Siem Reap: Packaged tour vs. DIY

I was chatting with a reader of mine when she asked me whether it’s better to take a package tour of Siem Reap and Angkor Wat or to arrange everything herself. I remembered I had the same dilemma last year when I was planning my trip. To help me decide, I took to my spreadsheet and let the numbers decide for me. Like her, I was considering availing of the Angkor tour packages offered by The Villa Siem Reap. It really does seem like a great value, and back then, I remember I was all set to take that package. Until of course, I did the comparison with my spreadsheet.

Actually, I did the spreadsheet to convince a friend to join me in Seam Reap. Ever since I started planning to go to Cambodia, I’ve been wanting to stay at The Villa. Their tour package seemed reasonable, specially if there was two of us. However, the spreadsheets reveal that it’s still cheaper to do it on your own:

Siem Reap Tour Package vs. DIY
US$ 1 = PHP 44.50
Cost Cost per Person
(in USD) (in PHP)
The Villa Siem Reap Package
3 Night Super Value Package ($142 per person) US$ 284.00 PHP 6,319.00
Angkor Wat pass (3 days, US$40) US$ 40.00 PHP 1,780.00
Meals (US$5 per meal for 1, 6 meals in four days) US$ 30.00 PHP 1,335.00
Total US$ 354.00 PHP 9,434.00
DIY Tour
Mandalay Inn guesthouse (3 night, US$16 per night) US$ 48.00 PHP 1,068.00
Angkor Wat pass (3 days, US$40) US$ 40.00 PHP 1,780.00
Tuktuk (3 days, US$12 per day) US$ 36.00 PHP 801.00
Guide (1 day, US$30 per day) US$ 30.00 PHP 667.50
Meals (US$5 per meal for 1, 12 meals in four days) US$ 60.00 PHP 2,670.00
Total US$ 214.00 PHP 6,986.50
RELATED:   Day 2: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Download: SiemReapTourPackage.xls (8kb)

Although, even with the 3K difference, you’d have to understand a couple of things:
1. The Villa Siem Reap and the Mandalay Inn is an unfair comparison. The Mandalay Inn is a budget accommodation, and you’re most likely getting better rooms and facilities at The Villa.
2. The food that will be provided at The Villa may or may not be the same quality of food you’ll be getting for US$5.00 in the DIY option.
3. The Villa tour package comes with a bottle of wine, olives and cheese.
4. Hiring a tuktuk to go to the outlying temples may cost more than $12 per day.

The verdict: If you have extra cash to spend (or looking forward to a romantic getaway), go ahead and book that tour at The Villa. But if you’re watching every peso (or in this case, dollar), it’s best to organize everything yourself. You can further lessen the cost by going for a one-day pass instead of 3, but do not scrimp on getting a guide for a tour of the Angkor Wat.

Article by Nina Fuentes

Nina doesn't aim to travel to every country in the world -- she just wants to travel to the places that means the most to her. She started traveling in 2006, and hopes to travel for as long as she can. Her travel blog, Just Wandering won the Best Travel Blog in the 2010 Philippine Blog Awards and in the 2011 Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards.

This Article Has 18 Comments
  1. Ma-Ane says:

    Nina,

    Thank you verryyyyyyyyyy much. I loved this… Will let you know soon what the decision is.

    Salamat ha.

    Ma-ane

  2. Dea says:

    Hi Nina,

    I was also torn between The Villa and a DIY trip when my boyfriend and I went to Siem Reap last year. Like you, I’ve always wanted to stay at The Villa (read about it in Patty Laurel’s blog) and I wanted the luxury package at that. I actually made reservations for the luxury package 6 months before our trip. At the last minute my boyfriend and I decided to just go for the DIY trip to save money, I didn’t regret that decision one bit. We had a blast at Siem Reap even if we let go of The Villa, and the the difference in cost went straight to our wedding fund.

    We ended up staying at Babel Siem Reap for $18 a night, by the way. Great hotel, I’ highly recommend it.

  3. brian says:

    I never even considered a tour while I was in Siem Reap. Everything is soooo cheap you can hire a driver and make arrangements for accommodations by yourself without any problems.

  4. aljoy says:

    hi!

    you’re info on touring angkor wat is very helpful for those who wants to visit the place like me. =)
    i’m looking for airlines that fly to siem reap. can you recommend an airline that will bring me to cambodia? if possible, the most affordable.

    thanks in advance!

    aljoy

  5. Adventurer says:

    Hi, I would agree that having a DIY trip is much more cheaper than going for a packaged one. During my out of country trips in the past, I always traveled with my family, and always get packaged tours. But just this April 2010, me and my friends went to Vietnam and Cambodia, wherein we did the itinerary and the planning by ourselves. It really turned out so much cheaper.

    Our trip was 7 days all in all, and we just spent an estimate of 27k Philippine Pesos. This budget already covers allthe expenses from airfare, accomodation, food, and transportation. What is not incuded in the budget was personal spendings and shopping.

  6. nina says:

    Hi Aljoy,

    There are no direct flights from Manila to Siem Reap. Your options are:

    Via Saigon:
    Fly to HCMC, Vietnam (Cebu Pacific, PAL) then travel overland to Siem Reap (14 hours) or fly to either Phnom Phen (then bus to SR) or Siem Reap (Vietnam Airlines)

    Via Bangkok:
    Fly to Bangkok from Manila, then travel overland to Siem Reap (approximately 7 hours) or fly to either Phnom Phen (Air Asia) or Siem Reap (Bangkok Airways)

    Via Kuala Lumpur:
    Fly to KL from Manila (Cebu Pacific or Air Asia), then fly to Siem Reap (Air Asia, Malaysia Airlines)
    * look into Malaysia Airlines’ ASEAN Pass

    Via Singapore
    Fly to Singapore from Manila (Cebu Pacific, PAL, Tiger Airways, Jetstar Asia), then fly to Siem Reap (Jetstar)

    I hope this answers your question 🙂

  7. nina says:

    Adventurer: 27K for the entire trip? Good job! 😀

  8. karlodl says:

    Ey Nina, sorry busy lang, will drop by this week for my Viet coffee 😀 . Btw, you might want to update your DIY list for tuktuk rates. The $12 is only for a day 1 tour. Rates change depending on the route you take.

    $12 for day 1 (small circuit route)
    $20 for day 2 (big circuit route)
    and
    $25 for day 3 (banteay srei)
    its plus $5 for sunrise and another $5 for sunset.

    Hope this helps. So total would be around $57 to $67

  9. nina says:

    Drawing ka Karlo.

  10. Chichi says:

    i always find your budget posts really helpful. I’m also going to do another post similar to this for my recent Palawan trip 😉

  11. kim and mj says:

    Nina, your posts are always chockful of essential information! Planning a trip to Cambodia for September and this is a lot of help. Thank you for sharing. Added you on our list:-D

  12. Ysera says:

    Thanks for the computation! DIY na lang pala talaga. We’ll be there in July.

    My biggest problem is whether there is a night bus from Saigon going to Siem reap. And by night, I mean midnight. Alanganin kasi Cebupac. Midnight yung arrival. Gusto ko sana direcho na Siem Reap. Layo kasi.

    • nina says:

      As far as I know, there’s no midnight buses that ply the route. The borders close around 7pm or 8pm kasi. What you can do is to pass the time at the airport then take the first bus out of Saigon to the Cambodian border.

  13. gwy14 says:

    Hi, Nina.

    We’re planning a Cambodia (Siem Reap and Phnom Penh) from August 21 (night flight) up to August 27 (we prefer night flight back to Manila). This is our tentative itinerary:

    August 21: Night fly to Siem Reap
    August 22-24: Siem Reap Tour
    August 24: Afternoon bus to Phnom Penh
    August 25-26: Phnom Penh Tour
    August 26: Afternoon bus to Ho Chi Minh
    August 26-27: Saigon
    August 27: Night flight back to Manila

    Do you think this is the optimal itinerary for us? Or is it feasible at all?

  14. rica says:

    hi…
    I just run through your blog.. and I found it very helpful..
    I’m planning to visit siem reap..
    Just wanted to ask if a solo trip would be good?
    I mean I want to travel by myself, ok lang ba yun? the cost, safety etc.
    I hope you can answer my question.. thanks..

  15. New boutique in Siem Reap, worth checking out for all those essential and non essential needs, accessories, cosmetics, Spa products, shoes clothing and more:)

  16. […] Tour Group or DIY. Don’t join the tours if you’re there for photography. First, your tour mates can get in the way of your travel photography. Second, you might rush your shooting just so that you wont be left behind. Plus, going on your own is proven to be more affordable. Check out my friend, Nina’s, blog for a comparison of a 3-day Ankor Tour vs DIY costing. […]

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