Budget Travel, Water and Moon Festival @ Siem Reap, Cambodia

It has been a while since I last updated my blog as I could hardly get the time to write blogs as I was in Cambodia. Anyway I am now back in action with some tips and guide for people who intend to travel but still have budget constraint. This will be a great destination for you.

Below is a list of DO’s and DONT’s and some tips when traveling to Cambodia (Siem Reap):

The ideal number of people traveling in a group to Siem Reap is 4 people as this will be more cost-efficient in terms of sharing on food and transportation.

Weather and Climate:
November to February is the “cool season”, which is dry and not too hot (is around 15C – 20C). During this season the morning breeze is cool and chilling. In April it gets really hot (approximately 30C – 35C), but not rainy. Starting around June it gets rainy–and still hot. It rains off and on all the time, so roads are muddy and some areas are impassable, and it stays like that until November, which will be cool & dry.

Customs and Dressing:
Try not to wear shorts to the temples (such as to Angkor Wat). In fact, few men in Cambodia wear shorts unless their job nature require them to wear so. But since foreigners are often seen as different as always, they can get away with this odd behavior and dress to an extent. Certainly lighter dressing is fine during exercise (You will get a lot of hiking and jogging on the trip to Angkor Wat). Sandals (not leather) are good for rainy season in the city–the mud and fecal matter just rinses right off! Try to smile more, always act respectful, don’t raise your voice or your eyebrows, and smile at everybody. It really works for me.

Money and Currency
Cash is the best. You need to exchange for US Dollar as they accept either USD or Riel. Riel is their local currency. You will get some riel by the locals as change when you spend in USD dollars. One dollar equals to 4000 riel, the riel has lost less than half of its value since 1995 (those IMF policies keep inflation down, if nothing else). Coins have not been used for many, many years.

Language and Communication

Majority of Cambodians speak Khmer, a language of the Mon-Khmer group. Its only close relative is the language of the Mon, a Burmese minority. Khmer is only distantly related to Thai and to some Indonesian languages, with some borrowed words from Vietnamese, Chinese, Pali, French and English. The script is related to Devanagari and looks a bit like Thai script at first glance. An increasing number of urban Cambodians speak English, especially young people, and some (mostly older) Cambodians can speak French, Chinese and even Japanese.

Festival and Events:
If you are planing to see a happening event and to catch a glimpse of all walks of life in Cambodia, you should be there during 11 Nov – 13 Nov. These few days are Cambodia’s National Holiday. It is the Water and Moon Festival (“Bun Om Tuk” in Khmer). The Angkor era was based on the success of harnessing the reversal of the Tonle Sap’s waters and the Water Festival is the ancient way of paying respect to this phenomenon. Hundreds of thousands of Cambodians flock to Phnom Penh or Siem Reap to watch huge dragon boats each propelled by up to 70 men (or women) race for the honour of their village. Fireworks light up the night sky as revellers party for 3 days non-stop. It is a grand festival for Cambodians.

Fare and Fees:
Airfare (Round Trip) – RM348 per pax (incl. airport tax, fuel surcharge)
Flying with Airasia to Siem Reap (Angkor Wat), now everyone can fly. I booked the flight since 2 months ago and at that moment the price was quite cheap. I believe now it is even cheaper with no fuel surcharge on their flight package. You can book online for your ticket at www.airasia.com

Other than the usual air fare, you still need to pay an additional USD25 as “Departure Tax” for all international departures from Cambodia.

Hotel Fare – USD (18 per night)
So far Golden Temple Villa is one of the low budgeted and recommended place to stay at Siam Reap. This particular guest house provides a lot of free services.

  • FREE tuk-tuk pick-up (Cart pulled by motorcycle) from Airport to Hotel.
  • FREE welcome drinks (Lime Juice).
  • FREE message for 20 minutes.
  • FREE Aspara dance show.
  • FREE bananas daily.
  • FREE coffee and tea daily.
  • FREE unlimited Internet access.

To book online please login to their website at http://www.goldentemplevilla.com/. The online reservation doesn’t require any deposit. They are based on trust.

Tuk-tuk (average USD10 – USD20 per day)
Price of tuk tuk will vary from the trip to trip. The trips that we chose are:

First Day – In the morning go to small tour (Angkor wat, Angkor Thom, Victoria Gate, Thommanom, Chau Say Thevoda, Ta Keo, Ta Prom, Banteay Kdei, Sras Srang, Prasat Kravan), sunset and driver whole day USD10, per tuk tuk.

Second Day (Option 2) – In the morning go to Banteay Srei, grand tour (Pre Rup, East Mebon, Ta Som, Neak Pean, Preah Khan, North Gate of Angkor Thom), sunset and driver whole day USD16, per tuk tuk.

Third Day (Option 1) – In the morning go to Rolous Group (Lolei, Preah Ko, Bakong) is very old temples and floating village at Tonel Sap, you can take the boat trip (additional USD9 per pax) to see the floating market, fish farm, birds,… and driver whole day USD13, per tuk tuk.

Fourth Day – Departed from Golden Temple Villa to Siem Reap International Airport by tuk-tuk, as a courtesy we paid USD7 to the tuk-tuk driver.

By the way below is our tuk tuk driver cum tour guide during our 3-day tour. His name is Mr. Samet a.k.a Timothy. He is a very nice guy and he provided all the guides that we needed in Siem Reap. His mobile: 092 915158 or email: timothy_mate@yahoo.com

Breakfast – USD1.75 (average per day)
So far I have tried their Western and Khmer style breakfast and both are excellent. The usual western style is the typical American breakfast “bread and omelette or scramble eggs”. The Khmer style is plain rice with grilled chicken or pork and also noodle soup with the choice of vegetable, pork or beef.

Lunch (average USD2 – USD4)
Again this the price very depends on what you ordered. There is a must-try food in Cambodia, which is called “Amok”. It is a pot of diluted curry but with strong taste cooked with coconut cream, spicy paste, long beans, onions, green leaves and egg white. It comes with a choice of Beef, Fish, Pork or Chicken. Usually a bowl of Amok will cost USD3. According to our tour guide if you haven’t tasted this food, you are not qualified to tell people that you have visited Cambodia.

Dinner (average USD2 – USD4)
The price of dinner will be roughly the same as lunch. You can choose to take your dinner back at guest house where they have a variety of choices there. As for me I still prefer eating out on the stalls even I was told that the roadside food is unhygienic. Still I love hawker food the best.

Entrance Fee to Angkor Wat (1 day – USD20, 2 and 3 days – USD40)
The entrance fee to Angkor Wat is USD20 per day. If you are visiting for more than 2 days, the ticket will cost you USD40. For those who are very interested in archeology and ancient temples, you should get the  3-day pass for USD40. As for me I feel that 1 day of visit to all the temples are more than sufficient. The rest you can ask the tuk tuk driver to bring you to the other parts of Siem Reap such as the old market place or places that you can experience the local lives of Cambodians.

Entrance Fee and boat trip to Tonle Sap (USD9 per pax)
This is a must-pay for the boat trip to the floating village. The floating village currently has more that 1000 families who are usually Cambodian, Vietnamese and Laotian. The house can be moved according to the high/low tide of the lake. It is a must-visit if you are in Siem Reap.

All the listed above are the essential spendings in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The rest will be optional like tips, snacks and souvenirs. Do follow closely on my next post, I will introduce you the great and exotic Cambodian food and also the food that I will never be going to try out for the second time in my life.

28 thoughts on “Budget Travel, Water and Moon Festival @ Siem Reap, Cambodia”

  1. Steven

    Looks like you had a whale of a time. Wish I had the time to go touring to Cambodia. My sister loved Cambodia more than Malaysia as its still has a slow pace of life. No doubt with the increasing number of tourist visiting the country, rapid changes are inevitable.



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  4. Useful tips. I’ve just bought tix to siam reap nx yr Aug. Too sad to see your reivew saying the weather will be rainy and hot.
    Seems like the best time to travel there is Nov – Feb?

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  7. Love your website! I like the fact that you include lotsa pictures. Some of the other blogs I have visited are lacking that quality.

    PS: I have to try that cocunut curry thing. Looks awesome 😀

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  10. hi, few questions

    hmm, the boat trip for tonle sap is when, roughly how long and what’s the company / boat operator, and where…i saw one opeartor, but USD32???

    can we buy the angkor watt ticket anywhere, or must we go to the place and buy?

    …i am going on 19/6 to 23/6…yeay..

  11. Hi Lynn, the boat ride on tonle sap trip take about 2-3 hrs. You can buy the ticket when you enter the place. Price of 32 dollar is a bit too much. You can even get the tuk-tuk to bring you there also as they provide better guide.

  12. hi steven, thanks for ur feedback…but i am a bit confused of why the difference in price… u mean to say, the boat ride itself is usd9? so, if we go there, we can buy at that price, but if we buy thru middleperson, that’s why expensive? i saw other sites quote at usd22.

  13. Lynn, I think they had included the ride from hotel to tonle sap as well as visiting other places, but the entrance to tonle sap lake defenately cost USD9 as I had paid infront of the entrance counter. May be you should check with the agent on the pricing before you sign up for the package.

  14. hi steven..i regretted not contacting the tuktuk driver you recommended as we took the package from the hotel (yup, stayed at the place you recommended…thanks so much for the info)…our tuktuk driver, though nice, but speak very little english….;(..anyway, we paid USD10 for the tonle sap ride…paid at the counter…not sure why the difference….just to share, on the first day, we also went to silk farm (free entrance fee), wishing museum (free entrance fee) and cultural village (USD11)

  15. Hi Lynn, glad you enjoy the trip 🙂 Btw, looks like some of the places that you been through are slightly difference from the places that I have been to. The silk farm and the wishing place I haven’t been before. Do you take down the photo of those places? Can you share with me I might consider revisit to Cambodia again. Lynn, thanks for your information 🙂

  16. hi steven…sure…once i uploaded them…i have some uploaded on my facebook.com/dasen.gumbek but not much as of today…maybe later on..;)

    anyway, i am also thinking of going back…maybe to other temples this time…t hnom kulen, banteay srei and kbal spean waterfall…and perhaps do some voluntary work there…hopefully…

  17. Hi,
    I have some questions regarding the Tonle Sap ride. How many of you in a group to get the price USD9 per person? I read somewhere that the ticket counter is charging USD15 per person and there’s only 2 of us. Since tourists already travelled from town to Tonle Sap, they have no choice but to accept whatever price quoted. Do you think we need to book through a tour agent while in town? thks.

  18. Hi Wen,

    There are only 2 of us that time and we were glad to ride with the tuk tuk that booked from the Golden Temple Hotel. So far the places that he brought us to are very reasonable and no additional charges. After all I had told my friends that he did a great job of bringing us around and I even mentioned to my friends that I tipped him USD2 per day for every day of the tour and my friends scolded me for spoiling the market 🙂

  19. Very detailed and useful info. Thanks for sharing. I planed to visit Siem Reap in Mid January. Did Mr. Samet Timothy walks with you into your destination as the tour guide or he just drives you over?

  20. Th Lim, Mr. Samet drive us to the place and he explains the description of that place and summary of the place and he let us walk ourselves and we always requested him to bring us for the local delights there and he does so. Very nice person. My friend just came back which found Mr. Samet there too and they are giving him thumbs up. P/s, I didn’t get any commission from him 🙂

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