Once upon a time, Cambodia was known as a hotspot for backpackers who wanted to do things cheaply. From food to guest houses and more, Cambodia always seemed to make the list of countries you could easily do for under $30/day. I do not think that is true any longer, especially in Siem Reap, and especially if you want to see Angkor Wat. You might be able to do it, but you’d have to make some rough sacrifices (like riding an actual bicycle, not an e-bike or tuk tuk to the temples).
I think one of the things that makes it expensive is that the currency used here is USD – the only time you’ll get Cambodian currency is for making change less than $1. When priced in USD, things end up getting more expensive – it’s easier for them to charge $1 for water or something because 1 is such a small number. But compared to the rest of Southeast Asia, that’s pretty pricey.
Overall, for five days and five nights in Siem Reap, I spent $577.21 USD.
How did that work out?
This was getting from Coron (a pretty small place) to Siem Reap, so it was a bit more expensive. I flew through Manila, and flew on Cebu Pacific.
Americans need visas to get into Cambodia. It’s a super simple process when you get to the airport and then you can pay and go through immigration. Just don’t forget to bring $30 cash (exact change) and a passport photo (though if you don’t have one I think it’s easy to do there and just pay like $5 extra).
This area was a bit of a splurge (lol), as I decided I would want to stay in a single room in a somewhat nicer hotel. I found a cute one that was under $30 per night, so stayed there. It wasn’t quite what I’d normally call a splurge, but it was compared to the dorms in the Philippines!
One thing I realized with this is that I do like hostels better than hotels. I think part of the reason I disliked Cambodia was that I didn’t meet anyone to experience it with – which I would have had I stayed in a hostel.
I didn’t spend much on transportation that wasn’t part of Angkor Wat activities. It was only the ride from the airport ($12) and the ride to get my ticket ($5). Though I’m still annoyed at myself for not doing a better job coordinating the airport pickup with the hotel so I didn’t spend that $12! (It’s funny how perspective changes when things are crazy cheap and when I’m publicly sharing details… At home I would never notice a wasted $12.)
I had a free breakfast at my hotel daily (and it was pretty good!) so that filled me up for most of the day and then I tended to have one big meal late in the afternoon. I was surprised how expensive the food here was. I wanted comfort food one night and so I ordered fish and chips and a western-style restaurant. Yes, western food is more expensive – but for fish and chips and two cans of Sprite, it was $9.25. I feel like that’s not too far off what I would pay at home.
I also spent money almost every day on buying what they call “fried ice cream” here – at home it’s the new “Thai-style rolled ice cream” but it’s delicious and frequently served as street food here. Still, a bowl of that is $2.50 and for the same level of basic rolled ice cream in the States it’s about $5.
Also, my food costs are much cheaper because I’m still not drinking alcohol. On the plus side, I haven’t had a crazy headache on the trip yet. (knocking on wood now…) Not sure if that’s the lack of alcohol or the lack of stress, but I’m not fiddling with it now that I’ve got a good thing going!
Siem Reap is all about Angkor Wat – so I spent $62 on my three-day admission ticket and spent the rest on transportation around it. One day I went in a tuk-tuk, and the other two days I used an e-bike.
At home I thought it was a great idea to buy an ultralight packable daypack and use that for during the day and then only have my main backpack to use between cities. I did not think that one through all the way. The ultralight backpack ended up being my flight carry-on, and it was not made for a laptop, laptop charger, DSLR, GoPro, jacket, and other miscellaneous things. So as the first casualty of the trip, I noticed it starting to get a hole in the bottom.
Given the valuable nature of what I frequently carry in there, I didn’t want to chance it splitting open in an airport and dropping my laptop, etc. (Which would totally happen to me.) So I went to the market here and got a great
fake definitely real North Face backpack. I’m surprised at the quality but the details seem to be pretty well-done – the padding is where it should be, the interior pockets are right, the zippers are facing inside for additional water-resistance, and the inside of the fabric is also coated for water-resistance. We’ll see how long it lasts! But I already like it much more than the daypack.
I bought my first souvenirs of the trip! I bought a pair of Cambodia pants and a Cambodia skirt. Both of them are great for temples (not great for real modesty) – they’re both wrap-around and very flowy, so if I wear Nike shorts under them I can easily go from temple to temple and then put the pants/skirt on over my shorts when I get to the temple. I thought I’d use these in Myanmar too (at the very least), so decided to pay the $6. However, if they don’t make it home with me, I’ll live.
Ultimately, it came out to an average of about $115.44 per day. This was mostly due to the fact that the days I spent here were touring days for Angkor Wat and due to flight costs. I targeted my non-flight/visa costs to be under $70/day, and came in at $67.64. (My flights and visas come out of separate budgets, so when I budget per country per day it’s without those included.)
I’m glad I came to Cambodia – seeing Angkor Wat was truly magnificent. However, I’m very ready to leave and did not fall in love with the country. I think it’s the first country I’ve been to that I didn’t fall in love with. I might give it another chance later on and go to Kep/Kampot/etc but for now it’s not high on my list. On to Myanmar!