Shopping in Phnom Penh
Popular tourist buys include silk, silverware, handicrafts and curios (including Buddha figures), and made-to-order clothes (which are often of good quality). If you want to support businesses that are noted for supporting Cambodia's culture and heritage, look for the Heritage Friendly Business Logo from Heritage Watch, an organization that promotes the preservation of Cambodia's cultural legacy.
About Money. The Cambodian riel is not used for large purchases. Prices for anything more substantial than a plate of rice will be quoted in US dollars. The Cambodian Central Bank maintains the riel at approximately 3,900–4,100 to the dollar. Be wary if rates are outside this range. Money changers are plentiful near the central market and display their rates on boards.
Only up market places will accept plastic (normally with a 3% surcharge). Changing dollars into riel is generally unnecessary, though the parsimonious will notice a small benefit. Small purchases with notes above USD20 can cause problems, though vendors will manage. Do not worry if a vendor runs off with your large note, they are finding change not robbing you. Torn, damaged, or old series US currency may not be accepted.
There are plenty of ATMs. They dispense US dollars and accept international cards. Canadia Bank and Mekong Bank ATMs were fee-free but no longer as of the end of 2014. MB Bank (St 93 cnr St 214) doesn't charge and allows up to $1,000 withdrawal (July 2016). Maybank also doesn't charge, but it accepts only Visa cards. Otherwise typical charges are $5 regardless of amount withdrawn, typically $500 is the maximum. Both ANZ Royal bank and Canadia bank charge USD5 per transaction, max single withdrawal $500. For safety reasons, it's a good idea to use ATMs at actual bank branches when they are open so any problems can immediately be reported and there is often a security guard on duty too. It also gives the opportunity to ask for smaller notes, such as 20s or 10s which are much easier to spend and get change back from and little risk of picking up counterfeit notes . The Mekong Bank at 220 Sisowath Quay are happy to change big notes to smaller ones or change damaged notes.
Cashing traveller's cheques can be problematic. Even major banks may refuse to exchange traveller's cheques above USD100.
- 2500 riel shops, St 51. If you like dollar, euro or pound shops then you will enjoy the Cambodian versions, which are even cheaper at 2500 riel. They are also sometimes called 1000 or 1500 riel shops. There is a good one near the main entrance of Sorya Mall on St 51.
- $1.9 shop, St 172 (cnr Monivong). Japanese almost $2 shop. Full of different kinds of items. Similar shops can be found Aeon Mall.
- Get a visa. Phnom Penh is a good place to get visas for neighbouring countries Vietnam and Thailand as well as for China. You can get these visas by going directly to the embassies, but that will take two visits, time filling in forms, potentially a lot of waiting and transport costs. For a few dollars extra a visa agent can be well worth it. Visas for Indonesia can only be obtained from the Indonesian Embassy.
- Worldwide Travel and visa agent, St 172 cnr St 19. Get your bus tickets and visas from this helpful and trusted green coloured travel agent. They also rent bicycles for $2/day.
The Cambodia Antiquities Law (1996) bans the sale, purchase and export of Cambodian antiques, and since 1999 the US has banned their import. Consequently, most of the "antiques" sold in Cambodia are reproductions.
- Hidden Treasures, 9 St 148. Antiques, art, and curios from Cambodia's past and nearby SE Asian cultures.
The pirated books that children will try to sell you for USD5 need to be haggled down (they buy them for USD1). Spend a minute or so leafing through before buying. Quality varies: pages can be in the wrong order or missing, or the book may not be the one described on the cover.
- Bohr's Books, 5 Sothearos Blvd (St 3) (One block from the Royal Palace), , e-mail: [email protected]. A small store offering a large, diverse collection of books. Easy to find. A second store now operates on St 172, 400 m from Wat Unalom.
- Boston Book Company, 8 St 240, Chaktomuk Duan Penh (Around the corner from Monument Books), . A second-hand bookshop. Has a good collection of fiction and non-fiction, including texts for teachers and students. In an attractive building, it will eventually have a cafe.
- D's Books, 79 St 240, and 363 Sisowath Quay (Near the Foreign Correspondents' Club). A chain of second-hand bookshops dealing mainly in mass market paperbacks. Uncommunicative, monosyllabic staff.
- International Book Center, 154 Sihanouk Blvd (St 274, between Monivong Blvd and St 63); 250 Preah Monivong Blvd (near Central Market); 43-45 Kampuchea Krom Blvd (at the corner of St 215), , , (Sihanouk)fax: , e-mail: [email protected]. Large barn-like bookshops selling mostly textbooks and other educational works. Has a small classic literature collection. Also sells stationery, electronic devices, sporting goods and souvenirs.
- Monument Books, 111 Norodom Blvd (Near the corner of St 240), , fax: , e-mail: [email protected]. Has the most extensive collection of new books in Phnom Penh, including fiction and non-fiction, children's books, non-English-language works (in French and Khmer, for instance), magazines and newspapers. There is a particularly good collection of books from and about Cambodia, for instance, on Angkor Wat, the Khmer Rouge regime, and the history of Cambodia. Prices can be very high, often above the list price, and can be purchased cheaper elsewhere in town. However, you can also get a good tea or coffee and cake there, if the serving staff are awake and it's a nice place to sip and read without being pestered. Monument Toys upstairs has a collection of children's toys and games. There is a branch of the bookshop at the airport.
- The National Museum of Cambodia, St 13, Sangkat Chey Chumneas, Khan Daun Penh (Opposite the Royal Palace), , , +855 12 621.22 (mobile)fax: , e-mail:[email protected]. Daily, 08:00-17:00, last admission 16:30.Features some of the finest Angkorian art anywhere, including the remarkable statue of the Leper King. And if you've heard the disturbing rumors, fear not: the infamous bat colony moved out after the 2002 renovation, so you no longer need to carry an umbrella when touring the exhibits inside! Has a small selection of books on Cambodian archaeology, art, culture, and history. Remember that money you spend at any Cambodian government-run institution will end up in officials' pockets. $3.
Clothing and accessories
Throughout the city, but especially in the Russian Market, tailors make custom made clothes: A medium quality costs USD12 and a high quality costs USD15.
- Beautiful Shoes, 138 St 143, Boeung Keng Kong 3 (One street behind the Genocide Museum and about 10 min from Riverside). Good custom-made shoes. USD35–60.
- Close Out Factory Outlet, #44A, St 289. Stock bargain priced clothes and large sizes.
- Apple Computers. Cambodia is a cheap place to buy a MacBook, iPad or iPod: prices are in US dollars are similar to elsewhere, but without added tax. iPhones are available only by special import and from licensed Apple agents and so are not cheap. The best Mac retailer and repairer is Uniyoung near the Central Market.
- Huawei Phones (Monivong Blvd). Cheap and decent Android phones and Bluetooth speakers.
- Samsung Phones. Cambodia is a cheap place to buy Samsung phones as there is no sales tax, but it's best to buy from one of only two authorised dealers in Phnom Penh. One near Central Market and the other on Monivong Blvd. Note that Samsung one year guarantees are only valid in the country where you buy, unlike Apple that honours warranties worldwide.
St 178, just north of the National Museum, is known as Artist Street and has many interesting boutiques.
- Cambodian Handicraft Association (CHA), 54 & 56, St 113 (Across from the Genocide Museum). Handmade silk goods, jewellery, accessories and clothing made by women disabled from polio and land mines. If you ask, you will also be able to tour the shop, meeting the female workers and seeing where they study English. The products are absolutely beautiful and the majority of the silk is sourced from a local village, where it is all hand woven. The costs of running the project are covered by selling the artists' work in the shop. They receive no grants or aid.
- Colors of Cambodia, 373 Sisowath Quay. Specializes in handicrafts from around the country.
- Kravan House, 13 St 178. Has a wide range of Cambodian silk products, including a wide range of ladies' handbags at a fraction of the price you would pay in a hotel gift shop.
- Stef's Happy Painting Gallery, Sisowath Quay (Near St 178, directly under FCC). Features brightly-colored fun and funky paintings of Cambodian life - a welcome relief after visiting some of Cambodia's more heart-breaking attractions. This features some very famous "happy monk" paintings which you will see a lot around Phnom Penh.
- Central Market (Psar Thmei).The "New Market" is a 1930s art Deco covered market near the Riverfront (Sisowath Quay) district. The market is well laid out, and sells everything from flowers to video games. It has recently been beautifully renovated and its architecture alone is worth admiring.
- Night Market (Between St 106 and St 108, riverside). F-Sa nights. Good for cheap local food with many food stalls. Usually some live entertainment, but is primarily for the locals.
- City Mall, Monireth Blvd (Near Olympic Stadium). The newest and biggest Western-style mall in Phnom Penh. The mall contains a large branch of Lucky Supermarket, as well as many fast food outlets and modern shops, mainly catering to Phnom Penh's growing middle-class.
- Olympic Market (Psar Olympic). Olympic Market was built in 1994 and is a local favourite with shoppers looking for wholesale fabrics, everyday wear, religious paraphernalia and traditional Khmer dresses. Buyers can look forward to big discounts in this market especially if they are buying in bulk. The market is well laid out and is one of the more modern multi-story market complexes. Buyers should definitely give this market a visit.
- Russian Market (Psar Toul Tom Poung). The Russian Market moniker dates to the Vietnamese occupation of the city in the 1980s. Real designer clothes at discount prices. A lot of the factories for Levis, CK, Ralph Lauren and many other brands are in Phnom Penh; however, a lot of the clothes sold here are deemed unfit to be shipped abroad due to very small faults and, therefore are sold at this market. You can also purchase fake Swiss watches and pirated software at low prices. It's located away from normal tourist areas, but motodop drivers who cater to tourists will know it.
- Sorya Shopping Center, St 63 (between St 154 and St 142 near Central Market). Phnom Penh's main Western-style mall, is nearby. Sorya is rather drab by Western standards, and is crowded with stalls (like a traditional market, a strange juxtaposition). It is air conditioned and contains a range of cheap fast food outlets as well as the well-stocked Lucky Supermarket. Don't leave a motorbike with the Sorya parking people, who are known to steal helmets and double the parking charges on a whim.
- Aeon Mall. Probably Phnom Penh's most modern shopping mall (opened mid 2014) with many brand name and Japanese stores. Also has many restaurants and 7 screen Major Cineplex Cinema.
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