This is what it cost us to travel in Cambodia for 20 days, with some other useful information about the country.
Getting a Visa for Cambodia is very easy – you can get it on arrival and it only costs $20 for 30 days. As long as you show up at the airport or border crossing with a passport photo and some crisp US Dollar bills, you’ll have no problems.
They will (at the land border with Thailand at least) accept Thai baht but at a poor exchange rate. There are some other difficulties and added costs coming across from land, which we covered here. I have never arrived by air but I suspect it would be be easier.
Cambodia uses an unusual split currency system. US Dollars are used for the majority of transactions, but Cambodian Rial is always used for anything below $1 as no American coinage is used. 4000 riel = $1. But it’s not as simple as that. There are plenty of large Riel notes, such as 20,000 which is equivalent to $5 and will be accepted anywhere. You may get change back in a mixture of dollars and riel. You could pay for something worth $50 totally in riel.
It sounds confusing and you do need to watch out what you’re paying with and make sure you arn’t giving too much and also that your bizarre mixture of change is all correct. What I noticed was that riel was used far more than when I visited 5 years ago – I don’t remember seeing 10,000 and 20,000 notes before but that could just be coincidence.
As with most Asian countries, large bills can be a problem. And of course, $100 bills seem to be what comes out of every ATM (Always dollars from ATM’s, never riel). To save the aggro of changing them, I used ATMs attached to large banks while they were open, if I got $100 bills I went straight inside with my receipt and asked for smaller bills. They were fine about this.
In theory dollars are supposed to be in perfect condition or they will not be accepted, and that is probably true for higher value notes. But in practice, there are plenty of tatty $1 bills. Make sure you change or spend any riel before you leave the country as it is worthless once you leave.
What Did We Spend?
These costs are over 20 days/19 nights.
Accomodation – £258.66 (average of £13.61 per night)
Eating Out – £249.91
Transport – £140.81
Attractions – £68.66
Groceries – £51.40
Misc – £53.40
Coffee/Drinks/Snacks – £33.05
Alcohol – £23.39
Shopping – £15.52
Petrol – £7.22
Laundry – £4.90
Uncategorized – £2.99 (no idea what this is – should be in one of the above!)
Total – £909.90
Per Day – £45.49
All in USD
Basic Room – $7 – $10
Good room – $15 – $25
Average dish in a restaurant – $2 – $5
Average street food – $0.50 – $1
Draught Angkor beer – $0.50 – $1.50
Can of beer from a shop – $0.45 – $0.75
Short Tuk Tuk ride – $2
Hiring a Tuk Tuk and driver for a day – $15-20
Long distance bus – $9 – $15
Motorbike rental for 1 day – $5 – $7
Now this all looks quite cheap. And it is. So why on earth did we end up over budget? I’m honestly not sure. We got no flights, there were no expensive Visas and most sightseeing is low cost with the exception of Angkor Wat.
All I can think is that we overdid it on food (look at our eating out cost!) Because dollars are a familiar currency, seeing something in a restaurant for $4 looks really cheap, whereas if we saw the same amount in Thai baht for example, it would look expensive.
Transport also adds up. 5 years ago, $1 was a standard price for a Tuk Tuk ride around town, now it is $2 minimum. It doesn’t sound much but for that money you would get an air conditioned meter taxi for a longer distance in Thailand or the Philippines.
Haggling with drivers becomes a daily occurence. I felt a bit guilty as they need to earn a living but also spending $10-15 a day getting around town is a lot of money when you’re travelling on a budget. I think they think the cost is nothing to westerners but it adds up.
In general though Cambodia is still very cheap. Rooms can be had for very little, however we do tend to pick places with a bit more comfort unless we’re just there for one night. Eating is cheap, and drinking is absurdly cheap (wahey!)
Khmer cuisine is a mixture. It has plenty of it’s own dishes, but also tons of influence from Thailand and Vietnam. This means that sometimes you’ll look a menu and there will be few genine Khmer specialties.
Amok is the most famous, a mild curry, usually with fish and an egg stirred into it for thickness, served in a banana leaf. Done well it can taste incredible, though we had some bland ones too. Lok Lak is the other staple, stir fried marinated beef served with a fried egg on top.
There are other curry dishes, my favourite being Saraman – a thick beef curry flavoured with tamarind, peanuts and some dry spices. It arrived looking like an Indian curry but the taste was different. Probably one of the best currys I have ever eaten.
A version of Vietnamese Banh Mi is available sometimes, usually with less fresh herbs but still delicous. We were sad we didn’t see this more! But bread in general is excellent due to the French influence. I particularly liked baguettes filled with shredded pork.
A common snack sold on the street or at bus stations is sticky rice baked in bamboo, usually with a mild coconut flavour and sometimes with beans. It looks unhygenic but the bamboo is sealed both ends and as it’s cooked it should usuallt be safe. It is a pain in the arse to eat though.
Noodle soup is a very common street food, it is usuallt instant noodles but flavoured without the crappy flavouring that comes in the packets. We didn’t see this but apparently some vendors will serve the soup with the sealed packets still in the bowl, just to prove all the flavour comes from their broth.
And of course if you make it down to Kep, you can’t not try some of it’s famous crab fried with Kampot’s famous peppercorns. We loved it.