On my trip to Cambodia April 26-May 3, 2017
note: I travel solo without a cell-phone.
Cambodia is not so cheap:
It's easy to go way over budget. First is the mindset that everything doesn't cost so much so you don't have to worry about what you spend. No, it actually is more difficult to budget because the temptation to spend is far greater.
Secondly, the government of Cambodia wants your tourist dollar. The immigration fee of $30 US comes right from the top. If you want to go to a museum or royal palace, you must pay the tourist price which in the case of the latter is 40 times greater than what a Cambodian would pay: the sign at the Royal Palace, "Cambodian citizen 1000 riat, Foreign passport holder 40,000 riat" was priceless. In sum, going back to any of these places is not a temptation.
Oh, the park of Angkor Wat. The government is squeezing that one big time. Latest fees are one day: $37, 3 day $62 and one week $72. The hidden extra cost will be transportation. There is no bus from town. A tuk-tuk for the day will cost you anywhere from $15 to $20 depending on the season and your negotiating skills. If you take a tour, then expect to be put in an overpriced restaurant for lunch or breakfast though the cost of the tour itself isn't bad $13 to $18 depending on what you do. Being a history guy, I bought a 3 day pass.
Weirdest experience: During my first tour of Angkor Wat, the 20 something Millenial crowd all ordered a milk shake for lunch as a protest against the tourist-trap prices at the restaurant we were 'delivered' to. I was the only person that ordered some food: spring rolls. What caught me off guard was the water cost a lot of money; small bottle $1, large bottle $2 (4 times the price in a store). My protest came the next day on another tour as I didn't order anything to drink with my meal.
My good deed: Helping out this young (26) Frenchman from the Carribean whom I encountered at six am outside Central Market in Phnom Penh. He had been thrown out of the place he was staying, was a little lost and hadn't slept. I got him up to Siem Reap where he either got a hold of his contact or went to the airport to get out of Cambodia ASAP. My strongest recollection of him was his complaining to a tuk-tuk driver why it was so cheap to go to the airport ($5). His look of embarassment when I scolded him 'Don't say that!'. was remarkable.
Best deal: hotel at Siem Reap which because of the hot season cost me only $8 a night (fan only). I complained the room was too large having two twin beds.
Must have souvenir: T-shirt with logo "No tuk-tuk, No massage, No money."
Last day: I was dropped off in Phnom Penh in an area I was unfamiliar with and had to find where the bus to the airport was, but I was too late. So, I hired a motorbike (5$) to get me there. It was a little unusual for me hanging on with one hand to my driver's shoulder and with my other firmly cradling my bag of porcelain gifts on my lap while wearing my backpack. The real downside was breathing in the pollution at intersections produced my massed motorcycles and tuk-tuks.
On tuk-tuks, park fees and seasons: The lady who ran my hotel in Siem Reap let the cat out of the bag when she confessed to me that business has not been so good after the government raised the fees at Angkor Wat. Tourists are staying for shorter periods. And it was not just the hot weather season that was causing the tuk-tuk drivers to incessantly come at me every three minutes or less. Even after I had entered the park area, they kept chasing me. So, in raising the park fees, the hotel business is down, and the tuk-tuk drivers are starving, maybe literally. I suspect when the weather improves the recovery in business will not be as robust as expected. On top of this, it is possible that hotels have been overbuilt in the Siam Reap area.
Sometimes the free commercial glossy tourist maps are not so accurate. It is better to trust the plain paper ones that are given at the information office at the Angkor Wat ticket office.
The riat is used as change for US dollars. Beware of damaged Riat bills in the Siem Reap area though there is less superstition about this in Phnom Penh where damaged or perforated riat bills will be accepted; this was my experience.
Bring lots of $5 and $1 US bills as they are most useful for purchasing things and meals. The riat that is given in change can be used for buying a bottle of water or as the 50 cents on your next purchase. Before making a large purchase insist on $US in change. The excuse they don't have any US dollars is common. The street rate is 4000 riat to one US dollar, thus 1000 riat is 25 cents (May 2017).
Solo travelers; The biggest challenge will be finding your way from where a bus drops you off. Depending on Google maps is not always helpful. Be ready to change plans or have a back-up plan.
Phnom Penh airport bus: This is a closely guarded secret. But from 5:30 am to 7:30 pm there is a bus (03) that runs from the airport to central market for 1500 riat. They don't give change. It is marked at the stops that the bus runs until 8:30 pm, but I didn't see one around central market after 7:30 which is why I had to rent a motorbike (see above.)
If you use a real camera for pictures, bring an extra battery especially if you think your old one is on the downward slope.I didn't try to find one in the Siem Reap area, but I suspect it would not be easy.
It was a trip with its ups and downs. I would not recommend this country to unseasoned or novice travelers to attempt solo. This was my first time in Cambodia.
I would be more keen to return to Cambodia, if the government was more reasonable with its fee structure.
Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.