5 Best things to do in Phnom Penh and the dress codes for them

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There are some fascinating things to do in Phnom Penh if you’re interested in learning about Cambodian culture and history. If you’re visiting the historical and cultural sites it’s important that you dress appropriately. The Royal Palace Phnom Penh dress code is a great guide for what is considered appropriate attire when visiting these sites in what is a modest, conservative country.

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A guide to the must see things and Phnom Penh and their dress codes. #cambodia #thingstodo #killingfields #art #travel #architecture #travellerswithtime
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Royal Palace Phnom Penh

Royal Palace Phnom Penh Dress Code
The Throne Hall – Royal Palace Phnom Penh

Royal Palace Phnom Penh dress code

The dress code for the Royal Palace of Phnom Penh requires visitors dress respectfully and modestly as the Royal Palace is the home of the King.

Visitors must wear long pants that cover the knee. Singlets or tank tops are not allowed, as shoulders must be covered. While you will often see people flaunt these type of dress rules in other places, we did not see anyone wearing inappropriate attire inside the Royal Palace, so we can safely assume that you will not be allowed to enter if you dress inappropriately. While we did see a few (very few) wearing knee length shorts, most people wore full length pants inside the Royal Palace grounds.

Apparently, you can hire or purchase sarongs at the entrance to the Royal Palace if you’re inappropriately dressed. Another option is to carry your own light weight shawl with you.
The Royal Palace Phnom Penh Dress code seems to be fully enforced, so be prepared.

Visiting the Royal Palace

Royal Palace Phnom Penh Dress Code Cambodia
Murals on the walls surrounding the Royal Palace

Construction on the Royal Palace began in Phnom Penh in the 1860’s when the French Protectorate was established, and the King moved the court from Oudong to Phnom Penh. The Palace has been occupied by Cambodia’s royal families consistently since then, except for a period during the Khmer Rouge turmoil.

Divided into four quarters, half of the compound is still home to the Royal family and is closed off to the public. Visitors can wander around the area of the Thrown Hall and surrounding buildings. While you can’t enter the thrown hall, you’ll have a good view inside from surrounding doors and windows.

The Thrown Hall is one of the best attractions inside the Royal Palace Phnom Penh. Constructed in 1917 it is still used for ceremonies such as coronations and Royal weddings. Look out for the three thrones inside, as well as the statues of previous Kings.
Throughout the complex you’ll notice beautiful landscaped gardens, a large assortment of buildings and stupas and large murals.

The current King, King Norodom Sihamoni, became King of Cambodia in 2004 after his father abdicated the throne. He is a bachelor and has no children.

Royal Palace Phnom Penh entrance fee

The Royal Palace Phnom Penh entrance fee is $10 USD. This allows you to wonder around the accessible portion of the Palace and visit the Silver Pagoda. If you want a guide to show you around the complex and explain some of the history and culture to you, it will cost another $10 per hour. You’ll find guides at the entry of the Palace.

Royal Palace Phnom Penh opening hours

The Royal Palace Phnom Penh opening hours are from 7.30-11am and 2-5pm. The Royal Palace can get quite busy on weekends as locals come to pay their respects.

Royal Palace Phnom Penh Map

Silver Pagoda Phnom Penh

Silver Pagoda Phnom Penh dress code

The Silver Pagoda Phnom Penh dress code is the same as the dress code for the Royal Palace. Shoulders and knees need to be covered. While this should be the dress code when visiting any temple anywhere, it is particularly important here. Being part of the Royal Palace, the dress code is enforced.

Visiting the Silver Pagoda

Silver Pagoda Phnom Penh
Entrance to the Silver Pagoda

One of the main attractions for travellers visiting the Royal Palace Phnom Penh is the Silver Pagoda, which houses some of Cambodia’s national treasures such as the small Emerald Buddha, and a rather large diamond encrusted Buddha. The largest diamond on this Buddha weighs 25 carats!

The stair case up to the Silver Pagoda is constructed from Italian marble. When you reach the top, you’ll have to remove your shoes.

The Silver Pagoda is named for it’s floor tiles, 5000 silver floor tiles in fact. It is not possible to see the entire silver floor however, as much of it is covered in large carpets. While it may seem disappointing, when you look at the portion of tiles you can see, it is easy to understand why they have chosen to protect the floor. The visible silver tiles are rather damaged.

Silver Pagoda Phnom Penh entrance fee

The Royal Palace Phnom Penh entrance fee of $10 USD covers the cost of accessing the Silver Pagoda as they are located on the same compound. As mentioned above in the section on the Royal Palace, you can also hire a guide. This may be worthwhile, particularly when it comes to the Silver Pagoda as the history and details of some of the national treasures inside are missed without one.

Silver Pagoda Phnom Penh opening hours

The Silver Pagoda Phnom Penh opening hours are the same as the opening hours for the Royal Palace. 7-11am and 2-5pm daily.

Wat phnom

Wat Phnom Phnom Penh
Inside Wat Phnom, Phnom Penh

Wat Phnom dress code

As with all temples and pagodas, the general dress code is that you need to cover your knees and shoulders. While this is not enforced at Wat Phnom as the Royal Palace Phnom Penh dress code is enforced, it is generally seen as disrespectful to wear short shorts and have your shoulders bare when entering temples. Most temples in Cambodia are used by locals for worship.

Visiting Wat Phnom

Located atop of 27 meter ‘hill’ in the heart of the city, the Buddhist temple Wat Phnom was first constructed in 1372. It has been rebuilt over the years, in 1434, 1806, 1894 and 1926, to become what it is today.

A beautiful staircase, guarded by lions and Naga, lead up to the main temple. Smaller temples are located on each side, downhill, below the main temple.

Inside, a large bronze seated Buddha sits surrounded by flowers and candles. The candles in Wat Phnom are enormous and something truly different to other temples. The walls of the temple are covered in beautiful murals of buddha’s various incarnations prior to his enlightenment. Today, locals come to Wat Phnom to pray for good luck.

The area surrounding Wat Phnom is a beautiful landscaped park area, a little piece of silence in amongst the chaos of the city. The forecourt however is full of people, many of whom are trying to sell you things.

Wat Phnom Phnom penh opening hours

Wat Phnom is open 7-6.30 daily.

Wat Phnom entrance fee

Wat Phnom costs $1 USD to enter. The ticket booth is in the forecourt near the giant staircase to the top.

Wat Phnom Cambodia map

National Museum of Cambodia

National Museum of Cambodia Phnom Penh
National Museum of Cambodia building

National Museum dress code

The National museum Phnom Penh has no strict dress code.

History of National Museum of Cambodia

While the buildings themselves were constructed between 1917 and 1924, they were abandoned and left in disarray between 1975 and 1979, the period of the Khmer Rouge. When the buildings were re-entered, they were found in complete disarray, suffering severe damage. Most of the items contained in them were damaged or had been stolen.

Today the National Museum Phnom Penh is the largest Cambodian museum of culture and history and is actively involved in Cambodian historical and archaeological research. It currently houses one of the largest collections of Khmer art, and over 14000 items in total.

Visiting the National Museum Phnom Penh

Upon arriving at the museum, you’ll have the option of renting the audio guide and headphones. We would strongly recommend that you do this. It gives amazing information about the history of pieces, their religious and historical significance, and some information about Cambodia throughout history.

When you first enter the main building of the museum, you’ll turn left, and follow the exhibit around in a clockwise direction. There are small numbers on the displays that correspond with audio file numbers on your audio guide.

If you listen to every audio, you will be there for hours. The alternative is to listen to the audio about pieces that you are interested in.

The museum has an enormous collection from tiny statues of deities, to enormous ones. There are also bas reliefs and pediments, or sandstone carvings, textiles, jewellery, pottery and significant historical pieces such as the royal funeral urn, in which the bodies of the 4 kings were kept prior to cremation.

In the centre are beautiful gardens and ponds where you can sit and relax.

National Museum of Cambodia Phnom Penh, things to do in Phnom Penh
National Museum of Cambodia inner gardens

You’ll find the National Museum Phnom Penh the most interesting if you’re interested in culture, history and art. If you have a intrest in Buddhism or Hinduism, the audio guide gives you a fascinating insight into the deities and legend surrounding them.

The National Museum Phnom Penh Entrance fee

The entrance fee for the National Museum of Cambodia is $10 USD. If you want to get the audio get, it will cost another $5 USD.

We would recommend getting the audio as while there are some minimal written descriptions, the audio provides an amazing amount of additional information.

National Museum Phnom Penh opening hours

The National museum Phnom Penh opening hours are from 8am until 5pm, 7 days a week.

National Museum of Cambodia map

Killing fields Phnom Penh – Choeung Ek

Killing Fields Phnom Penh dress code

The Killing fields Phnom Penh dress code is one that is not strictly enforced but should really be followed given the history and solemn nature of the site. As with the Royal Palace Phnom Penh dress code, knees and shoulders should be covered, however you will see the occasional person who is dressed inappropriately.

It is hard to describe the sombre feeling of the area to someone who has not been, but once you’re there, you’ll understand the significance of giving the Killing Fields, and those that are laid to rest there, the respect they deserve.

The killing fields and Choeung Ek Genocide Museum Phnom Penh

Choeung Ek is the site of the orchard where the killing fields and genocide Museum are located. Here, between 1975 and 1979, the bodies of almost 9000 people were buried in mass graves. Many of the people buried here had come from the Tuol Sleng Prison, known as S21.

When you arrive at the Killing fields you’ll be given your audio guide and as you follow the numbers through different areas, you’ll be given a full history and some of the details of what happened during the reign of the Khmer Rouge.

You’ll hear stories from survivors of the Khmer Rouge, as well as some of the testimony of the leaders.

It is not an easy day, and almost everyone walks around in an emotional, sombre mood. The most challenging parts are the survivor stories, and the audio section on the killing tree where babies were murdered.

The last stop at the killing fields is a memorial stupa which houses the skulls of some 5000 victims buried in the mass graves. When you enter, you’ll be able to witness the means of death of many of the skulls owners.

Killing fields Phnom Penh Skulls in memorial stupa
Skulls in the Memorial Stupa

There is a small museum with some information on the killing fields themselves and the trials of some of the top leaders of the Khmer Rouge.

How long to spend at killing fields?

The length of time you spend at the killing fields is up to you. If you follow all the audio and take time to sit down and listen to the stories, you’ll likely be there at least two hours.

Killing Fields Phnom Penh price

The killing fields Phnom Penh price is $6 USD including the audio guide, which is available in many languages.

The killing fields opening hours

The Choeung Ek killing fields are open 7.30-5.30pm daily.

How to get to killing fields

You can book tours to the killing fields and S21 prison or you can take a tuk tuk. A tuk tuk from the city to the killing fields and S21 will cost between $15 and $20. They will wait while you visit the sites and return you to your hotel.

Choeung Ek killing fields map

Tuol Sleng genocide museum, S21 Prison

Tuol Sleng genocide museum dress code

While there is no specific dress code for the S21 prison, it is advisable to dress respectfully. If you’re doing the Killing fields in the same day you should cover your knees and shoulders.

Visiting Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum Phnom Penh
The courtyard of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Located in Phnom Penh City, the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is where “political prisoners” were kept, and tortured for information, before being sent to the killing fields to be executed. Over 18000 people were detained in Tuol Sleng.

The Khmer Rouge meticulously kept records of each person that arrived at the detention centre, and throughout, you’ll see photos of is victims, men, women and children. You’ll learn how the Khmer Rouge managed to fool the world into denying the genocide. You may be surprised to discover that not all the victims were Cambodian, there were many foreigners including Americans and an Australian.

You’ll have the option of an audio guide and it is highly advisable.
Once of the horrific and distinctive things about this museum are the buildings where the prisoners were housed are still standing, exactly as they were during that time. This includes the blood stains.

Tuol Sleng is particularly gruesome, and some areas are hard to see. The audio will let you know when a particularly difficult section is coming, and you have the option of going back outside.

Be prepared to have many more questions than answers. How on earth could people do this to others? And how does a community recover, when it is made up of both the victims and the perpetrators? How do the perpetrators, many of whom were innocent children and teens, reconcile what they’ve done?

Tuol Sleng genocide museum entrance fee

The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum entrance fee is $5 USD and the audio guide are $3 USD. We believe the audio is a necessity to really understand what has happened there.

Tuol Sleng genocide museum hours

The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum hours are 8am to 5pm daily.

Tuol Sleng genocide museum address

The S21 Genocide Museum is located on the corner of streets 113 and 350.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum map

Powerful books to read before visiting the Killing Fields and S21

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers (P.S.)

Survival in the Killing Fields

Where to stay in Phnom Penh?

The Sla Boutique Hostel is a great place for backpackers and solo travellers. Located within 1.5km from Wat Phnom, the National Museum, The Royal Palace and the riverfront, it’s right near the restaurant and tourist district.

When is the best time to visit Phnom Penh?

While high season in Cambodia is largely between December and February, Phnom Penh is great to visit any time of year. We’ve put together a post on the dry season in Cambodia, how the weather affects your travel plans, and when is really the best time to go.

Planning a trip to Phnom Penh? Here’s how we plan

Where to next? You may like these articles

This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For more information, please see our disclaimer here.

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5 things that you won't want to miss when you're in Phnom Penh, and the dress codes for them! Phnom Penh is a capital city that is rich with culture and history. Take your time to explore the area and learn about the country. #phnompenhthingstodo #phnompenhcambodia #killingfields #royalpalace
5 things you can't miss in Phnom Penh if you're interested in Cambodian culture and history. | temple | Wat Phnom| Royal Palace Phnom Penh | Killing Fields | S21 | Culture |
About Christine

Christine and her partner Ben have spent the last few years traveling through New Zealand and then Europe by campervan. They travel with their dog Alisa, who they adopted in Croatia. You'll find them exploring old cities, hiking through National Parks, and taking unforgettable road trips.

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