It may be hot all year round, but some times of year are better than others for travelling to Phnom Penh. Find out when to visit with our handy guide.
Once known as the ‘Pearl of Asia’ thanks to its elegant French colonial architecture, Phnom Penh – Cambodia’s capital city – has become a name associated with the brutal Khmer Rouge regime that wiped out a fifth of the city’s population during the 1970s. Thankfully it’s now emerged from this dark period of its history, and although reminders of this phase of its recent past are still present, it’s earned its place on the tourist map. Keep reading to find out when to plan your visit.
Phnom Penh’s Seasons
Phnom Penh experiences two basic seasons – rainy and dry – though these can be further divided into cool and hot. Annual average temperatures are around 28 to 33°C (82 to 91°F), so it’s safe to say that it’s warm to hot all year round.
- November to January: cooler temperatures in Phnom Penh, ranging from 21 to 32°C (70 to 90°F)
- February to May: temperatures soar to 40°C (104°F) and humidity is high
- May to September: the rainy season arrives with intense afternoon showers; temperatures are still high
- October to November: the rain continues, but temperatures start to ease off to between 23°C (73°F) to 30°C (86°F)
Dry Season - November to May
Blue skies over the Royal Palace are most common in dry season from November to May
The dry season is when Phnom Penh experiences the least rainfall, and can be split into two sections – the cool season, which runs from November to January, and the hot season, which runs from February to May. Temperatures in the cool season range from around 21 to 32°C (70 to 90°F), while the hot season sees temperatures soaring to overbearing levels, reaching as high as 40°C (104°F) – which feels worse because humidity is also high at this time of year.
The most popular (and so the most crowded) time to visit Phnom Penh is in December and January, when temperatures are at their most pleasant and rainfall is at its lowest.
Rainy Season - May to October
Clouds gather over the National Museum
The rainy season brings short, sharp afternoon showers to Phnom Penh, which often result in flash floods, and the wind is stronger. Days of unending rain aren’t unknown, particularly in May and September, but showers are more likely. Like the dry season, the rainy season sees two distinct temperature periods, with hot temperatures up to September and cooler weather ranging from 23°C (73°F) to 30°C (86°F) leading into the dry season.
If you’re keen to avoid the crowds, the rainy season is a good time to visit Phnom Penh because there will be far fewer tourists around and the rain showers are mostly confined to the afternoons, so you can plan around them. It’s worth noting that October sees the pagodas busier than usual due to the Pchum Ben festival, the second most important event of the year after New Year, which is when local families gather together to head to pagodas to dedicate offerings to their ancestors.
Planning a trip to Phnom Penh? Take a look at our range of small group tours to Cambodia.