Cambodia: The One Dollar Economy

Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat Temples in Siem Reap

After hectic few months in Delhi hustling between my ventures and startup life, I abruptly decided to take a mini vacation in South East Asia with my high school best friend. The holiday started with a weekend in Hong Kong, where we decided to pack our bags and explore some unexplored areas of South East Asia. While browsing for some cheap flight tickets and reasonable hotel options, we ended up in Cambodia.

We started our journey from Hong Kong to Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. After a royal airport transfer in a Toyota Camry, we were surprised to see the acceptance of US Dollars and how the whole country demanded US dollars for anything and everything. Cambodia has had a very sad past during the communist rule in mid 70’s when they lost almost 40% of their population due to Pol Pot’s mass killing. Post that the country has remained backward and under heavy inflation. 1 dollar fetches you 4000 Cambodian Riel and that’s the reason why the country accepts dollars over Riels.

The most fascinating part of the country was its evolving economy around USD. While most travelers would feel its a cheap city, couple of dollars add up to almost 500 dollars by the end of the trip. All travelers looking for cheaper travel options in South East Asia should plan on Cambodia. We visited Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. While Phnom Penh is known for the local history, its mass killings and the royal palace, Siem Reap is known for its Hindu temples especially Angkor Wat. Its a must for all hisoric lovers. While the restoration work is still going on, the city attracts alot of foreigners and is known to be little Bangkok. With all ongoing development work, it surely is on the verge of competing with Bangkok but in a more royal way. Accommodation is cheap, we spent $100 for a 2 day stay at a 5 star resort which also included a lavish breakfast buffet.

Killing Fields in Phnom Penh made in the memory of communal war victims of Cambodia
A stupa at Killing Fields with skulls of people killed during communal war in Cambodia

A meal in a restaurant would cost about $8–10 per person, it might be better to eat in your hotel than outside. One thing to note is the quality of food and oil. It is said that Cambodians use animal oil in their food and it does taste a bit weird. For all vegetarians, it is advisable to eat food in your hotel.

Cambodia offers visa on arrival which costs $30. Remember to carry a passport size photograph or else be prepared to shell out additional $2 to the visa officer. The country is very corrupt and you may be approached by touts for cheap weed or local tours. Both cities are fairly small and point to point transfer is about $2. Do not pay anything extra to the tuk tuk drivers.

Remember to carry smaller denomination notes, as you would need them for almost everything.

Tuk Tuk Autos in Phnom Penh provide quick and easy access for only $1.
Tuk Tuk Autos of Phnom Penh

A nice weekend destination, do club it with Vietnam and Laos if you happen to be in this part of the world.

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