The other day, Takeshi and I were sitting in a tuk tuk driving out to Banteay Srei when I realised all I have posted about so far on this world trip is the amazing things we’ve been experiencing so far. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, one of the things that I’ve found interesting has been the differences between the countries we have visited, and what that has meant to our budget and standard of living as we travel.
In Cambodia we have found that accommodation can be incredibly cheap. In Siem Reap, we stayed at the Green Park Village Guesthouse. It was a short distance out of town (for us, might be longer for others), but not only did we have a supermarket and street vendors nearby for our food needs, but the accommodation also included breakfast, wifi, free coffee and tea at the reception as well as incredibly friendly staff manning the front desk 24 hours a day – for only $10 US a night! With Takeshi and I, that makes it only $5 a night per person to not only sleep in a comfy bed and have a nice hot shower, but also enjoy a cup or two of coffee and have a delicious ordered breakfast with a drink every morning.
Food can range from the cheap to the not so cheap, but overall we have found purchasing food here to be inexpensive. Three course meal of spring rolls, curry and rice with caramelised banana for dessert, why that will be $4 US each please. We hunted a bit for that one, but on average you can get a nice restaurant meal for $4 a meal. Beers, juices, tea, coffee – basically every drink you can think of will be somewhere between $1 and $2 US. Street vendors, we’ve been able to find a lovely street vendor across the street which sells a rather nice fried rice dish for $1 US. Inside Angkor Wat Park visiting Banteay Srei – a whole small pineapple and mango cut up ready for eating – also $1 US.
The climate here in Cambodia is much cooler and less humid I’ve found compared to Malaysia and Singapore. It makes for rather pleasant days, and certainly made our day cycling around the Angkor Wat Archaeological Park more enjoyable! The only draw back is the mosquitoes. And by mosquitoes I mean lots of them, everywhere, and constantly biting. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many bites at one time in my life. Argh, may the itchiness end!
This was a bit of a shock to the system after being in larger cities like Singapore and Bangkok, or even tourist areas like Phuket in Thailand. All of them had bus or metro services with reasonable to fantastic service times and were less expensive than we were expecting. In Cambodia? Forget it, there’s no public transport at all. Zip. Nada. Find a tuk tuk, and hang on for dear life instead as they’ll be one of the main modes of transport available for short distances. While you may be hiring a driver for a day, they will eat into the budget a fair bit, so it’s worth adding a bit extra to your transport budget (think $15-$20US for a day around Angkor Wat Archaeological Park depending on distance and your negotiating skills).
This one, I would say is a bit mixed for me. While in general the people are friendly and helpful, this is a impoverished country with many people struggling to make a living – and it shows in areas like the Angkor Wat Archaeological Park. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many children chasing after tourists with piles of magnets and postcards to sell. The phrase ‘Ladiee, you want postcard? $1? I give you good price’ was a phrase I heard a lot everywhere I went in the more popular tourist areas of the Angkor Wat Park, as well as through any where tourists congregated even slightly. While I can handle the constant barrage while I’m wandering through a market (and you get it a lot in Cambodian markets), it does become a bit disconcerting when it is happening all the time outside of markets, when it’s children and especially when they continue to follow you and refuse to give up on a potential sale.
That said, the people here are incredibly friendly and helpful even if you can’t speak the language – and they’ve definitely helped us a lot with the currency system here!
Cambodia has a two currency system in place, which can be a bit frustrating. For large transactions (think $5 up), US dollars are used, but for small transactions Cambodian currency is used. We’ve found that it’s preferable to carry notes in $10 bills or less (preferably as many $1 or $5 US notes as possible) unless you are paying for accommodation or larger grocery bills as stores, tuk tuk drivers and street vendors won’t have change for larger bills.