Living in Cambodia: Expat guide 2020

Feb. 17, 2020, 5:51 p.m.

Want to start living in the Kingdom of Wonder? It is one of the best places in Asia to live as an expat. Over 100,000 expats are currently residing here, and life is good! To help you, has put together a definitive Cambodia expat guide.

We’ll take you on a complete tour with this guide, include quotes from long-time expats, and even give you some Khmer language phrases to go with each section.

Cambodia basics

View of Cambodia Skyline

Before you come to Cambodia, it’s good to know a little background information. We’ve got you covered. Consider the following section to be your crash course on where Cambodia is, its history, religion, government and language.

Where is Cambodia?

Where is Cambodia?

Cambodia is in Southeast Asia. On a map, it sits between Thailand and Vietnam and below Laos. Cambodia’s southern coast is off the Gulf of Thailand. 

Cambodia history

Toul Sleng genocide museum

The Khmer Empire of 800 to 1300 AD encompassed most of Southeast Asia. A great legacy of this era is the Angkor Wat temples in Siem Reap. This site is one of the most significant religious monuments in the world.

From 1867 to 1953 Cambodia was a “protectorate” in the area known as French Indochina. This area also included most of Vietnam and Laos. Cambodia is still profoundly influenced by France’s legacy.

The other most well-known period of Khmer history is the infamous Khmer Rouge era. This ultra-Maoist regime, led by Pol Pot, ruled the country from 1975 to 1979. During their brief time in power, the Khmer Rouge committed one of the worst genocides the world has ever seen. Nearly two million people were killed, or almost a quarter of the country’s population.

Religion in Cambodia

Monks in Cambodia

Roughly 97% of Cambodia’s population practices Theravada Buddhism, the official state religion. However, the influence of the country’s Hindu past can still be felt, especially at historic sites. 

Around 2% of the population belong to the Cham ethnic group who practice Islam. In addition to small groups of Christians in the country, there are also many ethnic-religious groups in the north.

Cambodia’s government

Cambodia is, by definition, a constitutional monarchy. The King’s power is mostly symbolic. In practice, Cambodia is a parliamentary democracy. Norodom Sihamoni is the current King of Cambodia. 

Hun Sen, the current prime minister, has presided over the National Assembly since 1985. His Cambodia People’s Party won re-election in July of 2018 for another five-year term.

What language do they speak in Cambodia?

In Cambodia they speak Khmer

Khmer is the official language of Cambodia. It is in the same language family as Vietnamese. However, unlike its cousin, which in the recent past converted to use the Latin alphabet, Khmer still uses a unique alphabet.

Basic English is widely spoken in Cambodia, and Mandarin Chinese is gaining momentum. Nonetheless, many foreigners coming to Cambodia learn at least a few simple phrases in Khmer.  

Key Khmer phrases: 

Hello (formal) - jum riab sua 

Hello (informal) – suos dei

Cambodia- Kompuchea

Khmer language – paisa Khmai

Yes (male speaker) - bat

Yes (female speaker) - jaa

No – ot tei

“The best things about living in Cambodia are the cost of living, business opportunities, proximity to the beach and the influence of Buddhist culture.”  -Daniel Santantoniou, an insurance broker from Geneva, Switzerland.

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Moving to Cambodia: What to expect

View of Phnom Penh riverside

Now that you know a little bit about the country, it’s time to lay out your plan for moving to Cambodia. Living in a new country can be disorienting at first. Chances are, you’re moving to Cambodia from a country with a different culture. The following section is a practical guide to everything you’ll need before moving to Cambodia. 

What to pack for Cambodia

You might be tempted to bring a couple huge suitcases or backpacks when you are moving to Cambodia. Sure, it’s good to be prepared. But don’t go overboard. Cambodia is a country with tons of cheap consumer goods. For example, you can buy a t-shirt here for a couple of dollars. So don’t stress about what to bring. 

Weather in Cambodia

Cambodia weather

Cambodia is hot all year. However, there is a rainy season and a dry season. December to April is considered the dry season. The worst heat comes near the end, just before the rains start to cool everything off in May. September and October are peak rainy months. 

The heat can be sweltering in Cambodia. In the middle of the day, it can hit 40C (104F). Even in the coldest months of the year, it stays around 30C! 

Make sure you're a lover of the heat if you’re moving to Cambodia. Here’s the current weather in Phnom Penh:

The currency in Cambodia

Currency and exchange rates in Cambodia

Cambodia uses both the US dollar and the Cambodia Riel. The exchange rate is 4,000 Riels to 1 USD, and there are no coins. More and more places are accepting credit cards, but cash is still the default currency in Cambodia. 

The situation surrounding the currency in Cambodia is a bit peculiar. People use USD for larger payments. However, vendors are very particular about the condition of bills. A $100 or $50 bill with a small tear will be refused. 

Riel, on the other hand, is used for smaller amounts. They come in denominations between 100 riels and 50,000 riels. 

ATMs are ubiquitous in the city, so it’s usually not hard to get cash from your international bank account.

Wall outlets in Cambodia

Thankfully, most buildings in Cambodia have wall sockets that accept Type A, Type C and Type G plugs. No matter whether you’re coming from the US, Europe, UK, Australia, or South America, you won’t need adapters. Even if you do, they are readily available. Anything between 220V and 240V is ok here.

Can you drink Cambodia water?

Tap water in Cambodia’s bigger cities should be safe to drink. However, plumbing rules are spotty, so most people drink bottled or filtered water. Municipal water is safe for washing and brushing your teeth.

In rural Cambodia, most people still collect rainwater for daily use. It’s best to stick to bottled water in this case. 

Phone service and Wi-Fi in Cambodia

Cambodia has some of the best Wi-Fi coverage in Southeast Asia. In the bigger cities every restaurant, guesthouse, and hotel will have it.

Mobile service is also, generally speaking, excellent. The leading providers are Cellcard, Smart, Metfone and Beeline. You can buy sim cards on every corner, and data plans cost less than $3 a week.

Key Khmer phrases: 

Money - louy

Phone - touresap

Hot - kdau

Cold - rongea

Rain - pliang

Pants- khao

Shirt- au

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Cost of living in Cambodia

The cost of living in Cambodia is quite low. However, it all depends on your lifestyle. The three main expenses while living here will probably be rent, food, and entertainment. Let’s break them down one by one:

Cost of living in Cambodia infographic

Rent costs in Cambodia

Phnom Penh's Rosewood Condos

Rent fees can vary widely depending on where you live, what type of housing and whether or not you have roommates. 

  • You can get a place for as little as $150 per month in a shared apartment, or as much as $500 per month in a luxury building. On average, expect to pay between $300 and $500 per month for each bedroom. Our site has thousands of listings of apartments for rent in Phnom Penh from $300 to $500.
  • You can rent authentically Cambodian digs for less than $300 per month.
  • Western-style luxury apartments, called serviced apartments, are excellent. You can find them for $500-$2,000 per month. These usually come fully furnished and the buildings host pools, gyms and security. We’ve also got you covered here. Start browsing to find a condo for rent in Phnom Penh.

The official rate for electricity is 720 riel per kWh. However, many landlords will round this up to $0.25 for large buildings. The city's official water rate for residential spaces is between 550 and 1,270 riels per cubic metre. You should be paying between $20 to $60 per month for internet. If you pay for cleaning, you should look to spend from $30 to $100 a month, depending on the frequency.

Food costs in Cambodia

fruit displayed at a market in Cambodia

You can find food for as little as $1.50 per meal. Cheap eats can be located on almost every street corner. Dining is bare bones, however. You’ll probably be outside on a plastic chair. 

A mid-price restaurant meal for two is approximately $15-20. There are more and more places in this range popping up around. 

Some expats in Cambodia eat out almost every meal. Others choose to buy groceries and cook at home. Skip down to read more about buying groceries in Cambodia. 

On average most people spend between $200 and $500 on food every month.

Cost of entertainment in Cambodia

Aeon Mall 2 in Phnom Penh Cambodia

Cambodia is still a developing country. But in the city, there are more and more modern amenities popping up. Shopping centres are some of the hottest destinations in the capital. 

The most prominent malls are Aeon Mall, Exchange Square, Sorya Centre Point, City Mall and Aeon Sen Sok. Most of these places host cinemas, restaurants, games, bowling and other entertainment.

Nightclubs and bars are also popular venues for expats to spend their time on the weekends. These tend to be in the central part of the city, near popular expat neighbourhoods. Pools are also popular places to hang out during the day. Check out our list of all Phnom Penh pools open to the public.

Taking short trips around the country is a popular activity for many. Since prices are lower in rural areas, you can often to an extended weekend for less than $200. Popular destinations include Kep, Kampot, Sihanoukville, Siem Reap and Mondulkiri.

So, the final cost of living can be as low as $600 per month or up to $2,000 per month.

Key Khmer phrases: 

Watch a movie - mul kon

Swimming - hael tuk

Dance - roam

Drink - puk

Coffeeshop - haang cafe

Go on a trip - dal leng

“Someone moving to Phnom Penh needs to be open minded and go further than the tourist attractions. Dare to explore more provinces and meet the fantastic people of Cambodia. See and feel the beauty of this great country.”  -Alexander Evengroen, a business developer and motivational speaker from the Netherlands. 

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Cambodian visas for expats

Getting a visa in Cambodia is pretty straightforward. Most people show up and get one on arrival. But Cambodian visas for expats can cover a few different types. Read through the following section to learn about the visa that is right for you.

Cambodia airports

Cambodian airplane in Phnom Penh

There are international airports in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. If you’re coming from far away, you will usually arrive by way of another regional hub like Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Bangkok or Taipei. 

Cambodia’s airports are quite small, but that means getting in and out is simple. That said, more and more flights are being added each year as the number of tourist arrivals increase. As far as baggage and security, Cambodia airports are generally the same as any other country. 

Crossing the border into Cambodia

Cambodia officially has 15 border crossings. There are eight with Vietnam, six with Thailand and one with Laos. 

The majority of traffic to Thailand passes through the crossing at Poipet. Most buses going between Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Cambodia cross at Bavet. Meanwhile, any passage to Laos goes through the crossing in Stung Treng.

Cambodia visas for expats

Cambodia does visas on arrival. This means you’ll get them when you land at the airport or cross the border. All you’ll need are your passport and a passport size photograph. If you don’t have a photo, they will charge you $2 to scan the one in your passport. 

Most people arriving in Cambodia get either a T (tourist) visa or an E (ordinary) visa. E visa does not mean electronic visa!

There are a couple of other types of visas, such as B-type for NGO workers and K-type for foreign-born Khmer, but most people get T or E visas. These are both valid for 30 days. The T visa costs $30, and the E visa cost $35.

Note: You can only extend the T visa once. You can get an additional 30 days for $45. Any travel agency can facilitate this in a few days. However, after that, you must leave the country and re-enter if you want to stay longer. 

E visas, on the other hand, are the better option if you plan to stay long term. You can extend E visas indefinitely. There are four types of extensions:

  1. EB for those with jobs in Cambodia
  2. EG for those looking for a job
  3. ER for those who want to retire in Cambodia
  4. ES for students

You can get extensions that last one, three, six, or 12 months. The six and 12-month extensions are for multiple entries. Paying for one year gets you the best deal. It costs just under $300. Sounds expensive, but if you overstay your visa, you’ll have to pay $10 per day.

Key Khmer phrases: 

Airplane – yun hau

Day – tingai

One – muoy

Two – bpi

Three – bey

Four – buon

Five – bpram

Six – bpram muoy

Ten – dop

100 – muoy roi

1,000 – muoy bpoan

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Cambodian living conditions for expats

aerial view of Phnom Penh

There’s a reason that expats are attracted to the country: Cambodian living conditions for expats is pretty low-key. Cambodia is a developing country. Life moves at a slower pace, in general. But living conditions are still good, depending on how much you want to pay. 

The following section will take you through all the significant types of housing for expats in Cambodia. It will also give you instructions on how to find an agent and what to expect about Cambodian living conditions for expats.

Types of expat housing in Cambodia

Choosing what type of accommodation you want to live in is a big choice in Cambodia. If you’re only planning to stay for a short time, try getting a monthly rate at a guesthouse or hotel. Often, there will be a slight discount. 

If you’re on a budget, living in a shophouse is the way to go. These are the long, narrow buildings that often have shops and stores on the ground floor. Rent out an upper level with one or two friends, and you could pay as little as $150 per month. 

Dedicated apartment buildings are becoming more popular in Cambodia. Most come fully furnished and are more or less what you’d find in any other big city. They usually have one or two bedrooms and go for between $300 and $700 per month depending on the location. We have a massive list of expat rentals in Phnom Penh that you can start browsing right now.

Serviced apartments are apartments decked out with luxury amenities. They have gyms, pools, and housekeeping service. They come in a range of sizes and can cost more than $1,500 per month. Most are in Phnom Penh, but you will find a few in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.

Villas are freestanding houses that can have between three and 10 bedrooms. Most span two or three floors, have a parking area, and some even have pools. People can use these as residences or businesses. Prices vary widely. But you can scope them all out now and find the perfect villa for rent in Phnom Penh.

Hiring an agent, signing a lease in Cambodia

Condo in Phnom Penh

If you’re new to Cambodia, using a real estate agent is probably the best way to find your perfect property. Here most agents get paid a commission by the building owner, so there’s no extra cost to you. Just tell them what you’re looking for, and they’ll even arrange transportation to all of the viewings.

If you hire an agent, they can also help negotiate the rental price. Usually, you can get them to reduce the rate a bit. After all, many apartments in the big cities sit empty.

Make sure you get an English copy of the lease agreement, and you understand it before you sign. Usually, leases are for six months or a year. Deposits shouldn’t be any more than one month’s rent, electricity should be $0.25 per kWh or less, and water should be less than $0.50 per cubic metre.

Here’s how to choose the right Cambodian real estate agent for you!

Key Khmer phrases:

House – ptea

City – tikrong

Province – khaet

Bathroom – bantub teuk

Bedroom – bantub geeng

Floor___ - joan ti ________

Door – tvea

“The best things about living in Cambodia are the affordable yet high quality of life and the unique freedom to start a business and not get killed with taxes.”  Carmela Torres, a real estate marketer and vocalist from the Philippines.

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Best place to live in Cambodia

Best place to live in Cambodia

Most foreigners coming to Cambodia live in one of the three major cities; Phnom Penh, Siem Reap or Sihanoukville. There are a few smaller cities that attract both tourists and long-term visitors. Kampot, Kep, Battambang and Koh Kong are also popular.

Finding the best place to live in Cambodia is all about what you want. Do you want to be near the beach? Near the amenities of the city? 

If you like having some luxuries, Phnom Penh is probably the best place to live in Cambodia. However, if you want nature and art, Siem Reap is probably the place for you.

Are you a chilled out person? If so, maybe choose Kampot or Sihanoukville. One of those towns is the best place to live in Cambodia for low-key expats.

Expat districts of Phnom Penh

Red bar in Phnom Penh

Generally, expats in Cambodia live near the centre of their respective cities. In Phnom Penh, BKK1 is probably the most popular expat area, along with BKK2, BKK3, Toul Tum Poung 1 (Russian Market) and Tonle Bassac.

BKK 1 and 2 are more upscale, with more amenities explicitly geared towards foreigners. Real estate for rent in BKK 1 can be a bit more expensive because of all the amenities. BKK1 is the best place to live in Cambodia if you are a Starbucks addict. If you want to learn more about the area, read our ultimate guide to BKK1. Or, watch this video that counts the top three reasons why expats love BKK1:

BKK 3 and Toul Tum Poung 1 (Russian Market) both offer an attractive mix of western and local shops. Real estate for rent in Toul Tum Poung 1 tends to be more local-style. But you’ll find some great affordable places. If you love chill vibes, this is probably the best place to live in Cambodia.

The Riverside area is popular with tourists and has many bars and nightclubs. It is, perhaps, less family-friendly than the other neighborhoods, but it’s the best place to live in Cambodia if you love the nightlife. Our listings for real estate for rent in Daun Penh have tons of apartments right off the river. Find yours!

More recently, Tuol Kork is a neighborhood about 30 minutes out of the city center that is increasingly attracting expats. Just like other large cities, commuting to a suburb outside the densely developed downtown area is an excellent way to find places renting for much less money. Start looking at the prices of real estate for rent in Toul Kork. Or, if you want to learn more, read the ultimate guide to Toul Kork to get more information about this marvelous area.

Where to stay in Siem Reap

Pub Street Siem Reap

In Siem Reap, Wat Bo and Sala Kamreuk are two of the most popular areas for expats to live. Here the primary industry is tourism, but many expats also come to work in the NGO sector. Do you have a heart of gold and a soft spot for ancient architecture? If yes, this is the best place to live in Cambodia for you. Find your accommodations right now at our page of real estate for rent in Siem Reap.

Where to stay in Sihanoukville

aerial view of Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Down south in Sihanoukville, many expats live near Victory Beach. However, Otres Beach also hosts a little community away from the city. In Sihanoukville, you’ll find that there are tons of guesthouses and hotels offering long-term rates. Many people opt for apartments instead.

Sihanoukville is the best place to live in Cambodia if you’re a beach bum at heart. Real estate for rent in Sihanoukville is still relatively cheap. But prices are on the rise because of the city’s growth. You can easily find a deal in our listings page.

Key Khmer phrases:

To go -Mov

Let’s go - tos

Beach - sa mot

City - tikrong

Commune - sangkat

District - khan

“People are always friendly and helpful and there is a nice community feeling to the Toul Tum Poung 1 area.”  -Avigal Orha, a humanitarian NGO worker from Israel.

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How many expats are there in Cambodia?

Aerial view of Phnom Penh's riverside

It’s hard to say for sure exactly how many expats there are in Cambodia. Currently, between 150,000 and 200,000 foreigners live in Cambodia. In 2018, the government said that the total number of expats in Cambodia was 160,000.

Asian and Western expats in Cambodia

Expats from Asian countries make up most of the expats in Cambodia. These include Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Malaysian, Indian, Indonesian, Korean, Japanese and Filipino.

There are also plenty of Western expats in Cambodia. Most are French, British, Australian and American. However, many other European expats also live here. 

Retiring to Cambodia

retiree walks on a beach

Cambodia is consistently in the top 20 on’s yearly index of best countries for retirement. Retiring in developing economies is becoming a global trend among heaps of expats.

Meanwhile, the government has released plans to increase Cambodia’s attractiveness as a destination for foreign retirees. The proposed policies would give retirees the right to buy, rent or sell a property.

For more info about retirement in the Kingdom, read our guide to retirement in Cambodia.

Cambodia is expat-friendly

Cambodia consistently ranks in the top five for most expat-friendly nations in the world. The local population is helpful and kind. Making friends is easy here. In less than a month, you'll probably be invited to a Cambodian wedding!

It is easy to make friends with both locals and expats. Becoming friends with coworkers is very common. Many offices have football teams or go out drinking together. To meet other expats, you can visit one of the many expat-geared bars or join an activity group. Dodgeball, volleyball, rugby, and badminton are a few common sports that have leagues around town.

Key Khmer phrases:

Foreigner - bora tey

Expat  - barang (literal translation means “French” but often used for all expats)

“I come from…” – knyom mau bpi

Sports - keila

Play - leng

Chinese - chen

Japan - japon

English - angle

Australian - australi

American - americk

“Cambodia is most exciting for its food and beverage scene, which is still very young but has a lot of promise. The local bartenders are really excited to learn, and there are a plethora of new bars popping up every month.”  -Alfred Amayo, a gin distiller and entrepreneur from the UK.

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Getting around Cambodia

Getting around Cambodia

Getting around Cambodia can be tricky for the uninitiated. Traffic is a bit disorganised, but paying for transport is generally cheap and easy to find. Most expats use tuk-tuks or autorickshaws for getting around Cambodia. Ride-hailing apps are convenient because the price is fixed, and it’s easy to map your route. 

On the other hand, some expats buy motorbikes or cars of their own to make getting around Cambodia more convenient. The following section will walk you through all these options for getting around.

Cambodian tuk-tuks, taxis and ride-hailing apps

Passapp autorickshaws

Most foreigners will catch rides around the area in tuk-tuks, autorickshaws or taxis. Tuk-tuks are the carriages pulled by small motorbikes. They can usually fit up to four people. Don’t worry about finding them, if you’re in a busy area, they will find you! 

Going across town via tuk-tuk should cost around $5. Shorter trips within the city will be less - for reference, trips around 2km are a little over $1 (4,400 KHR to 4,600 KHR).

Ride-hailing apps are growing more popular every day for getting around Cambodia. The most significant local player is called PassApp. There’s also Grab, the Southeast Asian version of Uber. You can hail an autorickshaw for two or three people, or pay a bit more for a car.

Buses and trains in Cambodia

Cambodia public buses

If you’re traveling a longer distance, say from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, there are a few options open to you. Of course, you could take an airplane. Flights are fairly cheap. If you want to save a few bucks, however, bus, train or van might be better.

There are tons of companies that run coach buses between all areas of Cambodia. Some are more comfortable than others. Giant Ibis is one of the more famous names. 

Recently revamped was the train service between Phnom Penh, Kampot, and Sihanoukville. It costs $4 to go from the capital to Kampot or $7 to go to Sihanoukville. 

Buying a car or motorbike in Cambodia

Man on motorbike in Siem Reap

Some foreigners coming to Cambodia want to buy motorcycles or cars. Luckily, you don’t need a licence to drive bikes smaller than 125cc. Always wear a helmet and make sure you can handle Cambodia traffic before driving.

To drive a car, you’ll need to get a special permit for Cambodia. Thankfully, there is a driver’s licence centre in Aeon 2 where you can apply for a permit. Just bring the driver’s licence for your home country, two passport photos, visa and 30,000 riels for the fee.

Key Khmer phrases: 

Motorbike – moto

Turn right – bat sdam

Turn left – bat chveng

Go straight – tov trong

Car – laan

Bus – laan krong

Train – roteh plung

Road – phlauv


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Shopping for groceries in Cambodia

After arriving, you’ll need some food. Fortunately, Cambodia has great food. As you’ll see, it’s quite cheap to eat out, so some choose to go to restaurants almost every day. Others prefer shopping for groceries in Cambodia and cooking on their own.

While you’re shopping for groceries in Cambodia, you have to keep a few things in mind. Imported foods are going to be expensive. On the other hand, local produce is guaranteed to be fresh and natural as there aren’t massive factory farms like in more industrialized countries. 

This section will walk you through the steps to take when shopping for groceries in Cambodia. It will also tell you about restaurant etiquette, tipping, drinking culture and the types of cuisine in Cambodia.

Grocery stores and markets in Cambodia

Super Duper grocery store phnom Penh

If you want to cook at home, there are plenty of places to buy food and ingredients. The cheapest option is to go to a local wet market. Markets can be tricky, but with a bit of Khmer language and some bargaining skills, you can come out on top. 

International-style grocery stores are growing in popularity. So are small convenience stores that sell dry goods. There’s Lucky, Thai Huot and Super Duper as well as Aeon Maxvalu Express, Circle K and Kiwi Mart. Prices are more expensive, but they also have imported goods.

Unsurprisingly, they are more readily available in some of the same neighborhoods where expats tend to concentrate, such as BKK 1 and 2 or the Russian Market. 

Do you tip in Cambodia restaurants?

Eating out at restaurants is very common in the Kingdom. Nearly every cuisine and price point is covered. Usually, the waitstaff can speak some English, but when in doubt just use the menu to point.

Tipping is generally not practiced it Cambodia except in upscale restaurants. Even in that case, service fees will often be added. If you want to tip, leaving a few extra dollars is fine. 

Service can be a bit lax compared to what you’re used to in restaurants in Western countries. Don’t feel bad about waving down a waiter if you need something. That’s just the way it works.

Drinking culture in Cambodia

Cambodian beers

The drinking culture is quite widespread in Cambodia. Bars serve almost everything, but beer is the most popular drink for locals. The big names are Angkor, Anchor (pronounced ann-chore), Cambodia, Ganzberg and Tiger.

You can also find wine shops and craft beers. Some bars and restaurants will serve you cocktails. Happy Hour often means cocktails are half price. 

Cafes in Cambodia

Coffee culture in a rapidly growing part of Cambodian society. The younger generation loves to drink coffee and hang out at the many cafes in the city. Read our list of the top 10 cafes in Phnom Penh to learn more.

What to eat in Cambodia 

Cambodian lok lak

Cambodian food shares some similarities with cuisines from neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam. However, it has many dishes of its own. In general, every meal comes with steamed white rice or fried rice. Fresh vegetables are common ingredients, as are lemongrass, lime, black pepper and herbs.

One of the most famous, or infamous, food in Cambodia is prahok, or fermented fish. Fish is one of the most common proteins in the country. It can be found grilled, boiled, fried and everything in between. Chicken, beef, pork, duck and seafood are all common as well.

Noodle soup is one of the most traditional breakfasts in Cambodia. Kuy teav is comparable to Phở in Vietnam and features rice vermicelli and beef. Pork with egg and rice is another popular breakfast, think of it as a version of bacon and eggs. Rice porridge is another popular dish, but people eat it at any time of day.

Num bahn chok is another signature noodle dish; this one is noodles served in curry. It can be eaten hot or cold and with your choice of meat. In general, food in Cambodia isn’t as spicy as Thai food. But chili sauce is always available for heat lovers.

If you’re looking for something quick and easy, many street vendors sell nompang or sandwiches. These are nearly identical to the famous Bánh mì of Vietnam. There are also vendors who sell all manner of fried noodles, fried rice or spring rolls.

If you're feeling adventerous, try pong tea kon, known elsewhere as balut, which is duck/chicken fetus. Also, give durian a try, or even fried crickets, which are a typical snack while drinking beer.

Key Khmer phrases: 

Food – mhob

Chicken – sach moan

Pork – sach chrouk

Beef – sach ko

Fish – sach trey

Vegetable – bun ley

Fruit – plech cheu

“Can I pay the bill?” – Som kut luy

Beer – bee yah

Cheers – chul muy

“On weekends, the hardest thing is deciding where to eat. One piece of advice I would give expats is to stay calm. A smile will go a long way even when you get frustrated, which will happen.” -Haley Flack, a student instructor from the UK.

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Jobs for expats in Cambodia

Aerial view of Toul Kork, Cambodia

Finding jobs for expats in Cambodia can seem complicated. But several key industries are keen to hire those already in the country or ready to relocate. 

Most expats in Phnom Penh make anywhere from $12,000 to $60,000 per year. They work at NGOs, or in hospitality, tourism, education, tech or business. Some are hired to come here. Others choose to show up and look for work. Merely showing up is not as crazy as it might sound.

The two most popular Cambodian job sites are and HRinc. You can also look to targeted Facebook groups to find out about jobs for expats in Cambodia.

Teaching jobs in Cambodia

ESL class in cambodia

The first thing that many foreigners think of is English teaching. Lots of schools want to hire native English speakers to teach their students. Additionally, tons of tutoring gigs are available both for the English and Chinese languages. 

To help in your search, look through our complete list of Phnom Penh international schools and universities

NGO Jobs in Cambodia

Another important sector for expats is the NGO arena. Many foreign-backed non-profit organisations hire for a multitude of positions. 

There are also tons of international companies that hire foreigners. Many specifically target English or Chinese speakers.

Start your own business in Cambodia

TK Avenue shopping centre Phnom Penh

Many people come to Cambodia to start their own business. Overhead is low, and the market is growing fast. Many choose to open bars, restaurants, guesthouses or tour companies. There is also a growing market for tech companies. 

For more information about starting your own business, read our guide to starting a business in Cambodia

Salary in Cambodia

The next big question is about money: How much can foreigners make while working in Cambodia. The answer varies a ton. Expat salaries can range from $800 to over $4,000 per month. Keep in mind that the cost of living here is much lower than what you’re used to, and the average salary for locals is less than $300 per month.

Foreigners’ salaries are taxed at 15% by the state through payroll. Most employers will use specific banks and have direct deposit set up for all workers. 

The big banks in Cambodia are ABA Bank, Acleda Bank, Satthapana Bank, FTB Bank, Canadia Bank, ANZ Bank and many others. Most of these banks have numerous branches and ATMs throughout big cities.

National holidays in Cambodia

National holidays in Cambodia

Until recently, Cambodia had the highest number of national holidays in the world, spanning 28 days of the year. 

Starting in 2020, however, there will only be 22 days of national holidays. Here is a list of the national holidays as they stand currently:

  • International New Year’s – Jan 1
  • Victory over Genocide Day – Jan 7
  • International Women’s Day – Mar 8
  • Khmer New Year - Apr 13 to 16 (these dates only apply to 2020)
  • International Labour Day – May 1
  • Visak Bochea Day – May 6
  • National Plowing Ceremony – May 10
  • King Norodom Sihamoni's Birthday – May 14
  • Queen Monineath's Birthday - June 18
  • Pchum Ben - Sep 16 to 18
  • Constitution Day – Sep 24
  • Anniversary of King Father’s death – Oct 15
  • King Norodom Sihamoni's Coronation Day – Oct 29
  • Water Festival - Oct 30 to 31 until Nov 1 (these dates only apply to 2020)
  • Independence Day – Nov 9

Medical care in Cambodia

Healthcare in Cambodia doesn’t always get the best reputation. Many suggest going to Thailand for any significant issues. There are many clinics, hospitals, and dental facilities, however, that do offer high-quality healthcare.

Refer to our guide to medical facilities in Cambodia to see all the best hospitals, clinics, and dental facilities. 

Key Khmer phrases:

Work – twerka

Company – krom hun

Organisation – angkar

Holiday – tingai somrak

Salary – brak kai

Bank – thnia kear

Hospital – monti bpet

Doctor – bpet

Dentist – bpet tmin


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Expat life in Cambodia

Expat life in Cambodia might not be for everyone. If you crave a unique experience in one of the most exciting parts of the world, you'll love it here. To be sure, life as an expat in Cambodia can be full of challenges. But the people you'll meet, the sights, sounds and smells you'll experience will be something you will take with you for the rest of your life.

We hope you are successful in finding your home in Cambodia. Make sure to come back here for all of your real estate needs and use this page as your guide while navigating life as an expatriate in Cambodia, the Kingdom of Wonder. 

If you enjoyed this guide, dive even further by learning about business with our Cambodia Investment Guide 2019.

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