Angkor Wat may be the most popular tourist attraction in the country but this Cambodia travel guide shows that there is much more to this country than beautiful temples. Budget Travel Guides help you save money and connect with places around the world. This Cambodia travel guide will show you a side of the country you haven’t seen and give you some great tips on connecting with the people and culture.
Cambodia is a wonderful country full of surprises. Although Cambodia is getting a lot more tourists, you can still find hidden gems not overrun by tourists. If you are looking to explore the country on a budget, this Cambodia travel guide will help you save money on your trip.
A Cambodia travel guide for budget travelers
If you’re looking for ways to get around Cambodia, where to stay, what to eat, and how to connect with the people, this Cambodia travel guide will help you create travel memories you won’t forget.
Transportation in Cambodia
Traffic in Cambodia is crazy and if you don’t know how to behave then you might end up getting overrun by a moto or a car, as they are right, left and center and are coming from all directions. Check out this guide if you want to survive.
If you want to travel within cities your best bet is to hop on a motorbike taxi or a tuk tuk. It is a breathy and cheap way to get around a city. Motos are cheaper than tuk tuks, but bear in mind that it is not as safe as drivers rarely have a second helmet for passengers. For short rides expect to pay $0.5-$1, medium rides (10 mins) about $1-$1.5 and longer rides (20 mins) about $2-$2.5.
Tuk tuks are my personal favorite way of transport. They are comfortable, you are protected from the sun, you and don’t have to worry about getting your calves burnt in the crazy Cambodian traffic. Expect to pay $1 for short rides, $2 for medium rides and $3-4 for longer rides. These prices are just rough guides.
Cambodia travel guide tip – As a foreigner, use your negotiation skills. Make sure you agree a price beforehand, but don’t be too stingy. Tuk tuk and moto drivers earn as little as $60 per month and $0.5 more or less will make a huge difference to them.
Whatever mode of transport you are choosing you don’t need to look long to find a tuk tuk or mot. They usually find you.
There are also taxis available, but you only tend to get them from the airports or at posh hotels. In my experience taxis are slightly more expensive than tuk tuks, but not bad at all.
Boats are another fairly cheap way of getting around. In Phnom Penh you can charter your own 20+ passenger boat for as little as $20 for sunset cruises down the Mekong River.
Don’t expect to find buses, underground or over ground trains in the cities. Buses only operate across country, but it is a very cheap way of getting from one city to another. A 4- hour bus ride costs around $6. You have to endure Khmer karaoke though I’m afraid. Decent bus companies are Sorya and Ibis (which offer free wifi). There is no rail network operating in Cambodia.
Flights operate between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, where you can also get international flights.
Cambodia hotels and lodging
In terms of accommodation you can find very cheap and very expensive places to stay. The cheapest accommodation I came across was on Rabbit Island, off the coastal town of Kep. Beach bungalows with fans but no electricity at night cost $2. But who needs electricity if you get a deserted beach for almost all to yourself?
Cambodia travel guide tip – In cities, you can easily find hostels or guest houses from $4 upwards. There are plenty around, so you won’t struggle to find a place that meets your budget needs.
To find affordable yet stylish accomodation in Cambodia I recommend ‘Check in tonight‘, a last minute mobile booking system for same day accommodation. Travelers are able to stay in stylish high-end hotels with up to 70% off the standard rates in quality hotels.
In Kampot try the Kampot Guest House. It is cheap, offers free wifi, a bicycle rental, and tours around Kampot and to Kep. With a cozy restaurant,this is the perfect place to relax.
In Phnom Penh stay at Narin Guest House. It was cheap and clean, you get free WiFi, and the restaurant had really nice food (especially the Indian food). It is based in a residential area, so is fairly quiet and away from the backpacker scene.
Angkor Wat and Cambodia activities
Sights in Cambodia usually have two price lists: one for locals and one for foreigners. It is needless to say that foreigners need to pay more. While major attractions such as Angkor Wat seem expensive, they are actually very reasonable when you consider what you get to see and compare it to other countries.
A one-day pass for Angkor Wat costs $20. Top tip: If you buy it the day before after 5pm you will be able to use it for that night as well, so you could go and see the sunset for example. You can also get a 3-day pass ($40) and a 7 day pass ($60). Unless you love temples A one day pass should give you plenty of time to explore the sights around Angkor Wat in the morning and the ruins that are further afield in the afternoon.
Cambodia travel guide tip - If you go at sunrise, continue your tour straight away. While most of the other tourists went back to Siem Reap for breakfast, you can enjoy the sights without the crowds.
Cambodian food and drinks
Cambodian food is very cheap if you go to local restaurants. You can get street food on almost every street corner. They usually have tin tables and (extremely small) plastic stools, or picnic mats.
You can get a hearty meal consisting of a soup, rice and usually some barbecued meat for about $2. The only catch is that you need to be able to speak a bit of Khmer, as the owners of small eateries usually don’t speak English. If you go to Khmer restaurants, there is usually someone who speaks English. However, menus are usually not bilingual.
Khmer restaurants are also very cheap. Expect to pay around $4 for two courses and also expect a lot of giggling from waitresses who are not used to Western customers. There are also plenty of restaurants that serve Western food, some of which are cheaper than others. You can usually find plenty of cheap places where you can get a meal for about $4-$6. I had my highs and lows with Cambodian food, but generally it is very yummy!
Drinks in Cambodia are very cheap too. A delicious ice coffee can be bought from street vendors for $0.5, and a fruit shake for $1. Fresh coconuts cost as little as $0.25.
Cambodia travel guide tip - If you like your beer, most places have got some kind of happy hour where a glass of beer will cost $0.70 – $1. If you go to Khmer restaurants, you can buy a jug of beer for $1.5. During happy hours you can also get cheap cocktails for $1.50 – $3.
Connecting with locals in Cambodia
Khmer people are very curious and open by nature, so it won’t be difficult starting a conversation with a Cambodian. In rural areas this might be a bit trickier though, as most people don’t speak English.
Family is really important for Cambodians so you will probably be asked about your marital status, and how many children or brothers and sisters you have.
Cambodia travel guide tip - Try and avoid talking about politics unless people ask you about it. Stay diplomatic and don’t slag off the government. Same goes for the Khmer Rouge. Unless a Cambodian is starting conversation about the genocide, don’t bring it up. A lot of people are still very traumatized by what happened.
Finally Khmers also love their food and will be curious if you like their food too and what kind of dishes you have tried. You will be able to talk for hours about food with Cambodians. But always remember to stay polite. It is considered rude to criticize somebody or their culture. It is called ‘losing face’.
Other Cambodia travel guide tips
While locals would usually never leave more than $0.5 for a tip (if any), I recommend that you leave at least 10%. If you were happy with the service and food then support locals a little bit.
Waitresses earn as little as $30 and often have to sleep in the restaurants, as they can’t afford to rent an apartment with that kind of wage. You will find that most waiters are from the countryside and from what little money they earn, they will send money back home to support their families.
Most cafes or restaurants have free Wi-Fi. If you don’t have a laptop or smartphone though, you can go into one of the many internet cafes, where one hour of internet usage costs around $0.5.
When exploring Cambodia, take the time to connect with the culture and the people beyond the famous sights like Angkor Wat. With this Cambodia travel guide, you will fall head over heels for this beautiful country and its people.
Have you visited Cambodia? What tips would you add to this Cambodia travel guide?
About the author:
Tammy Lowe, from Tammy & Chris on the Move, hails from Germany and is both punctual and efficient. Chris hails from the UK, meaning he likes being polite, talking about the weather, or ideally politely talking about the weather. They both have civil service backgrounds, but have left their bowler-hats back in London and are currently working on human rights issues in Cambodia. Whenever they get time off, they travel around South East Asia enjoying the various sights and sounds of this exotic corner of the world.