Currency: $ USD or ៛ KHR
General Living Costs
Cambodia living costs vary greatly from almost free, if you can deal without comforts, to expensive, luxury options. Backpackers can live on around $10usd per day, opting for better accommodation and western restaurants will increase this to around $30usd. Treat yourself to up market hotels, 3-course dinners and other luxuries for around $100usd per day.
Getting Money & Currency Advice
The US dollar is not the official currency but is taken everywhere and most prices are stated in it. Cambodian Riel is used as small change instead of US cents hovering around 4000Riel to the $USD. It’s worth having at least $5 of Riel for payment and tipping. $100 and $50 notes are not accepted in some smaller establishments but don’t be offended, try using them to pay bar, restaurant or hotel bills. When using larger notes don’t be surprised if the cashier inspects or studies the note, just don’t let it out of your sight!
Before arriving in Cambodia be sure to buy at least a small amount of $usd as your entry visa is $30usd cash before you’ve gone anywhere.
Western Union and MoneyGram are available for money transfers. Western Union is available through Acleda Bank, and MoneyGram through Canadia Bank.
Top tip: Keep your $USD notes in good condition and avoid scrunching them them up as most establishments will not accept even slightly defected notes. Similarly check any notes you are given in change and make sure you aren’t given ripped or damaged ones.
ATMs which accept Visa and MasterCard can be found in most cities and more are popping up in smaller towns every day. ATMs dispense US dollars with maximum withdrawals up to $2000usd. If arriving from Thailand through the Poipet or Cham Yeam borders ATMs are now available. A transaction fee on top of your banks applies to most cards and machines but last heard Canadia Bank and Acleda Bank did free Visa withdrawals. A transaction fee of $3-5usd on top of your banks charges applies to most cards.
Many tourist hotels, shops and restaurants accept major cards, an extra 3% fee will usually be incurred for any credit card used.
Credit card cash advances are available in most cities, banks charge a minimum $5usd for this service. Canadia Bank offer it for free.
A bed can be as cheap as free (in exchange for working a few hours) to $5 a night in hostels. Go private on-suite with air conditioning, hot water, fridge and satellite TV from $15 – $20 a night. If you’re spending over $60 expect four star hotels with great locations, over $100 a night will get you five-star hotels and amazing resorts. Don’t be afraid to negotiate for a discount if it is low season, long stay deals can also be found for good rates.
Top Tip: try to book accommodation beforehand where possible either online or by phone if you arriving in your destination late at night. Use sites like booking.com to price check hotels and make sure you’re not paying any more than you should be.
|Type||Low Season||High Season|
|$0 - $5||$5 - $7|
(air con, tv, en suite)
|$15 - $20||$20 - $30|
|$35 - $100||$40 - $100|
Food and Drink
Cambodian cuisine is cheap and tasty, street foods can satisfy for around 2000riel/$0.50 but beware of the notorious poor hygiene of these stalls (although this has improved in recent years and some stalls in Phnom Penh now offer English speaking menus). Khmer restaurants have good hygiene and food standards with Khmer dishes costing between $1-$3usd. Western, fine Khmer and other Asian restaurants have meals priced anywhere from $5usd for burgers and pizza to $30usd for imported meats.
Alcohol is very cheap as most restaurants offer happy hours and cheap cocktails. Bars average around $1usd a beer, Mini marts sell cans for around $0.50usd. Soft drinks are expensive in comparison to alcohol, usually priced the same or more than beer in most establishments.
Khmer:$3.00 - $5.00
Street food:$0.25 - $0.50
Western:$5.00 - $10.00
Crisps:$1.00 - $2.00
Beer (minimart):$0.50 - $1.00
Chocolate bar:$1 - $2
Beer (bar):$0.50 - $1.00
Travelling by boat during the wet season is popular for scenery rather than practicality since Cambodia’s roads have improved. Short and convenient river crossings like the ferry in Kratie to Koh Trong in the middle of the Mekong, only cost a couple of dollars,
Travelling down the Tonle Sap between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh varies from $25 – $35 lasting five to eight hours depending on the weather and type of boat. Journey time between Siem Reap and Battambang is similar to travelling by bus at five hours, with captivating views, boats cost $15 – $25.
Private taxi sharing with fellow backpackers is a comfortable and cost effective way to get from A to B, fares split between a full taxi can cost less than individual bus tickets. Enquire at guest houses and travel shops for prices, bus stations also get used as taxi ranks if local tuk tuk drivers allow. Don’t expect well branded taxis, most are unmarked but beige Toyota Corrollas seem to be the car of choice for most taxi drivers so keep an eye out for these.
Motorcycle Taxi (Motodob)
Motodops are motorbikes which work as essential transport for many Cambodians, found in every city on street corners they are most ideal for short solo trips but drivers are happy to take on two passengers with bags when asked. Fares are normally half what a tuk tuk would be, making motodops impractical for two passengers as costs will be about the same as a tuk tuk.
Buses are essential for medium to long journeys as there is no passenger train services available. When possible take a coach, V.I.P. or ‘big’ bus instead of a minibus / van, for the same price or a couple of dollars extra you get more comfort and no overloading. If you can, go direct to bus company office’s to get the best price, as guest houses and travel agents can add commission, most only a dollar but some charge 100% extra for the same ticket.
Ubiquitous and cheap tuk tuks are great for short city trips and renting for the day to explore a region. Prices vary depending on the area you are in and how many passengers there are. Generally fares start at $1 per person for short trips and day rates are usually around $20 minus tip.
Bus Price List
|From Phnom Penh||From Siem Reap||From Sihanoukville||From Kampot / Kep|
To Siem Reap:$7 - $25
To Phnom Penh:$7 - $25
To Phnom Penh:$5.50 - $12
To Phnom Penh:$5 - $10
To Sihanoukville:$5.50 - $12
To Sihanoukville:$15 - $25
To Siem Reap:$15 - $25
To Siem Reap:$13 - $25
To Kampot/Kep:$5 - $10
To Kampot/Kep:$13 - $25
To Kampot/Kep:$6 - $8
To Sihanoukville:$6 - $8
To Battambang:$6 - $15
To Battambang:$4.50 - $10
Cambodia is more set up for relaxation and adventure than water parks and shopping centres. High adrenaline experiences like abseiling or zip lining can be expensive and the opportunity to explore the ancient city of Angkor doesn’t come cheap – but is worth every penny! Nevertheless activities and attractions in Cambodia can be very low cost especially if you are travelling in a group. Hire a motorbike from only $3 a day and head up to Bokor or Kep National Parks where you can enjoy beautiful scenery for next to nothing, rent a kayak and explore the serene Phipot river in the Cardamom Mountains from as little as $7 or just soak up the sunshine and take a stroll on the picture perfect Otres beach for absolutely nothing.
The entrance fees for Angkor Archaeological Park, which is by far Cambodia’s the best known attraction, are $20usd for one day , $40usd for three days and $60usd for a week (You don’t have to use the multiple day tickets consecutively). Always consider the costs for travel to and around the ruins, bicycles can be rented in Siem Reap from $2usd, tuk tuks are most popular and around $15usd should cover two people for 8 hours, privates taxis will cost in the region of $35usd.
As we’ve already mentioned, Cambodia also has a number of national parks that are worth a visit. Bokor National Park in Kampot is now home to a multi million dollar casino project but is still worth a visit to see some of the old French colonial ruins. You can book on a group day tour from most hotels in Kampot ranging from $13 – $15 which will collect and drop you back off at your hotel and often include extras such as evening boat trips along the river.
Ream National Park in Sihanoukville is very picturesque and as with Bokor group tour tickets can be purchased from around $15. However if you are looking for something a little more special hire a tuk tuk driver for the day for $25 – $30 to take you to the park where you can ask a ranger to take you out on a private boat from $25.
Cambodia adjusts to your budget really, lay on the beach for nothing or splash out daily massages or some extreme sports, there’s something for most people.
Tipping is expected by most but not all “Open your heart, open your wallet” is a popular saying here. Salaries are terribly low, as are some living conditions, so a small tip means the world for some. Many restaurants add 10% service charge to bills but this rarely goes to the staff. Drivers, guides, entertainers and hotel staff; tip anyone who has done a good job.