How Much Did We Spend in Cambodia?

July 8, 2013 — 13 Comments
How Much Did We Spend in Cambodia?  Angkor Wat

Jocelyn and I standing in Preah Khan Temple within the “Angkor” complex

Overall score (Dan) = B-
Overall score (Jocelyn) = B-

Total days = 8 nights, 9 days
Total cost = $889
Cost per day = $98.78/day
Flight costs = None, took the bus from Bangkok

Cambodia Spending Summary

We didn’t know what to expect from Cambodia, but from the beginning it was always one of the countries we were the most worried about. We didn’t have any real reasons for worrying, but it’s one of those places you never hear much good about and “ending up in a Cambodian prison” just had a certain ring to it!

Cambodia is a country coming back from the brink of destruction after decades under a cruel dictator and a non-supportive world. Much of our time was spent learning about the atrocities that happened under their Dictator, Pol Pot, along with the destruction they received from the Vietnam War and the decades of abandonment by the world after.

Pol Pot was the worst though. In his attempt to create a Socialist Agrarian Society, he celebrated poor rural farmers and used the kids as soldiers against the “urban” people because he saw them as evil. He evacuated the cities and either killed its inhabitants – including anyone with an education or even glasses – or sent them into the fields. Their people have been through hell.

However, you wouldn’t ever suspect that when you talk to Cambodians. The people were genuinely nice and had a gentleness about them that was almost incomprehensible after we visited the Killing Fields and torture centers where Pol Pot carried out his atrocities. They were inquisitive with Westerners and were more likely to respond with a smile than any other reaction. We loved Cambodia mostly because of its people.

Monk sitting in Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Monk sitting in Angkor Wat

How far does your money go in Cambodia?

As Cambodia is still developing as a country, their currency (Cambodian Riel) isn’t used as much as their “primary currency” which is the US Dollar. It was really strange to go to the ATM and pull out US dollars. However, they don’t have any US change, so instead of quarter and dimes, they would use the Riel!

Cambodia is pretty cheap which I’ll highlight below. One US Dollar equals roughly 4,000 Riel, but as I mentioned most things were priced in US dollar.

Spending details

I’ll include the full spending details on the bottom of the post; here are our per day spending highlights:

Lodging = $36 / day
Food = $25 / day
Excursion = $18 / day

Total hotel points used = None!

The Good –

We didn’t have high expectations for hotels when going into Cambodia because we figured the cities weren’t real developed for tourists. However, after we looked online for hotels and read reviews, our expectations quickly changed. For only $30 per night, we were able to stay in some high-quality places with good internet and cooked-to-order breakfast included in our rate! In fact, we found them to be such good deals that we even skipped staying at a Starwood hotel in Siem Reap on points!

Landing Point Hotel, Siem Reap, Cambodia

A picture of our $30/night hotel in Siem Reap!

Siem Reap is the jumping off point for the Angkor temples. In fact, the temples are only around 5km from the city and we were able to ride our bikes to them. Because of this, the town has grown around tourism and there was a vast array of lodging options – from five star hotels for $1,000 per night to home stays or hostels at $5 per night. Siem Reap’s “Old Market” area is full of restaurants, bars, markets, and spas all catering to the tourists. Many people would see this as a turn off because it’s not “authentic”, but we loved the city and the people within it.

Old Market, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Old Market in Siem Reap was full of westerns and then things they love!

Besides cheap accommodation, we also enjoyed some incredible dishes for less than $4 per plate. It was a little more expensive than Thailand and places in Malaysia, but we were also going to top-rated places on TripAdvisor. One of our favorite things to do was take a bike from our hotel and ride the few kilometers to the Old Market and enjoy the people and sites along the way.

Cambodia food

One of our delicious (and cheap) plates in Cambodia

The Bad

Because of the overall cheapness of Cambodia’s food and lodging, we probably spent a little more than we would have if we were on a strict backpacker budget. Living super cheap was a sacrifice we were willing to make in Australia and New Zealand where it was really expensive, but since we were in a cheaper area, we decided to splurge at the nicer restaurants – which was probably better anyway so we didn’t get sick! Even though I say “splurge”, we rarely spent over $15 total on dinner for both of us.

The excursions were also a little more than we expected. We got a three day pass to the Angkor temples for $40 each and the first day we hired a driver for $35 total. The second day we took the bikes and figured out the driver really wasn’t worth it. A good “middle” compromise was to take the tuk-tuks for a day ($15-$20) but we were happy on our bikes.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Jumping outside of Angkor Wat – because that’s what I do

Preah Khan Temple, Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Preah Khan Temple

After two days exploring the incredible temple complex and and its many ruins, we definitely didn’t feel ripped off by the tickets costs. I always thought Angkor Wat was the only temple there, when in fact there are over 8 temples within a few kilometers of each other! It was one of the places I looked forward to the most on the trip and it didn’t disappoint.

The Ugly

The temples weren’t only for tourists, they were also filled with people selling things and kids begging for money. It was really sad, but NGO’s (non-government organizations) in the town ask you not to give money to the kids because it promotes their begging instead of striving for education and a job. In fact, one couple told us about a young girl (8-10 years old) in Phnom Penh who drugs a baby (presumably her younger sibling) and walks around begging – in hopes the “sleeping” baby would get more money.

Another problem in Cambodia is “voluntourism” where a bus full of people will visit an orphanage for the day. NGOs’ say that orphanages have become a business and many families will give up their young kids in hopes of making more money at an orphanage or because they think that’s their best chance to receive an education. The mostly innocent visitors flock in, take some pictures of cute orphans and hang out while creating attachment issues, donate money, and perpetuate the cycle. We didn’t know about the problem until we talked to some locals, but after we heard about it we definitely didn’t go to one.

poor kids in Cambodia

This guy paid the kids some money so he could take a picture of them… we didn’t pay either of them.

Kids weren’t the only ones involved in corruption – the supposed good guys were involved as well. We first experienced the corruption when we entered the Cambodia border from Thailand and the customs agent tried to skim some money off the top. The $25 visa fee was clearly posted on the wall, but what wasn’t posted was the additional 200 Thai Bhat he tried to get us to pay! Luckily, we read this might be coming and even though the bribe was only around $7 US, we still held our ground and after a few awkward minutes the frustrated officer passed us along and we made it in.

Cambodia border crossing

Waiting to be scammed at the Cambodia crossing from Thailand!

Our other run in with corruption was with a Cambodian police officer who said he would get our Vietnam visas for us. He called our taxi driver over to him where he was standing outside of the Vietnamese embassy in Phnom Penh and tried to get us to turn our passports over to him! He reassured us he’d take care of the visas for us, but luckily this was our return trip to pick up our already submitted visas and passports so we told him we were only picking up.

In Conclusion, our expectations weren’t the highest for Cambodia, but our experiences surpassed any expectations we could’ve imagined. You have to take the good with the bad, but the spirit of the people and the attractions of the country made us want to stay longer than the 9 days we had. But alas, the journey must continue!

For more of our Cambodia adventures, check out Jocelyn’s blog!

Next up: Vietnam

S21 Prison in Phnom Penh Cambodia

Inside the S21 Prison in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Tuk tuk in Phnom Penh

Our favorite way to get around Cambodia – the Cambodian Tuk tuk!

Bayon Temple, Cambodia


A few from our hotel over Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Bayon Temple, Cambodia

Contemplating life in Bayon Temple, Cambodia

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

In many places, the trees have grown into the temples. When the temples were “re-discovered”, many of the trees couldn’t be removed because they were so entwined.

How much did we spend in Cambodia?

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13 responses to How Much Did We Spend in Cambodia?

  1. You have some great pictures here. That hotel room shot looks better than some places I have styled at in the US.

    • Thanks Jon, it really is amazing the quality of rooms and service we can get over here for cheap. We’re getting spoiled and will be in trouble when we head back to the US!

  2. I love the hotel room picture! Simple, yet elegant. Especially for $30 a night!

    I love the picture of the prison, too, and the one of the tree surrounding the temple. Heck, I love them all!

    • Haha, the places make it easy to be a “good photographer” because they pretty much take themselves. However, my wife does take most of the pics and she is a good photographer 🙂

  3. I had heard that Cambodia was a beautiful country. It would appear from your pictures that is true. The temples must have pretty special to see. Aside from the corruption and other unfortunate curcumstances, your experience sounded amazing. When you consider what the Cambodian people have endured, it’s pretty amazing that they have maintained a sense of dignity. 🙂

  4. Wow, what wonderful photos, Dan. I envy your experiences. My image of Cambodia is much different than the actuality today, obviously. How people can retain their spirit after being through so much is amazing. It is disheartening, though, to see what is happening to the orphans. But the poor are always desperate.

  5. Such great photos and thank for including so many this time. As a major lover of all things dealing with soup, I must say the bowl of delicious goodness featured above is making my mouth water. So many of my vacations are about eating 😉

  6. Good stuff, Dan & Jocelyn. Did I miss the Thailand post???

  7. I continue to live vicariously through your travels. You never disappoint. I have been so far behind on commenting I don’t even know where to start. Geek Girl USA & Grandmother Diaries are now one blog. Just working out the kinks…. So while I continue to love reading about your travels, I may miss a comment or two. Big Sigh…. 🙂

  8. Dear Dan,

    Am planning to backpack around Cambodia soon and your post proved to be a massive help. For that, I express my gratitude . That being said , could you please introduce the name of the hotel that you stayed in Siem Reap (I.e the photo above). In addition, is the cost breakdown provided per person or for the 2 of you? (Including Lodging / Food etc)

    Thank you

  9. I’m about to head to Cambodia for 10 days. Would you recommend just getting USD, local Riel or a mix of the two?
    Thanks 😊

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