Welcome to the top 10 money savings tips when you are living in Cambodia.
Ok, I know some of you who may live or have visited Cambodia before might be laughing, because Cambodia is relatively very, VERY cheap to live in. But, it’s always good to share tips on how to save a little money here and there, to spend on visiting different parts of the country, to spend on a bigger apartment or just to sit in the bank! So here it is, our top 12 cash saving tips when living in Cambodia.
1) Try booking tourist tours in Cambodia as a group
Cambodian tourist businesses are the same as any other, they’d rather do a cheaper price per person and fill their tour than mess around booking individual people. With a group, you cannot only satisfy their need to fill their bus, boat or otherwise, but you have more negotiation power when buying multiple tickets. If you are travelling alone, don’t worry, Cambodia is great to meet people and usually striking up a few conversations in your hostel or at a local restaurant, café or bar can lead to a new group of friends ready to have a new experience, for a discount!
2) Try to eat recommended local food in Cambodia
Local food is so much cheaper than restaurants. Although you have to be wary of some street-side stalls as they can be a challenge for your stomach, trying a roasted cricket or tarantula is all part of the fun right? But don’t get too worried, there are also quality simple dishes, such as chicken or pork fried rice and Cambodia’s famous fish amok dish which are very good. These meals will cost you around $2 and are a great chance to chat to locals and practice your Khmer!
3) Get a purifier for your water
So, if you are on the go, buying a refillable water bottle with a purifier comes in handy (see LifeStraw products if you need some inspiration). These are not only a cheaper option but better for the environment, which is always preferable in an environment as beautiful as Cambodias. If you are living in permanent accommodation, we would recommend buying a water filter. Not only will this investment pay off (they are around $25 in the long run) but you won’t need to carry water endlessly from stores to home and up and down stairs and lifts! Water from the tap is very cheap, but it does need to be filtered. Another, slightly more expensive option is to buy purifying tablets or boil your water, but who needs the hassle? Investing in a water filter is our advice!
4) Save your traveling in Cambodia for outside the tourist season
High times in the tourist season means prices go up, as demand for tours and accommodation increases. While when you are living in Cambodia, you’ll learn where to avoid during these periods, if you don’t, then it’s worth bearing in mind if you want to travel cheaply. High season in Cambodia is when the temperatures are most mild, which is between November and April. However, the beginning of November can still see the tail end of the wet season (before entering the dry season). These are also the months which see the most tourists visit Cambodia, so it’s something to take note of. April and May are the hottest and probably least visited months, however, Khmer New Year (which falls in April) is a great time to be in Cambodia!
5) Save your beer tokens!
So, a very badly kept secret is the fact that some of the beer cans you can buy have free give away written on the inside of the ring pull. If you see a number or some Khmer writing it could mean you have won some money off your next beer, cash or even bigger prizes (subject to the current offers). Always keep them and ask a Khmer friend if you don’t know what they say, as you could be sitting on a free case of beer!
Something else to note with beer cans is, you should bag them up in a seperate waste bag as they are picked up by locals known as the ‘edjai’ (or street pickers). They too are well versed in how to earn or save money and one of the ways they do is by searching through rubbish to find things they can sell for recycling. So, make sure you bag up your empty cans and plastics seperate. I’m sure they will be super greatful!
6) Book tourist tours in Cambodia in person
Booking in advance doesn’t necessarily mean you will get a cheaper deal and often negotiating a price in person is better. While you do run the risk of things being fully booked, especially in peak tourist season, if you’re looking to save your pennies, give it a try and be ready with your best negotiation skills! Also, a top tip for hotels is to check the price online and then call the hotel directly. Often you can get a cheaper deal over the phone, or if they quote you a more expensive price, you can always book online.
7) Bars or house parties?
Speaking of having a beer, alcohol can vary massively in how expensive it costs. Some bars charge as little as 50 cents for a draft beer (a 330ml glass of local beer) whereas some bars charge $5 for a bottle (usually an imported European beer). Equally, shots of spirits can be very expensive when compared to buying a bottle from a corner shop. If you really want to save the cash, have a get together with friends at a house and it’ll keep the drink costs very low. Or, find some local bars that are cheap. The same thing applies to coffee! Buy your own to make at home or you are looking at around $2.50 or more from a decent café.
8) Be self-aware to avoid otherwise unlikely crime
Although crime is not prevalent in Cambodia, just like anywhere in the world, it still exists. Luckily, you can take a few precautions which will keep you safe. The main ones are, keep your belongings close and don’t flash expensive objects like phones or jewellery. In crowded streets make sure your pockets are not open to pick pockets and wear your bag on your front with all the zips closed. Also, always make sure you are aware of some local scams. The main ones are getting fake notes back in your change (always double check) and being charged for damage on rented things, such as motorbikes (take pictures of anything you rent beforehand).
9) Ask your employer in Cambodia about working from home
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have got used to the idea of working from home, which can save you transportation time, having to buy lunch while at your workplace and other associated costs with the daily commute. Many businesses understand workers can be a lot more productive at home while being happier. While it’s worth asking, we are not suggesting asking to go remote full time and work from an island (unless you can, and good for you!), but getting a day every other week is great for the wallet and also means you can get the washing done while working.
10) Take up opportunities with free perks!
There are many opportunities in Cambodia to either work or volunteer in return for free accommodation, however the pay is usually lower in these cases. Either way, if you want to explore options which provide free accommodation then power to you. Some businesses also offer free lunch as part of the working environment and are a good chance to bond with colleagues and taste some great local foods. But even if you don’t want anything in return, volunteer opportunities and getting stuk in are also great ways to see the country and get a real taste of Cambodia, much more than any scheduled bus journey or the like.
11) Ride a motorbike, or even a bicycle!
The price of petrol is volatile and if you are living and working in a Cambodian town or city then a car is a very expensive way of getting around. Not only are cars expensive because they are all imported (and come with very high tax), but insurance and trips to the mechanic will eat away at a budget. Motorbikes are much cheaper, with some able to be picked up for as little as three to five hundred US dollars. These motorbikes, known locally as ‘motos’, as perfect city run arounds and will cost you less than 10 US dollars per month if used sparingly.
Electric motorbikes are not common in Cambodia yet, but they are a cheaper option. If you choose to go electric, great! But, be sure to check that the bikes can go the distance you require before they need charging again, as the technology is still very much evolving (that said, its improving massively all the time, evidenced by the huge switch to electric tuk tuks, which can be seen in the bigger cities and towns such as Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
However, the humble bicycle cannot be beaten, and is a great way to get around. You can pick up cheap bikes for as little as $40 (on secondhand sites such as Khmer24). Or you can get a really good brand bike (some of which are produced in Cambodia!) for around $250.
12) Learn to bargain
Learn to bargain! Cambodia is no stranger to the haggling culture in the region. While as a foreigner visiting Cambodia you’re never likely to get the same price as a local would pay, it’s always worth a try to bring down the first price you get on almost anything (except in the big supermarkets and malls!). Give it a practice and find out what works. Also, if you are doing a similar weekly shop, remember prices and rotate the markets and stalls you go to, so you begin to get an idea of a good starting point to bargain from, and learn if the price is well too high! Bargaining doesn’t have to be aggressive, usually a smile and a nod goes a long way to lowering a price and regular customers will get special treatment, so build a relationship with your local marketplace seller and you’re sure to see the benefits in your wallet.
Do you have any more money saving tips from your time in Cambodia? Let us know on the contact us page and we will add it to the blog!
Otherwise, if you want to know any more information about the best tips and tricks for living in Cambodia, or want to find out how you can make the move to Cambodia, get in contact with one of our expert team today!