveling from Phnom Penh to Saigon? Check out the wolfyy gay Saigon Gay Travel Guide

Need more ideas for gay vacations? Explore wolfyy’s full list of gay travel destinations.

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