While luxury is definitely on the rise in Cambodia, the country remains a budget travellers’ dream, with cheap accommodation, food and attractions aplenty. That means dollars in the country can go a long way for the frugal-minded – and even further for those who have perfected their haggling skills. Here’s how to make $500 last for one month and a breakdown of how.
The country’s traditionally cheap price tags make it a magnet for backpackers and budget travellers. The result is a swathe of cheap guesthouses and dorms all competing for your attention in an increasingly competitive market. Dorms are the cheapest way to go – and you don’t need to stay in a grotty joint to get more bang for your buck because there are plenty of decent flashpacker-style places offering a bed for the night and a hot shower. Dorms average at about $5 a night.
With a budget of $500, you’re going to have to eat like a local, and the markets and street food carts will become your best friends. Street food dishes of noodles, soups and rice will set you back by about $2 a meal, and you can join in the food frenzy that takes over the streets every morning, noon and night as plastic tables and chairs are thrown up on the sidewalks to cater to the feasting crowds. Stock up on fruit from the markets for breakfast, and if you’re feeling peckish throughout the day, then street snacks such as chek chien – fried banana – are sold throughout the country for 25 cents.
While you’ll not be paying the top dollar you may well fork out for taxis back at home, transport in Cambodia is no longer that cheap. And tuk-tuks are definitely going to be out of your price range. Motos are a cheaper alternative, but if you plan on exploring on two wheels every day, the cost will soon add up. Instead, hire a bicycle, with prices starting from $1 a day or – if the traffic doesn’t terrify you – a motorbike, with prices starting from $50 a month. Getting around the country won’t break the bank either, with mini-buses available for a few bucks.
This cost all depends on what you want to do. Some say no trip to Cambodia is complete without a visit to Angkor Wat, but that will see you blow more than half of your month’s budget. A one-day pass costs $37, with tuk-tuks adding at least another $15. Many other attractions are relatively cheap, with a visit to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum costing $5, and the National Museum and Royal Palace charging $10 each.
Getting your cultural fix within budget is easy, with many functioning temples free to enter and explore – just remember to keep the knees and shoulders covered. However, leaving a 2,000 riel (50 cents) donation in the box will be appreciated. Some, such as Wat Phnom in Phnom Penh, charge a $1 fee. Wat Langka, also in the capital, offers free meditation classes led by monks throughout the week.
Picking up some souvenirs can also come within budget, with the markets awash with bargains waiting to be had. Just remember, they love to haggle in Cambodia and will have hiked up the price about threefold for tourists. Keep the deal-making light, smile and slowly walk away if they say no. If they don’t call you back, then you went too low.
If you want to factor some booze into your budget, then you’re in the right place because local beer is dirt cheap. Find yourself a comfortable looking beer garden, and you’ll pay about $1 for a glass of Angkor or Cambodia beer. And during happy hour, which usually runs from about 4 pm to 7 pm, there is a swathe of places offering beer for 50 cents and super cheap cocktails.