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Budget travellers guide to Cambodia and Vietnam

Two of Southeast Asia’a most popular backpacker destinations, the former French Indochina (as well as Laos) countries have much to offer all budgets and are great places for solo travel.

There really is a whole load to do and see in these two countries and history lovers will particularly enjoy them both as they have particularly interesting, but sadly turbulent pasts. No visit to Cambodia would be complete without a look into the tragic recent history, indeed the same could be said of Vietnam too.

When to visit Cambodia and Vietnam

Cambodia is pretty straight forward, the best months are from roughly December through to April as this is the high season and coincides with the driest period throughout the country.

Vietnam is a different animal altogether as a country that’s well over a thousand KMs long with varying landscapes. Roughly speaking the best time to visit the South would be December through April, as with Cambodia. The north at this time can be wet and cold as it’s hit by the North East monsoon. The best time to visit the north would be May through to Ocotober. Indeed there is never a bad time to visit Vietnam and summer can be found any time.



Cambodia is still recovering from the after effects of the brutal Khmer Rouge rule and so it’s like a country that’s a bit unsure of itself. It has a lot to offer the rest of the world, stunning temples, a history wrought with pain and grief yet an underlying pride which shines through. And it costs very little to visit.

Budget Accommodation in Cambodia

The cheapest way to stay is in a guest house which will set you back next to nothing if you’re not overly fussy about quality. A lot of guest-houses include food and most have an outdoor chilling area for an evening beer.

A Traveller’s Budget for Cambodia

To get around the country your best bet is by boat or bus. Check out the prices though as some routes by boat have vastly inflated prices and the bus is a much cheaper option. On other routes the prices are about the same.

If you’re travelling between Phnom Penh and Battambang take the train and sit on the roof if you’ve got a day free to make the journey, it takes a while… To get around the town you can get driven by cyclo (with pedals) or moto (with engine), arrange the fare before you get on and know where you’re going.

It’s easy to eat cheap in Cambodia, in fact it’s usually cheaper to eat out than to do self catering. Chances are your guest house will have meals available if you want them but it’s probably worth the experience of eating local.

Activities on a Budget

See the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda in Phnom Penh

Go to the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng museum, it’d be rude not to

Check out the temples, temples, temples, there are a lot of them! And possibly the world’s most impressive, Angkor.

Find yourself on still undeveloped tropical islands when you’ve seen your fill of temples, along the South Coast.



Vietnam has come away from everything that has tried to oppress it laughing and kicking. Lush scenery, paddy fields, incredible and varied cuisine and pointy hats await you here in this land most famous for its wars..


Similar to the rest of SE Asia, budget accommodation in Vietnam is mainly in the form of guesthouses and homestays. It’s usually possible to bargain for a discount if you stay for a few nights. The price is often reduced on the upper floors of a building.


Traveller’s Budget for Vietnam

Around US$25 should be enough for a day here including accommodation, transport and food. You can travel around Vietnam by bus (the local services are cheaper but overcrowded and rickety), by boat in the far south, or by bicycle, which is a great way to travel as the terrain is mainly flat or undulating, with only some mountainous parts in the north. Bring a bike with you.

One of the best ways to go though is to hire a motorbike and driver, who’ll act as your guide as well for about $10 a day. A train line runs from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, slower and more expensive than a bus but a great experience.

It’s incredibly easy to eat well and cheaply in Vietnam, there are street vendors everywhere selling noodle soups, spring rolls and about a hundred other different delicacies. It’s heaven for vegetarians too, thanks to the buddhist monks.


Cycling though the Mekong Delta

Climbing Fansipan, Vietnam’s highest mountain

Eating and drinking superbly and cheaply

Kayak around Halong Bay

Diving and Snorkelling are popular and well worth it, there are sites at Nha Trang and Phu Quoc Island.


Now is a great time to visit Cambodia and Vietnam, the countries are changing rapidly so don’t waste any more time and go see these amazing countries!