Before I got to Cambodia, I kept hearing ‘it’s so cheap’, ‘food will cost you pennies, hostels will cost you pennies’ and so on…
We were in for a surprise. I can safely say that I spent more in one week in Cambodia than I did in nearly 2 1/2 weeks in Thailand or Vietnam.
It seems that Cambodia is developing so rapidly that prices are being hiked up drastically year on year. For example, tickets to the Angkor Wat temple complex in Siem Reap for foreign visitors have almost doubled in price over the past 2 years. In 2016 tourists paid $20 for a one-day pass, $40 for 3 days and $60 for a seven day pass. Now, visitors will pay $37, $62 and $72, respectively.
Bareing this in mind, Freddie and I looked for ways to keep our costs down whilst still seeing the main sights that we were interested in. In some areas, this proved more difficult than in others!
Tips for Keeping Costs Down:
1. Be choosy about your experiences:
In Thailand and Vietnam, I always wanted to tick every possible museum and attraction off my list. In Cambodia, I had to be more selective and decide whether or not each visit was worth the money.
It’s a good idea to do some research and make a note of places you know you won’t want to miss. For me, these places were The Killing Fields and S21 Prison, the island of Koh Rong Samloem and Angkor Wat. By knowing what my necessary expenditures would be, I was able to miss out some sights that were expensive and didn’t interest me as much. It also meant I made sure to look for the best deals available.
2. Keep track of your spending:
By tracking your spending, you are able to visualise 1) big spends that you could potentially minimise e.g. accommodation costs 2) little spends that add up to big spends e.g drinking 5 coffees a day 3) your daily / weekly budget.
I’ve found using an app like Trabee Pocket (free on iOS) really helpful as I can add categories such as ‘Accommodation’, ‘Sightseeing’ or ‘Food’ and it allows me to see what I am really spending my money on.
3. DIY experiences:
Often, booking tours means that you pay a few dollars extra to the agency / hostel / hotel as a kind-of booking fee. By cutting out the middle man, you can save yourself a few $ here and there. Yes, it may be logistically easier for someone to do the work for you, but every little helps when you are backpacking!
4. Share the costs
For our visit to the Killing Fields, S21 Prison and Angkor Wat, we cut our transport costs by sharing tuk-tuks with another couple we met in Phnom Penh. This was a great way for us to save money on what could otherwise be very expensive transport (especially to Angkor Wat).
5. Eat like a local as much as possible
I’ve still not quite got this one down myself, but eating at local restaurants / street food stalls is a great money-saver. Restaurants catered for tourists will typically have much higher prices, so visit them sparingly, in order to keep the pennies in check.
6. Make small purchases in Cambodian Riel
In Cambodia, US Dollars are the primary currency, however Cambodian Riel is often accepted. For small purchases, like water or snacks, it can be cheaper to pay in Riel than in Dollars. Try to keep a selection of Dollar bills and Riel with you.