The hostess bars of Phnom Penh, Cambodia

phnom penh hostess bar

I first wrote about the hostess bars of Phnom Penh in an early post on the commercial sex scene in the capital city way back in 2013. A lot of time has passed since then but truth be told the hostess bars continue to operate much in the same way they always have. Since they weren’t really covered in depth and that time it seems fair to spend more time examining the hostess bars now that they have become much more plentiful.

Hostess bars are basically bars with women on staff who are meant to make the place more pleasant for the mostly male and foreign clientele. The women tend to have their hair and makeup done and wear nice dresses. Some can speak English well while other can only speak a little. Some can’t speak any English at all though this is most common among the women just starting out in the field.

A lot of bars have pool tables. Although they are often of dubious quality there is almost never any charge to play. The Cathouse used to charge guys $1 USD to play pool if they lost but it has joined the lost bars of Phnom Penh. Women will often ask customers to buy them a drink if they win a game of pool.

Most bars also have games customers can play with women like Connect Four and Jackpot. Again women often ask for a drink if they win a game.

Guys can also buy gals drinks if they sit together. Sometimes this involves talking or playing a game. At other times things can get very touchy feely. The drinks are reasonably priced at around $3.50 USD and the women get a cut of the money. For some this is the main source of income. Many others however go out with customers and get money for either spending time or offering sexual services.

Some guys used to the more forward scenes of go go bars in Thailand express disappointment or even shock that they can’t simply walk up to any bar in Phnom Penh then grab a girl and go. There are brothel style massage parlors in Cambodia but the hostess bars operate in a manor more akin to the hostess bars of Ho Chi Minh City that they are most likely based on.

There are some women in the hostess bars who will go out with any guy who asks them. Others are more selective and will only go out with certain guys or in certain situations. Still other women in the hostess bars will never go out with a customer either because they are a virgin or for some other reason. Considering how conservative the country can be this should come as no surprise.

When women do agree to go out of the bar with a customer he must pay a bar fine of $6 to $10 USD to the bar. That customer will also have to come to some sort of financial arrangement with his hostess. While some people negotiate rates most guys instead simply pay the going rate of $30 to $40 USD for a short get together or $50 USD for an overnight stay at the conclusion of the session. The select few women who want much more money than the standard rates usually aren’t shy about about saying it up front when a guy first asks them if they’d like to go to his home.

While the hostess bars aren’t specifically organized around sex no one is shocked when a woman does go out with a guy. It happens every night of the week all over the city. Hotels are used to it too though some go out of their way to villainize guys who pay for sex and ban local women from the rooms. The best hotels in Phnom Penh still allow customers to bring guests to their rooms.

There are now dozens of hostess bars around the city. The number seems to increase by the month. The following is a basic rundown of the bars now in operation.

Street 104 is home to one of the largest concentrations of hostess bars in the city. One of the first hostess bars ever opened here many years ago and others joined after. Rose Bar is probably the most popular bar on the street and perhaps the most popular hostess bar in the country. It has plenty of good looking women and a pool table but it gets crowded at times and the music is very loud which makes conversation difficult. Air Force Bar across the street is almost as popular. It take up the spaces of two bars and has dozens of mostly average looking women on staff though for some reason many of them tend to think very highly of themselves. Other bars on the short street include the old Colonial which is the only bar elevated above street level, Oscar bar which has an in house live band that the owner belongs to, One Zero Four, Cheers, Zanzibar, Matilda, Big Momma, Bunny Bar and Top Ten which is quiet but often staffed by a few real lookers.

Street 102 one block over was once home to Valhalla. That bar took the place of another bar and hotel with a naughty reputation a few years ago. Valhalla had a large bar and pool tables. Around six or seven women worked there. In the old bar the women would join customers in the rooms upstairs but that wasn’t the case in the new and improved version. Regardless both are a part of history now as a swanky bar aimed at young and affluent locals has taken the place over.

Street 108 is home to a strip of three bars located next to La Marmite restaurant. Zapata and Golden Vine are the two most popular with Golden Vine in particular having a reputation for employing some Vietnamese women along with several locals who are eager to go out of the bar with customers.

Street 110 houses several hostess bars in a small area near the old market. On one side sit older and more worn out bars like Nymph Lady, Pretty Lady, Red Lion, Happy Man, Star Light (which is definitely not to be confused with Star of Light in Bangkok), Ben’s Bar, and the Vietnamese City Bar. On the other side of the road sit Nary’s Bar and Liquor Store, Double D’s (which doesn’t actually seem to staff anyone with double d’s at all but is owned by a local lady with massive breasts), and Happy Girls.

The decrepit Domino Bar sits around the corner on Street 5. It was once alone in its location but there are now several bars on the same street including Lin Honey and A One.

Street 118 is another road with a lot of bars packed together and a few more spread further apart. On one side there a very large and well decorated bar called The Office along with Heart Break and Cool N Cosy. On the other side there is Pasha, Smiling, the large but understaffed Dream Bar 2, and Island Bar which employs dozens of women and one or two ladyboys and has a reputation as being a place where nearly all the workers will go out with customers without much effort required. There is also a bar further down called Classy Bar staffed by the middle aged owner and a few of her friends who absolutely refuse to leave the bar with anyone and seem to take pleasure in announcing that they are not prostitutes to all who enter.

Street 130 has quickly grown into a hostess bar center. A few years ago it had a few bars down by the riverside. Now it has several bars spread over blocks. The misnamed yet popular 136 Bar is located on Street 130 along with Honey Pot, Caramel, Blue Bird, Lotus, Fire Bar, Jacks, and Bar Bados which has long been a magnet for attractive women. The street also has a string of foreign owned bars that seem to be at least tenuously connected including the previously reviewed Angry Birds, Loco Bar and Honey Pot. These bars are very popular but the dozens of women who work in them usually seem uninterested in leaving with customers. This street was once home to a Tina Turner themed bar called Simply the Best but for some reason it just didn’t catch on so “what you get is what you see.”

Street 136 is probably the biggest bar center in the city right now. There have always been many bars in the block next to the riverside but there are now bars spread over the next two blocks too. On one side there is the slum-like Cozy, Helicopter, Corner 136, Candy, Glamorous, and Hello Sweetie and Spider Man which staffs several real beauties. The quiet Night Flight used to sit around the corner but it shut down from lack of customers and the location is now for rent. On the other side of the street there is the well-staffed Moon Rise, the well-run Xanadu, Mister Butterfly, VIP, Best 136, 69 Bar, Calvary, Sizzler, Sweet Lemon, Oasis, Red Fox, Dream Bar 2, Pussy Cat, and the wretched Why Not. Well over a hundred women can be found in this short strip every night of the week. Some places like 69 often have women dancing on the bar but they never wear less than shorts and a shirt.

Street 144 is home to the lonely Sugar Bar and Street 148 is home to the DV8 which at times can be surprisingly lively. At recently as a few weeks ago DV8 staffed a gal with a petite body but absolutely enormous breasts.

Street 172 is a sort of a backpacker haven but it is increasingly a place for bars to open shop even if none of them every really seem to catch on. This street is home to Black Pearl which is probably one of the nicest bars in town. It also holds Apple, Night Moves, Black Shade and 172.

Street 51 is home to the notorious Golden Sorya Mall and was until recently home to the even more notorious Walkabout, dubbed “Phnom Penh’s Sleaziest Bar“. There are only a few hostess bars on this road but some of the women inside of them are among the most amorous and hands on in the city. Plan B, Lucky One and Black Cat call this street home as does the age old Shanghai Bar. Shanghai is the last of the classic hostess bar. It has several floors including a roof top, serves food, and has lots of ladies on staff. The bar closes early and doesn’t have any bar fines but a lot of guys still love the place. Around the corner from Shanghai, a quiet bar called Utopia sits on Street 172. One block down and around the corner on Street 174 there is a bar called Skirts that gets very little attention.

Finally there is Mao’s Club on the riverside near the Night Market. The bar changed several times and was even a nightclub at one point but it never left the immediate area. In its current incarnation it takes up the upper floor of a large building. It has a pool table, several electronic darts machines, and lots of ladies on staff. This bar attracts a lot of Asian customers as well as some westerners. While Mao’s does have a bar fine system in place, a lot of the women who work there are reticent to go out with customers. Others are more eager but they are in the minority and typically ask for double the amount that gals in other bars request.


  1. AJ says:

    I’m assuming commercial types hotels like Hilton, Marriott, four seasons are also guest friendly?

    • rockit says:

      Some are and some aren’t. There’s an odd drive against sex work with some of the hotels in Phnom Penh though the vast majority understand that foreigners and locals sometimes mingle and even have sex together. Cheers.

  2. EuropeanGuy says:

    In Phnom Penh now. Typing this from Matilda, which is smaller than I thought and only had five or six ladies at the moment (all taken by other customers).

    I stopped at Rose Bar before and I pretty much fell in love with the place. Great lineup. I was surprised at how common barfines are over there! An old English gentleman left the bar with an absolute stunner, and I could have easily barfined another girl but I refused the offer.

    To hell with Thailand… Cambodia is where it’s at. The atmosphere here is much more laid back, and I don’t sense nearly the same propensity to scam people.

    I’ll be in Phnom Penh for a while. More detailed reports to follow.

    • EuropeanGuy says:

      As for tonight. In the end I barfined a cutie from Zanzibar. There were at least three girls willing to leave with me.

      I regret not coming to Cambodia sooner. The situation here is much better than in Thailand at the moment. Reminds me of Indonesia, which is a good thing.

    • rockit says:

      As usual I agree with your assessment. The commercial scene in Cambodia is not nearly as “formal” as the industry in Thailand but generally speaking there seems to be less of a drive among people to milk tourists of as much money as possible. There are exceptions. Cheers.

  3. EuropeanGuy says:

    What I noticed is that Cambodians quote a high price in the beginning (hoping they’re dealing with a clueless tourist), but as soon as you make a counteroffer with the correct price, they’ll readily accept it. So it’s important to know the going rate for everything. Other than that, Khmer people seem very level-headed and laid back. You can reason with them, unlike a neighbouring populace which shall remain nameless.

  4. EuropeanGuy says:

    Rose Bar actually has two pool tables. There’s an upper floor with a second pool table as well as some couches. It’s much more comfortable upstairs but I got the impression that only select customers are allowed there. Tonight I was buying drinks for three ladies at once and playing pool with them: when it got too crowded and stuffy on the ground floor (as it usually does), one of the girls whispered in my ear and proposed that the four of us move upstairs, to have a bit more privacy. I got the entire 2nd floor for myself, and it didn’t cost me anything other than the lady drinks I was already buying.

    I declined the offer of a foursome and opted for a threesome instead (one of them wasn’t really my type). Of the two girls I brought back, one told me that she had been working in the bar for only 10 days or so. The other is what I would call a veteran despite her young age. It was fun (if a tad distracting…) hearing the more experienced one give instructions to the newbie, while we were in bed!

    Real sweeties. Both had a great attitude. The only problem was, they kinda were jealous of each other. I couldn’t give too much attention to either one, lest the other become a bit cold. I hate when this happens, it takes all the fun away and defeats the whole purpose of a threesome. Unfortunately, with Asian working girls, it has always been my experience that it’s better to take them out one at a time.

    • rockit says:

      Thanks for the report. Anyone can use the upstairs area at Rose Bar but typically people buying lots of drinks go up there. There are a few other bars with similar set ups including a few on Street 136. There was one on 172 Street with a VIP room in the back where the women had sex with customers but it closed in 2015. Cheers.

    • EuropeanGuy says:

      You seem to know Phnom Penh like the back of your hand. I was on St. 136 earlier and I noticed a staircase inside Moon Rise (or was it Xanadu?), but I didn’t bother checking where it leads. Can you remember if either bar has an upstair area?

      I also stopped for a drink at Spiderman (which is owned by the same person(s) as Air Force Bar on St. 104, according to a woman I chatted with) and Hello Sweetie, but they were both quiet tonight and there weren’t any real lookers around. I ended up spending much of the evening at Moon Rise, which had the most attractive women in my opinion (and a pool table, which doesn’t hurt… Yes, I’m a sucker for pool. I’m not very good at it but it’s nice to have something to do inside a bar, other than sitting and buying drinks.) I found a lovely lady there who has only been a hostess for a fortnight or so.

      One thing I noticed about St. 136 is that the bars there seem less “hands on” compared to St. 104. Open displays of affection are not as common, especially at Moon Rider. Or maybe it was just a coincidence and I’m generalizing, but it’s something that struck me tonight.

      Speaking of St. 104, I can wholeheartedly recommend a girl named Aka from Rose Bar. Impossible to miss, she is the tall 23-year-old hottie with big boobs and long black hair. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some guys reading this have already had her in their beds… She is pretty popular. What a gal!

      Anyway, I was at Moon Rise for a couple hours tonight and spent a grand total of $10 USD (no barfines). I’m worried that Cambodia might be spoiling the rest of Asia for me. Money goes A LOT further here than in any other country I’ve been to, and the women are some of the most charming I’ve ever met. Let’s just say I’m in no rush to go back to Pattaya…

      A few more words about bar ownership. It is public knowledge that several bars on St. 136 belong to the same Khmer woman, namely Candy Bar, 69 Bar, Mr. and Mrs. Butterfly, and possibly a fifth one that I can’t remember. I’m a bit hesitant to visit them after an alleged scam took place at Candy a few weeks ago (a man claims he was unjustly made to pay $400 after he bought drinks to all the women on staff), but of course I have no way of knowing who was at fault. Alcohol and women can be a dangerous combination for some men. However with so many bars around, I decided to not take any chances and leave those for last.

      On my way back, I caught a glimpse of Shanghai, Black Pearl (which looks enticing from the outside) and the Pontoon disco, among other venues. I may explore that street next. It’s nice that so many bars are concentrated on a handful of parallel streets.

      Displeased to hear about the closed bar on St. 172… I love it when bars allow for action to take place on premises. Was it the legendary Walkabout or some other place entirely? Cheers.

    • rockit says:

      There are a few bars with upstairs areas on the north side of Street 136 near the riverside. New places seem to pop up by the week as well. One bar had an upstairs area with a pool table but later removed it. Things change all the time. The bar on Street 172 was a hostess bar that was mentioned in my previous report on the lost bars of Phnom Penh. The Walkabout was a freelancer haunt on Street 51 near Golden Sorya Mall that closed after that report was published. Shanghai isn’t closed but it’s a mere shadow of its former self. At one time that bar was overflowing with beautiful women. Nowadays there are less than a dozen women in the bar and they tend to be on the older side. Cheers.

  5. EuropeanGuy says:

    Meanwhile at Top Ten, a birthday party took place for the son of the owner… a little Khmer kid aged probably 8 or 9. I was getting busy with a girl when two little kids walked right past us, holding a big cake. Then all the hookers started singing “happy birthday”. Only in Asia!

    • rockit says:

      I don’t know I’ve seen some weird stuff in other parts of the world too. Latin America has its fair share. Cheers.

    • EuropeanGuy says:

      I’ve been wanting to visit Latin America for the longest time. If I ever take a break from Southeast Asia, I’ll head there. Cheers.

    • rockit says:

      I have published a few reports on the region over the years. I plan to publish more soon. Cheers.

  6. bareBKK says:

    So far every hotel & air b and b I’ve stayed at in Cambodia has had anti-sex policies displayed prominently. Like actual signs saying “this establishment is against sex tourism”. Kind of takes some of the fun out of Cambo for me.

    • rockit says:

      Sometimes those signs are just there for business protection. For example two of the most well known fish bowl sex massage places in the city have signs in the room that say “no sex.” Of course there are also some mainly western run anti sex hotels in Cambodia but they are hardly dominant. There are at least a hundred guest friendly hotels in Phnom Penh including many which appear on this list: Cheers.

    • EuropeanGuy says:

      Some regular hotels will even rent out rooms by the hour if you ask them. I’ve been able to find short-time rooms in the most unlikely of places, including one hidden in the back of a mini mart!

    • rockit says:

      That’s right. There are hundreds of guest houses that rent rooms by the hour. Some even have private pull ins like the love hotels in Thailand and allow customers to pay through holes in the way. Cheers.

  7. EuropeanGuy says:

    Lots of beauties at Intoxica at the time of this writing. It may well have the best lineup of any hostess bar in Phnom Penh. The bar is pretty “hands on”, the music is good, and there’s a pool table. Fantastic atmosphere tonight, everyone was having fun. It’s the bar right next to Angry Birds on St. 130.

  8. EuropeanGuy says:

    No clue, sorry. I visited yesterday for the first time. All I can say is the interior looks very nice.

  9. EuropeanGuy says:

    A new bar called Ponytail just opened on St. 130. They’re having free draft beer until 11 pm for the next couple days.

    My quest to visit every single hostess bar in Phnom Penh continues. Pussycat bar (at the beginning of St. 136) is now also a favorite of mine. Quiet bar with very few customers, a pool table, friendly hostesses.

    A few nights ago a fistcuff broke out at Top Ten bar in St. 104, right before my eyes. The day after, another fight near Golden Sorya Mall. Seems a common occurrence in Phnom Penh.

    • rockit says:

      Thanks for the report. New bars have been popping up everywhere for the last few years but the most growth appears to be on Street 130. Only five years ago there were only six bars on the street. Now there are many more. Fights are fairly common around Golden Sorya Mall. They occasionally happen on Street 104 too. It’s pretty rare to see them elsewhere. When they do occur they most often involve foreigners who are under the influence. Cheers.

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