This is a summary of all our expenses for the 27 nights / 28 days we spent in Cambodia during December 2019 / January 2020. You should keep in mind that if one travels at a slower pace it's easier to make savings as especially transportation can eat into your budget quickly. Whether you are flying from one destination to the other or making use of cheaper overland travel alternative, transport in Cambodia can add up quickly. That said, we found that if one can contain accommodation costs and avoid western restaurants, Cambodia is a fairly affordable destination.
Travelling full-time changes the way one travels and it becomes less of a quest to tick off the 'popular' sights than it becomes a way of experiencing your surrounds in a slower, relaxed fashion. Many further cost savings are indeed possible, but one should also not completely deprive oneself of uniquely local experiences that ultimately add value to your visit to a foreign country. However, more often than not, the events, encounters and connections with people that stand out, are those that you do not foresee or could even have planned for. Like most things in life, a balance between being frugal and making use of opportunities should be sought.
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(Note that the following spending does not include flights to and from Cambodia, but does include local land transportation within Cambodia.)
We stayed in 5 different accommodations over the 27 nights spent in Cambodia. We spent between 4 to 7 nights in each place and found that even for the 1-week long stays, hotels usually offered the best value as they often included breakfast and we found that it is not necessarily cheaper to prepare your own food in comparison to eating out. Moving around less frequently also helped to reduce our transportation costs compared to if we had moved on every couple of days. We booked our stays through a combination of Bookings.com, Agoda and Airbnb and did not find any of these to consistently have better deals.
For most of it, we found accommodation in Cambodia to be pretty good value and in some areas, really cheap! Our average nightly cost came to $22 and generally, the quality of accommodation was good and comfortable to Western standards. It should be noted that this was even over the end of the year holiday season, so accommodation might be even cheaper at other times of the year!
Kampot 4 nights - Sre Ambil Resort
(Bookings.com Double En-suite Room)
The “resort” is located on the west side of the river which is somewhat removed from the main riverside area, which is along the east bank of the river. The “resort” is nothing more than a few grass A-frame huts and a few built rooms adjacent to each other. It is located off the main road and was still within walking distance and much cheaper than any accommodation within the more popular tourist area. There are not many food options in the direct vicinity and it would generally be preferable to be located to the east side of the river where shops, food and accommodation are ample. The room itself was spacious enough although very sparsely furnished with a king-size bed and a single cupboard. The bathroom has a separate shower.
Kep 7 nights - La Kep Boutique Hotel
(Agoda Double En-suite Room)
The 36 rooms of this hotel are in an L-shape and either face towards the inner courtyard, restaurant and swimming pool or away towards the outside. The room itself was clean and very spacious with had a small fridge and kettle. The bathroom has a separate shower. Location was a few blocks away from the main road about a 15-minute walk to the boat Terminal where boats depart to Rabbit Island from. It was well located to explore the town, except that there is really not much happening in Kep itself! If you want to relax at Kep Beach, it might be better to rather be within walking distance if you do not have your own transportation. Our booking included breakfast which was sometimes a choice off a breakfast menu and other times a buffet breakfast. The swimming pool was always nice and clean and a great refresher in the heat.
Phnom Penh 4 nights - Airbnb Comfortable and relaxed space next to Royal Palace
(Airbnb One Bedroom Apartment)
The apartment is very well located in Central Phnom Penh, just a few minutes walk from the Royal Palace. The apartment consisted of a bedroom (with air conditioner), a lounge area with desk space, kitchenette, bathroom and a small balcony. The bathroom had a wet-room style shower. The kitchen was fairly basic with a small fridge, single gas stovetop and gas top kettle, but it was good enough for us to be able to prepare our own breakfasts in the mornings. It was well located for us and it offered a nice view, was peaceful and within walking distance of almost all tourist attractions within the city. There are also a few great restaurants in the same street to grab breakfast, lunch, dinner or a drink. We thought it was pretty good value for money and comfortable enough.
Battambang 5 nights - Royal Hotel
(Booking.com Double En-suite Room with Balcony)
The hotel is definitely past its prime, but it is well located very close to the Central Market and with plenty of shops and restaurants all around. The room itself was and well equipped with a cupboard, desk and chair, small fridge and kettle. The bathroom has a separate shower. There is also a small balcony. It was well located to explore the town and the popular French Quarter area just nearby. There are plenty of options for great breakfast just next door and despite the hotel not being modern or fancy, we found it perfectly suited and an absolute bargain.
Siem Reap 7 nights - Chayra Angkor Hotel
(Agoda VIP Double En-suite Room)
We booked a VIP suite, but only two of these have windows, so be sure to request one of them! The suite was lovely and spacious with a separate relaxing area in the window bay. The bathroom was equally spacious and with a separate shower. The hotel staff are very courteous and friendly, sometimes even overly helpful. They are located a short walk away from the river and tourist areas, but still within easy 15-minute walking distance from the popular Pub Street. The area has a few restaurants and shops, but we prefered making the walk to “Pub Street” where there is more choice and more activity. Our booking included breakfast which was a choice off a breakfast menu and was pretty good. We also arranged our tuk-tuk driver for visiting Angkor Wat through the hotel and they were well priced in comparison with other options.
We generally try to eat like and with the locals. In Cambodia, this is fairly easy if you are in proximity to a town or village. We were somewhat surprised at the availability of western cuisine of a good standard and at very affordable prices. We were also impressed at the affordability of being able to enjoy local cuisine at modern restaurants in most towns. We particularly enjoyed the fact that such a great variety of western breakfast alternatives are available and at really good prices.
While Cambodian food might not be as well known as its neighbour’s, it is a unique cuisine full of vibrant flavours and spices. We enjoyed trying the local cuisine of each region as we moved through the country. You can also find western food very easily available and not even at much of a price premium.
We only prepared our own breakfasts for the 4 nights that we stayed in an Airbnb apartment in Phnom Penh. It was generally easy enough to find some form of eggs and bacon for breakfast wherever we were. We never prepared any other food for ourselves as it was just too cheap and easy to rather eat out. Our meals varied from very local cuisine purchased from street-side vendors to both western meals and local dishes at comfortable but affordable restaurants. Cambodia does not have a very strong dessert or snack culture, although we did try our best to sample as many of the sweet treats that we found mostly from street vendors.
Alcohol is not overly expensive (although cocktails always carry a premium price tag). We enjoyed plenty of draft beers, particularly in places like Kampot and Siem Reap where they cost as little as $0.50! We ended up having a drink more nights than not during our stay in Cambodia.
Without alcohol and treats, and only eating local, you could definitely save a dollar or two a day. However, if you choose to eat western and enjoy a few drinks per day, be prepared to add a little more fat to the budget!
Getting around Cambodia can be a lot more time consuming than you might initially think. Although the distances between towns are that that great, the roads are almost all either under construction or in very bad condition, which results in very slow travel speeds. Making use of local public transportation also means that you are at the mercy of the local driver, which often means late departures, frequent stops to overload the vehicle with additional passengers and sometimes even surprising final destinations which leave you not quite where you thought you would arrive! We strongly suggest only making use of reputable and well-reviewed bus companies as these do make the journey a little more bearable.
Our transport costs include 6 days worth of scooter rental. We found prices throughout Cambodia to vary slightly, from as little as $4 per day to $7 per day. With some negotiating, we never paid more than $5 per day, but that being said, the quality of scooters available for rental were often very questionable and not suited to riding longer distances or some of the wonderful gravel countryside roads.
We only visited 5 destinations (Kampot, Kep, Phnom Penh, Battambang, Siem Reap) over our month spent in Cambodia. Most people would likely travel a little faster resulting in a relatively more expensive daily cost. Even spread out over a month period, our travel costs still came to $6 per day, which is fairly expensive if you compare it to most other Asian (and particularly Southeast Asian) Countries.
We made use of a variety of modes of transport to get from one destination to another, including private taxi (pricey, but most comfortable and convenient), minivan (less comfortable, but takes you directly from A to B with a few stops to load and offload other passengers) and public bus (which is always worse than what you have in mind and often involves changing buses mid-route and not actually reaching your final destination directly). Taxis and the Grab Taxi App are fairly easily available, as well as another local App (PassApp) which can even be used for arranging a tuk-tuk. We liked the fact that using the PassApp meant that we didn’t need to negotiate rates with the tuk-tuk drivers!
CELLPHONE & DATA
Being very dependent on data for getting around and rather heavy data user generally, this is one of the first things we investigate when staying in a country for a period of time. We found the best option for us was purchasing a local prepaid CellCard Tourist SIM Card and then loading 8GB of data which was valid for 30 days. We each got a SIM Card with 8GB of data as it was affordable enough in our opinion. We did find that WIFI is generally available all around Cambodia and particularly at all accommodations.
Our "General" category includes everyday expenses like toiletries, medical, laundry & small shopping items. In this case, it also includes our Cambodian E-visa which cost $75 for the two of us.
We generally try to stay away from very touristy places and prefer to explore independently. In Cambodia, this is possible with the one exception of The Angkor Wat Temple Complex which is an absolute “Tourist Must-See Spot” which simply cannot be missed! It’s a very pricey activity which cost us a total of $164 for the two of us over 2 days worth of visiting various temple grounds but it is definitely essential to experiencing Cambodia. You can read more about How to Visit Angkor Wat and what we would have done differently in retrospect.
Our sightseeing expenses include visits to the Phnom Chhngok Cave Temple (Kampot / Kep), Wat Phnom (Phnom Penh), Genocide museum (Phnom Penh), Phnom Penh Royal Palace (Phnom Penh), Wat Ek Phnom (Battambang), Phnom Banan Temple (Battambang), Phnom Sampov / Killing Cave (Battambang) and The Angkor Wat Temple Complex 3 Day Pass. Other activities also included are a Mekong River sunset cruise (Phnom Penh), going on the Bamboo train (Battambang) and attending a show of the Phare Circus (Battambang).
Public toilet facilities range from fair to dismal at most tourist attractions, and while they might be western-style toilets, they are usually without any toilet paper provided.
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