Dates Visited: Oct. 18, 2014 – Nov. 08, 2014
# of Days: 22
Average Daily Budget: USD 29.16 per person
Exchange Rate: USD 1.00 to 4,000 Cambodian Riel (KHR)
Once again, we stayed in hotel rooms throughout our stay. They were well located (next to main attractions), with AC, wifi, a private bathroom (except in Koh Rong) and sometimes a TV. Here is the cost breakdown by city:
Phnom Penh (4 nights) – We stayed at Top Banana Guesthouse (USD 16 / night), which hosts a lot of the backpackers in Phnom Penh. It was a nice opportunity to meet fellow travelers, but the bar can get loud sometimes.
Sihanoukville (4 nights) – Close to Serendipity beach, Zana Beach Guesthouse (USD 15 / night) had clean rooms close to the beach. The bathroom door was a bit short for me, I hit my head a few times. We broke our stay here into two parts to visit the island of Koh Rong for a night.
Koh Rong (1 night) – The guesthouses in Koh Rong are not luxurious. All we had there was a bed with a mosquito net and a fan. The bathroom was also shared and had no hot water available. But that’s what you get for untouched paradise literally on the beach! The ocean view was unbeatable and the room only cost us USD 7 / night.
Kampot (3 nights) – Run by an expat, the Magic Sponge Guesthouse (USD 14 / night) is one of the best places to stay in Kampot. The rooms were decent, the restaurant had great food (big portions!) and there was a variety of entertainment activities onsite (mini-golf, pool, live music, happy hours, etc).
Siem Reap (7 nights) – We had booked 1 night at the Tropical Breeze Guesthouse (USD 16 / night), but we decided to change hotels the next morning, as the room wasn’t that clean. For the next 6 nights, we stayed at Shadow of Angkor Inn (USD 20 / night, negotiated down from 35!). Hands down the best hotel in our trip so far – it had a pool and the staff was very friendly! The room was very modern, spacious, well-designed and clean. We were so sad to leave. It has become the “nice” hotel we reminisce about.
Battambang (3 nights) – We chose to stay at the Royal Hotel (USD 17.6 / night), next to the Central Market in Battambang. Internet was hit or miss. The rate included a decent breakfast with a large fruit smoothie.
Money Saving Tips – Many of the accommodation options in Cambodia are not on main travel platforms like Expedia or Booking.com. Emailing or calling the hotels in advance will generally give you a better rate and save quite some money, especially in fees and taxes paid for booking online. We found WikiTravel to be useful for a listing of guesthouses. Also remember to negotiate!
Food & Drinks
Cambodia is not particularly known for its food. Restaurants served a mix of Khmer, Asian and western food and we ate at restaurants 100% of the time (except for drinks that we would get on the streets). The costs of doing so were pretty much the same in all cities, about USD 10.90 per day per person. We did try some classic Khmer foods. Angkor or Anchor draft beers are everywhere, but drinking adds up quickly in Cambodia.
Money Saving Tips – We ate mostly at restaurants and that’s not necessarily the cheapest option out there. Cambodians live with a lot less and so can you, if you are willing to eat a lot more street food. If you’re a big snacker like we are, control yourself because snacks in Cambodia are expensive. Stick to the main meal. Also control the drinking if you’re on a budget! Those beers and buckets can really add up over the course of a night.
This category is split into two parts, intracity and intercity:
Intracity – For intracity transportation, we always relied mainly on walking, biking or tuk-tuks.
Bikes can usually be rented for USD 1-2 a day and are a pleasant way to explore the city, since all of them were mostly flat. We rented bikes for 2 days to explore Angkor Archaeological Park.
Tuk-tuks cost some money, especially for day tours like we took in Phnom Penh for S-21 and the killing fields (USD 16 for two people), in Angkor Archaeological Park (USD 15 + 28 on two separate days for two people) and in Battambang (USD 18 for two people).
We spent an average of USD 1.96 per person per day in this category.
Money Saving Tips – Walk as much as you can or rent bikes to explore the cities. Both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, two of Cambodia’s biggest cities, are easily doable on foot. It’s worth getting a tuk-tuk for the temples at Angkor. For all tuk-tuks, always look for a rough price online, and negotiate! Every tuk-tuk driver will always quote you an inflated price to begin with – it’s up to you to bargain. There are hundreds of tuk-tuks out there, you can always go to another one if you can’t agree on a price. Sometimes walking away is the best way to lower the price.
Intercity – This includes our bus from HCMC – Phnom Penh (USD 9.83 per person) and then buses or ferry to other cities within Cambodia. We used mostly Capitol Tour Buses as our selected transportation company, since they provide both reliable service (at least better than other companies) and cheap prices. They were all big buses with AC and even though they stopped several times along the way to pick up / drop off people or parcels, it still got us to the place we wanted to go.
Khmer karaoke is pretty much unavoidable on all buses – once the bus driver stopped the bus just to put in a new Khmer karaoke DVD. Tickets were booked at the bus company office or at our guesthouses (in cases where the company office was impossible to find).
The total cost of traversing Cambodia using buses was USD 58.33 per person.
Money Saving Tips – Try to buy bus tickets directly from the company. There are only a few reputable bus companies in Cambodia (Capital Tours, Mekong Express, Sorya) – travel agencies and guesthouses all sell their tickets, but with a commission tacked on. You will get identical tickets from the company (if anything, more reliable) for less by spending a little more effort.
Entertainment & Tours
Most sights in Cambodia had entrance fees, except the beaches and a few monuments. There was also a difference between the fee for locals vs. foreigners that was always clearly indicated.
- National Cambodian Museum (Phnom Penh) – Entrance fee USD 5.00 per person
A great place to introduce and immerse yourself in Khmer history, the National Cambodian Museum presented a varied collection of Khmer art and religious artifacts. The building itself was also beautiful and the inner garden magnificent.
- Royal Palace (Phnom Penh) – Entrance fee USD 6.50 per person
A must-see in Phnom Penh, the Royal Palace still retains the splendor of what was once one of the richest kingdoms on earth.
- Wat Phnom (Phnom Penh) – Entrance fee USD 1.00 per person
Not worth the price. Visit just the square and surrounding areas of the temple. People in the park will try to make you pay the entrance fee, but just walk away and ignore them. A scammy sign with the required fee for foreigners is placed on the stairs to the top, with even scammier people sitting by it. Don’t bother going up, you wouldn’t miss much. If you’re lucky, the monkeys will be around!
- Cheung-Ek Killing Fields (Phnom Penh) – Entrance fee USD 3.00 per person
It’s so important to learn about the atrocities that happened in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime, the Cheung-Ek killing fields were far from the city and required some sort of transportation to get there. An audio tour was available for USD 3.00 in addition to the USD 3.00 entrance fee (audio tour is highly recommended!).
- Tuol Sleng, S-21 (Phnom Penh) – Entrance fee USD 3.00 per person
If you don’t want to make a trip outside of town to the Cheung-Ek killing fields, you should at least visit Tuol Sleng in the middle of Phnom Penh.
- Angkor Archaeological Park (Siem Reap) – 3-Day Park Pass for USD 40.00 per person
The highlight of Cambodia and our trip so far, Angkor Archaeological Park is more than worth the USD 40 we paid for a 3-day pass. Other available pass options were: 1-day (USD 20) and 7-day (USD 60). Passes are personalized and checked regularly, so don’t lose them!
- Bamboo Train (Battambang) – Entrance fee USD 5.00 per person
This attraction has been on the edge of extinction for quite a while now, since the railroad will be used for actual trains. While it was fun and pretty strange, I’m not sure if it is worth the price you pay for it.
- Wat Banan, Phnom Sampeou (Battambang) – Entrance fee USD 3.00 per person
Nice attractions on the outskirts of Battambang, and a great deal for USD 3 per person. You can see the whole countryside from the top of the Sampeou mountain, as well as visit the dark killing caves.
We had some considerable miscellaneous expenses in Cambodia.
- Visa on arrival fee – USD 35.00 per person
The visa fee recently increased to USD 30.00 (tourist visa) and USD 35.00 (ordinary visa). We are still unsure if we got scammed or not because we paid USD 35.00 for an ordinary visa, but all we needed was a tourist visa.
- Bas-relief painting – USD 20.00
As our souvenir from Cambodia, we got a bas-relief painting while visiting Angkor Wat. The original quoted price was USD 40.00, but we managed to haggle it down to USD 20.00.
- 30-day + 2.5 GB SIM Card – USD 7.00
The best SIM card deal we had on our trip so far, we got this package with Cellcard, a major provider in Cambodia. Signal was decent, at least in the main cities we visited.
All other items, such as laundry, haircuts, clothing, etc. summed up to USD 37.88.
We got a lot for our buck in Cambodia and we still stayed within budget! I did not expect Cambodia to be cheaper than Vietnam, but considering the number of tours we took in Vietnam, this makes sense. Our cheapest country yet!