For the month of March we spent the majority of our time in Cambodia. We were in Siem Reap for three weeks, spent one week in Phnom Penh, crossed over the border to Vietnam to spend several days in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and then headed up to Da Lat. We really enjoyed our time in Cambodia; from seeing some amazing sites, such as Angkor Wat, to the incredibly friendly people, Cambodia did not disappoint us.
So how did we do for the month? We came in under budget for a total of $2653.83. That breaks down to $85.61 per day or $28.53 per person per day. To be honest, I was hoping we would do better, but we didn’t. Looking back it was the food that really sank our budget.
Strangely, the USD is used in Cambodia. But all change less than a dollar is given in the Cambodian currency, the Riel. The Riel is steady, 4000 Riels equals 1 USD. For Vietnam, 1 USD equaled approximately 21,089 VDN. This is the largest currency that we have had to deal with so far on our around the world adventure.
Okay, this is really embarrassing. Our biggest expenditure was for food for a total of $964.10. Gasp! This is about the same amount that we spent on food in Europe, and I do realize that this is a lot for SE Asia. We spent $594.14 on dining out and $369.96 on groceries. We spent the majority of the month in hotels accounting for the higher cost of eating out. In Cambodia, street food typically costs about $1.50 and up and a plate at a sit down restaurant is $3 and up.
Admittedly, our food costs could have been cheaper, but we ate more western type meals. Sydney has been getting more and more resistant to eating “Asian” food, thus accounting for some of the higher cost for food. Another factor contributing to our higher food costs was we found a great kid friendly restaurant called Le Jardin in Phnom Penh. They have a great outdoor play area with sandbox, trees house, and lots of toys. While in Phnom Penh, we went to Le Jardin multiple times and spent way too much. But I got to say it was worth it as it was a really nice break from the noise and chaos of Phnom Penh.
Our next biggest expenditure was for lodging for a total of $728.74. We spent 3 weeks at the Downtown Siem Reap Manor for a total of $399 breaking down to $19 a night. This has been the longest we have been in a hotel since starting our around the world adventure. The hotel was basic, but nice. The best part was it had a pool to help us keep cool and lots of families stayed there.
After spending 3 weeks being in a hotel without access to a kitchen or laundry, we splurged and got an apartment through AirBnB while in Phnom Penh for a total of $224 for a week. It was really nice to be able to cook for ourselves and have separate rooms. It makes us all happier when we can have some space.
We then spent 3 nights in the Tuan Anh Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City for a total of $68.84. The hotel was located in District 1 and was easy walking distance to many of the sites and near a great park. Overall, it was tidy and clean and a good value. We then left for Da lat, Vietnam. We spent 9 days in Da Lat, but only 2 days of the 9 days are reflected in this month’s budget. The Cam Tu Cau Hotel in Da Lat was a steal at $9 a night. It was clean, had wifi, cable TV and the owners and their daughter were very nice. What more could we ask for?
During the month of March, we also had the miscellaneous expense for laundry for a total of $18.90.
Our next biggest expenditure was for transportation for a total of $293.02. We took the Mekong Express from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh costing $39 and then the Mekong Express from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City for a total of $42. The Mekong Express came highly recommended from fellow travelers and after taking it I can now see why. While the bus driver was only mildly alarming in his driving skills compared to some of the buses we have now been on in Vietnam, it was clean, comfortable, and made crossing the border between Cambodia to Vietnam easy. The Mekong express also checks in your luggage and which can only be picked up with your luggage receipt ensuring someone does not walk off with your bag.
We took a sleeper bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Da Lat for a total of $36.98. The sleeper bus was nice, but is not designed for us long legged westerners. I spent most of the ride trying to find a comfortable position. If you are taking an overnight bus in Vietnam, I would recommend bringing ear plugs. The bus drivers in Vietnam really love their horns and on our drive to Da Lat I doubt he went more than a couple seconds without using it the entire 8 hours!
Our total local transportation expenditures were $175.04. $111 of this was during the time we were in Siem Reap. The bulk of the local transportation while in Siem Reap was related to cost of getting out to Angkor Wat. The cheapest way to get out to Angkor Wat from Siem Reap, besides renting a bicycle, which looked like a long, dusty, hot ride, is by tuk tuk. A tuk tuk for the day costs $15. Expect to pay more, between $20 to $30, to get out to some of the further flung temples, such as Banteay Srei.
Our total expenditures for entrance fees were $199.59. This included seeing Angkor Wat, the Landmine museum in Siem Reap, Angkor Center for Conservation of Biodiversity, the National Museum and Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21), Choeng Ek Killing Fields, Cu Chi tunnels and War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City.
The bulk of the entrances fees were for Angkor Wat for a total of $120. Angkor Wat has the option for a 1-day, 3 day and 7 day pass. We decided to do the 7-day pass because we did not want to feel rushed. We also did not want to feel obligated to spend the entire day at temples, as it is really hot. In reality we could have probably gotten away with the 3-day pass and seen everything we wanted to. But it did make it nice to break it up thus helping us avoid “temple burn-out.”
The National Museum and Royal Palace in Phnom Penh were okay, but nothing amazing. So if you are limited on time and money I would skip these. The Tuol Sleng Genocide in Phnom Penh and Choeng Ek Killing Fields just outside of Phnom Penh, though difficult and gut wrenching, are a must see. At Tuol Sleng we hired a guide and felt like it helped give context to what we were seeing. But after the guided tour we took time just to walk around and really absorb everything. Choeng Ek (The Killing Fields) has an excellent free audio guide. Cu Chi tunnels outside of Ho Chi Minh City were interesting. I expected to be underground a lot more, but after climbing through a short section I was really glad we weren’t. The War Remnant museum was interesting, but difficult to see the consequences of US actions.
While in Cambodia, we applied for our visas for Vietnam, which cost $195. This is the most we have paid for visas so far. We obtained our visas for Vietnam while in Phnom Penh. We decided to go through an agency saving us the time of not having to stand in line. If you do it yourself the cost should be $60 for each person. Words of advice, triple check the dates written on the visa as Vietnam is renowned for messing up either the entry or exit date. We stupidly just checked our entry dates, but not our exit dates. They gave Jason 4 days less than Sydney and I.
Our total costs for entertainment was $185.81. This included a couple of massages while in Siem Reap, a cooking class, seeing an Apsara dance in Siem Reap, going to Kids City in Phnom Penh, seeing a movie in Ho Chi Minh City, and a horse carriage ride in Dalat. We really enjoyed the massages and the cooking class in Siem Reap. Though, it was nice seeing the Apsara dance, there are definitely places that it can be seen for a lot cheaper, or even free, and I am not totally convinced that it was worth the cost. Kids City in Phnom Penh, though expensive at $5 per activity, is well worth it. It is a great place to get a break from the craziness, heat, and noise of the city. What is not reflected in this budget is Sydney’s horse riding lessons at the Happy Horse Ranch in Siem Reap. For Christmas, her grandparents had given her money for horse riding and she used this money for the lessons. Sydney had a great time and it was nice to get out of the city and into the country.
Our total expenditures for communication were $39. This was for a SIM card and new cellphone. Sadly, our last cellphone stopped holding a charge and we had to purchase a new one for a job interview.
We spent a total of $30.57 on miscellaneous items. This included buying some material to have a skirt sewn for me, 2 silk scarves, a jaw harp, and bamboo flute. We also bought a nose plug for Sydney for swimming and a new lens cap. After over a year of being on the road, we finally cracked and bought some souvenirs. But those scarves were just too pretty to pass up…..
Our total expenditures under medical were $18.00. This was for bug spray, hand sanitizer, Tylenol, and a thermometer.
When we initially arrived in Cambodia we had planned to stay for only a couple weeks. However we found the people of Cambodia to be so welcoming we decided to stay for much longer. But I must confess, the highlight for us was seeing the grandeur of Angkor Wat. Cambodia can definitely be seen on a cheaper budget than what we did.