Cambodia is a fantastic country to backpack through. It has wonderful, friendly people, beautiful historical monuments such as the Temples of Angkor and it is very cost effective. We travelled through Cambodia in December 2011, visiting the Temples of Angkor and stopping at the capital before moving onwards to Vietnam. We ate well, often at what we would consider good restaurants, had beer and generally never really restricted ourselves. If you are interested in knowing how much you’ll need to backpack around Cambodia, read on.
How We Traveled
We were in the country only for 7 days and we tended to visit the most popular places which drove up our amusement costs and travel costs equally. We bought the $40 (USD) 3 day ticket to the Temples of Angkor which was the bare minimum we would recommend. There is just too much to see in 1 day for the $20 single day ticket.
We took professional bus services (the large coaches) and didn’t have any trouble in terms of convenience or comfort. We slept in private double rooms instead of shared dorms which always had a private bath. We tended to opt out of the A/C options since a fan was enough for us. We took rickshaws whenever we needed them which was not often and hired a driver for a couple of days in Angkor. We also took in a number of tours in Phnom Penh to the killing fields and the former school turned prison, S 21.
What We Paid
We paid $38.37 USD per person per day. Overall, transport costs were high because the distances are not small and also because we moved through the country quickly. At a little under $7 a night, we were not sleeping at the Hilton but we never struggled for comfort and had no issues around accommodations. You could probably get that down by a dollar or so if you stayed in the more basic places.
We did very little shopping which is typical for us. Also, we didn’t fly and instead stayed on the ground which is much cheaper.
Really great owner. Super friendly and helps out a lot. Ask for tuk tuk service to tour Angkor and also rent their bikes for a day trip. Great value. Great room. Very highly recommended.
In short, we ate well. We tried some of the street food and always opted for local restaurants. In general, food in Cambodia is not expensive. Beer is also very cheap and we certainly had our share. One point worth noting is that we don’t go out drinking at nights which, despite the cheap beer, can run up a tab. But we honestly couldn’t have spent much more than we did on food. There was just no room left to put more food in our bellies.
The temples of Angkor were by far our biggest expense but obviously worth it. Just check out the pictures. Transportation was high as well on a daily basis due to the large distances being covered. Also, since we were in the country for such a short time, we never got a SIM card. Wifi was abundant and decent quality.
How To Save More
If we were to go again, we would head south to see some of the southern islands and we would probably hang out much longer in places and probably lounge longer in Siem Reap. Hotel costs were not high and the food prices were reasonable so a slower pace would not cost a lot more and would spread the transport costs out across more days.
To cut down on accommodations would require you to take lower class rooms which isn’t a problem. The bottom end of the market is probably around $4 to $5 dollars a night. We chose higher. Also, you could cut out a bit of beer and eat more street food. Again $5 a day could certainly do it if you were pressed for cash. But $10 gets you pretty much as much as you could want.
Cambodia is at the sweet spot of having lots to see and do and not costing an arm and a leg. We really loved our time there and regret that we moved through it too quickly in retrospect. We lived quite well during our time there and could have saved a bit more money on food but I doubt we would change a thing if we went back.
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$38.00 a day lets you tour the temples of Angkor for a week, eat at fantastic restaurants in Phnom Penh and enjoy private rooms with private baths. Hire a bike in Siem Reap or rent a bike to enjoy your days at the temples at a slower pace. Life at this budget is easy and plentiful.