This is the longest trip I’ve accounted for so far–20 days! First of all, it’s not easy to keep track of detailed expenses especially when you’re busy enjoying the views and sampling bits of the country’s culture. But thanks to the Pocket Budget app for Android, I was able to do this with ease. This is only one of the many choices for budget planning in the app market now. It’s a must for travelers and choose one that suits you best. It’s very helpful for keeping track of daily expenses while on the road.
Cambodia is not an expensive country to travel to. Budget accommodation can be as cheap as $10 or even less. A decent meal is $2 maximum, if you eat where locals eat, and transportation is also very affordable (higher fares for tourists of course). I believe I did a mid-range budget; here’s the breakdown of my expenses in US dollars.
I booked my tickets 2 months in advance because of the promotion Tiger Air was offering at that time. The flight was from Singapore to Phnom Penh and includes 15kg baggage allowance for both ways. And yes, my flights took off and landed on time.
This is the largest share of my pie. I booked at Sovanphum Guesthouse for $20/day. It’s a family-run business and the owner and her staff were really friendly and helpful. My A/C room was big with high ceilings and private toilet and shower. A TV was available but there were no English channels. It has a balcony overlooking the street. The location was perfect because it’s near the Riverside and close to famous sights like the Royal Palace and National Museum.
I’m sure there are cheaper and better options. Some hotels may cost at least $50-60 a day and some backpackers’ room may be $7-10. I know someone who rented an apartment for $500 in a good location as well. So, if you’re staying for a month or more, it’s good to check long-term rental rates.
Local Transportation: $95.81
Tuktuk (three-wheeler) is the most common and convenient mode of public transportation in Cambodia (bus routes will be launched very soon in Phnom Penh though). I read from guidebooks and online travel guides that $1 is the minimum fare but I’ve always asked to pay $2 even for the shortest distance. Either prices have gone up or I’m a terrible haggler. But $2 is still cheap. Tuktuk, however, is a very slow and could easily get stuck in traffic jam so if I was in a hurry, I took motodop (or moto) by riding at the back of a motorcycle. It’s faster and cheaper. I paid $2 to go to farther areas of the city and I felt that was already a generous amount. I usually tipped my driver an extra dollar or two and I doubled the price if I asked him to wait for me.
I have splurged a little bit in this area but who won’t with delicious and cheap Khmer dishes. I ate at restaurants located in touristy places so I believe that if I’ve spent more time exploring the city and ate where locals eat, my expenses for meals would have definitely gone down. A meal in a restaurant would cost around $4-5 and that already includes drinks. Friends treated me for dinners but sometimes I offered to pay for the drinks of my interview participants. I had a meal at the Night Market for only $1!
The best place to buy souvenirs is from markets such as the Russian Market, Central Market and Night Market. The downside is that some of the products are not Cambodian-made but imported from Thailand or China. The Cambodian silk scarf is definitely more expensive and way better in quality. I bought a scarf from a local shop located at Street 240 and the same scarf was only half the price at the Night Market. I thought they were the same but when I showed it to my Khmer friend, she said the latter is not Cambodian at all and probably imported from Thailand. But for other souvenirs like magnets and t-shirts, I got them all from the Night Market, the closest from my guesthouse. Magnets are $1 each but I bought mine for 3 pieces for $2. T-shirts are $5 but I was able to get a $1 discount for each of the 4 shirts I bought. Scarves are $3-7 depending on the size and material.
I bought my Cellcard prepaid sim at the airport for $1 with a $4 credit. The retailer subscribed me to a $1.5 weekly data plan. I reloaded another $4 on my third week. I find mobile networks in Cambodia complicated and land lines are facing extinction in this developing country. Of course, it is cheaper or free to call to numbers with the same network providers. But in general, calls and mobile internet are very affordable.
Entrance Fees: $39.5*
Toul Sleng Genocide Museum – $3
Guide at Toul Sleng Genocide Museum – $3 plus a $2 tip
Choeung Ek Genocide Center/Killing Fields – $6 with audio guide
Dreamland – $4 for 2 pax
Royal Palace – $6.5
National Museum – $5
* prices are for foreigners; locals may pay as low as 13 cents or 500 Riels per pax.
This part includes my laundry ($1/kg), donations to temples, and body massage ($10-15/hour). A friend told me that there are massages for only $5/hour at the Phnom Penh Sports Club but I chose to try the one near my guesthouse (U&Me). It was a good reward for a 20-day work.