Cambodia: What a Dollar Can Buy You

If you are traveling on a tight budget, Cambodia can be a challenge. Excursions, temples and monuments can eat up quite a chunk of money, but I wasn’t prepared to spend even more on food. Sure, if you live off of noodle soup and little snacks in street-side stalls, you can get by. But Tony and I like our Fish Amok and Cambodian beer.

Cambodian Kramas

Cambodian Kramas

We ended up spending almost 40 percent of our monthly budget on food, more than we spent on hotels. There definitely seems to be a trend. Food prices are rising quickly all over the world. Especially fruit can be shockingly expensive. It’s crazy to pay $1 for a mango at home, but it’s even crazier to spend that much in Southeast Asia. Luckily, that dollar can buy you plenty of other things. Check out what you can get for around a buck:

  • 2 glasses of draught Angkor beer during Happy Hour
  • 1 ginger-stuffed barbecued frog
  • 1 krama, traditional scarf worn around head
  • 3 fried tarantulas
  • 20 minutes of fish pedicure
  • 4 liters (1 gal.) of drinking water
  • 1 T-shirt at Angkor Wat (pay $1.50 for a slightly better quality)
  • 2 cans of Coca Cola
  • 1 kg of clean laundry
  • 2 dragon fruit or 50 grams of Danish blue cheese

5 responses to “Cambodia: What a Dollar Can Buy You”

  1. I’m sorry Thomas, but I must disagree with you on food prices. Food is ridiculously CHEAP in most places when you consider the real costs of production, transport and environmental damage. The mango I can buy here in the northern hemisphere in the middle of winter that has travelled 3000 miles REALLY OUGHT to be prohibitively expensive. On the other hand, your spending a dollar on it in the tropics sounds about right.

  2. Don’t be sorry to disagree, I love when people have their own thoughts. 🙂

    Spending a dollar on a mango is prohibitively expensive – at least in this part of the world. To buy one mango, most Cambodians have to spend a day’s wages. It’s like spending $100 at home.

    I guess, that’s what happens to prices when exporting fruit (or seafood, etc.) is so much more profitable.

  3. avatar Tony says:

    Actually, I think the problem is that you can transport a mango around the world and sell it for a dollar. There is no inherent reason why that mango needs to be prohibitively expensive in the Western world because even with high gas prices, it is still relatively cheap to ship food.

    Environmentalists often suggest that the “real cost” of production, shipping, etc. is being kept artificially low, but in reality the cost is what you are paying, otherwise they wouldn’t sell them. Mangoes are not being sold for a dollar out of the kindness of Asian hearts.

    The most shocking thing about traveling now is how consistent prices have become around the world. A mango is now almost as expensive here as it is in the US. Similarly, a Californian avocado is almost the same cost in California as in Germany or Thailand.

    Open markets are wreaking havoc on the developing world, which is one of the reasons why activists always go ballistic at conferences promoting globalization and free market economics. Free markets can help developing nations in some ways while trashing them in other ways. The increasing cost of food is VERY noticeable here in Asia and is a major topic of discussion. Rice costs were skyrocketing while we were in India to the point of becoming unaffordable for many normal Indians.

    For many people in places like India, Myanmar, and Cambodia prices have reached unimaginable levels. It would be the equivalent of Americans paying $200 a day for food, $400 a day for a shack, and $800 dollars for a gallon of gas. In this scenario, a nice mango would cost around $200.

    Obviously, normal people here don’t buy mangoes, they plant a tree behind their shack and try to sell their extra mangoes in the market to help supplement their income.

    The real point to this post is that I could retire off that avocado tree in your backyard in SD, Laurelle!!!

  4. avatar Leonie says:

    totally unconnected to this post, but I’ll add it anyway:
    I just listened to this story online, and was reminded of your adventures on the Andaman Islands

  5. avatar Thomas says:

    Thanks, Leonie. I just listened to the story about the swimming elephant – it totally takes me back. I can’t believe it’s already been a year…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.