Once upon a time, it was easy to find (or avoid) the backpackers in Phnom Penh. They would congregate around cheap guesthouses with shared rooms and $0.50 beers. Ten years ago, their hub was the lakeside area at Boueng Kak and Riverside. Then it was Golden Street (Street 278 between 51 and 57).
Nowadays, there are a few more areas where backpacker-friendly businesses cluster — for example, on Street 172 to Street 136 on either side of Street 19 and towards the river, where you can find Happy 11 Backpackers, Lovely Jubbly Place, and the Happy House, but there are a few backpacker staples (Mad Monkey, Eighty8) further afield.
Lately, we’ve been seeing new hostels pop up in neighborhoods you might not expect. If you are looking for cheap accommodation in Phnom Penh, consider these five relatively recent additions to the hostel scene:
Aura Thematic Hostel
$10 and up per night
With the finishing touches on the construction just completed, this brand-spanking-new hostel behind the Royal Palace near the corner with Street 214 has a rooftop bar (Eluvium) and funky design touches in all of the rooms. The front desk told us that this month they are offering a soft-opening 50% discount on all of their rooms, which are normally $10 and up. The shared rooms are bright and have bathrooms inside, with IKEA-esque light fixtures and cool graphic accent wall murals. There is a bit of construction outside as new sewage pipes are being installed along the length of Street 19, but the rooms are not facing the street so it shouldn’t be too loud.
Aura Thematic Hostel
205A Street 19, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 023 986 211
$8 and up per night
This mansion-turned-hostel is on a quiet street in BKK near the BKK Market. There is a big courtyard, which leads a comfortable common area on the ground floor and a computer and kitchen facilities (with toaster!). A big Khmer wooden staircase brings you upstairs, where the rooms are named after places in Cambodia, and are priced according to the number of beds; a four-bed room is $12 per person, while an eight-bed room is $8 per person.
Envoy Hostel has a very homey feel, with bean bag chairs and bay windows, and since it is in a more expat and residential part of town, it is both less known by the typical Phnom Penh backpacker, and closer to many of the great restaurants in BKK1.
32 Street 322, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 023 220 840
Feel at Home
$7/night shared rooms and $25/night private rooms (except the Hobbit Room, which has a low ceiling and fan only, $18)
Feel at Home Hostel is right around the corner from the very popular Street 308 area, which is an eating and drinking hot spot in Phnom Penh at the moment. This neighborhood has everything from dumplings (Mama Wong’s), to pizza (Luigi’s Piccola D’Italia) and rotisserie chicken (Chicky’s) and Russian (Irina’s), with cheap beer (Red Bar) to $5 cocktails (Bassac Lane) to wash it down. This area is still residential, so bars close at 11 p.m.
The hostel stands out with its bright orange accents, but provides a convenient base for planning your trip around Cambodia and for visiting Phnom Penh. The staff is very friendly and the rooms are comfortable — tall guests please note that the “Hobbit Room” has quite low ceilings and no aircon (which explains its price being a bit lower than the other private rooms).
Feel at Home
17B Street 29, between Streets 294 and 308, Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
T: 023 223 849
One Stop Hostel
$7 and up per night
One Stop Hostel is a newcomer on the north end of Riverside, but the great staff, layout and amenities set it apart from the usual offerings. Enthusiastic staff are eager to practice their English with you, and are more than happy to help arrange transportation, laundry, etc. The common room is on the mezzanine level above reception, and looked like a cool place to hang out on cushions and read or chat. The bathrooms are outside of the rooms, but fully tiled and very clean. In the height of hot season, hair dryers might not seem like a useful appliance, but for more polished backpackers or during cold season we can them being really handy.
One Stop Hostel
85 Sisowath Quay, Riverside, Phnom Penh
T: 023 99 2822; 097 803 5379
$5 per night and up
A stripped down-style hostel very conveniently located behind the Royal Palace on Street 19 close to Art Street (Street 178). This was the most “broken in” hostel on our tour of new hostels: all of the rooms were occupied and many still had residents at noon on a weekday — with the accompanying overflowing backpacks and smells — which is why we don’t have photos of the rooms, but the beds were sturdy and there was sufficient locker space. The staff was helpful and everything seemed to be in working order; the female-only dorm has two bathrooms inside the room, while the coed dorm has its two bathrooms down the hall. The great location means that this hostel often gets booked up — we recommend reserving in advance if you plan to stay!
187 Street 19, Royal Palace area, Phnom Penh
T 016 630 323