How to travel in Siem Reap on a budget

The Siem Reap is the jump-off point when it comes to visiting Angkor Wat. The Angkor Wat in itself is an enormous ancient temple, and thus it is also one of the most popular tourist attractions in Cambodia. It is no surprise than that more and more people visit the place every year. There is plenty to do around the area, but the main thing to consider when visiting Siem Reap is the budget.

When planning for my trip there, I decided to give myself a challenge, one that entailed using the least amount of money, having the maximum fun and over a long period of time. Thus the premise of this article; is how to get around Siem Reap on a budget. Here is how to do it.

Planning your accommodations

The main item that will dent your wallet is your accommodations. In Siem Reap, the best and most affordable places to stay are the hostels. With regards to the said hostels, there are different categories. A dorm of 10-12 beds will cost you around 3 dollars a night for accommodations. The smaller and less condensed dorms of between 4 and 6 beds will cost you between 6 and 10 dollars a night. If you want complete privacy, get yourself a private double room, which will cost you between 15 and 25 dollars.

It must be noted that none of the accommodations stated offer any free breakfast in self-catering areas. Still, I found that there are a myriad of restaurants and cafes around the sites where you can get very affordable food.

Alternatively, you can decide to book a hotel. Booking a two-star hotel will cost you as low as 10 dollars a night. However, the said hotels are not very close to the city center, and thus you are likely to also factor in transportation. Additionally, likely, the said room will not have air conditioning, and instead, you will have to use a fan.

Hotels with all niceties; hot water, TV connections, free wifi, and air conditioning, will cost you around 13 dollars for a twin and 16 dollars for a double per night. If a pool is present, the price jumps to around 20 dollars.

Food and drinks

If you are not staying at a hotel, where you are offered free breakfast, you will have to factor in some food. Cambodian Cuisine is very similar to that of Thai and Vietnamese. Rice and noodle dishes, which are more or less the staple lunchtime dish, will cost you 1.50 dollars. Dinner, which could be the more traditional dishes like rice and fish, will cost you 5 and 6 dollars.

Alternatively, you can decide to have a meal at one of the many street restaurants and outdoor markets for as low as 2 dollars. Snacks are much less costly, and you are good to go with a dollar.

porridge night snack
porridge night snack

As you would expect, local cuisine is a lot cheaper than western food. Pizza, for example, costs 4 dollars, a burger 7 dollars, and pasts will cost you up to 8 dollars. Having tried some of the western dishes, my advice is to go with the local cuisine.

Another option is to cook for yourself. this, in fact, I have found to be the cheapest option. Grocery shopping will set you back about 20 dollars a week, which is a lot cheaper than the other alternatives.

The drinks are a bit cheaper. Beers are less than a dollar, a glass of wine 3 dollars, and cocktails between 3 and 5 dollars.]

Places to visit

How many days do you need to enjoy Siem Reap fully? I have found that 5 days is optimal, so here are a few places you can visit in those five days.

The Landmine Museum

The landmine museum is a historic catalog of what landmines, installed during the Vietnam wars and still around to this day, have done to the country of Cambodia. It is an in-depth exhibit that is a must-see while you are there. Admission is 5 dollars for foreign visitors and comes with an English guide.

The Phnom Kulen National Park

This national park is located about 60 kilometers from Siem Reap and is a perfect place to go hiking while viewing the waterfalls, the hidden temples, and the huge jungle. Additionally, the entire park is teeming with historical and archeological sites, which you can check out while you are there. The entrance fee into the park is 20 dollars.

Kulen Map
Kulen Map

Taking a food tour

Khmer food is traditional and delicious, and taking a food tour is one of the best ways to spend your day. You will be able to sample the amazing sweets, noodle dishes, fresh seafood, as well as street food. Moreover, you will also learn about culture and history with regard to each dish. The tour costs 75 dollars, and it includes all the drinks, food, and transportation.

The Angkor National Museum

This museum is there to help add a bit of context to the area. It does so by displaying exhibits and artifacts from throughout history. Essentially, it is a great place to expand your knowledge. Admission is 12 dollars, and you will have to add to that 3 dollars if you want to take pictures, which, trust me, you will want to do.

Money-saving tips

Negotiate with the tuk-tuk drivers

Being a foreigner, the tuk-tuk drivers will want to get the best deal from you. So make sure that you negotiate their prices down a bit. Please do not take up the first number they throw at you if you are unable to do so, a hostel or hotel staff will help you out in advance.

Drinks on a minimal

They may seem cheap, but every dollar spent is a dent in your wallet, so you will want to reduce the number of drinks you are having.

Book the tour in Siem Reap as a group

You will have more negotiating power when you book the tour as a group. Even if you are traveling alone, you can always ask a person at the hostel or hotel you are staying at where they are going next and if they are comfortable with going together.

Kulen ticket office
Kulen ticket office