Cambodia is part of the common Southeast Asia backpacking route. Temples such as Angkor Wat, the museums in Phnom Penh, and the beautiful beaches of Koh Rong attracts thousands of backpackers. And like its neighbouring countries, your money stretches far here and in this blog post I will show you how to spend less than $50 CAD per day in Cambodia.
Before we start, just an FYI that Cambodia uses the USD and the Cambodian Riel. While I did pay some stuff in Riel, I am going to put everything in USD for ease. It is common to pay in dollars and receive change (anything smaller than $1 USD) in Riels, which you can use for buying smaller items. Most stores use the exchange at 4000 Riel to $1 USD, unless otherwise stated.
As Cathay Pacific and British Airways are both part of the Oneworld airline alliance, I was able to redeem 7,500 British Airways Avios points and $69.41 CAD in taxes and fees for a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Phnom Penh. When I was looking for flights, the cheapest I could find was $263 CAD and that was one with a layover. When looking at the market value (I am an accountant if you didn’t already know), this exact ticket that I got was $950 CAD! So using my frequent flyer points saved me quite a bit of money.
Food & Drinks
I didn’t get a chance to eat a lot of Cambodian dishes due to a number of reasons. Since Cambodia was my last Southeast Asian country I visited, I started craving more western foods. It doesn’t help that Cambodia has a lot of western dishes available for reasonable prices. Like anywhere else, be wary of the many touristy restaurants that charge high prices. I’m looking at you Pub Street at Siem Reap.
My experience with Cambodian cuisine is that lots of black pepper is used in many of its popular dishes, like Amok and Lok Lak.
Here are some the things I ate and drank in Cambodia and what they cost:
- Amok fish $5.50 USD. This traditional Cambodian dish consists of freshwater fish steamed in a savoury coconut-based curry. The one I had was fragrant and zesty.
- Beef Lok Lak $3.75 USD. Another traditional dish, its stir-fried marinated, cubed beef served with rice. The taste of this beef was also zesty as it uses lime juice and was very peppery.
- BBQ meat with baguette $1.88 USD
- Papaya salad and BBQ chicken $1.90 USD
- Fried noodles at Siem Riep’s night market $1 USD
- Caesar salad $3.50 USD
- Domino’s “medium” pizza $4 USD. This medium size pizza is more like a personal size back at home
- Dine in complete darkness while being served by blind waiters at Dine in the Dark $22.50 USD. While I think its a bit pricey for what it is, it was a great experience not being able to see your food, guessing to what you are eating and judging everything by its taste.
- “Happy” Pizza $6 USD
- Fruit shake $1 USD
- Medium taro Cha Time $2 USD
The roads in Cambodia were one of the worst I experienced. In fact, only about 50 percent of the roads and highways in the country were covered with asphalt. The roads were often not well maintained and was full of potholes. Especially riding in the back of a minivan, you will feel all those holes. Buses and minivans are the most popular ways of getting around the country as they are cheap and go pretty much everywhere in the country.
Here are the bus/minivan journeys I took in Cambodia:
For booking transportation within Cambodia, I suggest using 12go.asia as I found their website have the best prices for booking trains, buses, transfers. They are convenient and I personally received great customer service from them. I was able to get a last minute partial refund from a train ticket in Vietnam even though I booked the wrong date.
Just like the rest of Southeast Asia, Grab is present in the country and is a great and cheap way to get around. There are even Grab tuk tuks available, which I haven’t seen anywhere else. For an example I took a Grab tuk from my hostel in Siem Reap to the airport (9 km) for $3.88 USD
The country is home to full of cheap accommodations. Places like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, there are hundreds of affordable hostels, guesthouses, hotels to choose from. Here are the places I stayed in Cambodia and some of my comments.
Feliz Hostel Cafe & Bar for 2 nights at $8.32 USD per night
This place felt more like a boutique hotel than a hostel! It is a great place if you want a nice quiet place. Coming from a hectic schedule in Hong Kong, I wanted a couple of days to rest and take it easy. Feliz had comfy beds with privacy curtains on bottom bunks (which I got!) and clean facilities. They have a restaurant and a bar (rooftop too!) on site and the food from the restaurant was delicious and very reasonably priced. The hostel is located in the nicest area of Phnom Penh, Boeung Keng Kang (BKK), where many of Cambodia’s expats live. I have never seen so many Range Rovers in my life staying around the area. There are many western restaurants, cafes, and bars around. The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21 Prison) is also close by (20 min walk).
The Big Easy Phnom Penh for 2 nights at $8 USD per night
A hostel in a more backpacker setting. Think cheap bars and street food (night market is 10 mins walk away). You get a really big bed (probably the biggest bed I’ve had in a hostel dorm) and privacy curtains. There is also a bar downstairs where you can get decent affordable western food. The hostel is located right near the Royal Palace.
The Place for 3 nights at $5.55 USD per night
Since Battambang is pretty small, everything from this hostel is pretty much walking distance. This hostel has a rooftop bar and hospitable staff. Unfortunately, one drawback is that there is only one shower per dorm room. FREE filtered water at the hostel is a plus!
Cozy Cloud for 3 nights at $5.67 USD per night
This hostel is a pretty chill hostel with a pool and a nice common area to hang out. The beds and room are clean and well maintained. It is also at a great location, not too close to the loud and crowded pub street but close enough to walk to it (10 mins walk). The hostel also arranges tuk tuks to Angkor Wat which you can share with other guests. Unfortunately, one drawback is that there is only one washroom per dorm room so try to get a four bed dorm room. Also another hostel with FREE filtered water.
Coming into Cambodia, I was interested in the history of the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian Genocide. Often neglected in the rest of the world, this tragedy happened not that long ago, and many Cambodians today were affected from this event.
- Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21 Prison) and audio guide $8 USD. This museum was a school that was converted into Cambodia’s most important prison during the Khmer Rouge. Thousands were tortured here before being killed here or at the Killing Fields
- The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek and audio guide $4.5 USD. I shared the audio guide as it has two headphone jacks. One of the hundreds of killing fields scattered throughout the country. Prisoners were murdered in the most horrific ways here. Both are eye opening experiences and are musts when in Phnom Penh.
- Roam around Phnom Penh’s Central Market. This is where you can find anything and everything in Cambodia. You can also see people getting their haircut right across fresh seafood being sold
- Ride the bamboo train at Battambang $5 USD if you share with another person
- Battambang’s Phnom Sampeu $1 USD. A hill with a killing cave of the Khmer Rouge. Here is where you can also witness thousands of bats exiting a cave at sunset.
- Floating village tour $18 USD. Unfortunately, it was the dry season so the village was not floating on water. Make sure to go when the water levels is right.
Angkor Archaeological Park
Angkor Archaeological Park contains the remains of the capital city of the Khmer Empire. It is more famous for containing the Temple of Angkor Wat. This is the BIG attraction of Cambodia as you can see from the flag of Cambodia. Angkor Wat is considered the largest religious monuments in the world.
The hostel I stayed at arranged a tuk tuk to drive us around the little circuit for sunrise, which included notable sights such as:
We got here when it was still dark at around 4:30 AM and there was already a crowd gathering around the two ponds in front of the temple waiting for the sunrise. I was hesitant on seeing it during sunrise as I heard mixed reviews, but I was glad I did it. Not only the views at sunrise was beautiful, you are able to explore the temple early in the morning before the huge crowds. After the sunrise, I highly suggest going straight to the centre of the temple, as there is a line to get in the centre towers. Here you can see the view of the whole temple and the surrounding area. The temple is massive in size and you can spend hours exploring very nook and canny.
Another collection of temples near by, its famous for Bayon which has the giant stone faces that adorn its towers.
Unlike other temples, Ta Prohm is pretty much in the same condition when it was found. There are trees growing out of the ruins and jungle surrounding the temple. It is also famous for being in Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider. As the much of the temple has not been restored yet, I felt like Indiana Jones (minus all the tourists) exploring ancient ruins.
I got a one day ticket which costs $37 USD. I thought this was enough as towards the end of the little circuit, I was “templed” out and they all started to look the same. If you are interested there are other options to the one day ticket as are a three-day ticket for $62 USD and a seven-day ticket for $72 USD.
Here are my miscellaneous expenses while in Cambodia:
- A 30 day VISA on arrival for Canadians and many other nationalities $30 USD
- A Passport photo for the VISA $3 USD. Unfortunately, I forgot my passport photos in my checked in bag.
- ATM fee $5 USD with ANZ. I tried with other banks, it seems like this is the going rate across all banks. Make sure you dont pay any additional fees by using a debit card that doesn’t charge you for any foreign transaction fees. If you are from Canada, I recommend using STACK!
- Laundry for 2.6 KG of my clothes came to $2.60 USD
The Sum Of How To Spend Less Than $50 CAD Per Day in Cambodia
I found Cambodia to be a bit more expensive than its neighbours, Thailand and Vietnam. I think a big reason is that they use the USD for their main form of currency. Locals will try getting more money from you by charging US Dollars rather than Cambodian Riel for small things like food.
For the 11 days I was there, I spent a total of $530.91 CAD which comes out to $48.26 per day! Eating lots of western food added to my food & drinks budget to the point that it was the biggest category of my trip. Spending more time in Cambodia (in the Cambodian islands) and eating more local foods, will save you more money, and you can definitely have a budget of around $35 CAD per day while backpacking in Cambodia.