Whilst there are not as many extensive shopping malls in Phnom Penh as neighbouring Thai capital Bangkok, Phnom Penh is a great place to shop. You will find both markets and malls. Phnom Penh is totally growing on me. It’s a great place to pick up last minute souvenirs before flying home.
Shopping in Phnom Penh – Money
Riels and Dollars – Working with Two Currencies!
Remember that in Cambodia, you are likely to be working in two currencies – Cambodian Riels and US Dollars. At the time of writing (January 2020) it was approximately 4000 Riels to the dollar. Sometimes if you pay in Dollars, you will get change in dollars and anything less than a dollar in Riels! This can be confusing at first, but it’s fine once you get used to it! I usually pay for big things in dollars (such as clothes shopping and hotels) and small things in Riels (such as tuk-tuks and food on the night market).
Credit Card or Cash?
Lots of places in Phnom Penh shopping malls do take VISA, but remember that markets and local shops will take cash only. Don’t forget to barter and always check your change – tourists (especially Westerners) often get short changed because they think that they will get away with it if you don’t understand the money.
Shopping in Phnom Pen – Best Places to Shop
Aeon Shopping Mall
The 68,000-sq-m Aeon Mall opened in mid-2014, giving Phnom Penh an amazing shopping mall. It has brand stores such as Mango, Sheridan, Levi’s and Adidas to name just a few, along with Aeon’s own store selling well-known brands, groceries and homeware.
There’s a large food court on the top floor, along with a new entertainment complex, including bowling, a karaoke lounge, cinema, ice skating and arcades. Among the services at the mall, you’ll find an airline sales centre on the ground floor, along with dry cleaners, western chemists, travel agencies and banks.
Like any other mall, the food venues are varied, from top-class restaurants to food hall vendors. But don’t expect Cambodian street food or street food prices. It’s the place to shop and relax in air-conditioned comfort to escape the heat, noise and smells of the Phnom Penh street.
Opens every day from 9am – 10pm.
Central Market (Phsar Thmei)
The Central Market in Phnom Penh is an amazing architectural stand-out which was the work of well-known Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann. The cross-shaped and art deco-inspired building sits under a golden dome.
It’s worth a look even if you’re not hunting for souvenirs and knick-knacks. Watches, jewellery and gold stands rule the central area under the dome. Some of the gems are genuine, from Cambodia’s near-empty gem fields, and most of the gold and silver items are real, though you’ll be paying current trade prices, so don’t expect to get them on the cheap.
Each of the 4 wings sell shoes, clothing, household items and even some electronics. It’s fairly random but adds to the enjoyment of wandering around inside the huge space. Around the outside, in the space between the wings, you can find some stands selling tourist favourites (T-shirts, Buddha statues, Angkor Wat paintings) and souvenirs as well as a decent selection of stands vending fresh flowers. The food stalls are on the western side, towards Monivong Boulevard.
Open daily from 7am to 6pm.
Remember that you should not attempt to take Buddha statues out of the country and Buddha’s should not be used as decoration in Cambodia, only for worship.
Old Market (Phsar Chas)
The Old Market in Phnom Penh has remained in its current location since the French colonial times and is the oldest market that is still operating in Phnom Penh. It is truly a market for locals, well-known with Khmer people, so a trip here will give you the experience of a truly genuine market. Phsar Chas provides a large range of handicrafts, clothing and textiles, along with fruits and vegetables and motorcycle parts. On the evening on weekends, the food vendors will put down mats along Street 13 for the evening market. The market shuts at sunset, but the stands situated on the south side flogging souvenirs will often remain open until after 8pm. You can get to the market on Street 108, right behind the Night Market and close to Freedom Park.
Orussey Market is the biggest old-style market in Phnom Penh, which is spread across a total of 3 floors. Not very popular to tourists or even expats, this massive building is just 5 minutes on the tuk-tuk from Central Market and is the place where a lot of Cambodians shop for normal everyday items. You will find everything from household items, food, garden tools and some electronics on the ground floor to tailors, jewellery, fabric and clothing on the other 2 floors. The top floor is particularly popular with the locals as a factory-style outlet for a lot of the popular brands that assemble their clothes in and around the city.
Prices at this market are a lot cheaper than you will pay at home, but you’ll find mainly smaller sizes to suit the shoppers of Cambodia. While bargains can be had, this market is so big that you can easily get lost in the labyrinth of aisles and stalls. You can find the market on Street 182, west of Monivong Boulevard.
Open daily from 8am-5pm.
Phnom Penh Night Market (Phsar Reathrey)
The Phnom Penh Night Market is a popular spot for tourists and locals and has a relaxed atmosphere. The locals mainly come here for the evening entertainment on the main stage (such as performers singers or company promotions) and to enjoy the food stalls. While there is more on sale by locals for locals here, tourists and visitors can find handicrafts, clothing and wood carvings.
The main reason to come here is to mingle with the locals and try the local food at the open-air food court behind the main stage. You’ll be able to sample some traditional Khmer street food while eating with the Khmer families sitting down on mats, set up on the grass, or (if you’re lucky) at one of the tables with plastic chairs. It is open daily from 5pm to midnight.
Russian Market (Phsar Toul Tom Poung)
The Russian Market gets the name from the 1980s, when it was first known with foreigners, mostly people from Russia. That’s contrary to the popular myth that this is where Kalashnikov rifles were readily sold! These days, you’ll find expats, locals and tourists from all over the world winding their way through the market’s inner maze. You can find pretty much everything here from souvenirs, artefacts, clothing, antiques, jewellery, lamps, kitchen utensils, paintings, shoes, silk scarves and even parts for your scooter. You also have a cool display of the normal tourist fare in the form of fake watches and luggage.
The food area is quite interesting to wander around but be careful of the wet floor near the fresh food area as it may be slippery. Stop for a snack or lunch on the tasty local food offerings to recharge between your bargain hunting. The streets surrounding the Russian Market also have many interesting shops which are worth checking for silk, antiques or even western food. It is open daily from 6am to 5pm.
Street 240 is a quiet, nice street behind the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, with plenty of eateries and shops in old French colonial houses. You’ll find a combination of souvenir shops, cafés, boutique fashion shops, shops belonging to charities, and NGOs promoting fair trade and goods made by the locals. The street is a brilliant place to find independent fashion boutiques selling exclusive clothing made of local silk and fabrics, as well as unique shops selling jewellery and a and selling items made out of buttons.
There are also store which sell second-hand books and a volunteer library providing a reading room. Textile shops offer their goods for clothing or home decoration, and clothing stores showcase fabrics locally woven and designed, providing a solid wage to employees. If you’re tired of the usual Southeast Asian gifts and souvenirs, this is the place to find something different. Most shops are open from 8am until late
Sorya Center Point Mall
Sorya Center Pint Mall is a shopping mall which is located centrally in Phnom Penh. The huge multi-storey building is packed with restaurants and shops and was the first shopping centre in Phnom Penh when it opened in 2003. The mall continues to be very popular with Cambodians.
There’s a massive number of general shops and some specialty stores, which sell items ranging from shoes, clothes and jewellery to children’s toys, cosmetics and electronics. There’s a large food court on the 4th floor, and the cinema, arcades and entertainment complex are all on the top floor. It’s only 1 block south of the Central Market, so it’s an ideal place to walk to on your shopping expedition in Phnom Penh. It’s open daily from 9am-9pm
Owned by the Lucky supermarket and hotel company, City Mall is another large shopping centre a little outside of the tourist areas, but still easily accessible by a short tuk-tuk ride. There’s a supermarket on the ground floor, along with multiple variety stores and fast food outlets.
Across every floor, you’ll see stores which sell a wide choice of shoes, jewellery, clothes, cosmetics and electronics, and the smaller shops sell some Cambodian brands. It’s normally very quiet and not as frantic as other centres, like Soryaor Aeon. The food court is located on the top floor, right next to the Legend Cinema, where you can see newly released movies in Khmer and English. It is open 9am-9pm every day
Street 178 is known as ‘Art Street’ and is definitely the place to go for paintings, sculptures, statues and handmade silverware. If you’re going down 178 from Riverside, you’ll see small boutique shops which are selling designer bags, clothing and accessories. Some of these shops are charity partner stores, with the money going to support programmes offering artisan work to Cambodians.
As you go further down the street, you will see art galleries that are selling popular Cambodian art such as stone, paintings and wooden statues. The local artists and sculptors work in shops and in front of their stores next to Wat Sarawan. You’ll see an impressive collection of giant stone Buddha statues displayed on the pavement and it’s worth the photo opportunity even if you’re not shopping for a 2-metre-tall statue.
Make sure you look around the corners as you walk down this street, as you’ll also see a few silver stores and galleries in the area. Multiple private galleries, such as Sa SaBassac and Reyum, have exhibitions of traditional and contemporary artwork. And don’t worry if you get a little tired from all that walking. There are plenty of restaurants, cafés, bars and street food vendors along the way where you can take a break. Opening times differ from shop to shop but are usually around 9am through to early evening.
Tips on Shopping in Phnom Penh
- Take Dollars and Riels and expect change in both!
- Always check your change.
- Take your VISA which will work at many shops in the malls.
- Using AEON Card to earn points which can be exchanged for gift or voucher for shopping at AEON Mall Phnom Penh.
- Don’t get the Russian Market and Orussey Market mixed up – they are two different markets and NOT the same thing.
What to Pack for Cambodia
Take light cotton tops, long comfortable trousers and maxi dresses that cover your shoulders. Thailand is a conservative Buddhist county and you are likely to be refused entry to top sites like the Phnom Penh Royal Palace and Angkor Wat with shoulders showing and shorts or short skirts. You can pack shorts and vest tops for hanging around your hotel or the pool.
Pack a water bottle because many guest houses are eco friendly and have a refill and reuse policy to cut down on plastic waste. The drinking water is fine and many hotels supply cold purified drinking water.
Bugs bite particularly in the evenings in Cambodia and so a bug repellant is essential. Also the sun can get hot – this Christmas and New Year temperatures were exceeding 32 degrees and so sun screen is another essential.