Budget Guide: Cambodia
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A Budget Guide for 2 Weeks in Cambodia
Cambodia is very popular on the South East Asia trail, and with gorgeous local people, cheap food and hardly any rules, it’s an easy place to love. The Khmer people have been through hell and back during the Khmer Rouge regime that happened not that long ago, but they can still be seen with a huge smile and an air of optimism. Cambodia is a budget travellers paradise and well worth the horrible border cross from Thailand at Poi Pet.
WHERE TO GO IN CAMBODIA
The tourist trail in Cambodia is fairly well-trodden with a few select hits. I highly recommend Kampot for mountains, rivers and coffee plantations, the beautiful temples of Angkor accessed via Siem Reap, and Koh Rong: a small, established hippy island, as my favourites. Phnom Penh: the bustling, dirty capital and Sihanoukville: a party beach town, is popular as well.
Siem Reap (3-5 days)
Siem Reap is best known for being the city by which the Angkor Wat temples are accessed. The area is very popular with tourists and has become somewhat of a party city. And there isn’t much else to do there other than relax by the pool and eat delicious food.
Things to do in Siem Reap
Angkor Wat temple prices: 1-day = $20, 3-day = $40, 7-day = $60. The fastest and most cost-effective way to get around the temples is to hire a tuk-tuk driver for the day for a set price. We found one for $25 for two days between three of us.
You could also sit by the pool of a fancy hotel: most hotels will let you use the pool for free if you buy food in their restaurant. Get crazy drinking on a night out on Pub Street, or for a detox go to the amazing yoga and meditation retreat Hariharalaya.
READ: Stunning photographs of the Angkor Temples
Where to stay in Siem Reap
Green Town Guesthouse: This was the most budget but convenient guesthouse I found. I was able to barter a long-term stay in a private room for $5 a night.
The Mad Monkey Hostel: The most popular hostel and has its name as a party hostel. The rooftop bar is pretty cool but you can stay somewhere else and just use the bar if you like.
The Siem Reap Hostel: A classy and quiet hostel with a nice pool, only a short walk from town.
Where to eat & drink in Siem Reap
Karo’s Restaurant: This was my most favourite eatery with cheap prices for really delicious traditional Cambodian cuisine and super cheap beer!
Viva Mexican: Cheap tacos and $5 mojito buckets.
BBQ beef skewer place: Where you can delight in five marinated skewers, a traditional pickled salad, bread and a cold tea for 5, 000 Riel ($1.25USD). It’s crazy tasty and oh-so-cheap!
How to get to & from Siem Reap
You’ll get to Siem Reap either by crossing the border from Thailand or by bus/van from Phnom Penh. Bangkok has a bunch of tourist buses doing the cross; loaded with scams and stress. To see how I did the border twice and avoided as many scams as possible read this article.
Leaving Cambodia and heading to Thailand is a much more chilled out journey as there are fewer scams. To get to/from Phnom Penh or Sihanoukville you can use the cheap buses (about $16 for the whole trip) or fast vans (which I do not recommend, here’s why) Both can be booked in any of the tourist offices. Shop around and barter for the cheapest prices. Alternatively look into buying a motorbike to get around Cambodia; it’s a bit dangerous but super fun!
Alternatively look into buying a motorbike to get around Cambodia; it’s a bit dangerous but super fun!
READ: How to cross the border from Thailand to Cambodia without being scammed
Phnom Penh (2 days)
A big, dirty, busy and disheartening city that a lot of tourists skip since there isn’t much to go there for. But don’t skip it because the one horribly sad thing that you can do there: the Killing Fields, is definitely worth it.
This place has a bad reputation as being full of prostitutes, however, the Cambodian culture here is strong and never ceases to challenge my ideas as to what I think it is to be alive.
Things to do in Phnom Penh
As bad as it is to hear about what happened here, you MUST do a day tour of the Killing Fields and S21 prison. It was what has made Cambodia the country it is today. Most do this booking a tuk-tuk driver to take you around for the day. Barter with guys on the street for low prices or grab one through your hostel for safety/reliability.
Other things you can do are a walk along the promenade, check out the crazy central market or eat yummy foods, nom nom nom.
Where to stay in Phnom Penh
11 Happy Backpackers: A big backpackers with a rad rooftop area, comfy lounges, pool table, etc. Highly recommend.
Velkomenn Backpackers: Cramped and hot, but a fun hostel with really cool people working there.
Where to eat & drink in Phnom Penh
With a vast array of delectable street food, I hardly ate anything else in Phnom Penh except a couple of un-memorable restaurants. But I did come across this comprehensive cheap food guide while researching. A nice place to have a couple of drinks and meet other travellers is the rooftop bar of 11 Happy Backpackers.
How to get to & from Phnom Penh
Coming to/from Siem Reap you’ll be catching the cheap 7-hour bus or van for about $16 USD. Sihanoukville is even cheaper/easier at $10 for the 4-hour trip. Sometimes cheap flights can be found but are generally never as cheap as catching the bus.
If heading to Thailand from here, I would recommend an Air Asia flight overtaking the bus as it is around the same price but way quicker and less stressful.
Sihanoukville (1-3 days)
Teeming with backpackers and parties, Serendipity closely resembles the beaches in Thailand with fires on the shore, British travellers offering free drink vouchers at bars, and rubbish everywhere. But this is where you get the ferry to Koh Rong Island and organise a Vietnamese visa, so a couple of nights here might be necessary.
If you’re anything like me, you’d rather stay on Otres Beach, a smaller and quieter stretch a couple of kilometres out of town with a laid-back vibe and cooler people.
Highlights and things to do in Sihanoukville
Laze, party, laze, repeat. You can choose to have a quiet time here or rage all night at epic beach parties. Most of the accommodation is going to be right near the beach so laying in deck chairs sipping cocktails and relaxing watching the sunrise/sunset is high on the list.
There is also diving, a waterfall and a national park nearby. You can get a ferry to Koh Rong and Koh Rong Saloem, or do a day tour to the islands.
Where to stay in Sihanoukville
The first two of my recommendations are for Otres Beach as that is where I preferred to stay.
Moonlight Rock Resort: Ridiculously cheap ($3 pn) and a load of fun. The second I walked in the bar the staff had me under their wing and feeling like family. Just across the road from the beach, it’s big and convenient.
Hacienda: The first hostel I’d ever stayed in that offered a free dorm to long-stayers. People who hadn’t yet proven their dedication were priced at $3 pn. This place had a great atmosphere and a beautiful setting but was a short tuk-tuk ride to the beach.
Be mindful that the street between the main drag and Otres beach is dangerous for motorbikes at night. I’m not exactly sure why, but I had a scary thing happen where a motorbike driver demanded more money mid-trip because of “danger” and when talking to expats about it, they affirmed that they only take tuk-tuks at night. Read below…
READ: A Dangerous Drive in Cambodia
How to get to & from Sihanoukville
The bus from Phnom Penh is your easiest option. It only takes 4 hours and costs $10. Coming from Kampot is easy as well; catch the van between the two for $6.
Going from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Island costs $15 return for the slow ferry or $25 return for the fast ferry and includes transfers to/from the pier.
Koh Rong Island (2-5 days)
Koh Rong was probably my favourite place in Cambodia and I made sure I headed back there for NYE after experiencing it a few months earlier. It’s a great mix of chilled small-town vibe, but a few beach bars to ensure you will still socialise and make friends. And the beaches are drop-dead gorgeous. Walk a couple of kilometres and you’ll have them to yourself too!
Things to do on Koh Rong
If you walk North towards the tree houses you can find a track that snakes around the headland and pushes you out onto a deserted white-sand beach called Long Set Beach. That trek will take you about 15-20 mins from the main area.
The other trek is across the island and through the jungle to Sok San beach. This beach has a few food and drink places, so you can stay all day. Watch the sunset then catch the boat back.
There is also great diving and snorkelling that can be done with Koh Rong dive centre. Otherwise: sit back in a hammock, eat a cookie and watch the days laze by.
Where to stay on Koh Rong
I stayed in several places on the small stretch of accommodation. By far the cheapest is any of the local houses to the left of the pier. But to stay here you must cover up when you go into the area, the locals aren’t cool with anything less than shirts and shorts around their homes. If you’re into a more backpacker vibe here are my favourite places:
Vagabonds: a small, hippy hostel with gorgeous painted walls and friendly staff. Super chill, super cheap and right on the water.
Island Boys: More of a party hostel but still a cool place to stay, especially to meet other travellers.
Where to eat & drink on Koh Rong
There is a lot of great western-style food to be found at any of the popular hostels, but my favourite eateries were the ridiculously cheap soup/noodle shacks that the locals ran to the left of the pier. Only $1USD for a whole delicious bowl of soup or the same price for a fresh fruit juice.
Drinking is a different matter as it’s a lot more expensive. Loads of places have happy hours where you can get 2 for 1 if you start early. Just look around for the signs.
How to get to & from Koh Rong Island
There are two ferries to Koh Rong. The cheap and slow, possibly life-threatening way for $15 return and the more expensive, fast and “safer” way for $25 return. I took both and I didn’t find the cheap one to be too bad. We all just slept on the roof amongst cargo. Apparently, they sink a lot though so it depends on you.
The fast and safe are: Speed Ferry and Sea Cambodia. The slow and “unsafe” ferries don’t have websites but tickets can be bought at The Dive Shop, or you can shop around at the Travel Agents for the best price.
Kampot and Kep (2 days)
Kampot is a lush town at the foot of the mountains famous for growing some of the best pepper in the world. And Kep is a small coastal town nearby famous for its delicious crab. I have included them together as they are really close to each other so most backpackers just stay in Kampot and do a day trip to Kep. Kampot is a surprisingly beautiful town and there is a lot to do there.
Things to do in Kampot & Kep
Hire a motorbike and drive to the mountaintop of Bokor National Park. There is an amazing view to eat some crackers upon, a waterfall and a collection of abandoned buildings to sneak into. Be sure to check out the abandoned church and casino.
You can also do a tuk-tuk day tour of the pepper plantations and surrounds, as well as Kep. Also, hire a canoe and paddle around the lake at sunset or do some yoga by the river.
Where to stay in Kampot
Ganesha: We were highly recommended to stay here and it was absolutely amazing! Settled right on a river just out of town it has waterfront bungalows and tree houses to choose from.
Samon Village: I visited this place when a friend was staying there and it was just heavenly. With the common area jutting out over the water, a swimming spot and a very cool bunch of people staying there, it looked like an ideal backpackers spot.
Where to eat in Kampot
There are a bunch of delicious noodle street food stalls lined up along the river, which are tasty and cheap. If you’re heading to Kep, the Kampot pepper crab from one of the shacks is a must try. It’s fresh, delicious and cheap.
There are also cool hammock restaurants in front of Kep Beach where you can order food to be cooked fresh and delivered to your hammock in the shade.
How to get to & from Kampot
The most cost-effective way is the bus/vans that run between Kampot and Sihanoukville. They can be booked at any tour office and cost $5 for the 2-hour trip.
You can also get to/from the Vietnam border (Ha Tien) for the same price in a van. Once you have crossed the border there are buses in Vietnam that will take you to Ho Chi Minh City overnight.
READ: Tips to travel Cambodia on the cheap!
My BUDGET BREAKDOWN
|PLACE||Daily Average in USD|
|TOTAL Daily Average||$24.74|
|Kampot & Kep||$33.83|
Currency: 2 Currencies – USD and Cambodian Riel (KHR, ៛)
$1 USD = ៛4, 000
I was here: September & December 2013
Post Updated: 18th October 2017