I’ve decided to continue the posts on my spending habits for each country I visit, as I think they’re turning out to be very helpful. It’s worth noting that I’m a serious budget traveler and comment on the backpacker mode of travel, which doesn’t negatively affect my overall experience. In fact, I think it improves it. However, you can obviously find the full range of prices up to far more plush options.
Backpacker’s looking for budget travel need look no further than Cambodia. Low prices across the board are to be found around every turn. Just how low you ask? Here is the breakdown of my spending habits during my month long stay. Prices are listed in US dollars since they are accepted everywhere (USD comes out of the ATMs). Check my Ultimate Asian Currency Converter for the current exchange rate.
In total, I spent $831 over a period of 31 days. Doing the math puts my daily expenditure at $26.81 per day. At first glance, that’s not bad at all, especially considering that includes a diving certification course I took down in Sihanoukville. Subtracting the scuba course and I only spent $18.10/day ($831-$270=$562… whoa, that’s cheap), but on closer inspection there are a few important factors that greatly influenced this number.
- The biggest factor which should be taken into account is the fact that I got sick and ended up staying in Siem Reap for a week and a half, all the while only visiting the temples one day. A mosquito bite right under my sandal strap got pretty infected causing me to boycott shoes of any kind for a few days. This kept me from leaving the hostel and spending any money besides the basics. There are actually a number of day trips outside of Siem Reap that I was unable to partake in.
- After a speedy first few months, our destination hoping slowed down in Cambodia and in total, we visited only four spots: Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Siem Reap and Battambang (5 spots if you include the island we dived at). We obviously could have saw a lot more in a month, but, as many long term travelers know, slowing down is very appealing not to mention budget friendly.
- April is the start of the low season. I can’t speak as to exactly how much this affected prices, but it’s worth a mention.
- As I’ve stated previously, I’m not much of a shopper. My purchases consisted of a lone pair of sunglasses due to my bad habit of losing them.
- I buy a lot of ice cream.
My expenditure on activities was largely influenced by my scuba diving cert, which, by the way, was the cheapest I’ve heard of in Southeast Asia (Yes, slightly cheaper than Koh Tao). Besides diving, entrance prices to most sites will cost a few dollars apiece, but the largest and basically unavoidable entrance fee you can probably guess. Angkor Wat will run you $20 for 24 hours or, if you’re real ambitious, $40 for 3 days. I passed on a number of other more pricey activities such as shooting an AK-47 and had no choice but to sit out on others while I recovered from a sickness.
As a whole, Cambodia was probably the cheapest place to sleep in Southeast Asia. The dorms in Phnom Penh were $4.50, but everywhere else they were even cheaper ($3). Granted these were non-A/C rooms and getting the cooling powers, which I eventually did, requires you to part with a little extra Riel. The simplest shared rooms were cheap as well with prices hovering around $10 for the most basic.
Modes of Transportation/Transit
Traveling around Cambodia by bus is very easy and relatively problem free. Some of my buses ran a little late, which isn’t too surprising, and I did hear about a single breakdown from other travelers, but other than that, they were fine and quite cheap. Much more inexpensive than Laos and definitely more comfortable due to the flat terrain and better quality roads. No trains go trough Cambodia, but there are airports in all the major cities. Honestly, I didn’t even consider flying since the buses were so cheap and simple to arrange and use.
Meals can be extremely cheap if you are willing to do some research. For example, walking away from the main tourist centers in each town will do wonders to the prices listed on menus. I was able to eat full-on stir fries with a side of rice for $1.25 in some restaurants, while $3-5 is a more average price and has surprisingly impressive buying power. Drinks are also extremely cheap as a draft beer costs just 50 cents during happy hour and twice that regularly. In Southeast Asia, only Vietnam can rival the cost of beer in Cambodia.
Actual Prices I Paid in Phnom Penh
Bus from Strung Treng to Phnom Penh – $10
Entrance to Choeung Ek Killing Fields – $6
Entrance to S21 Prison – $3
Entrance to National Museum – $3
Entrance to Royal Palace – $6.25
Actual Prices I Paid in Sihanoukville
Bus from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville – $5
3 day PADI Certification course – $270
Tuk Tuk to Otres Beach – $4
Motorbike to Otres Beach – $2
Actual Prices I Paid in Siem Reap
Bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap – $6.25
Entrance to Siem Reap – $20 for 24 hours ($40 in you want 3 days)
Tuk Tuk Driver for the day – $10-$12
Actual Prices I Paid in Battambang
Bus from Siem Reap to Battambang – $6
Bamboo Railway – $5
Entrance to Phnom Sampeu – $2
Tuk Tuk Driver for the day – $10