Cambodia is a cheap country.
We read this statement in so many travel blogs. After 1 month in Cambodia, crossing 4 countries, we want to reveal how much we spent on accommodation, transport, food and activities.
We wanted to prove it: Is Cambodia really as cheap as many travelers claim?
All our expenses refer to our Cambodia Budget Guide where you will find all information based on our travel route. We were surprised about how much less we spent compared to the said travel blogs. However Cambodia was not as cheap as it was apparently a few years ago. Especially in the tourist hot spots Phnom Penh and Siem Reap prices are rising. The provinces, like Kampot and Battambang were more wallet friendly.
After breaking down all expenses we’re satisfied with our daily budget of $13, including all transport costs such as renting a motorbike, taking inland buses, paying entrance fees, sampling street food and enjoying evening beers in good company.
Cambodia mainly uses the US dollar ($/USD). The value of the Cambodian riel (៛/KHO) is linked to the US$ and is only used for prices under a dollar, basically functioning as cents to a dollar. The value of $1 is usually quite close to €1.
Our biggest expense was getting into the country (visa on arrival: $30) and then to get to the center. Tuktuk prices from the airport are fixed and overpriced but we paid less as we could share the ride with others.
Visa on arrival: $30 each
Tuktuk from airport: $6
When looking around for accommodation, we didn’t find any cheap private rooms so we stayed in a dorm room for $3 each.
Dorm room: $3 each
For food, we were initially shocked at the prices. Nowhere in our area could we find cheap food. Just tourist-oriented restaurants. We gave in to our hunger and spend too much until we finally found better places. We then found a vegetarian place with great food and (relatively) good prices. For desert, we found an ice cream shop called Dairy Queen. They had very delicious ice cream cones for $0.50. After traveling for about two months, Cambodia was the first place with affordable beer ($0.50 for a draft beer).
Draft beer: $0.50
Ice cream cone: $0.50
The cheapest place to buy anything in Phnom Penh is on the market or from street vendors:
Two dresses and a shirt: $8.50
Unknown street food: $0.25
As we made a trip to the Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum, we spent a lot in one day. For both places, we had to pay $3 entrance (they charge $6 if you want an audio guide) and the tuktuk to take us cost a total of $16, which we shared with another couple.
Entrance killing fields: $3 each
Entrance genocide museum: $3 each
Phnom Penh totals
Entrance fees: $12
Eating out: $22.35
Ice cream: $4
Other food and drinks: $10.95
Total spendings Phnom Penh: $158.55
Total spendings Phnom Penh per day per person: $26.43
Total spendings Phnom Penh per day per person excluding visa, entrance fees and tuktuks: $11.84
It cost us $6 each to take the bus to Kampot. Kampot was a lot cheaper than Phnom Penh and the cheaper places were also easier to find. For transportation, we rented a scooter. We had to fix the tire once (just like on Bali) but this was quite affordable.
Bus: $6 each
Scooter rental: $4 per day
Fixing tire: $1
Cheap accommodation is easy to find in Kampot, but finding a place that doesn’t have all rooms booked out is a bit harder. When we almost gave up looking, a tuktuk driver brought us to Jack’s House with rooms for $5.
Accommodation: $5 (private room)
Food was cheaper; there was a lot of good street food, although in the more “local” places they are not very helpful towards foreigners – no menu, no English. Also, the restaurants were cheaper than in Phnom Penh if you stay away from the waterside restaurants (tourist hotspot).
Fruit shake: $0.50
10 spring rolls: $1
Food and drinks: $55.20
Entrance to Bokor National Park: $0.50
Scooter rental: $12 (3 days)
Accommodation: $25 (5 nights)
Total spendings Kampot: $111.60
Total spendings Kampot per person per day: $9.30
It cost us $12 each to take the bus to Battambang. We thought Battambang was really boring so we didn’t do very much here. Everybody was coming here for the bamboo train and the sunset bat spectacle at the Killing Caves. You can read more about that in our Cambodia Guide.
We mostly ate some street food or $1.50 noodles as the other places were too expensive here. Accommodation was the cheapest in all Cambodia; we spent only $3 a night for a private room (Tomato Guesthouse).
Accommodation: $12 (4 nights)
Food and drinks: $39.30
Total costs Battambang: $75.30
Total costs Battambang per person per day: $9.41
Cambodia was already more expensive than we anticipated but when we arrived in Siem Reap, we were shocked once again. Siem Reap knocks them all out.
We paid $6 each for the bus to Siem Reap, not too much for such a long ride but we then spent hours walking around to find affordable accommodation. We spent the first night in a $10 room – which actually was a good price for the luxury we got – but we found a cheaper place nearby where we spent 10 more nights.
Accommodation: $10 (fancy room)
Accommodation: $7 (regular room)
It would be nonsense to not visit Angkor Wat once we’re here. For $20 per person, the entrance fee is very high. Then, you still need to find transportation. Renting a scooter in Siem Reap is no option. Prices start at $10 but go as high as $16 per day. A tuktuk cost $16 but we could share it with others.
Tuktuk to Angkor Wat: $8
Entrance to Angkor Wat: $20 each
Luckily, despite all the expensive resorts and restaurants, there were some cheap places nearby so we could keep costs for food down. Street food (apart from fried noodles – they’re cheaper) and fruit shakes were all more expensive than elsewhere. It’s not much more expensive but it all adds up, especially since we stayed in Siem Reap for such a long time.
Fruit shake: $0.75
Fried noodles: $1
The markets here are still affordable:
Flip flops: $2
4 shirts: $8 ($2 each)
Totals Siem Reap
Angkor Wat (entrance and tuktuk): $48
Clothes, book, sunglasses: $16.90
In Indian restaurant Taj Mahal, they not only have good food but also beer for $0.38. We took advantage of this offer so our beer spendings are a bit higher for Siem Reap. During the day, we usually drank some shakes to cool us down ($0.75 each). Cheap restaurants were easier to find, so we managed to keep our food spendings relatively low.
Fruit shakes: $15.75
Food and drinks: $90.16
Total spendings Siem Reap: $283.48
Total spendings Siem Reap per person per day: $11,81
Our spendings per category:
Food and drinks: $264.41
Total spendings Cambodia: $628.93
Total spendings Cambodia per person per day: $13.10
Our food spendings were relatively high. Although eating in restaurants and from street vendors is relatively cheap, consider that portions are usually small so it won’t fill you up for long. Also, if you want to eat something other than fried rice or noodles, prices go up drastically.
People who say Cambodia is cheap, may compare it to eating out every day in their own country but also consider that supermarkets don’t exist and you will never find accommodation with its own kitchen. At home, you can throw a $1 deepfreeze pizza in the oven; here, your only option is to buy a $6 flavorless pizza with only ketchup as a topping.
As for accommodation, it’s true that cheap accommodation still exists but you won’t find it in either Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. Unfortunately, we spent most of our time there.
Activities for tourists are extremely overpriced. This is one reason why we were not able to do very much in Cambodia – especially Siem Reap. It’s not just Angkor Wat ($20) but – for example – just to see the waterfall near Siem Reap, foreigners have to pay a $20 entrance fee. This, of course, doesn’t include your 2-hour transportation. Consider that’s the amount of money we spend in two days.