When thinking about Cambodia, its Eden-esque scenery and intricate ancient temples come to mind, but believe it or not it’s also a hugely popular shopping destination, brimming with special souvenirs such as traditional silk scarves and kampong speu (Cambodian palm sugar), as well as bargains like gems and crafts of all kinds. Local crafts date back centuries, reflecting the nation’s rich cultural and artistic heritage, and skills are often passed down through the generations. Today, the sector is dominated by small NGO-driven social enterprises that provide employment, making shopping in Cambodia simultaneously enjoyable, rewarding and a way to learn more about local communities.

Shopping Advice and Etiquette

Markets are a central part of daily life in Cambodia and are where many travellers choose to shop. These lively micro-societies are a great way to experience Cambodian culture. There are day markets (usually opening around 7-8am and closing around 6pm) and night markets (opening around 6pm and closing around 11pm). Excellent markets in Phnom Penh include Sisowath Quay, the Olympic market (located next to the stadium), the Russian market and the Central Market. Siem Reap also has a host of souvenir markets selling beautiful, handcrafted products that are made by the Angkor Crafts Association. Some markets specialise while others are massive bazaars selling everything from deliciously fresh produce to intricately made crafts. As well as markets, there are boutique shops and shopping centres in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Haggling is the norm when shopping in Cambodia, it’s how deals are struck and livings are made; just remember to smile and be polite. Maybe learn some of the local language too as a friendly hello goes a long way. Note that it is illegal to export antiques unless the piece was imported into Cambodia and duly registered. 

Arts and Crafts

Cambodia is known for its high-quality crafts at reasonable prices. Hand-carved statues of the Buddha are popular and can be found at any market. Just be careful if your next destination is Thailand, where the export of Buddha images is banned. Betel-nut boxes make great souvenirs; these small, carved containers typically made from silver or wood were originally used to store betel nuts (hence the name). Artists spend hours creating the pieces and the attention to detail is clear and impressive. An authentic hand-carved piece will look unique and show signs of craftsmanship; look for a seam along the base - if you see one, you are holding a replica.

Textiles and Clothes

Don’t miss the silk bargains that can be found when shopping in Cambodia. Hand-woven silk in all colours and patterns imaginable can be found in most markets. Vintage pieces acquire value over time while new silk can be taken to a local tailor and made into clothing. The Silk Farm of Angkor is one of the best places to visit to understand the process, and you can watch in awe as hundreds of artisans dye and weave the fabrics. Above the factory you’ll find a shop selling all kinds of silk products from delicate pieces of clothing to more decorative pieces. This is one of the best places to source authentic silk to take home. If you’re looking for something truly authentic, keep your eyes peeled for a krama, a chequered piece of traditional cloth often used as a scarf, a head wrap or a hair tie. Finding a hand-woven krama can be an excellent way to remember your trip.

Paintings and Rice Paper Prints

Cambodia's streets are filled with talented artists who take to the markets to sell their work and at most markets you’ll find a painter quietly working on a new piece. If you have the time and the budget, you can commission a painting, or simply choose from the selection on display. A more affordable and highly packable alternative to a painting is a rice paper print, or even charcoal rubbings of famous sights and temples; they’re beautiful ways to commemorate your trip and capture Cambodia's stunning scenery.

Precious Metals and Gems

If you are looking for gold, silver, rubies, sapphires or any other gemstone you are likely to find them when shopping in Cambodia. Gemstones are available in many of the main shops and markets, but to ensure they are genuine, ask for an authentication certificate. One of the best places in the country to find precious metals and gems is Ratanakiri, a rural region where blue zircon mines are located. In other parts of the country, such as the capital Phnom Penh, you’ll find jewellers and merchants who trade in beautiful stones, but be wary of prices that seem too good to be true, as they probably are. That being said, craftsmanship is very affordable in Cambodia, so having a piece of jewellery custom-made might be a good idea.

If you’re interested in learning more about shopping in Cambodia, contact our expert team who can arrange tailored tours and exceptional excursions.

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