Vietnam-Cambodia 20 Day Budget Trip Expenses and Tips

How I saved on costs during my Vietnam and Cambodia 3 week trip and how you can too

I have been asked a few times over the last couple of weeks about my 3 week solo trip plan in January to South-East Asia (Vietnam and Cambodia) and how much it cost me. So I took some inspiration from fellow blogger Shrinidhi Hande and compiled this expense report. I hope this helps you estimate a budget if you are planning a similar trip to either of the two countries.

Early morning visit to Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Early morning visit to Angkor Wat Temple Complex, Siem Reap, Cambodia. January 2018

I am a budget traveler but with a twist- while I saved on accommodations (spent a total of less than Rs. 2000 on accommodations for the entire duration), I splurged on some other aspects. I don’t believe in travelling at a shoestring budget in a way that you miss out on an opportunity if it arises because it is too expensive or doesn’t fit in your budget. I mean, are you ever going to come back to this country to do it and let go the opportunity right now unless it is insanely out-of-budget? I tend to prepare my budget in a way that it always accounts for the maximum expense in any category and in reality the cost doesn’t go that high. For example, for this trip I accounted an average of 5 US Dollars (approx. 300 INR) for every lunch and dinner meal. I ended up spending a lot less than that while having all kinds of local delicacies and the best food everyday. So I could easily splurge on other aspects with this bonus money that I saved. Of course I account some amount of money for miscellaneous expenses in the budget which hardly ever gets used.

I hope this post is helpful for your travel planning or at least is an entertaining read. I might add some more points to the post in later days, if I can think of something important to be included which I have currently missed. Also all these must be taken as a guideline only for planning, and not as definite and exact numbers of expenditures that you might incur doing the same things on your trip. I have written the post in the same way that I was searching for information during my research, so I hope this will be helpful to you too.

My basic itinerary:

Hometown to Visakhapatnam by overnight train (1N), followed by local sightseeing in the city before catching my flight in the evening (1N). Flight: Visakhapatnam to Kuala Lumpur to Hanoi

Vietnam: Fly in. Hanoi (1N), Halong Bay Cruise (1N), Hanoi (1N), Overnight train (1N) to Hue, Hue (2N), Hoi An (2N), Ho Chi Minh City (4N).

Overland border crossing to

Cambodia: Phnom Penh (2N), Siem Reap (3N) Fly out.

Flight: Siem Reap to Kuala Lumpur to Visahapatnam, followed by overnight train journey (1N) to my hometown.



Currency Conversion:

This obviously keeps fluctuating. So for the sake of this post I am going with the rates I got. The USD to VND or Riel rates hardly fluctuate, but the USD – INR rate keeps changing a lot, so you should keep that in mind. All costs mentioned here are approximate conversions.

1 USD = 65.3 INR = 22700 Vietnamese Dong (VND) = 4000 Cambodian Riel (Riel)

Although paying with USD is possible at some places in Vietnam, using VND is always cheaper and preferable. In Cambodia, everything is priced and charged in USD and anything less than 1 USD is given back as change in Cambodian Riel (notes of 100, 200, 500, 1000 and 2000).




CategoryDetailsCostINR equivalent
TravelInternational Flights on AirAsiaRs. 13,978*
Flight Add-ons (Luggage, Meals, Seats)Rs. 7450*
Food at Kuala Lumpur Airport during transit5 USDRs. 326
Train (Hanoi - Hue)Rs. 2462*
Domestic Flight (Da Nang - Ho Chi Minh City) Vietjet AirRs. 2453*
HCMC to Phnom Penh Bus248,000 VNDRs. 713
Phnom Penh to Siem Reap Bus15 USDRs. 979
TotalRs. 28,361
VISAVietnam25 USDRs. 1690*
Cambodia36 USDRs. 2341*
AccomodationHanoi- Vietnam Backpacker Hostels Original (2N)230,000 VNDRs. 661
Hue- Freedom Hostel (2N)210,000 VNDRs. 604
Hoi An- Hoa Binh Hotel (2N)227,000 VNDRs. 653
Ho Chi Minh City- Hideout Hostel (4N)Nil
Phnom Penh- Mad Monkey Hostel (2N)Nil
Siem Reap- Mad Monkey Hostel (3N)Nil
TotalRs. 1918
Food**Vietnam1,378,000 VNDRs. 3,964
Cambodia57.36 USDRs. 3,745
TotalRs. 7709
ToursHalong Bay Overnight Cruise, Hanoi (All inclusive)110 USDRs. 7,183
Cu Chi Tunnels Half Day Tour, HCMC245,000 VNDRs. 704
Mekong Delta Day Tour, HCMC227,000 VNDRs. 653
Kulen Mountains Tour, Siem Reap35 USDRs. 2,285
Hue to Hoi An Easyrider Bike Trip924,000 VNDRs. 2,658
Siem Reap Countryside Half Day Bicycle TourNil
TotalRs. 13,483
Sightseeing (Entry fees, bicycle hire, tuktuk)Hanoi200,000 VNDRs. 575
Hue 250,000 VNDRs. 719
Hoi An185,000 VNDRs. 532
HCMC330,000 VNDRs. 949
Phnom Penh17 USD^Rs. 1,110
Siem Reap 47 USD~Rs. 3,069
TotalRs. 6,954
Local TransportBus (Hanoi Airport to Old Quarter)30,000 VNDRs. 86
Bus (HCMC Airport to District 1)20,000 VNDRs. 57
Shuttle Bus (Hoi An to Da Nang)136,000 VNDRs. 391
Tuktuk (Siem Reap)8 USDRs. 522
TotalRs. 1,056
MiscVietnam676,000 VNDRs. 1,944
Cambodia7.75 USDRs. 506
Airport Duty Free27.25 USDRs. 1,779
TotalRs. 4,229
India CostsTrain TravelRs. 1,168
Visakhaptnam Local Sightseeing, Ola rides, Food etc.Rs. 1,002
TotalRs. 2,170
Total Expenditure (Approximate Conversions) Rs. 69911
*: Pre-booked. May include bank charges and conversion rates during payments
**: Includes miscellaneous costs like water bottles, biscuits, snacks etc.
^: Includes 6 USD shared tuktuk ride
~: Includes 10 USD shared tuktuk ride for Angkor Full Day tour

Where I saved money:

1. Accomodations:

I reached out to a few hostels and they were willing to host me with free accommodation in return for a review on the blog. Out of a total of 15 nights spent in hostels during the trip, I got 9 for free saving me anywhere between 5 to 9 US Dollars per night. The Ho Chi Minh City hostel where I stayed for 4 nights had breakfast, 2 beers per day and wifi included as well for free. Read my review here: The Hideout. The hostels in Cambodia didn’t include breakfast and most days I ended up getting breakfast outside the hostel while sightseeing. Read here: Mad Monkey Hostels.

Money saved: 7x4 + 5x2 + 5x3 = 53 USD = Rs. 3460

2. Tours:

I was also hosted by an adventure company in Siem Reap, Cambodia for a bicycle tour. The original plan was to do the full-day Angkor Temples Tour with them, but I figured it would be too much of exercise when combined with the absolutely exhausting and insane amount of walking one needs to do simply to see the temples. (We walked some 23 kms during the temple visit). So I ended up doing a half-day off the beaten track bicycle tour with them on my very last day- it was a brilliant experience. I will soon be posting the review along with the video of that day, keep an eye.

Money saved: 27 USD = Rs. 1763


3. VISA for Vietnam:

Vietnam started offering e-VISA service for Indians in December 2017. This is not to be confused with the ‘Approval letter from agency + VISA stamping at arrival in airport’ option otherwise known as the Visa on arrival. The eVISA is an electronic VISA that you simply need to apply for on the government website, take a printout and carry with you. It costs 25 dollars and saves the agency fee of 7-15 USD which one would need to pay if they go for the approval letter process.

Money saved: 7-15 USD = Rs. 450-980

4. Taking public transport for transfers:

One sad part about most big airports in Vietnam is they are located far from the city centre. I saved on the local taxi/UBER fares by opting to take airport shuttle buses/alternate transport for the transfers in

  • Hanoi: Airport to city- Bus No. 86- Cost: 30,000 VND. Easily available outside the airport and runs through the Old Quarter of Hanoi to the train station
  • Hue: Train station to hostel- Free pick-up from my hostel- Freedom Hostel, highly recommended for their family dinner every night
  • Hoi An to Da Nang Airport: Shuttle bus cost: 6 USD or 136,000 VND- the government buses are not recommended here as they cost about 15-25,000 VND only but drop you far away from the airport in Da Nang and you need to walk a lot- possible if you aren’t carrying much luggage
  • Ho Chi Minh City: Airport to District 1- Bus No. 109- Cost: 20,000 VND. Counter is located right outside the arrivals area. (There is a public bus costing 5000 VND as well- I didn’t explore that option as Bus 109 was easier to get)


The airports in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in Cambodia are not very far from the city and tuktuks have fixed rates. Otherwise it is up to you how well you can haggle and lower the price.

Money saved: Between 12-25 USD per UBER/local taxi ride = Rs. 780-1630 per ride approx.

Where money could have been saved:

1. Flight ticket add-ons:
I booked the flights during an Air Asia sale back in the second week of November 2017. The return flights cost me a total of Rs. 13,978- this was a real good deal and saved a lot. But later I figured I won’t be able to manage for 3 whole weeks with just a carry-on bag (although that’s not impossible) that also had to include my laptop and camera equipment (and monopods are usually not allowed in hand baggage as far as I know). So I bought 15-kg check-in luggage.

Also I could have saved on in-flight food and avoiding seat selection. But for the kind of person I am, I love trying absolutely all new things even if it costs me a little more. Also I hate the middle or aisle seats. So a week before the trip, I ended up booking different meals and window seats for 3 of the 4 sectors I was flying. That took the cost up.

(Just in case you are wondering why I flew from Visakhapatnam Airport instead of Bhubaneswar which is closer home, it is because Air Asia offered fly-thru option to Hanoi and from Siem Reap from Visakhapatnam. That saved me the trouble of getting a Malaysia transit visa)

Possible savings (On-board meals + Seat + Luggage): Rs. 7450 approx.


2. Miscellaneous Expenditure/Shopping:
I bought quite a few souvenirs and gifts from the local markets, sent postcards home (which haven’t arrived even after 3 weeks. I’m not surprised. My Bhutan postcards reached a month late as well in 2016, so I just hope they reach soon) and loads of chocolates from the Duty Free at Siem Reap Airport on my departure. This can all come under miscellaneous expenses and could have been avoided had I wanted to.

Possible savings: Rs. 4200 approx.

3. Sightseeing- The splurging:

a. Saigon Skydeck-
I took a few expensive sightseeing options like taking the Heineken combo for the Saigon Skydeck visit. The entry fee to the skydeck (on 49th floor) costs 200,000 VND. The combo costs 50,000 VND more and includes a tour of the Heineken brewing process, two free beers, a small bottle of water and a surprise at the end- which turned out to be a custom made Heineken Beer bottle with my name printed on it. Plus the tour turned out to be really interesting, informative and fun and it was my last evening in Vietnam. So I won’t consider it a waste of money at all. But yeah, here I was definitely splurging.



Another thing is I visited the Saigon Skydeck because I had never been on a skyscraper before. For people who have been to Burj Khalifa or similar structures, probably this would have been tiny in comparison. So yeah, this was an expense I was willing to make.

Possible savings: 50,000 VND = Rs. 145 approx. (This doesn’t look like a splurge in Indian Rupees. Haha!)

b. Easyrider (Hue to Hoi An)-
Another thing I splurged on was the Hue to Hoi An Easyrider Full day bike ride through the scenic Hai Van Pass. The bike ride on the route was made famous by Top Gear when they aired a Vietnam special episode and the host remarked that this was the ‘most scenic ocean road in the world’. The route is definitely beautiful. The Easyrider (which comes with a driver) cost me 40.5 USD after a 10% discount on booking through my hostel. The alternate option here is to take a bike on your own while the company transports your luggage to the destination (This costs between 20-25 USD with different rental companies in town). The cheapest mode is to do the journey by a 3 hour bus ride which would cost less than 10 USD (Buses don't take the Hai Van Pass scenic mountain route though, they take the tunnel instead).


I felt taking the Easyrider full day trip had several advantages- The distance is just 130 kms and takes at most 3 hours to cover. But I had the full day (from pick-up at 8.30 AM to drop around 5 PM) to do sightseeing on the way. In addition to this I had a knowledgeable guide all through the day- he wasn’t just driving the bike as I sit back and enjoy the views, but he was also well-informed of the places on the way (including local fishing villages and lagoons away from the highway) and was a brilliant photographer. If I had taken the bus, I would have saved over 30 USD but I would have also missed on seeing so many brilliant sights and the chance of interacting with a local. So I definitely wanted to splurge on this one.

Possible savings (had I gone the cheapest route possible way): Over 30 USD = Rs. 1960

c. Halong Bay Cruise-
I took the budget option of the overnight cruise to Halong Bay. It cost 110 USD. (there are luxury cruises available at up to 300 USD per night) I was certain about spending a night at Halong Bay on a cruise and not take the much cheaper day-trip. The day trips cost between 45-55 USD. (Don’t believe the ones which say they offer the trip for 25 USD or so- they are fake/scams). The day trip includes a 3-3.5 hour ride from Hanoi to Halong Bay, then about 3-4 hours on the boat with kayaking, pearl farm visit, cave visit etc. and then back to Hanoi with another 3.5 hour bus journey. If you are short on time, take this option. I personally would recommend spending a night on a cruise at Halong Bay to actually appreciate the beauty of the place. I don’t think just 3 hours can do justice to it. I will be posting a separate blog entry about this soon. You can watch the video of the tour which I already posted on youtube.

Possible savings (had I taken a day-trip): Around 55 USD = Rs. 3590


Now that I look at these figures I realize how much I could have saved- as much as Rs. 17,345. That would have taken the total trip cost down to Rs. 52,000 approx. But no regrets there. These were some amazing experiences that I would definitely recommend.

Please do leave a comment below in case you have any doubts and I would definitely try and answer them if I can.

I will be posting a separate entry on the blog with possible itineraries for both Vietnam and Cambodia. I will link it here once it is done (hopefully in a few days).

Now read:

Post from my January trip to Vietnam and Cambodia (More links will be added as and when I post them)

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Comments

  1. Amazing post ..infact I did a 19 days backpacking to Vietnam and Cambodia which I still need to sit and write on . Great detail . My trip all incl went upto 64k.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's great. Was your itinerary similar or did you go to the lesser known places as well?
      Thanks for reading :)

      Delete
  2. That's quite a lot you saved on a trip! I appreciate the way you have shared all the insights on how you actually spent money through the trip. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  3. You know what..This is the kind of post I was looking for. No one takes so much pain to jot down details and write about savings/possible savings. Glad I came across this super-useful post Antarik. Thanks for sharing :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Shilpi. That's precisely the reason I wrote it. I'm so happy you found it useful :)

      Delete

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