Travel in Cambodia: our budget breakdown

Cambodia, the third country I visited in South East Asia (after Laos and Vietnam) during the Big Trip. Besides Angkor Wat, I did not really know what to expect. Yet, besides the nature, cultural relics and peaceful way of life after such horrendous historical events, the true beauty of the country lies with its people. Cambodians are a really friendly folk!

Money shot of Angkor Wat 🙂

Travel budget: important facts and figures

  • I traveled around Cambodia with Ms. Rice, all expenses mentioned are for the two of us.
  • We spent days in Cambodia, entering the country in the Southeast from Ha Tien, Vietnam and leaving to Singapore by flight from Pnom Penh.
  • I quote prices in USD as this is the currency commonly used in Cambodia. For payments smaller than $1 you’ll get change in Cambodian Riel, $1 is about 4000 riel (sometimes up to 4200 riel). The last 1-1.5 years the Euro has been depreciating compared to the Dollar, so prices are pretty much the same in Euro ( 1 EUR = 1.06 USD on average).
  • In total we spent 615 USD in 7 days, which comes down to an average of 87 USD a day.
  • All expenses are included, except for the transportation costs to leave the country. We decided to continue our journey to Singapore, which can only be done by flight (we used Jetstar costing 90 USD pp). Including this cost in our budget breakdown would bias it. Crossing the border by bus to Thailand, Laos or Vietnam (depending on your itinerary) would be much lower.

Our five Expense categories

1. Accommodation: 13% of daily costs
2. Transportation: 18% of daily costs
3. Food & Drinks: 19% of daily costs
4. Activities: 33% of daily costs
5. Other: 18% of daily costs

I know go more into detail about each category.

1. Cost of accommodation

In total we stayed at three hostels/hotels and spent $ 76 in 7 days (technically 5 nights, since we used one overnight bus), an average price per night being $15. Every place we stayed at met our expectations. We also never really planned a lot upfront: 1-2 days before to search via Booking or Agoda. More info about the hotels we stayed at in Phnom Penh and Siem Riep will follow soon!

One of our hotels in Siem Reap with refreshing pool

2. Transportation costs

Total transportation costs were $107, on average $15 a day. I backtracked Pnom Penh-Siem Reap-Pnom Penh, because it was cheaper to take a night bus to PP and then a flight to Singapore, rather than directly flying from Siem Reap to Singapore. I used Giant Ibis for our Pnom Penh – Siem Reap return journey, which is considered the most qualitative option (aka, the “gringo” bus 😉 ): breakfast/snack, wifi and spacious clean coaches. One way tickets are approx. 15-16 USD per person.

Luxury style buses of Giant Ibis

Bus tickets in Cambodia CAN be cheaper, but it all depends on your choice. Smaller companies offer cheaper tickets, but be prepared to be stuffed in a small van with too many people.

Our cramped van experience at Vietnam/Cambodia border

For larger distances which are less interesting on foot (e.g. bus station hotel / hotel airport), you’ll most definitely will be using one of the many Tuk Tuks. I paid 1-2 USD for distances up to 4KM. Don’t forget to bargain, they’ll always raise the price :).

Our trip in Cambodia was quite packed, so this also increases the average cost per day. When I would go back, definitely would stay longer and explore more places (Kampot, Koh Rong, Battambang, …)

3. Cost of food & drinks

In total we spent $118 on food and drinks, on average $17 a day. Compared to Vietnamese food, I think the prices were quite similar yet the types of food were a bit less. There are quite a lot of soup dishes or meat dishes with rice. Yet the fruit shakes and smoothies are awesome!

Besides one “Western style” breakfast from a chain, we tried to eat as many of the Khmer classics as we could: Amok (curried fish dish),  Lok Lak (spiced beef stew), fresh spring rolls, noodle soups,…

IMG_1992
IMG_1951
IMG_2274

If you’re looking for craft beer in Cambodia, don’t worry, there’s none 🙂 Angkor, Cambodia were the lagers you would find everywhere (very cheap draft beers though, only 0.5 USD for a glass!).

4. Cost of activities

Total costs for activities came to $199, a daily average of $28.

Which activities did we do for $199?

Well, we spend most of our time in Cambodia in Siem Reap, because of some temples… Just kidding 😉 It’s a MUST see world wonder. Angkor Wat and all the other complexes of the Angkor empire are worth the visit. It’s quite normal our Angkor expenses are more than 60% of total. Here are the details:

  1. 3 days visitors pass for Angkor Wat = 80 USD. I did not want to rush the visit, so I planned various temple visits over 4 days (1 day of relaxing). 40 USD pp for 3 days is actually pretty cheap, given which cultural treasures you get in return!
  2. 1 day Tuk Tuk small circuit including sunset = 20 USD
  3. 2 days scooter rental = 22 USD. I also paid 6 USD in total for gas. We used an organised Tuk Tuk the first day, our hotel owner suggested us to take a scooter the other days. We totally recommend it to do it for all days! The roads are not very crowded, and you practically can not get lost (signs to temples everywhere + use your GPS on phone). Awesome experience.

Beyond Angkor Wat…

I must admit, we got pretty stoked about the massages in Cambodia. Not only are they really comforting after a full day of climbing up and down temples, they also don’t weigh too much on the budget. We went two times for a massage (1 time foot, 1 time back), totalling only 20 USD. Cambodian gratitude and smiles for free :).

Just one of the many options in Siem Reap

We splurged on our last day in Siem Reap by going to a typical “Cambodian Broadway” show called Rosanna. The buses full of Korean and Chinese really seemed to like it, yet we felt it a bit overrated for 36 USD. Heck, we still invested in the Cambodian economy anyway ha.

More scooters!

Since I really liked the freedom of driving around with a scooter, I rented another one for a day in Phnom Penh. Traffic is more challenging, but hey, it’s part of the game! After cruising through the city center and spotting the Royal Palace, Wat Phnom, Russian Market, and National museum, I arrived at the Choeung Ek Killing Fields (6 USD, Ms. Rice skipped) Needless to say which kind of feelings you get when visiting this dark side of Cambodia’s past… Very impressive!

5. Other costs

Other costs typically holds the stuff I can’t really categorise in any of the 4 mentioned above.  Some souvenirs, post cards, visa, …, you know, those kind of things:

  • Cambodian tourism visa = 70 USD. Official price is 30 USD pp, yet there’s no escaping in the “visa collection fee” aka bribe. We used the travel company getting us from Ha Tien to Pnom Penh to deal with the visa (so technically, we did not pay a bribe at all 🙂 ). Don’t forget your pictures!
  • Bug repellent = 7 USD. Vietnam used up our last drops. We definitely needed it during the hot and humid weather. We even kept using it in New Zealand, so a long term investment.
  • Postcards and stamps = 3 USD 
  • 2 gifts, 1 dress and 1 elephant pants = 20 USD Honestly, you can’t leave Cambodia without buying one of those funny elephant pants (if you did not already buy one in Laos, Thailand, … haha)

So that’s pretty much it! Cambodia surprised us very positively. I think budget wise we kept things quite well under control. If you cut some of our splurges (massages, dancing show) and try to really efficiently organise transport, Cambodia is most certainly possible for less than 30 USD per day per person.

So go to Cambodia, enjoy the hot climate, let its history impress you and its people even more.

Did you go to Cambodia? Do you think are expenses are reasonable? Share your stories with us!