Budget Friendly Ideas in Siem Reap, Cambodia
If there are any ASEAN countries that I love going back to, it’s Cambodia. I love the rustic atmosphere of the country. The people, the food, and the budget friendly cost of travelling around the country are just a few of the things I love about the place. And if you’ve been itching to go to Cambodia, the best place to kick-start your trip is in Siem Reap. Here are my top 8 things to do there.
1. Stay at a Local Khmer Home
Hotels and backpacking hostels are plenty around Cambodia. You can get an accommodation for as little as $15 per night, or with $30 to $50 you can already enjoy a villa/hotel accommodation with breakfast to boot. But, if you really want to experience an authentic Cambodian lifestyle, there’s no better way than staying with a Khmer family.
You can find homestays at Airbnb where we also found a very accommodating Khmer host in Siem Reap named Rahmat and stayed at a bungalow hut for 2 nights and 3 days. The accommodation was pretty modest with amenities of a mattress, 2 sheets, 2 pillows, charging port for all our gadgets, and a humble electric fan to keep us cool. Surprisingly, he runs a school that takes in less fortunate Khmer kids. You’ll get to learn more from the Khmer culture and immerse yourself with the realities of their life.
So if you are heading to Siem Reap, I do recommend staying at Rahmat as the earnings he gets from Airbnb helps in keeping up with the expenses of the school. You can book his home stay here, and make sure to get your $25 discount by signing up to Airbnb using my referral code here. Our 3 days/2 nights stay cost $45 including Airbnb fees.
2. Visit an NGO
One surprising thing about Cambodia is that it has the most number of NGO’s listed globally! Everywhere you go around the country, you are bound to find NGO’s there with the sole purpose of helping Khmers in health, education and livelihood. Take a day from your schedule and visit one to volunteer.
On the second night, I hosted a dinner ala Pinoy style – Budol Fight. It was a cross-cultural experience. I whipped up some Filipino dishes, while they cooked some Khmer cuisines as well. Stir fry frogs in Kaffir Lime Leaves anyone? Yummy! One thing that I found in common though was, they also eat on banana leaves. How’s that for an experience? As we played with these Khmer students I learned the traditional dance Apsara with the kids, which by the way confirmed that I am a lousy dancer. Cost for hosting a dinner $100, warm smiles and experience to help the NGO, priceless!
3. Roam Around Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is a UNESCO Heritage site. If you don’t visit Angkor Wat, you really did not see Cambodia. Pretend to be Tomb Raider for a day and walk around the enchanted temples, and be lost in the jungles around the area. It’s a fast tracked education in learning the history and culture of Khmers. You can read more about my Do’s and Don’ts in Visiting Siem Reap to give you further info on the cost/budget for this tour.
4. Bar Hopping and Dining at Pub Street
This is where you go to after a looooong day of walking around Angkor Wat. Restaurants, boutiques, hostels, and bars are plenty in the area and it comes alive at night. This is where tourist come to unwind and dine, and backpackers are always there mingling with fellow backpackers over a $1 glass of beer, or indulge yourself with a bottle of wine for $30.
5. Watch Kick Boxing at the Pub Street
Speaking of Pub Street, there’s one thing I found interesting during our visit there, and that was Kick Boxing. A boxing fan myself, I wanted to see what Kick Boxing was really about. Now, there has been debates that Kick Boxing originated in Thailand and other IndoChina countries, and Cambodian’s claim it originated in there’s too (ahhh..sounds confusing!). You might not be a great fan of the sports, but having a glimpse of this old-age duel of Khmer warriors is definitely worth the watch. From the cheering, announcers speaking in Khmer (which you will have no clue of understanding, but it’s fun anyway), to ordering drinks and food while watching a fight, and the cultural rituals of praying before the fight. Entrance to the arena is free and I spent $10 for the drinks and food.
6. Dine with Khmers in the Local Market
When it comes to travelling, one thing that I always make sure to do is visit the public markets. It’s where you can experience local cuisines without the touristy price tags. Enjoy a bowl of noodles, or go healthy with their selection of vegetables for as little as $1 per dish. Usual cost of meals for two is at $5 (Php 200).
7. Walk Around the Pagoda’s and Temples
In this case, I came across Wat Preah Prom Rath along Street 22, just a walking distance from Pub Street. I would say this is one of the most glamorous temples around Siem Reap and the place is neatly kept. The place is open for tourist and it’s absolutely free. So don’t be fooled by tour guides offering a fee to visit the place. Mesmerize yourself in the rich architecture of the temples and the rituals of monks. Just a few reminders, be polite, do not disturb any monks that are praying. For the ladies, it is FORBIDDEN to touch the monks.
8. Splurge for a Fancy Hotel Accommodation on a Budget
Now I’m not telling you to entirely cheap out on your vacation to Siem Reap, during my trip I split my 1 week stay in Siem Reap in two types of accommodation. The homestay for us was to really know more about Cambodia, and the other half is a 3 star hotel stay to enjoy the modern luxury of accommodation. As I’m always the kuripot traveler, I found Gloria Angkor Hotel a great place to stay. Their accommodation comes with free breakfast, a daily transpo (in a tuktuk) to the city central, and a refreshing pool to cool down after a long day of exploration around Siem Reap. Our accommodation for 4 days 3 nights cost us $72 (approx. Php. 3,400).