Cambodia’s most popular destinations are often the capital city of Phnom Penh for its city vibe or Sihanoukville for its beaches. However, the country still has more to offer foreigners and expats who want to settle down in Cambodia and call it their second home.
Majority of expats already know the areas they are going to live in before they physically move to the country, since most of their employers chose it for them or because they have previously visited the country and fell in love with a particular town. Expats who are used to a fast-paced lifestyle almost always prefer the urban area of Phnom Penh. Siem Reap, although a rural town, is also a favourite among foreigners.
As the country’s capital, Phnom Penh serves as the centre of all activities in Cambodia despite being a relatively small city. Many expats prefer to live in the capital because of the accessibility to major organisations. This is where they find work and accommodations suitable for their preference and standards.
The city is ideal for most expats since it offers a beautiful blend of old and new – modern developments and shopping malls are built around historic landmarks and colonial buildings. They also have plenty of options when it comes to dining, drinking, and even socializing with other expats. The city is full of potential. The locals are friendly and it is unusual not to share a laugh with one.
Phnom Penh is also a city with a wealthy collection of international restaurants. Don’t let the laidback lifestyle fool you, as the city has a vibrant nightlife and thriving live music scene. The downside of living in Phnom Penh is the heavy traffic as the city seems to have plenty of ongoing construction of high-rise condos.
The rural area of Siem Reap is smaller than Phnom Penh. Thus, the way of living is rather slower. There are no high rise buildings here since the law forbids construction of any building that is higher than the Angkor Wat. Although, the town has a good collection of apartment blocks acceptable to most foreigners.
This small town boasts of a healthy expat community so those thinking of moving to the country may want to settle here so it is easier for them to adjust. It is also best for those who want to live close to the temples of Angkor Wat. Siem Reap is popular among expats because of its rural vibe. It is a small town but also has a bustling local market, especially bars and restaurants located on the well-known “Pub Street.”
Despite attracting a number of expats in the community, Siem Reap remains an affordable place to live in. Renting a condo or apartment can cost you from $250 to $550 a month. If you have $600 to spend monthly, you can live like a king in a villa that comes with a swimming pool and utilities.
Another popular Cambodian destination for tourists and expats is the coastal town of Sihanoukville. The town boasts of more than 30 pristine and untouched islands that visitors, both local and international, can explore. Sihanoukville also has a strong expat community. Most of the foreigners living here have invested in the hotel and restaurant management industry.
This provincial capital is popular among Russian expats. They just love the coastal atmosphere and low cost of living here. They can get a large house for as low as $250. Eating out is extremely cheap, as well. Most expats do not have to worry about medical services as the area is only a short drive from Phnom Penh and they can always grab a flight to Thailand.
The charming city of Battambang is the second largest city in the country. Over the years, it has attracted a healthy amount of expats, which led to the proliferation of bars, restaurants, and hotels that offer the best services. This colonial city is ringed by Angkor temples and has a population of 250,000. Those who choose to live here find the tranquillity relaxing. The nightlife scene here is zero. Finding an international restaurant is also close to impossible. Most of the expats living here are French citizens.
Located in the southern area of Cambodia, Kep is more popular as the Saint Tropez of Southeast Asia because most of the developments here resulted from French colonialism. The coastal city is known for colonial villas with strong French influence. The villas near the coast and the highly popular fresh crab market.
Kampot is a complimentary area located near Kep. Many expats have fallen in love with this place because it is relaxing. This town, close to the river, offers a laidback lifestyle. The town is also known for the Kampot Pepper and as a stopover for tourists on their way to hike Bokor and Damrei mountains. Many expats from Phnom Penh also frequent the town during weekends to enjoy several water sports. This has led to the growth of the hotel and management industry in Kampot.
This slice of paradise is a haven for expats. This place boasts of pristine beaches with clear waters minus the crowd. Expats love the freedom they have when they are here. They can snorkel, dive, and trek. Word of caution: Koh Rong is still undeveloped. Do not expect to find luxurious facilities or living arrangements here.
This small Cambodian town is located along the banks of the Mekong River. It boasts of French colonial buildings, traditional Khmer structures, and colourful markets. This rural area is often visited by tourists to catch a sighting of the Irrawaddy dolphin.
Expats, particularly those who are seeking a more laidback lifestyle in the tropics are now taking a closer look at Cambodia as their second home. Before moving to the country, it is important to take note of the following:
Choose the House that Suits Your Lifestyle
Finding the place to live is a no-brainer but looking for a place that suits your lifestyle can be quite difficult. The growing number of expats in the country has given rise to estate agents that offer Western-style apartments and sprawling villas. These homes, however, often belong to a higher price bracket. Many expats who do not want to spend so much on accommodations often share a house. There are plenty of expats who post on social media groups looking for tenants and housemates.
Network and Make Friends
Moving into a new country without anyone to guide you can be a scary experience. It is a good thing that Cambodia has a thriving expat community that can help you in settling down and starting your new life in a new country. Start networking and making new friends by attending activities and joining clubs that often organize events where expats can get to know one another. The social scene for expats is friendly. It is not hard to meet and make friends with expats who have already made a home in Cambodia.
Aside from joining an expat community, it is also best to make friends with locals. Cambodians are very social individuals. They are very welcoming and helpful. Go out there and explore the local scene. This will also help you land a job or even find an activity you find worthwhile. While networking, it is advisable to bring business cards. Hand one using both hands. If you are given one, receive it and read it carefully to show politeness.
Cambodia is a relatively safe country to live in but like any place in the world, the country also has opportunists. Phnom Penh is often the target of these scrupulous individuals. Snatchers and petty thieves are quite common, especially around the holidays.
Cambodia is a country with a very low cost of living. In fact, most expats living here report that they rarely spend about $1,500 a month and they live quite comfortably. A two-bedroom apartment with a swimming pool only costs roughly $500, depending on the luxury you want to spend on. Groceries and other expenses only cost about $300. It is way cheaper than living in Thailand.
Aside from the cheap cost of living, Cambodia is a place where things can get done easily. Most expats prefer working or moving here because it is easy to secure a visa. You can spend a little extra for a few upgrades. Even doing business is easy here. As long as expats follow the laws, they will have no problem during their stay here.
Expats who have called the country their home rave about the ease of living and the comfortable lifestyle they follow while they are here. Moving into the country can now give them the opportunity to enjoy luxuries that they do not normally enjoy while living in their home country. While Cambodia’s visa system is still evolving, expats may still find it easy to start a business or live in Cambodia.