There is great shopping you can do here in Phnom Penh, be forewarned though that bargain shopping here can be done not in the comforts of airconditioned malls like in other countries but in traditional Cambodian markets. The main rule of the shopping game here is: BARGAIN!
Markets in Phnom Penh are usually open from 6:00 am till 5:00 pm. For tourists here, I’d really advice shopping in some shops selling handicrafts and textiles as some of these are raising funds for poor Cambodians.
Here’s a little overview of where to go shopping and what are the best finds in Phnom Penh’s traditional markets:
Central Market or Psar Thmei
At the time of writing this post, this market is under renovation so vendors are temporarily located on makeshift stalls along the streets surrounding the market. Since these stalls are temporary, it can get unbearably hot because its a little crowded. Anyway, once the market is done being renovated things will get a little easier.
The main Art Deco building is really prominent , dome shaped with four wings. I’m not sure how it’ll look like once the work is finished. These market has plenty of stalls selling gold and silver jewelry, antique coins, clothing and other accessories. You can also find stalls selling Cambodian krama or scarves, household items, clothes for sarong, and also second-hand clothes. The market also has a fresh food section. One side of the market also has stalls selling fresh flowers and potted plants.
The Central Market is really a must visit for avid shoppers as it has a wide range of products you can choose from. Be wary though about being overcharged so bargain until you can get the best price.
Psar Tuol Tom Poung or Russian Market
During the 1980’s Russians living here frequented this market that is why it has earned this nick name. Located on corner of St. 440 and 163, near Mao Tse Toung Blvd. (I’m so lucky I live so near this place :P). This market is really crowded and it could get unbearably hot. Best time to go is after lunch, less crowds but its hot..The pathways inside can be so narrow so be forewarned, if you go at busy hours, be prepared to squeeze your way in.
This is the most popular market among tourists as it the best place to buy souvenirs. It has a wide variety of real and fake antiques, wooed carvings, silk, silver jewelry. Another reason why foreigners love this market – brand name clothing made from garment factories here in Phnom Penh can be bought here at less than 15% of its original price. Brands like Gap, Columbia, Levis, Calvin Klein, Dockers, Quicksilver and more are all here. There are also several stalls selling pirated DVD’s, CD’s and computer programs.
This markets mostly sells wholesale. Located near the Olympic Stadium, with most items for sale includes clothes, silk, shoes, some jewelry, beauty and personal care products, electronics, food stuffs etc. This market is a little easier to walk around with as it is wider and lots of places to walk around, well lighted and ventilated.
Psar O Russei
Another market that does a lot of wholesaling. Have a lot of cloth, hardware parts, gardening stuff,fresh food, packed foods, costume jewelry, shoes and more. Also has a lot of local beauty salons and tailoring shops on the upper floors. This market is huge, and the layout quite confusing but still a great place for shopping andexploration.
There are other smaller markets around the city, but the goods they carry are mostly available also in the markets mentioned above.
Some Khmer vendors are offended when you ask about the merchandise, bargain, and inspected the products, and you don’t buy. In short, when you ask about an item, they assume that you will buy it and can get quite upset if you don’t. This is specially true when you go in the morning and you are their first client.
If you know a Cambodian, best to ask them to accompany you as a shopping partner, and its a great help when it comes to bargaining.
Khmer sellers usually tell you an inflated price for something you are interested in. Perhaps its part of the Cambodia culture but go with the flow and bargain. What works for me is to start bargaining from 40% of the price they mentioned. Pretending to walk away is also a great technique I’ve learned from my husband. Last time, I wanted a pair of nice walking sandals and seller said its $18, we bargained till we settled at $8. That’s about 45% only of the quoted price. Big difference!