Cambodia is fast becoming a hot destination not only for holiday-makers but also for long-stay expats. Long stayers can be broken into several categories including the ones unable to afford a reasonable life in their home country, the retiree with limited funds, the sexpat, the digital nomad, the volunteer, English teachers and the business savvy seeking to invest in a developing country.
Cambodia offers something for everyone but leaves it totally up to you as to whether you save yourself, make yourself or break yourself.
So, to get you rolling on the next adventure leg of your life here’s a digital starter pack of sorts, a one-page super-intro and primer to your possible new home. Let’s start by getting our bearings.
Cambodia is located in South East Asia, sharing borders with Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. She also features a coastline bordered by the Gulf of Thailand. The country’s capital is Phnom Penh.
The country is most well known for its star attraction being Ankor Wat, a stone temple complex built by the Khmer Empire which reigned from 802 CE (AD) to 1431 CE (AD).
Provinces in Cambodia
The three most popular destinations for expats and visitors are:
Phnom Penh – Featuring an international airport, the capital of Cambodia is home to over two million people and for most it’s the gateway to Cambodia. More at Wiki Travel
Siem Reap – Featuring an international airport, Siem Reap is located in northwest Cambodia and home to the countries star attraction, the famous Angkor temple complex the large inland lake Tonle Sap. More at Wiki Travel
Sihanoukville – Sihanoukville faces the Gulf of Thailand with beaches and tropical islands offshore, it’s the beach holiday destination. More at Wiki Travel
Other provinces and cities:
Banteay Meanchey – Sharing a border with Thailand it’s home to the Banteay Chhmar temple ruins
Battambang – Cambodia’s second largest city being home to 250,000 people and featuring well-preserved French colonial architecture along its riverside More at WikiTravel
Kampong Cham – Located on the Mekong River it’s the third largest city in Cambodia.
Kampong Chhnang – Located in the heart of Cambodia it’s a great place to take a tour of the Tonle Sap Lake.
Kampong Speu – natural scenic area by the Preaek Thnot River.
Kampong Thom – located by the Stung Saen River and home to the Sambor temple and Prei Kuk temple.
Kampot – bordered on one side by the Gulf of Thailand you’ll find peaceful beaches, French colonial architecture, and pre-Angkorian ruins.
Kandal – the capital of the province is Ta Khmau, attractions in the region include Angkor Chey pagoda and Udong which was the capital between 1618 and 1866.
Kep – Cambodia’s original seaside resort town and a short trip from Vietnam, the city was originally built by the French in 1908.
Koh Kong – A coastal province that features casinos on it’s border to Thailand and is well renowned for its natural attractions including wildlife, rivers, and waterfalls.
Kratie – located on the banks of the Mekong River it is also home to the Irrawaddy dolphins.
Mondulkiri – home to Bou Sraa waterfall. The capital city Sen Monorom is home to under 8000 people, and the area is known for its natural attraction.
Oddor Meanchey – shares a border with Thailand, the capital is Samraong.
Pailin – the former hometown of the Khmer Rouge
Preah Vihear – The two dusty street city of Phnom Tbeng Meanchey is the capital of this municipality and the region is home to the temple of Prasat Preah Vihear, Koh Ker which was once a capital, and the Preak Khan 12th century temple.
Prey Veng – agriculture district
Pursat – a great place to access Tonle Sap and the Cardamom Mountains.
Rattanakiri – home to Yeak Laom Volcano Lake.
Stung Treng – located by the junction of the San River and the Mekong River.
Svay Rieng – located by scenic marshlands and the Waiko River.
Takeo – believed to be the birthplace of Cambodian civilization.
Tbong Khmum – the province lies in the lowlands of the Mekong River.
Major attractions in Cambodia
Angkor Archeological Park & Angkor Wat (Siem Reap)
Bayon Temple (Siem Reap)
Preah Vihear Temple (Preah Vihear)
Sihanoukville’s beaches (Sihanoukville)
Ta Prohm (Siem Reap)
Banteay Chhmar Temple (Banteay Meanchey)
Angkor Thom (Siem Reap)
Banteay Srei (Siem Reap)
Preah Khan (Siem Reap)
Elephant Valley Project (Sen Monorom)
Baphuon Temple (Siem Reap)
Banteay Samre (Siem Reap)
Banteay Kdei (Siem Reap)
The Victory Gate (Siem Reap)
Ta Som (Siem Reap)
Bakong (Siem Reap)
Royal Palace (Phnom Penh)
The population is believed to be somewhere around 12 million. There are no reliable statistics for ethnic populations, although the Khmer population is certainly the largest. A 1993 demographic study estimated that Khmer represented 88.7 percent of the population; Vietnamese, 5.2 percent; Cham, 2.5 percent; Chinese, 1 percent; and others (Thai, Lao, and smaller minority groups in the north and northeast), 2.6 percent.
The major religion is Theravada Buddhism which is followed by approximately 95% of Cambodians.
Culture and Customs
A country with a rich history and ancient culture based in Hinduism and Buddhism. Although, it’s modern history is tainted by the coming to power of the Khmer Rouge and deeply scarred by the Cambodian Genocide that took place from 1975 until 1979.
There’s a fantastic page introducing multiple facets of Cambodian life here http://www.everyculture.com/Bo-Co/Cambodia.html
There are plenty of ATM’s located in major tourist areas. Some ATM’s charge extravagant withdrawal fees (4 USD).
The official currency is the Riel, but it is used mostly only as small change (for taxi, meals, water), the US Dollar is the most commonly used and also what’s dispensed by ATM’s. Carry lots of 1 and 5 USD notes and people may not have enough to give change in Reil for larger notes. Keep notes in good condition and don’t accept torn or dodgy looking notes as no one else will.
1 USD = 4007 Riel (KHR)
Climate and Seasons
The climate can generally be described as tropical. As the country is affected by monsoon, it is hot and humid with an average temperature around 27.C (80.F). There are two distinct seasons: the Rainy Season and the Dry Season. However, the Dry Season is divided into two sub-seasons, cool and hot. These seasons are:
Peak season: November-February is cool and sunny.
Hot season: March-July is sweltering and humid.
Rainy season: July-October has lots of rain in short bursts that floods the streets.
Inner-city transport is mostly by tuk-tuk and moto taxi, being a small city a fare to most anywhere should top out at $3. For Uber-style taxi service try Exnet https://www.facebook.com/exnet.taxicambodia/
Airlines in Cambodia
https://www.cambodiaangkorair.com – rated as the best in Cambodia
http://www.bassakaair.com – new arrival offering discount flights, backed by the Chinese Government
http://www.skyangkorair.com – new aircraft, Korean-backed
http://www.bayonairlines.com – uses MA60 aircraft which have been banned in some countries
Airports in Cambodia
Cambodia has international airports at Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.
Direct flights connect Phnom Penh International Airport (previously Pochentong International Airport) with mainland China (Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai), Hong Kong, Laos (Vientiane), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), Singapore, South Korea (Incheon), Taiwan (Taipei), Thailand (Bangkok) and Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City). http://www.cambodia-airports.aero
Direct flights connect Siem Reap – Angkor International Airport with mainland China (Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai), Laos (Pakse, Vientiane), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), Singapore, South Korea (Incheon, Busan), Thailand (Bangkok), Qatar (Doha) and Vietnam (Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City). http://www.rep.aero
Direct flights connect Sihanoukville with Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. http://www.kos.aero
Cambodia Airport Routes Map
The Top Value places to stay in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville
These hotels were chosen based on being in a central location of usually no more than 1 KM from the city center, have excellent visitor reviews and ratings, and are amazing value.
Siem Reap City Center Hotels
Damrei Residence & Spa 5-star hotel (av 55 USD per night) More Info & Latest Rates
Tareach Angkor Villa 3-star hotel (av 30 USD per night) More Info & Latest Rates
Kandal Village Inn (av 20 USD per night) More Info & Latest Rates
Angkor Secret Garden Inn 2 stars (av 20 USD er night)More Info & Latest Rates
Angkor Island Home (17 USD per night) More Info & Latest Rates
Phnom Penh City Center Hotels
Harmony Phnom Penh Hotel 4-star hotel (av 65 USD per night) More Info & Latest Rates
VILLA Silk Road Hotel 4-star hotel (av 45 USD per night) More Info & Latest Rates
Monsoon Boutique Hotel & Spa 3-star hotel (av 35 USD per night) More Info & Latest Rates
CA&SA Serviced Apartment 3-star hotel (av 25 USD per night) More Info & Latest Rates
The Flora Boutique Hotel 2-star hotel (av 25 USD per night) More Info & Latest Rates
Miiya Hotel 4-star hotel (av 65 USD per night) More Info & Latest Rates
Nature Life Resort 3-star hotel (av 40 USD per night) More Info & Latest Rates
MK Beach Hotel 3-star hotel – on Ochheuteal Beach – (av 30 USD per night) More Info & Latest Rates
The Moonflower Bungalow 2-star hotel – walk to Otres Beach – (av 20 USD per night) More Info & Latest Rates
Ta Kloy Tip Bungalow – walk to Otres Beach – (av 20 USD per night) More Info & Latest Rates
Finding Long-stay and Permanent accommodation in Cambodia
There are many different styles of accommodation ranging from luxury villas through to bare basic rooms. For most people there are two styles to firstly choose from which are a standard apartment or a serviced apartments where you get security guards, building management, may include cleaning and an all-inclusive monthly price. Costing substantially more, serviced apartments are of course more upmarket, modern and may feature more amenities such as swimming pool.
Where to Rent?
Until you get your bearings you may choose places that are popular such as in Phnom Penh try Wat Phnom, Boeung Keng Kang 1 (BKK1) and Sisowath Quay. Outside of Phnom Penh the nearby Sihoukanville is a beach holiday destination but there are also plenty of places to rent, but of course, it gets busy during holidays. Siem Reap is another option and remember, it is a hotspot for international tourists whether that is good or bad is up to you.
Places to search for rentals
http://angkorrealestate.com – covers nationwide
http://realestate.com.kh – national real estate portal – private and agencies upload their own listings
http://sihanoukvilleproperty.com – realty in Sihanoukville
Living in Cambodia
Once you make a decision to live in Asia for an extended period you have just hit a major crossroad in your life. Truly, don’t underestimate this point, Asia can make you or break you and it’s entirely your choice.
Most of Asia is like the wild wild west and you can get anything you want for next to nothing and live any way you like. Wine, women, and song are all on tap. You can easily get your ego fluffed up by admiring locals, and slowly walk a path that leads to destruction and no one will give two shits. If you really need proof, just search through the stories about ‘sexpats’ and how they fall into miserable existences, the tragedies and even loss of life.
Fortunately, it can also make you. If you choose to learn, study the cultures and soak up the thousands of years of wisdom, seek to find your center, seek to capitalize on your opportunities and strengths, and exercise restraint, willpower, and moderation, then you have a chance or being truly rewarded. And also being able to truly help others.
In Phnom Penh
FitnessOne at the Himawari Hotel: gym, swimming pool, tennis courts, outdoor jacuzzi and steam room. One month membership costs $100 – $500 for six months.
313 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh
InterContinental Hotel Gym: gym, swimming pool, sauna, aerobics, yoga and pilates. $60-80 per month
296 Mao Tse Tung Blvd, Phnom Penh
Amrita Spa at Raffles Hotel: gym, two swimming pools, sauna, steam room and jacuzzi. $70-100 per month.
92 Rukhak Vithei, off Monivong Blvd, Phnom Penh
http://fitness-sihanoukville.com – Described as a fitness bootcamp. Located in the beach resort town of Sihanoukville, they offer accommodation, gym, coaching, yoga, rehab, boxing and much more. A 28 day package with accom, breakfast and gym/classes access from $644 for 28 days, 14 day packages also available along with daily accom.
Meditation Retreats in Cambodia
Hariharalaya Meditation Retreat Centre in Siem Reap – https://www.hariharalaya.com
Angkor BodhiTree in Siem Reap – http://www.angkorbodhitree.com
Cambodia Vipassana Center in Battambang – http://www.latthika.dhamma.org
Cambodia Vipassana Dhura Buddhist Meditation Center – Kandal Province – http://www.cambodiavipassanacenter.com
Angkor Zen Gardens retreat – Siem Reap – http://www.angkorzen.com
Cambodian cuisine has a strong focus on vegetables and includes noodles, soups, grills, stir-fried, curries, salads, tropical fruits, and the staple which is rice.
Popular dishes include:
Kuy teav (meaning flat rice noodle)
Machu Kroung (soup) a healthy, fulfilling, flavorful sweet and sour soup
Kuy Teav Ko Kho (Meaning Caramelized Rice Noodles)
Mee Kiev (Meaning Dumpling noodle)
Prahok Kties (which means fermented fish)
Num Banh Chok (meaning rice noodle)
Want to learn how to cook the local cuisine? Try http://www.samarvillas.com/en/restaurant/cookery-classes/
In the major cities it is not difficult to find Western style comfort foods, such as pizza.
It’s nearly always better to assimilate the local lifestyle and ways, as it will be cheaper and more convenient. But, we all are all human and have hankerings for hometown foods.
Lucky Supermarkets has 4 locations in Phnom Penh and one location in Siam Reap. Offers a good range of western and Asian products. http://www.luckymarketgroup.com/stores.html
Pencil Supercenter https://www.facebook.com/Pencil.Supermarket/. Address: Street 214 (Samdach Pan), number #15, Boeung Raing Commune, Daun Penh District
Bayon Supermarket has Singaporean, Korean and Japanese items. Address: Street 114 (Jok Dimitrov), number #33-34, Monorom Commune, Prampi Makara District, Phnom Penh.
Typical expenses living in Cambodia
1-bedroom apartment $300 per month
Internet $24 per month
Western cuisine restaurant meal: $10
Cafe meal $4.00
Single entry visa: can be obtained on arrival ($20, with one passport photograph required). It is valid for 30 days and can be extended only once, for an additional 30 days.
Business visa (Ordinary Visa): can be obtained on arrival ($25, with one passport photograph required). It can be extended a variety of ways, the most expensive being a 12-month multiple entry visa for $270.
E-visas: available online at evisa.mfaic.gov.kh, these cost $25, but can only be used through the airports at Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, or overland at Koh Kong, Bavet and Poipet.
Forums and useful websites
http://www.canbypublications.com/cambodia/aboutus.htm updated visitor guides to key areas of Cambodia
http://www.visitkep.com A guide to Kep, the small beach town near Kampot.
The official language of Cambodia is Khmer. There are 33 consonants and 26 vowels. “Ai” is pronounced as in Thai; “ay” as in pay; “dt” takes the t sound while “bp” takes the p sound. “Oo” is pronounced as in cook and “ao” as in Laos.
Here are some basic phrases in Khmer:
hello = joohm ree-up soo-a OR Sou sdey
how are you? = sok-sa bai jee-a tay?
goodbye = joohm ree-up lea OR lee-hai
see you again! = joo-up k’neer dee-ut!
what is your name? = laok ch’moo-ah a-vwai?
my name is = k’nyom ch’moo-ah
Yes = Baht (for men), Cha (for women)
No = Oht tey
Thank you = Ah kun
Please = suom mehta
Excuse me = sohm dtoh
Sorry = Sohm tou
How much is this? = Tah ni thliy pun mann?
Expensive = Thliy
Where is (location)? = (location), nouw ey na?
Turn left = bot dtoy ch’wayng
Turn right = bot dtoy s’dum
Go straight = dtov dtrong
Stop = Choup
Water = teuk
Help = chuy
There are some great videos on Youtube where you can learn more:
Khmer Audio Lessons:
International SOS medical and dental clinic
#161, St. 51 (Pasteur) Pnom Penh
+855 23 216911
Has local and foreign doctors – 24 hr emergency service.
Naga Healthcare International Medical Center
+855 63 761-295Naga Healthcare works in a small consulting room close to the central market.
Naga Healthcare works in a small consulting room close to the central market.
Royal Angkor International Hospital, National Route 6, Phum Kasekam, Khum Sra Ngea, Siem Reap
+855 63 761-888
Owned by the Bangkok Hospital Group and caters specifically to tourists. There is a fully stocked pharmacy, General surgeon, Orthopaedic surgeon and Paediatrician.
Making Cambodian Freinds Online
There are the two local English forums mentioned earlier, but if you are looking to meet girls, or for dating then you would probably try