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Sihanoukville, or Kampong Som, is famous for its relaxed coastal lifestyle. On Cambodia's Gulf of Thailand coast, it has plenty of white sandy bays. The most popular are Otres Beach, known for a more peaceful atmosphere, and Serendipity Beach and Victory Beach, which are a bit more lively. All are lapped by calm turquoise waters. Vendors stroll past selling fresh shellfish and offering pedicures, while the bars and restaurants play laid-back music well into the evening. Sihanoukville is also the jumping off point to visit paradise islands such as Koh Rong, with its coral reefs and lush jungle.
Hostels in Sihanoukville often have a party atmosphere, especially if you pick one beside the beach. Most have on-site bars and restaurants, so you don't need to go far for an evening with new friends. You can sleep in a Sihanoukville hostel inspired by indigenous architecture, beachfront bungalows or a contemporary low-rise set around a swimming pool. You'll find outdoor spaces such as terraces or gardens, and some Sihanoukville hostels have air con in the rooms for a cool night.
Serendipity Beach is Sihanoukville's backpacker and nightlife hub. Bars and restaurants spill straight out onto the white sands, and most have themed parties throughout the week. Further along the coast you'll find Otres Beach, which is one of the quietest in the area. Here, expect chilled out beach bars and authentic places to eat lining the sand. Victory Beach is popular spot, with fun bars on nearby Victory Hill and fantastic seafood restaurants.
For a break from beach-hopping, take the 50-minute tuk-tuk ride to Kbal Chhay Waterfall for a bit of freshwater swimming. Back by the coast, the clear and warm waters around Sihanoukville's islands are ideal for scuba diving – you can expect to find marine life of all sizes, from seahorses to whale sharks, as well as colourful tropical fish. In the city centre, Phsar Leu market is a wonderfully atmospheric place to see local life as people haggle over large piles of fruit, vegetables and shellfish.
Sihanouk International Airport is about an hour's drive from the city centre, and the best way to get into town is to book to a taxi rideshare from the desk inside the arrivals hall. If you're coming from another city by bus, you'll be dropped off at Sihanoukville bus terminal in the city centre. Tuk-tuks are the easiest way to get around the city and between the beaches. It's a good idea to negotiate a price before you hop in.