Travelling Cambodia on a Budget – Best Useful Tips
Bordering Laos, Thailand and Vietnam Cambodia is a country that is conveniently located, small and easy on the wallet – a shoestring backpacker’s dream. So, for all those looking up from checking their somewhat meagre bank balances and nervously asking, “Errr, is Cambodia expensive?” you’ll be pleased to take note of our findings.
Is it possible to travel in Cambodia on a low budget?
Budget travel within Cambodia can be easily achieved by the savvy traveller and sightseeing, accommodation and daily costs can all be pulled off on the cheap without too much difficulty.
With its cheap beers, affordable food, beaches, budget accommodation and plentiful free attractions, backpacking through Cambodia should be near the top of the itinerary for travellers wanting to explore Asia.
Other than in Angkor Complex itself where the food and drink prices are around twice as expensive anywhere else in the country, Cambodia is significantly cheaper than travelling in Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. Although there are definitely wonderful resorts and restaurants that cater to those with generous budgets, Cambodian food, daily costs and accommodation are more commonly geared towards low-key backpackers counting out their coins.
Independent versus packaged tours
The wonderful thing about Cambodia is that it is possible to travel on a budget whether you wish to travel independently or whether you wish to travel around the country on a packaged tour. Both options are completely possible to do without blowing all your cash.
English is spoken pretty much everywhere and tourism is admirably organised in Cambodia; making all sorts of travel options easy and hassle-free. It is also an option to combine these two alternatives in order to get the best of both worlds.
Independent travel allows you the freedom to linger or move on as you desire while tours obviously are more convenient and allow you the opportunity to meet other likeminded travellers. While public transport is an option in some places, tuk-tuks and taxis are necessary at others. For these private journeys it is always better to travel in small groups or on a tour so as to minimise travel expenses. This is the same for a tour guide should you want one.
A top money saving tip when heading to Cambodia is to wait until arriving in the country itself before organising any tours or packages as booking any of these from outside the country is a guaranteed steep price increase – though it does not refer to booking transportation in advance as it could be a good idea.
Top budget itineraries
Top budget itineraries within Cambodia can be found in the majority of the cities and there are free and cheap things to do in all of them.
Phnom Penh offers travellers fascinating history, cheap accommodation and Central Market is a delight for foodies on a budget. Phnom Penh is also full of free attractions such as photographing the saffron-robed monks at sunrise, free meditation classes at Wat Langka, self-guided walking city tours, inspiring street art tours or a picnic at Public Park.
Sihanoukville and Koh Rong are also great spots for beach bums wanting to relax, save a bit of cash and enjoy the natural beauty of the sandy beaches and crashing waves. While travellers will need to pay for diving or snorkelling tours, it costs absolutely nothing to spend a day or two on the beach with a good book, podcast or holiday tunes. Swimming and snorkelling with your own set of goggles are also cheap and cheerful seaside activities.
Saving the unmissable for last, any trip to Cambodia should include a visit to Siem Reap – the fascinating gateway to Angkor’s ancient temples saturated in history.
While entrance into Angkor Wat is usually the most expensive thing that budget travellers spend money on when travelling Cambodia, there are ways to stretch your riel in Siem Reap.
- Staying in a hostel with a communal kitchen will save you money on food but generally street food is pretty affordable and won’t break the bank.
- Due to the high influx of tourists in recent years, accommodation in Siem Reap is very well-priced and some hostels even allow travellers to work onsite in exchange for free board and lodging.
- Renting a bicycle or sharing tuk-tuk rides with other travellers are also good money saving tips while exploring this area.
- While entrance fees in Angkor Wat and Tonle Sap Lake are in no ways free, exploring the city on foot or bicycle offers travellers a wonderful and cheap means of experiencing the energy of the city and taking in all the hype and buzz.
10 Best cheap hostels and hotels in Cambodia
With plenty of cheap accommodation options throughout the country, we’ve compiled a list of our top selection of wallet-friendly hostels and places to crash that offer excellent value for money.
1. Phnom Penh – 19 Happy House Backpacker
When in Phnom Penh our favourite el cheapo hostels are 19 Happy House Backpacker and Top Banana Rooftop Backpacker Hostel.
19 Happy House is ideal for solo travellers or group travellers who are looking for a fun, youthful vibe while still getting excellent bang for their buck. Cheap beers, comfy beds and especially welcoming staff; this spot is a great choice for those favouring affordability over luxury. Centrally located to many attractions, Happy House is situated on Street 13 in Phnom Penh and nightly rates are as low as KHR 16,000.
2. Phnom Penh – Banana Rooftop Backpacker Hostel
Nestled snuggled in the heart of the action, Top Banana Rooftop Backpacker Hostel has been delighting backpacker crowds with their rooftop bar, cheap rates, party atmosphere and delicious food for 17 years. Situated on the famous ‘Golden Street’, dorm rates start from KHR 20,000 including a complimentary welcome drink.
3. Kampot – Banyan Tree
For travellers in Kampot, Banyan Tree has unbelievably affordable rates starting at KHR 12,000 for a dorm bed right on the Kampong Bay River. Wine, cocktails and beer are all on offer as well as live music every Friday. Take a dip in the river, indulge in a delicious meal and soak in the relaxed atmosphere at Banyan Tree.
4. Kampot – Magic Sponge Guesthouse
Starting at KHR 24,000 per night, Magic Sponge Guesthouse may in fact be the budget backpackers’ jackpot. Free Wi-Fi, barbeque facilities, pool tables, a mini-golf course, garden dining area, board games, a bar and an onsite restaurant – Magic Sponge gets our enthusiastic nod of excited approval.
5. Sihanoukville – Sakal Bungalows
When planning your Cambodian trip prior to departure we’re sure that the thoughts of lazing about on beaches and staring out at the turquoise horizon entered your daydreams. Sihanoukville offers just this at very affordable rates to those who know where to look.
Sakal Bungalows are basic, comfortable and rustic but for those on a budget this is all part of the charm. Free Wi-Fi, swimming pool and decently located are all bonuses when paying KHR 20,000 for a night.
6. Sihanoukville – Small Hotel
Small Hotel (yes, that’s the name) is another great option for those looking for affordable accommodation when in Sihanoukville. Most travellers come for the affordability and most return for the food. Absolutely excellent international, Khmer and Swedish cuisine are on offer at Small Hotel and with the KHR 50,000 room rates, it’s impossible to find fault with this budget accommodation.
7. Koh Rong – Vagabonds Hostel
Located on the beach front of the stunning Koh Rong, Vagabonds Hostel offers both dorm beds as well as private rooms all complete with a stunning view of tropical paradise. Not only does their website offer travellers a voucher for a free beer but their excellent food, affordable rooms and hospitable staff are the reason for this recommendation. The chilled vibe, artsy atmosphere are all complete with the relaxed music and occasional fire show. Dorm rates start from a delightful KHR 25,000.
8. Battambang – Tomato Guesthouse
The highly recommended Tomato Guesthouse is the spot to be for budget travellers and backpackers who find themselves in Battambang. Free Wi-Fi, a buzzing rooftop bar, tasty restaurant, and genuinely lovely staff, Tomato Guesthouse has so much more to offer than the extremely low rates. Situated on the quiet and charming Street 119, dorm beds start at the seemingly impossibly price of KHR 4,000 for a night.
9. Siem Reap – Central Hostel
Every trip to Cambodia is sure to include a trip to the world-famous Siem Reap and due to the high flooding of tourists it’s no wonder that accommodation options are here in competitively priced abundance.
Central Hostel on Makarar Street is exactly as it sounds – it is the most centrally located hostel in Siem Reap and is a couple of minutes away from the heart of the city’s action. A beautiful swimming pool, a roomy common area to relax and socialize, and an onsite open-air restaurant are just a few of Central Hostel’s perks. A comfy dorm bed will cost around KHR 16, 000 – KHR 28, 000 plus there’s the option of a double room, twin room and a family room.
10. Siem Reap – Hostelling International Siem Reap
Hostelling International Siem Reap is also an excellent budget option with dorm rates starting around KHR 20, 000 and private rooms KHR 32, 000. An easy 3-minute stroll from Old Market and Pub Street, this spot is well located and very well priced. A billiard table, cosy common area, free Wi-Fi, massage services and an onsite restaurant are just some of Hostelling International’s freebees and bonuses available to guests.
Top tips for budget travellers
Travelling through Cambodia on a strict budget has been done time and again for travellers who want to experience the joys and delights of the fascinating country on the cheap. By following these top tips for budget travel, you will too!
Stay in hostels. This will not only allow you to save heaps of money, but will also allow you the opportunity to meet other travellers that you can share transport costs with. Most hostels in Cambodia also have a communal kitchen where guests are allowed to cook their own food; saving you precious pennies at mealtimes.
Travel in a group. The same rules apply for booking day tours. The bigger the group, the better. Travellers will have more negotiation and bargaining power when in a group or when buying multiple things.
Bargain slightly for your tuk-tuk rides. While it is important to note that Cambodia is a third-world country and the locals make a living off of the tourism industry, negotiating a price on your transport fees will end up saving you a fair share of money. Make sure that the agreed upon price is fair for both parties and bargain with good humour and a smile.
Bring your own lunch to the temples at Angkor . Food and drinks at Angkor Temples are generally much higher than elsewhere in Cambodia and by packing your own snacks you’ll be able to forgo the high prices without a grumbling stomach.
Hire a bicycle. Bikes in Siem Reap are readily and cheaply available to rent for the day and will allow you the luxury of independent travel to and around Angkor Wat as well as the bonus of not having to haggle tuk-tuk drivers for cheap rides.
Eat local. Buying Western fare instead of the delicious, local cuisine on offer will quickly eat away at your riel. The street food vendors are your new best friends!
Travel Cambodia on a budget!
The votes been cast and the verdict is in – Cambodia is one of the cheapest destinations to travel in and around. However, the low prices are just one of the many reasons to pay this history-rich country a visit. The friendly locals, captivating culture, breathtaking temples and the exquisite natural beauty have all been enthralling travellers for years and years. Come and see for yourself what all the fuss is about.