As most of you know, we are total low budget travelers. We stay in hostels, eat street food, and try to do everything on the cheap. So naturally I was super excited to visit Cambodia and see how far I could stretch my hard-earned dollar.
Just try to imagine our disappointment when we arrived and realized the whole country operates on the American dollar and therefore isn’t that cheap at all. YES I said it. Cambodia (at least the more touristy areas) is shockingly less budget-friendly than you’d expect. But as usual, we did everything we could to have the best experience possible while still being total cheapos. Here’s how 🙂
GET AROUND BY TUKTUK
This was our first screaming deal in Cambodia. We saw an advertisement on Couchsurfing.com for a local guy in Siem Reap who was offering a day of transportation around Angkor Wat AND airport pickup for $12 USD. This type of self-promotion isn’t actually allowed on the Couchsurfing platform and he has since been banned from the service (lol oops) but if you keep an eye out, there are others who do the same thing and haven’t been caught yet. To put the price in perspective, a tuktuk just from the airport to our hostel would have cost us $9 USD one way! We had been scammed by tuktuk drivers in Thailand so we were skeptical about this but it turned out to be safe and respectable! And it saved us a BUNCH of money. Another cheap alternative to get around Angkor Wat is to rent bikes, but our way actually ended up being cheaper (because it included airport pickup, transport to, around, AND from Angkor Wat).
1-DAY VS 3-DAY VS 7-DAY PASS
Note: These prices are as of February 2018
There are three timeline options for touring Angkor Wat. There’s no “right” choice, but there are certainly expensive choices. For us, the 7-day pass was not even an option. At $72 USD per person, it’s definitely the best value, but we did not have $144 to spend or 7 days to use. Moving on. We had originally planned to purchase the 3-day pass. It was the moderate option and seemed like a good value. But $124 total is still a hefty price. At the last second we chickened out and purchased two 1-day passes. Let me tell you, this was the best decision.
My advice: Get there early and stay all day. Get your whole $37 dollars worth out of those temples. There’s plenty to see and honestly, after that one long day, I was temple-d out for the next few WEEKS! So I ended up glad we only bought the one day pass. That being said, you could totally spread out the complex over three (or even seven) days – there is more than enough site-seeing if you’re up to it!
If you can, get up really early and get that sunrise photo of the main Angkor Wat temple. The #followmeto people can do it so you can too, right? Well turns out, I can’t. I couldn’t get up and we missed that boat. So if you’re not quite crazy enough to get up at 4:30am for a photo, I recommend going to Angkor Wat (the main temple in the complex) last. Unless you go very early, it will be very crowded. Kind of a buzzkill if it’s your first temple of the day. The crowds drained our energy and made the rest of the day just a little bit harder for us. If I had to do it again, I’d do the smaller temples (Ta Prohm, Angkor Thom, etc.) first and then head over to the craziness that is Angkor Wat.
There are very touristy (read: expen$ive) places to eat between temples that look nice but the food is average at best. I recommend holding out and looking for a smaller, more local restaurant. They are fewer, but they’re around! This goes for food in all of Siem Reap, not just the temple complex.
Bring water. Lots of water.
OKAY I’M DONE WITH TEMPLES, WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO DO IN SIEM REAP?
Honestly, not a ton if you’re looking to site-see 🙂 But the number one thing I can suggest is Angkor Putt — yes, an actual mini golf place in Cambodia. It’s the cutest little gem and will run you around $6 per person for an afternoon of fun. The place is a little outside the town so get a bike or a tuktuk to get you there. Once you’ve arrived, grab a club and a beer and play some mini-golf, literally in the middle of a farm. Not lying, there were chickens getting in the way and a cow was mooing at me from across the fence.
Also, Siem Reap is a typical backpacker hangout, which means PARTY. The hostels host activities and bar crawls and that’s always a good time.
Anyone have any other ideas for saving money in SE Asia?? I’d love to hear them!
Traveling to SE Asia for the first time? Check out my musings about the less Instagrammy parts of the region 😉