A lot many people, before I tested the country myself, proposed that Cambodia is going to be a cheap deal. They would ostentatiously boast how easy it was for them to survive a day in under US $20. “But $20 a day is not cheap,” I’d say to myself. Sure it’s not too bad, but when back home you’re dealing with a currency which is 70 against a dollar (1 USD ≈ 70 Indian Rupees), it’s inevitable for you to moan a little on a daily 20 dollar bill. 10 dollars a day would have sounded better. I mean, Cambodia is not a kind of place you expected or wanted to be on a luxury holiday. You must be able to travel here on almost no money at all, after all that’s why you decided to come here at first place.
But managing your accounts can be tricky in Cambodia – for the country has everything seemingly available for a minimum bill of “JUST ONE DOLLAAAAAR” – as Cambodians often quote. A shared ride in Tuktuk – 1 dollar; a drink – 1 dollar; pack of crisps, bad quality food, half a dozen bananas – everything for 1 dollar; and you lose most of your money before you even realise it.
A Golden Tip – Never Pay A Dollar
The country accepts nothing less than a one dollar bill. No cents accepted or exchanged. But since its official currency, Riel, is 4000 against US $1, it can be used in the form of a balance money to buy something that is of a value less than one dollar. But that can be tricky, thanks to a few rich Americans, who don’t care about sparing extra dollars here and there, and have spoiled the locals for good.
For example, a coconut costs 2,000 KHR ($0.50) for locals, but since you’re a foreigner and are most likely carrying dollars, its price for you is 1 dollar. I remember every time I purchased a 1.5 ltr water bottle, I was demanded a dollar. It was only when couple of days later, I bought one from a supermarket and was given 1000 Riel back, I found that 1.5 ltr packaged water costs maximum 75 cents (some supermarkets even sell one for 50 cents). From that moment on, I started negotiating those, and every other one dollar product, for a maximum of 3000 Riel.
How Much Did I Spend
Starting in Siem Reap, before heading to Phnom Penh and finally to the coast – I covered most of the spots backpackers tend to frequent, and completed a 20 day trip in just a little over 350 dollars. This, however, included two big expenses: one was the visa-on-arrival fee, which required me to pay $30 straight up, at the airport; and second, 40 dollars for a 3-day pass to Angkor Wat.
Other than that, I happened to squander a little money during the initial couple of days, while I was still studying the country, and the way it worked. Sure Cambodia was a tough one to crack, unlike Thailand, but once I learned how things worked here, it turned out to be a pretty easy deal.
I was much successful to survive a day in under 10 dollars. This included food, accommodation, transportation, as well as a couple of evening beers – but following a strict plan and some tricks was nonetheless a requirement.
Accomodation: A clean non/AC dorm charges 2 to 3 dollars a night. For a private room (shared by two people) expect to pay 2 dollars per person. For A/C dorm bed, 4 dollars are certainly enough. In islands, you can get a bungalow in under 7 dollars.
Food: Basic street food is available for a dollar and half – and that’s what I had for most of my meals in the country. Restaurant meals start at 4 dollars, which is certainly not too tough to afford either.
Water and drinks: Beers are cheap in the country, and in most of the cities, you can get a pint, during happy hours for 25 cents. The only thing that can spoil your budget a little is water. A 1.5ltr packaged water, in most of the small shops is available for 1 dollar. Even if you buy 4 of those, in a day you lose 4 dollars straight away. To save a little, you can use a supermarket, some of them sell 1.5ltr for half a dollar. Though you might need to check a few places to find the right price and save 50% straight on daily water consumption.
Transportation: A ride in tuktuk costs somewhere between 2 to 6 dollars depending upon the distance. Bike taxis charge nearly half the price of a Tuktuk. Expect a 5-7 hour journey in a big bus for 6 dollars, including pickup from your hotel.
Here’s how it might turn out for you, in a day: Around 3.50 dollars for three meals. 2 dollars on water. 1-2 on other drinks. 3 dollars on accommodation. This can give you a fairly nice, relaxing day in under 10 dollars (Islands can cost 2-4 dollars extra). If you’re travelling long distances and/or paying money as admission fee to museums and other tourist attractions, then it might cost a little more.
Think you’d be travelling to Cambodia soon? Then continue planning your trip with these articles:
- Cambodia travel guide
- Your tourist VISA for Cambodia
- Top money saving tips to follow in Cambodia
- Tips to see Angkor Wat
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