Cambodia Budget Travel Guide 4D 3N
Ahh Cambodia. The land of wonder and smiles. I’ve visited Cambodia once but only on a day trip to the Vietnam/Cambodia border to check out the casinos and eat food. That’s where I actually first learned about the travel term ‘Backpacking’ from my Filipino colleague who toured me around the casinos.
Now, I wanted to truly explore Cambodia and its ancient and dark secrets. Cambodia is the 3rd country we visited on our 23 Days South East Asia Backpacking trip. We flew from Kuala Lumpur (via Air Asia) to Phnom Penh then travelled by night bus to Siem Reap. Though it was sweltering hot, the experience and the knowledge we obtained far outweighed the exhaustion and cost of the entrance tickets.
Here you’ll find our Itinerary, expenses, accommodations and food we ate in our 4 days trip in Cambodia. Enjoy reading!
3PM – Fly to Phnom Penh from KL
3:55PM – Arrive Phnom Penh
5PM – Check-in Top Banana Hostel dorm
630PM – Streetfood dinner and beer
Free Beer on our first day!
7:30AM – Breakfast along the street
10AM – Killing fields tour
1PM – Tuol Sleng / S21 Genocide Museum
6PM – Riverside
630PM – Streetfood galore at Night market
10PM – Night bus to Siem Reap
6AM – Arrive Siem Reap, breakfast, rest a bit in guesthouse lobby
9AM – Wat Preah Prom Rath
10AM – Old Market
11AM – Check-in Rosy Guesthouse
6PM – Dinner at Old Market
7PM – Beer at Pub Street
7AM – Start Angkor Wat Tour (Short circuit tour in Angkor Complex)
1:30PM – Lunch
8AM – Capitol Bus to Bangkok
Bring USD with you. Cambodians accept USD provided it’s not crumpled or too old.
Kuala Lumpur to Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Plane: Air Asia
Fare: P1409.26 each (no check-in baggage)
Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
Night Bus: Giant Ibis
Fare: 15 USD + 1USD online processing fee
This is a sleeper bus and if you are sure with your date of departure or schedule, then it’s better to book it online so you can reserve your bed. Yes, your bed inside the bus. It was comfortable and they have a decent toilet (Use it only when you really need to). It also gets really cold inside the bus. They do provide blankets but it may not be enough so we put on our jackets while sleeping.
Travel time is around 7-8 hrs.
Going around Cambodia
Tuk-tuks are the main mode of transportation in Cambodia. Whenever you want to go somewhere, flag down a tuk-tuk. You can also ride a motorcycle taxi (or habal habal in the Philippines) or even rent one.
For tours, they usually offer you a fixed price to/from your hostel to the tourist spot.
In Phnom Penh, a tuktuk ride to/from hostel to Killing fields and S21 Genocide Museum cost us 15 USD (for the two of us).
While in Siem Reap, a tuktuk ride for a short circuit tour in Angkor Wat complex is 12 USD
Going to Bangkok
Bus + Mini-van combo: Capitol Tours (www.capitoltourscambodia.com)
Travel Time: 9hrs including immigration exit/enter at the border
The Bus was ok, but the mini-van is a little cramped. They have wifi on board though.
At the border, they will give you a sticker. Don’t ever lose that sticker. Stick it on your shirt. After exit in Cambodia (right side), you go to the left side of the Thailand border for immigration entry. Once finished, the Capitol tours staff will look for people with the sticker that was given to you. They will guide you to the terminal near 711 where you will take the van.
If you are planning to take only a bus/van/taxi to Poipet (Cambodia border), then you can just look for a bus/van in the terminal/car park near 711 in Aranyaprathet (Thailand border). I have read guides that you can also hop on a casino bus to Bangkok from here.
Cambodia is one of the countries that are frequented by backpackers so it’s no surprise that there are lots of hostels, guesthouses, inns and budget hotels that sprung up. All you have to do is choose, but choose wisely! That’s one of the things we learned here.
Top Banana Guesthouse in Phnom Penh
We booked White Rabbit hostel prior to our trip but we decided to cancel it since my wife looked carefully at the pictures of their room and it wasn’t a nice sight according to her.
What we did was we just looked for a hostel once we got there. And after searching for the right one, we ended up booking two beds in a mixed dorm room in Top Banana Hostel.
The place is clean, quiet and our dorm mates respect your privacy. It was actually our first time to sleep in a dorm and it sure was a good one. The toilet is very well maintained and cleaned like every hour. They also have a nice rooftop bar selling affordable drinks and they will even give you a complimentary glass of beer upon check-in! Nice treat!
For 5 USD per person per night in a clean air-conditioned dorm, this place is definitely a bang for your buck!
More recommended hotels/hostels in Phnom Penh below:
Or you can search and compare prices here
Rosy Guesthouse in Siem Reap
Now, on to the ‘not so nice one’. We booked a double fan room in Rosy Guesthouse in advance for 2 nights for 9 USD per night. Upon arrival, it looks like the guesthouse isn’t maintained and cleaned well. We even saw some cleaners slacking around. Not to mention that the receptionist isn’t that accommodating.
What about our room you say? I understand that we only booked a fan room and sleeping in a fan room during a scorching Cambodian summer might not be the best idea of all but we’re on a tight budget. And tight budget means we have to rough it out. But what we didn’t expect was our room is on the top floor with cheap galvanized iron sheets as roof. Long story short, we got toasted. It’s like sleeping in an oven. We won’t forget our stay in that fan room, ever.
So hot in our room!
The good thing about the place is they picked us up in the bus station and they respond promptly in emails. Plus they gave us a humble and trustworthy tuktuk driver in our Angkor Wat tour.
They have a nice terrace here but it wasn’t clean. Too dusty.
More recommended hotels/hostels in Siem Reap below:
Or you can search and compare prices here.
Killing Fields and S21 Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
I’ve visited the War Remnants museum in Vietnam twice and both visits got me depressed. But this trip to the Killing fields and Tuol Sleng prison museum is a lot more depressing than in War Remnants. I know that you should be happy when travelling but you have to educate yourself and embrace the facts and history of what had happened in one place. It will teach you not to take things in life for granted.
Memorial stupa in Killing Fields where some skulls of the victims are placed
The Killing fields in Choeung Ek is where around 17000 innocent civilians were slaughtered and buried including babies. Some of them were incarcerated in Tuol Sleng first before they were killed in Choeung Ek. It’s a haunting experience but it is something you should never forget and should never happen again.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
Entrance Fee Killing fields: 6 USD
Entrance fee Tuol Sleng: 3 USD (optional audio guide for additional 3 USD)
Tuktuk to/from hostel: 15 USD
We’ve been to hell, now it’s time to go to heaven. Your travel to Cambodia is incomplete (or should I say, insignificant) if you didn’t go to the Angkor Wat complex at least once. Angkor Wat is an ancient temple complex, the largest religious monument in the world and is home to many wonderful Khmer architecture.
Angkor Wat is so large that to explore the whole complex would take days, weeks or even a month! So for starters, I’d suggest to avail a one day pass and get a short circuit tour unless you do have lots of time and you wanted to see it all then by all means get a 3 or 7 days pass.
Here are the Admission fees:
UPDATE: June 26, 2017 (Ticket prices have increased since Feb. 1, 2017)
1 day pass:
20 USD 37 USD
3 day pass:
40 USD 62 USD
7 day pass:
60 USD 72 USD
A little expensive than the normal tickets for temples but it’s totally worth it. Each temple has its own unique characteristic and charm but my favourite temple of all is Bayon temple. Those smiling faces alone make this baroque style Khmer temple stand out from the rest.
As for transportation going to Angkor Wat, a tuktuk ride for a short circuit tour to/from your hostel to Angkor Wat complex is 12 USD. If you want to go to the complex for sunrise/sunset viewing, then you have to pay additional. Some say it’s an additional of 3 USD. We didn’t avail it.
TIP: Hire a tuktuk as recommended by your guesthouse. Don’t just flag down a tuktuk in the streets as there are still some scammers there waiting for their next victim.
TIP again: Bring towel, water, umbrella or anything that can relieve you from the heat. It’s really hot out there. I was sweating like a pig the whole time.
Another temple inside the complex
I already mentioned our opinion in Food in Cambodia here. But I’ll paste it again here anyways, plus more pics…
In all honesty, we didn’t like Cambodian cuisine that much. Compared to their neighboring countries Thailand and Vietnam, theirs pale in comparison. Their traditional dishes are good but it’s not amazing or mouth watering.
They have a dish that is similar to Com Tam in Vietnam. It is composed of white rice, grilled pork/chicken, fried egg, soup and condiments. It was good and cheap (1USD) but not on the same level as to Com Tam.
We also tried their traditional Khmer dishes. First in the list is Fish Amok (2.25USD). Again, it’s ok but nothing spectacular about it.
After our Angkor Wat tour, we were very hungry that we just needed to eat somewhere. We found a mom and pop eatery and ordered another set of Khmer dishes. We ordered a Beef Lok Lak (3USD) and Cambodian salad (2.5USD). The Beef Lok Lak is ok but the Cambodian salad weirded us out. The taste is ok but do they really serve it with raw beef? Sorry, it’s the first time we ate raw beef. Anyway, I was so hungry I still managed to finish the whole dish. Wifey just ate “some” veggies but not the beef. Though, I admit, it was a nice experience. This is all part of being a food adventurer.
Beef Lok Lak
The saving grace of our food trip in Cambodia was in the Night market (near the river) at Phnom Penh. It was a street food galore! You choose your food from the stalls then you let them cook it while you sit in one of the mats laid there. It was a fun experience though every stall there is no different from one another. But hey, even the locals love it! We love it!
Locals and foreigners alike eat here in these mats. Lovely.
Time to eat!
And oh, Beer at Pub street in Siem Reap is ridiculously cheap at half a dollar!
Here is our detailed Cambodia expenses in PHP currency. For our budget tips in S.East Asia, click here!
|Per Pax||2 PAX||Remarks|
|TukTuk frm Airport to Hostel||162.75||325.5|
|Top Banana Hostel (1N)||232.5||465|
|Killing Fields and S21 Tuktuk||348.75||697.5|
|Killing fields entrance fee||279||558|
|S21 entrance fee||139.5||279|
|Tuktuk to Night market||58.12||116.25|
|Coconut ice cream||29.28||58.57|
|Giant Ibis Night bus to SR||744||1488||15 USD plus 1USD processing fee|
|Rosy Guesthouse (2N)||418.5||837|
|Breakfast||70.29||140.59||Rice dish(5k KHR*2),Bananas(2k KHR)|
|Lunch||29.28||58.57||Sandwich similar to Banh Mi(2K KHR), Pineapple(3k KHR)|
|Dinner||87.18||174.37||Fish amok(2.25USD),3 rice(.5USD each)|
|Tuktuk to/from Angkor Wat complex||279||558|
|Angkor Wat entrance fee||930||1860|
|Lunch||127.87||255.75||Beef Loklak(3USD),Cambodian Salad(2.5USD)|
|Rice for dinner||34.87||69.75||Paired with our packed food|
|Tuktuk to Capitol Tour Bus||46.5||93|
|Bus van combo to Bangkok||465||930|
We actually found Cambodia a little more expensive than its neighbors Vietnam and Thailand well except maybe for the cheap beer in Pub street! Food and transportation is a little more expensive here aside from the entrance fees so take note of that.
But for less than P5,000 per person for 4 days, it’s not bad at all especially if you got to see magnificent temples and been educated in Cambodia’s horrifying past.
Cambodia’s past is both amazing and depressing but what I like to see more is how Cambodia will look like in the future and how progressive it will be. Just like the Philippines, poverty is one of the main problems of the country and I do hope that their government will do something about it. Seeing lots of people live in poverty seems to be there is really something wrong.