This question keeps coming up more and more lately with travellers, backpackers and English teachers starting to bypass South East Asia’s heavyweights that are Thailand and Vietnam and seek out its rapidly developing neighbour, Cambodia.
So if you are asking yourself, “is Cambodia a good place to live and is it somewhere you can imagine yourself living for a short or long time?” then this might be the article for you…
Is Cambodia A Nice Place To Live?
Cambodia is a beautiful country to live in for both first-time travellers and experienced globetrotters. It is developing quickly but remains incredibly cheap for foreigners, meaning your money will go a long way! Locals welcome foreigners openly. It is safe with great opportunities to find jobs, and the Khmer cuisine is fantastic.
We’ve all been there. We want to move somewhere or do something different, and we need Google to reassure us that it’s a good idea, don’t worry, we all do it!
Cambodia is going through a mini Renaissance.
Yes, you read that right…
Cambodia has left its dark and depressing period behind it and is being reborn. It is opening up to the world and embracing everything that it has to offer. It has done more in the previous 20 years than in the last two centuries. Cambodia is throwing its arms open to tourism and foreign business and is attracting more and more each year.
This is your chance to see Cambodia as it was, but also to be part of its Renaissance.
Is Cambodia an expensive place to live?
Cambodia is not an expensive place to live, and your money will go a very long way. Salaries are not high compared to other Asian countries, but you will be able to live very comfortably. Rent, meals, entertainment and transport are a fraction of the price next to Western countries, and Cambodia is the cheapest South East Asian country to live in.
This boils down to 3 main categories for us: Rent / Food / Entertainment.
Is Rent In Cambodia Cheap Or Expensive?
Rent in Cambodia is cheap on average. If you are travelling alone and are on a tight budget, you can easily find decent accommodation for $150 – $250 per month. If you were looking for something a bit fancier and had a bigger budget, the average rent is between $300 – $550 per month. Of course, if money is no option, there are plush villas and serviced apartments that can cater to all your needs from $600 – $3000+.
If you compare a one-bedroom apartment in Dublin, Ireland, with an average price of $1050 per month to Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, the same type of apartment will cost you approximately $325 per month. You can see the amazing advantages and savings you can have by relocating to Cambodia.
Most apartment complexes in Cambodia come with swimming pools and gyms, which can be used free of charge. You might be surprised to learn that it is common not to have a washing machine in your accommodation. Don’t worry, though; there are laundrettes located on most streets where you drop off and collect your laundry.
Is Entertainment In Cambodia Affordable?
Entertainment in Cambodia is cheap and cheerful. You can check out the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat for $37 day-pass or lesser-known sites for free. Take in a traditional Apsara Dance show for less than $10. You can also visit shopping malls, cinemas, bowling alleys, bars and nightclubs which are at average prices.
A beer will cost you between $1 – $5, depending on if it is a fancy hotel or local bar. You can have a great night out in Cambodia with less than $15, trust me!
Is Food & Drink In Cambodia Cheap Or Expensive?
Food and drink prices in Cambodia are extremely affordable and less than half the price of Europe and the USA. You can survive on less than $7 per day if you eat at local street markets. Local food and drink are much cheaper than products imported from abroad. Ex-pats say dining out for 1 in Cambodia will cost less than $5, and a night out will cost $20+.
- Grocery shopping for one week will cost you: $15 – $30
- Street-food meal for 1: <$1.50
- Local restaurant meal for 1: <$5
- Foreigner owned restaurant meal for 1: <$8
Imported products can be pretty expensive due to taxes, but when you see a chocolate bar or bottle of beer from back home, and it brings back those memories, you will pay anything to get your hands on it!
How much does it cost to live in Cambodia for a year?
It would cost you around $10,000, give or take, to live in Cambodia for a whole year if you were careful with your money. This includes rent, bills, food and entertainment for one person for a year. If you were working there, you would earn on average $13,000. This means you could potentially save $3,000 during your year in Cambodia.
If you lived in a rural part of Cambodia, it would be less, and if you lived in Phnom Penh, you could end up spending more. It all comes down to your lifestyle and location.
How Long Can A Foreigner Live In Cambodia?
You can live in Cambodia for as long as you like as a foreigner, anywhere from 30 days to the rest of your life. They have made the process extremely easy because they want more people to emigrate. All you need to do is get a visa upon arrival at immigration and extend that visa before your current one expires.
How To Get A Visa For Cambodia
There are two ways to get a visa for Cambodia:
- Get a visa on arrival (recommended)
- Apply for an e-visa online
An e-visa is perfect for tourists planning to be in Cambodia for less than 30 days. On arrival, you can choose a 30-day tourist visa which can be extended once OR a 30 day “Ordinary” visa that can be extended multiple times.
NOTE: The visa on arrival has been suspended due to Covid 19, and entry to Cambodia is only possible for essential travel and work purposes. If you plan to enter Cambodia during Covid times, you will require a visa through your countries Cambodian embassy and an invitation letter from the company you plan to attend before you leave for Cambodia.
For any person looking to enter Cambodia to teach English, please leave a comment or get in touch via our website or our dedicated TEFL course in Cambodia page and we can assist you with the visa process and provide you with an invitation letter that will allow you to enter Cambodia with ease.
Visa On Arrival
You will be required to have a valid passport that does not expire for at least 6 months, a full-page available for Cambodia’s visa stamps and two passport photos.
The immigration officer will hand you a quick immigration form to fill out. Once this is done and handed back to them and you meet the requirements, you will need to tell them which visa you want:
- Single-entry tourist visa that is valid for 30 days for a $30 fee. (Grants you a one-time extension for another 30 days for $45).
- Business or “ordinary” visa that is valid for 30 days for a $35 fee. (Grants you unlimited extensions).
If you plan to stay in Cambodia for longer than 60 days, then you should choose the “ordinary” visa as this allows you 30 days as usual, AND you can continue to extend this visa for as long as you wish.
For an e-visa to Cambodia, you should contact your local Cambodian embassy and ask for their best recommendations or visit an e-visa website to compare prices.
It is simple and straightforward to navigate, and if you have any questions or problems, they have a live chat in the bottom right corner to help you along the way.
Is Cambodia Safe To Live In?
Cambodia is very safe for foreigners. There is petty crime. Just like anywhere you travel, you should be aware of your belongings in large crowds and try not to go to unknown places at night. Police corruption is present in Cambodia as they are known to take bribes. It is not perfect, and like every country in the world, it has some issues, but overall you should not have any problems in your day to day activity.
Cambodian people are incredibly open and friendly, the most friendly in south-east Asia, many would argue!
As long as you do not cause any problems, you will not have any issues, and this is a good rule of thumb. The people in Cambodia are very laid back and tend to avoid confrontations as much as possible.
What Is Cambodia Best Known For?
Cambodia is known for its cuisine, historic temples, brutal political history and natural beauty. The awful regime of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s led to a genocide of 2 million people, and the temple complex of Angkor Wat, which is the largest religious building in the world, is what Cambodia is best known for globally. Lately, the Cambodian people have become the country’s most amazing feature!
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
We have all seen it at one point or another scrolling on Instagram, in a magazine or any time Cambodia is on the TV.
The entire complex, however, is quite a bit bigger than the photos… it is the world’s largest religious monument covering a whopping 1.626km²or 402 acres in old money and is Cambodia’s most popular tourist attraction.
It was part of the largest city in the world during the reign of the Khmer kings in medieval times. Since then, the jungle has crept up and devoured it, but it has been reclaimed by the Cambodian people and brings vast tourism to Cambodia.
It is important to remember that this is a religious temple complex, and you must show respect by not screaming and shouting & also, you must dress respectfully. You may be restricted from entering unless your shoulders, arms and knees are covered.
If this is your sort of attraction, you should also check out Ta Prohm, which, if you are a Tomb Raider fan, was used as one of the locations!
Are you wondering what Aspara dancing is? The dancers are believed by the Cambodian people to be gorgeous beings that visit Earth from the heavens to dance for kings and gods. It is an intrinsic performance that leaves spectators coming back for more.
Keep an eye on the hands of the dancers. From a very early age, children in Cambodia are taught to bend their fingers backwards to touch their forearms as part of this traditional dance. It is unique to the performance.
This video can explain it better than I ever could.
Koh Rong Island, Cambodia
Koh Rong is made up of 5 islands, of which only two are inhabited. Koh Rong Sanloem is a bit more laid back and used as the relaxation island, while its sister island, Koh Rong, is infamously known as the party island by travellers.
They are surrounded by white sandy beaches and Cambodia’s crystal clear blue water. It truly is a postcard destination and deserves to be on your bucket list for when you go to Cambodia.
There is no ATM on the island, so be sure to take enough cash with you from mainland Cambodia to get you off the island when your trip is over!
The Killing Fields
Unfortunately, this is not as lighthearted as the other features of Cambodia. It can be compared to visiting the concentration camps in Poland, as this was one of the main locations of genocide and evil done by Paul Pot and the Khmer Rouge to the Cambodian people.
This is still recent history for many locals that were alive to feel its destruction. It was made into a movie called The Killing Fields, which brought global attention to Cambodia and is what many people think of when they hear Cambodia’s name.
Is Cambodia A Poor Country?
Cambodia is a developing country, and unfortunately, many of its citizens survive on as little as $1.50 per day. It may be the 4th poorest country in Southeast Asia, but the locals remain the happiest and friendliest in Asia despite this. They may be lacking in money, but they are rich in life, and that is what’s important. The ever increasing tourism is bringing newfound riches to Cambodia every year.
Is It Safe To Eat Street Food In Cambodia?
Street food in Cambodia is perfectly safe. It is best to have a hot dish that has been cooked in front of you to ensure it is fresh and the bacteria has been cooked off. As the locals will tell you, they have been eating it all their lives, and they are still alive! Cambodia’s street food is what most locals survive on as most don’t have fully equipped kitchens, so the food is healthy, hearty and delicious.
The street food can be incredible, so to avoid it would be a shame. This is how the locals eat daily, and so you should try to live like a local.
If you are staying in Cambodia for a long period and eat street food often, then there is a strong chance you will come across a dodgy meal at some point. It happens to us all. However, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! (Just don’t go back to that place again).
Pros And Cons Of Living In Cambodia
Pros Of Living In Cambodia
Live like a king or queen for a fraction of the price: As we said before, Cambodia is a more impoverished country than most, which means the prices are much lower than we are used to at home. Rent and bills are where these savings can be seen the most as you can have a luxurious house or apartment for less than half of what you pay for a basic place at home.
If you share your accommodation with friends, you could even have more for your money and rent a villa to yourselves.
Fuel is cheaper too, so if you bought a second-hand bike or scooter, you can explore the country and get around for next to nothing. The same can be said for public transport, it is extremely cheap to get around and tuk-tuks can be found everywhere and can take you around for a couple of dollars.
Eating out every night is cheaper than staying in: You will find yourself testing out different restaurants in Cambodia daily, which is something that isn’t done at home as our restaurants charge an arm and a leg.
You can easily fill yourself up on food and drink in a local restaurant for less than $5 and go home with a smile on your face, whereas in Europe or the US, it could be anywhere from $30-$40. This is what most locals and ex-pats do, so there will always be a good atmosphere wherever you go.
You meet interesting people and make friends by being out all the time, and it is also great not having to cook and wash up every evening too!
There is always something to do: If you live in the same town all your life, it can sometimes feel like déjà vu whenever you leave the house. When you are in a place like Cambodia, where everything is a new experience, you will find yourself exploring more and doing things you never did before.
If you live by the coast, you have access to the beaches where you can go snorkelling, diving or even rent a boat and go island hopping. If you are inland, then you can take advantage of the jungles and ancient temples and have unforgettable Cambodian adventures.
Living abroad in places like Cambodia brings out a different side of your personality… you become more confident, which takes you to unknown places and introduces you to unknown people and all these lead to more adventures and memories which will last you a lifetime.
Visas are easy to get: Cambodia wants more tourists and ex-pats to come to Cambodia because it brings money into the country. This can then be used to improve the areas in which it lacks, such as infrastructure. This means Cambodia has its arms wide open, and that is great from a foreigners point of view.
Many countries are not this open and make you jump through hoops to be allowed to enter the country or stay long term. Thailand, for example, was a very relaxed and welcoming place. If you ask any loyal tourist to Thailand or ex-pat and retiree currently living there, they will tell you that the Thai government is making it increasingly harder to stay in the country. It is almost as if they are discouraging tourism even though the tourist industry is what makes up the bulk of Thailand’s national income.
Thailand has always been the main destination of South-East Asian tourists and backpackers. Due to this ever-worsening visa situation, people are now bypassing Thailand and making Cambodia their new ‘go-to’ destination. This is great news for Cambodia as it will allow the government to improve the country and lifestyle of its citizens and also give the Cambodian people more money in their pockets and greater job opportunities in the tourism industry.
You will be exposed to new people, food and a way of life: This is the best part about travel. You see the world in a different way and have experiences that you truly cannot imagine from your bedroom back home.
People are often scared to move abroad because they think they will miss family and friends, they won’t like the food, and they can’t imagine living in a place where they cannot speak the language. These are all understandable but should not stop you from doing something special like moving to Cambodia. At the end of the day, you are always a plane ride home if things go wrong!
You will make new friends as all foreigners in Cambodia have left home and seek friendship, so everyone is in the same boat as you. The locals are extremely friendly and always love to socialise, and it is even a wonderful opportunity for your friends and family back home to have an unforgettable holiday with you in Cambodia!
The food is something special. Yes, we know not everyone will enjoy this part of the experience, but it is not hard to find Western food that will make you smile. If spicy duck lips with rice aren’t for you, then a plate of chicken wings and french fries with ketchup is available in almost all restaurants. Most supermarkets have the same foods you get at home, so you never need to worry about food in Cambodia. For those of you interested in eating food you will never find at home, then Cambodia is the right place for you!
The lifestyle is very laid back in Cambodia. This can be a pro or con for different people who prefer different things, but it is most definitely a pro in my books! No traffic jams that last so long you can feel yourself ageing in the car… that is a big one. You are just able to do what you want when you want to. Head to the beach for the day, go for a nice meal with your friends or have a few games of badminton.
It is hard to explain, but you just don’t have the same pressures or things weighing you down as you do back home, maybe it is a money thing or maybe it is because you are more active and therefore happier, but one thing is for sure, it beats being back home!
Cons Of Living In Cambodia
Poor infrastructure: As Cambodia is still a developing country, this means most roads, schools, hospitals are not up to standard. Compared to Cambodia’s neighbouring countries, Thailand and Vietnam, it is still far behind. Cambodia is receiving a massive boost to its tourism industry, meaning there is higher income coming into the country, which is being used to improve the infrastructure, but it could take years for it all to be of good quality.
The internet in many areas can be very slow, and many ex-pats complain that Cambodia receives power cuts regularly and can last for hours. There is also a lack of local amenities such as parks, shopping malls and libraries, etc. This could leave you looking for things to do during the day if you are far from the beach.
Trash and bin collection is also a big problem, and piles of garbage can fill the streets. This gives many areas of the cities a bad smell, and you will be walking around pinching your nose.
You won’t become rich living in Cambodia: Yes, you will make more money than you spend if you work in a school, for example, but you would have to be frugal at times and not splash the cash every day.
Life in Cambodia is incredibly cheap, but the salaries are nothing to write home about. You will save a fortune on rent and bills compared to home, and you could save money if you tried, but most people end up blowing all their savings on trips and nights out because they are there for a good time and not to make money.
Get used to saying goodbyes: Living in Cambodia, or anywhere for that matter, as an ex-pat means you will meet temporary travellers from all around the world. Backpackers, holidaymakers and short contact English teachers all come and go in the blink of an eye.
You will become best friends with people you’ve only just met because you are both in a foreign land and speak the same language, which will bring you together, but many people don’t stay abroad forever and eventually go home. You will be at more going away parties than ever before, but before you know it, you will meet new travellers and repeat the cycle and on and on it goes.
Risk of becoming an alcoholic: This is something that happens quite often to ex-pats that move to South East Asia. With a lack of things to do most nights and the fact that most ex-pats in these countries hang out in bars daily, you can end up going to these places yourself to be social and become too friendly with a barstool.
You have to remember that these countries that offer cheap lifestyles, cheap booze, prostitutes and an escape from the reality they face in their home countries attract some questionable people. The type of people you would probably avoid if you saw them in your hometown, but because you are abroad and trying to fit in and meet people, you can sometimes end up around some dodgy characters that can mislead you into the wrong lifestyle.
So, try not to fall into this trap like many of us do. There are many good and respectable people in Cambodia and the other South-East Asian countries that would love to be your friend, and you will meet them along the way.
Homesickness is a real thing: This will happen, and it will suck! You will have bad days, and this will happen no matter where you are in the world. But when you are away from home and feel all alone, these bad days can feel worse than usual. It is important to remember that those feelings are temporary and will be gone by the next day or two.
If you feel it creeping up on you, the best advice is to tell someone. A quick call to a friend or family member back home will calm you, and they will reassure you that you are doing the right thing. Also, you should tell a friend or co-worker of yours in Cambodia. They will have no doubt been through the exact same thing at some point in their Cambodian journey, and they will help you through it.
Plan a trip to the beach or a night out on the town, and your mind will be taken off it and having a good day can change your perspective instantly, and you will start to enjoy your time abroad.
Remember, perspective is everything. Change the way you see or feel about a situation or come at it from a different viewpoint, and the situation can change. It may sound like hocus pocus, but it works. Try it.
Expect to pay more than the locals: It sounds unfair, and it is sometimes because it makes you feel different from everyone else, which isn’t a very nice feeling.
As I previously mentioned above about perspective, there are two ways to see the price difference in Cambodia:
- Foreigners are being preyed on, and the locals are extorting them.
- The locals are receiving a discount because they earn a fraction of what foreigners earn.
You can argue it is a little bit of both, but when you realise that what you earn in one or two hours is what most of the locals earn in a whole day. So when you look at it like this, it seems fairer, and you can sympathise with the situation rather than feeling attacked or ostracised. I hated when this happened to me, but someone took the time to explain it like that, and it made complete sense.
Your ears will be burning: No, I don’t mean sunburn. It is a saying we have when someone is talking about us without us knowing. You will often hear locals gossiping, staring and even pointing at you as if you are Brad Pitt in Hollywood. It is just something that happens, and you have to get used to it.
It is best just to laugh it off, give them a wave and go about your business. If you let every glance or whisper get to you, you will have a lot of bad days! Tell yourself they are saying how good looking you are and give yourself a confidence boost instead of anxiety. You will start to block it out after a while, but we just want to let you know to expect it, especially in a small town where foreigners seldom go.
Learn to say no: You will be approached by child beggars looking for money. They are brought around by adults trying to prey on the hearts of foreigners. It may sound cold that I say this, but it is a common scam and should be avoided.
Another common scam is they children will ask you to buy them food or supplies from a certain shop, and the prices will be high enough. When you are gone, they bring the supplies back to the shop, and the kids and shop owners share the profits.
If you truly want to help these children order them food to fill their bellies. Any money you give them is going to the adults, so do not think otherwise.
I hope you are not still wondering if Cambodia is a good place to live. Cambodia should be on every traveller’s bucket list of places to go. It offers adventure, friendly locals, a long history and opportunities if you decide to live and work here. You are a stone’s throw from the rest of Asia to explore to your heart’s content.
If you are interested in checking out the best way to live and work in Cambodia, a TEFL course in Cambodia might be just for you.