Finding accommodation is seldom a problem, and even provincial towns have a remarkable choice of guesthouses and modest hotels. Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville have plenty of accommodation in all categories, and many other towns too have some classier hotels. Even off the beaten track you’ll find a basic guesthouse or two.
Arriving anywhere by taxi or pick-up, the driver may well drop you at a guesthouse or at least point you in the right direction for one.
In most towns touts meet incoming transport and will take you free of charge to their favourite establishment; if you don’t like it, feel free to go elsewhere. Sometimes tuk-tuk and moto drivers get a few thousand riel commission for dropping you off at a guesthouse if you don’t specify one of your choice – this premium may be added to your room rate; but mostly they’re just keen to introduce themselves and to secure work driving or guiding you for the duration of your stay.
In major towns and tourist centres accommodation in all price ranges can be booked in advance; sometimes this will get you a better room rate or a nicer room. Let them know the time you’re coming and they will also meet you off a bus, boat or plane for no extra charge.
In basic accommodation, rooms are either moi kreh (one-bed) or bpee kreh (two-bed), meaning they come with one or two double beds respectively; having paid for the room it’s up to you how many people share it. Mid-range accommodation tends to comprise conventional singles and doubles, but at the lower end they may feature rooms with anything from one to four double beds, and one or two places are now even providing dormitories. Upmarket hotels typically play by inter-national standards, with rates for single or double rooms. Even in budget establishments in the tourist centres, breakfast is increasingly included; ask when you book in. Off the tourist route, guesthouses probably won’t have eating facilities and you’ll need to go out for all meals.
Hotels often have security boxes in the rooms for guests’ valuables, and guesthouses can usually lock things away for you at reception. Wherever you stay, it’s customary to pay when you check out, not when you arrive.
Guesthouses are the mainstay of budget accommodation in Cambodia, but vary enormously. The least attractive are the single-storey establishments reminiscent of stables typically found around transport stops. These are the cheapest rooms you’ll find and cost just $2–3 per night – though they’re usually tiny, windowless affairs with paper-thin walls. In this range expect a single bed, nylon sheet, blanket and fan; bathrooms are usually shared. While the bottom sheet should be clean, the blanket is often not laundered between guests, so you may want to make sure you have a sarong or sheet with you.
Better budget rooms all over Cambodia cost $5–6 a night and are usually clean and tidy with cotton sheet, basic toiletries and a TV. In most towns you’ll find the garish concrete blocks that Khmers love, and though clean, they lack atmosphere. Increasingly air conditioning is available for an extra $5–10 per night – electricity is pricey in Cambodia. From time to time you’ll come across guesthouses in traditional wooden stilt-houses – they don’t feature air conditioning or en-suite facilities, but compensate with masses of mellow wood and attractive balconies. Paying a few dollars more you’ll get you a top sheet and, more will than not, a hot shower and fridge.
Note that the demarcation between a guesthouse and a cheap hotel can be a bit fuzzy; guesthouses in Siem Reap for example, charge rates bordering on those in the cheaper hotels. Rooms in the provinces should come with a mosquito net; if there isn’t one when you arrive, make sure to ask for one.
Bathrooms, whether shared or en suite, vary considerably, but you’ll mainly get Western-style toilets and at least a cold shower, although in out-of-the-way spots you may still come across squat toilets with cold mandi – a tub of cold water that you ladle over yourself (don’t get into it as others will need to use the water too).
Tourism has caught on in a big way in Cambodia with the younger Cambodians taking leisure trips themselves. As a result, new guesthouses are springing up in most towns as everyone tries to get in on the act; clean, but plain, they typically cost $5 (fan) to $15 (a/c) per night, and have pretty much replaced the dark, dingy guesthouse of yesteryear. Another sign of the times is that some budget places are accepting payment by credit card – but don’t rely on it quite yet. You’ll find that guesthouses aimed at foreign tourists generally have internet access on the premises; although this may only be a communal computer or two, increasingly the savvier have wi-fi.
Mid-range accommodation covers a broad spectrum from around $16 to $80 and the choice has improved considerably in the last couple of years with so-called boutique hotels or resorts popping up in the most unexpected places. Hotels in this bracket usually have a variety of rooms, and you can ask to see a few before you make your choice. At the cheaper end, expect rooms to have a bathroom with hot shower, air conditioning, fridge and TV; going up in price brings coordinated decor and possibly an actual bathtub; breakfast will most likely be included too, along with internet access, often wi-fi.
Credit cards are increasingly accepted although there may be a surcharge of around four percent (the processing charge) to use it. It’s worth checking whether government tax and service are included in the rack rate, as these can add up to twenty percent onto the bill.
A number of upmarket guesthouses feature in this mid-range price bracket. This is a deliberate choice by the owners, often because they don’t provide all the services you’d expect in a hotel – such as 24-hour reception; alternatively it could be that by remaining a guesthouse the government’s hotel tax can be avoided.
Upmarket accommodation (priced above $80 a night for a double room) is widely available in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang, Sihanoukville and Kep, with even a few places elsewhere. It’s worth making a reservation if you want to stay somewhere particular, and to look out for any deals that are going. Besides opulent, supremely comfortable rooms, hotels in this price range rival those of the best hotels anywhere, often with a choice of restaurants and bars, a swimming pool, and other leisure facilities such as spa, fitness centre or tennis court; your room will probably also have wi-fi (or an alternative provision for internet access).