They weren’t kidding when they said there were no ATMs on the islands. My optimism lead me to believe, “There is no way that for the amount of tourism on the island they still dont have an ATM.” The Bolaven Plateau, which wasn’t supposed to have any ATMs seemed to have them every 10 km. We visited the small island of Gili Air earlier in the year and they already had their first ATM, installed just 3 months prior to our visit. We had gotten out what we thought would last us all 5 days on the islands. We guessed wrong.
Pro: The sunsets were breathtaking and worth the trip to the islands
Con: On Don Khon there is a small stretch of dirt path to stay on, if you cross the bridge or venture to the other side of the island where the waterfall is you have to pay 20,000 kip per day.
Pro: You got to ride over on one of these fun boats
Con: You have to haggle with grumpy boaters prior to getting on the boat
Pro: Pan’s guesthouse was a comfortable bungalow for us to relax at
Con: Accommodation was much more expensive than we had calculated originally from an outdated guidebook (which increased our dilemma of not having an ATM)
Pro: After almost every meal we took a short nap
Con: We ran out of money so every meal was noodle soup, the cheapest item on the menu (but still delicious)
Pro: We had internet
Con: We didn’t have any money
Pro: Our next stop was Cambodia and we met great new friends who lent us $4 to get our Visa or we would have not been able to enter.
Con: We had to borrow money from strangers because there was no working ATM between the 4,000 Islands and the Cambodian border.
We would have enjoyed our week more if we had estimated better how much money to take out of the ATM prior to arriving. The islands were a true tourist trap in the sense of we were stuck on the island and they charged $6 to get a boat to the nearest ATM in hopes that it would work. We were trapped, but luckily the main event on the island is lounging around doing not much of anything!
I’ll definitely make sure to take more money to the islands than I think we need! Thankfully you were able to borrow the $4 needed to get into Cambodia otherwise it really could have been a tough situation!
We stayed on Don Khon because it was known as less of a “party island”.. (we pictured Kuta in Bali) and it was nothing like that. There was much better prices on Don Det in way of food and accommodations – If you do stay on Don Khon, Pan’s guesthouse was a great place!
Thanks for the guesthouse recommendation – will have to look into it!
I’m always terrified of both carrying a ridiculously large amount of money, and not having enough. At least when travelling there are often wonderful people willing to help you out! How much would you recommend taking to the 4000 islands for a backpacking budget?
We stayed 4 days and for the two of us, we spent an average of $36 per day. This was with only eating $7-10 worth of food a day (noodle soup), not going on any tours except renting bicycles once ($1.20 per day) and going to the waterfall. We stayed in a guesthouse with air con and wi-fi but shared the expense with another traveler. In addition to your daily expenses, if you are heading south from 4,000 islands into Cambodia, you need $29 per person for your visa and $20-32 for your bus ticket. I would recommend closer to $50 a day to be able to eat more and do more, although there isn’t much to do there!
You would think one of the locals would install one to make some extra money!
You’d think! The prices were pretty high on our side of the island anyways, so maybe they don’t need it. 🙂
I did a similar thing when I was staying on Don Det back in 2008. I ran out of money, but wanted to stay a while longer so i took the option of getting money out. I took my travel Visa card (one of those Cash Passport cards), and embarked on the journey. Though it seems the journey I had to endure was a little more hefty, as it involved a boat ride to the mainland, followed by a motorcycle ride about 15 minutes to the next town where there was no ATM, but there was a bank. I think it cost about $15 round trip for this journey.
When i got to the bank, they told me they could not withdraw money from that card (because it was a debit card). No matter what i tried, it was useless. I had no choice but to return to the Island, get my other bank card, and do the whole journey again – another $15 down the drain. A whole day wasted, and $30 gone, i was pissed off, but at least i could veg out on Don Det for a few more days before heading to Cambodia.
PS: When did they open an ATM on Gili Air? I was there last in October last year and there wasn’t one yet – had to do the trip to Trawangan to get cash… time before when i was there (Jan 2010) there weren’t any on Gili T either!
That is a pretty bad. We could have tried the next town ATM run, but wanted to save the cash and chose to just eat nothing instead. 🙂 If we were staying just a day longer, it would have been our only option.
Gili Air got their first ATM in November 2011, so looks like you just missed it by a month! We had to visit it every day for four days and take out the maximum to pay for our diving. I wouldn’t be comfortable carrying that much cash anywhere else.