How do you visit S-21 Phnom Penh?

Famously the prison camp for the notorious Khmer Rouge during the time of Democratic Kampuchea, the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is now one of the most important tourist sites within Cambodia.

How do you visit S-21? Being located in downtown Phnom Penh visiting here is not only extremely easy, but due to its location can be linked with other sites, or going out within the city.

What is S-21?

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum which during the time of its use was known as S-21 was the chief prison camp for the ruling Communist Party of Kampuchea, AKA the Khmer Rouge. This was during the reign of Democratic Kampuchea, and what is more commonly known as the Killing Fields period.

At its height it is estimated that as many as 13,000 people passed through its doors, with less than ten serving to tell the horrific tale.Nowadays it is open almost daily for people to come and learn the story. 

For further understanding check out the movie the Killing Fields, or the documentary caked S-21. Alternatively you can learn more on the following website.

How do you visit Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Being in downtown Phnom Penh visiting here is relatively easy, with you simply needing to just take a TukTuk, rather than needing any specific transport or to join a tour. Although there are a number of companies that can arrange tailor made trips to here and beyond.

As stated the location is in a former high school, something very much apparent on arrival and were it not for the signage, you perhaps would not realize where it is.

What is it like visiting S-21

To put it mildly this is a very macabre experience and one like say Auschwitz that is likely to leave you feeling at best very thoughtful. 

While here you are taken on the journey on what happened to the inmates that passed through here, with much that has been left being from when it was a prison camp, with reconstructions on prison cells, torture rooms, as well as art and photos telling the story of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

And at the end you are often greeted by one of thew few survivors from the prison who somehow manage to come and work here everyday. They come to sell their books, a worthy purchase and if you are with someone who can speak Khmer will even answer questions for you.

After S-21?

After you visit S-21 and  Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum there are lots of options for you. Being so centrally located places like the Royal Palace, as well as the best restaurants and bars of Phnom Penh are close enough to peruse. Much of this is within walking distance of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, with their usually being TukTuk’s waiting outside.

And of course you can also continue on the Phnom Penh Dark Tourism trail, with visits to Choeung Ek Killing Fields, Hotel La Royale, and even Phnom Penh Railway Station, which all hold at least some importance with regards to the history of the Khmer Rouge.

So, while this is quite a depressing place it is without doubt an essentially visit if you want to understand both past and contemporary Khmer culture and history.

For more information on tours through Cambodia check out our partners at Young Pioneer Tours.

Gareth Johnson
Author: Gareth Johnson

Gareth Johnson is the founder of Young Pioneer Tours and has visited over 180+ countries. His passion is opening obscure destinations to tourism and sharing his experience of street food.