In this guide we will tell you all about travelling in Cambodia on a budget, including what to see, where to stay and how to get there.
Cambodia has been on the budget backpacker bucket list for years – and for good reason. Food and alcohol is cheap, it’s easy to get around and there is no shortage of other travellers to hang out with. Seeing Angkor Wat at sunrise, partying in Sihanoukville and chilling out by the river in Kampot should all be on your ‘to do’ list.
The star attraction in Siem Reap are the Angkor temples, home to some of the world’s most stunning temples, including the spectacular Angkor Wat. It is easy to spend at least 3 days exploring the site. You will need to buy a 1 day (US$20), 3 day (US$40) or 7 day (US$60) admission pass at the main entrance, which is easy to find with a driver or on a bike. Highlights for us were Angkor Wat, Bantey Srei, Bayon, Ta Keo and Ta Prohm. There is also the fascinating Cambodia Landmine Museum (US$5) on the way to Bantey Srei that is well worth a visit.
The best way to visit the temples and museum is by tuk-tuk, especially when it’s hot. Usually your hostel will arrange cheap drivers for the day, or you can bargain with a driver on the street. If you are feeling energetic you can also rent bicycles cheaply – just ask your hostel. Tourists are generally not allowed to hire motorcycles or scooters themselves.
TRAVELATOR TIP: You can usually fit up to 4 people in a tuk-tuk to share the cost of an Angkor tour.
It is a confronting and sobering couple of days in Phnom Penh visiting the Killing Fields and S-21 Prison, but it is an experience that every tourist should have to fully appreciate the horrors the Cambodian people have endured. Your hostel will be able to arrange a tuk-tuk driver for both sites, or you can easily bargain with a driver on the street.
Kampot is a relaxed riverside town that seems to make everyone want to stay longer than they had planned. Hire a scooter and cruise through the hills in Bokor National Park, do a firefly cruise on the river or head to Arcadia Backpackers Hostel for a fun day of rope swings and blob dives. A day trip to the beachside resort town of Kep is also super easy from Kampot.
TRAVELATOR TIP: Head to Arcadia Hostel just out of Kampot on your scooter for lunch and river fun – they have a ‘blob’ and rope swing on the river. You don’t have to be staying at the hostel to use the facilities, and you can buy drinks and lunch from the bar.
We have heard very mixed reviews about Sihanoukville, but if you’re up for a party this is your spot. If you prefer to relax by the beach, Sihanoukville is the best place to hop on a boat to the secluded islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem.
Where To Stay
Cambodia is a backpacker’s heaven, and there is plenty of good value accommodation. Here are our favourites:
- Siem Reap – Onederz Hostel – Right next door to the Angkor Night Market, Onederz is super clean with great air conditioning and good value breakfasts. Not a ‘party’ hostel, but close to Pub Street if you want a night out.
- Kampot – Kampot Oasis Guesthouse – Run by two super friendly Englishmen, this guesthouse isn’t the cheapest but it will feel like your second home. Sit up by the bar and enjoy the cheap beer and cider while having a chat to the owners, they also put on some amazing Western food including a fantastic full English breakfast.
- Kep – Botanica Guesthouse – This is seriously resort luxury on a backpacker budget. From only US$17 per night, you can get your own luxury bungalow and relax in the saltwater pool with a cocktail. Heaven!
Cambodians love a good barbecue and will cook up almost everything imaginable! Whether you feel like chicken, pork, fish or frogs, there will be something to your liking at a Cambodian barbecue. You can find them on the streets in most cities.
Kampot is famous for its pepper, and Kep is famous for its crabs. Needless to say, the combination of the two is a winner. Often you can get a huge meal of pepper crab for less than US$10.
This is a mild creamy coconut curry that usually comes with fish or chicken. Order some rice and tuck in!
The easiest way to get around is by bus or minibus. Most hostels can book you a ticket to your next destination (for a small booking fee) and the bus will pick you up from your hostel. Your hostel will also be able to book Mekong river cruises, which can take you all the way to Ho Chi Minh! There are also travel agencies everywhere you look who may be able to offer something cheaper than your hostel but check the quality of the bus the travel agency is booking you on.
Getting In and Out
The two main airports are in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. AirAsia is a great budget option, especially if you are flying in from Kuala Lumpur. AirAsia connect to pretty much everywhere throughout Asia and as far as Australia. Overland buses are also available – speak to your hostel to book a ticket.
If travelling on to Vietnam, a good route is Kep to Phu Quoc island in Vietnam. Travel agents in Kep can arrange a minibus and ferry trip that will cost around USD$20 – we used Ana Tours in Kep without any problems. Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City via bus is also a common route.
USD$70 per day (for a couple) will get you comfortable private rooms, good local food, a few beers and the odd activity and scooter hire.
Best Time To Visit
The cool season is from November to February, which is the best time to visit. The hot season is from March to May and it is seriously HOT (and humid). The rainy season is from June to October, and the monsoonal rains can bring some practical challenges with dirt roads.
Yay for transparency! This page contains some affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through a link on this page, we get paid a small commission. Don’t worry – you don’t pay anything extra! And we promise that we only recommend places that we have truly enjoyed staying at.