Sihanoukville province is located in the south-west of Cambodia, approximately 232 kilometers from the nation’s capital, Phnom Penh. It sits on a peninsula within the Gulf of Thailand and is the kingdom’s premier seaside destination with various beautiful beaches along the coastline and tropical islands scattered about offshore.
Sihanoukville (in Khmer “Kampong Som or Kampong Saom”) was established in 1964 in order to create Cambodia’s one and only deep-water port. Since the initial establishment, the province has experienced steady growth, however in the past few years, Sihanoukville's growth has been explosive in terms of tourism, infrastructure, real estate development and business potential for both local Cambodian's and foreign investors and visitors alike.
The province’s popularity grows year upon year because it offers pleasant, white sand beaches, eco-tourism spots, islands, marshlands, Ream National Park, waterfalls and many other things to see and do. This potential as a tourist destination has been recognized at a global scale, and in January of 2018 New York Times ranked the beaches of Sihanoukville number 13 out of 52 for international tourist destinations to travel to in 2018.
The potential of this region is significantly viable and offers typical investors in Asia a great alternative to traditional coastal choices available in Thailand or Vietnam. Unlike nearby ports, Sihanoukville also seems highly resistant to natural disasters such as typhoons and tsunamis.
Meanwhile, as the deep sea port in substantially expanded under a new state initiative and the Special Economic Zones continue to develop and expand, the region looks set to replace Phnom Penh as the nation’s premier industrial hub. The government has even been rumored to have plans to transform the entire province into a Special Economic Zone (SEZ).
Check out some other great resources on Realestate.com.kh in our Location Profiles and Investor Guides: Learn more about Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap & Sihanoukville. Learn more about Investing in Cambodia, Foreign Ownership in Cambodia & the Cambodian Expat Experience!
Cambodia’s international sea trade was originally carried out through the Mekong delta until the mid-1950s. After the Mekong came under the control of the Vietnamese, a decision was made to construct a new port for successful sea trade. Kampong Som was chosen for its depth of water, protection from the elements and accessibility. In honor to the King Norodom Sihanouk, who fought for the independence of Cambodia, the provincial capital was named Sihanoukville. A decade later Sihanoukville received a further boost when it became an important transit post for destined for American forces fighting in the Vietnam War. In the mid-1970s, Sihanoukville itself came under attack and suffered heavy casualties after Khmer Rouge forces captured the SS Mayaguez, a United States container ship. Today, the province presents a peaceful face to the world as Cambodia’s coastal adventure playground.
Economy and Main Industries
Home to the Kingdom’s only deep-water port, Sihanoukville is an economic corridor and hotspot for several trades. Main industries include transport and logistics, tourism, fisheries, process manufacturing, garment and real estate.
Sihanoukville has become a significant part of the country's economic growth due to the rapid flow of foreign direct investment into the province, particularly from Chinese investors. Surrounding areas of Ream National Park, Koh Kong and the second largest island off the shores of Sihanoukville; Koh Rong has also been subject to major infrastructure, tourism, and property developments.
Sihanoukville has been on the government’s development agenda to expand the regional coast to become the kingdom’s next tourism hub after Siem Reap. It also has a growing property sector driven by largely Chinese and ASEAN investment.
Sihanoukville is now viewed as the next big investment hotspot and prime development land is being snapped up very quickly. The province contains the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone (SSEZ), three kilometers from the airport and 12 kilometers from the port. There are plans to increase the capacity of the port through sand dredging as the deep sea port can currently only host “feeder” vessels. When this port expansion is completed in 2020, mother vessels will be able to dock at the port thus reducing costs significantly for both importers and exporters, and cutting delivery times to and from destinations worldwide.
Key Areas of Development
Steng Hav and Kampong Sela Districts in the Sihanoukville Municipality along National Road No. 4 are all considered suitable for industrial development. Beaches, islands, national parks, natural and cultural areas are appropriate for the tourism sector. The Sihanoukville Autonomous Port and SEZs provide great opportunities for heavy industries, logistics, and commercial activities.
The Sihanoukville Autonomous Port (SAP) is set to build a $200 million container terminal as part of an expansion project which is due for completion by 2022. This multipurpose port will serve imports and exports of coal, steel, fertilizers, rice, and oil and will improve the efficiency of cargo shipments and larger passenger ships from across the world.
Each year, the number of Cruise Liners which dock in Sihanoukville is increasing. In 2016, 49 Cruise Liners and Navy vessels docked at the Sihanoukville Deep Water Port (SDWP), which is an increase from 42 from the previous year. This equates to 52, 654 foreign tourists arriving - a 19 percent increase year on year. In the first three months of 2017, 23 vessels had docked at the SDWP.
Real Estate Overview:
Sihanoukville city is growing rapidly and is an increasingly important Cambodian economic center. The real estate market is diversifying fast too. Thankfully, in contrast to the neighboring beach/port areas in Thailand and Vietnam, Sihanoukville does not suffer from the threat of major flooding, typhoons, tsunamis or earthquakes.
Even during the rainy season, the coast of Sihanoukville happily hosts guests. This is certainly a positive thing for the Sihanoukville real estate market. Sihanoukville contains of four sangkats or communes.
Sangkat 4 is currently the most sought after location for residential and small business investment, due to its strategic location most along the beachfront. Sangkat 4 features the four-kilometer long Ochheuteal Beach, containing down at its western end Serendipity Beach. The area houses an endless stream of restaurants and bars frequented by holidaying beachgoers by day and pleasure seekers by night. Land prices behind Ochheuteal essentially doubled in 2015.
According to Realestate.com.kh sources, the average percentage of growth year-on-year is around 15-25 percent for land located in the city center and for areas along the seaside and main commercial roads, prices rose by 50 percent in 2015. Several investment options exist within the seaside province including resorts, boreys, hotels, guesthouses, casinos, commercial spaces inside the SEZ, apartments, restaurants, and condominiums.
Property Market Overview
The range of properties available includes luxury condominiums, serviced apartments and opulent French inspired villas located in the central city, along with a host of affordable apartments, flats and Borey houses outside of the inner-city.
The Sihanoukville real estate market has witnessed a rapid rise of fortunes, with investment into manufacturing and real estate coming as a result of these improvements to infrastructure, and growing numbers of tourist arrivals. In recent years, total investment value into the Kingdom’s coastal province has reached US$310 million. The presence of the Chinese operated Special Economic Zone, has established Sihanoukville as not only a destination for tourism but an economic hub for international businesses to set up.
Condominiums and major developments
In terms of condominium development, this is relatively new for the Sihanoukville province. The very first condominium project, Sunshine Bay, commenced selling in 2015. From this point, D-Seaview has started construction, with both projects bringing a combined total of 934 units to the province and expected completion in mid-2018. Local investors are shifting their mindset in favor of condo living, as opposed to more traditional Khmer housing dwellings.
During the first half of 2017, six more residential condominium projects comprising a combined total of 5,700 units were announced, with construction commencing before the close of 2017.As a result of this, the skyline of Sihanoukville is anticipated to change dramatically over the next three years. Amongst these projects are major Chinese projects such as Blue Bay and The SeaGate Suite.
The SeaGate Suite is the first, and tallest mixed-use development in the province. This 45 storey project was launched in June 2017 and is anticipating completion in December 2020. Blue Bay, a luxury condominium project being developed by Chinese developer Shu Jian Tian Yu Development Co.Ltd, received a 200 million USD investment in late 2016. This development is anticipated to be completed for buyers and residents by the end of 2019.
These developments are just two examples of the extent and type of Chinese investment in the real estate sector, which is having major effects on the land prices in the province. The price of land near coastal areas such as Otres Beach has soared up to $1,100 USD per square meter, from being initially priced around the $700 USD mark.
Rental properties have also seen an overwhelming price increase with apartment prices double what they were a few years ago. As a result, many local and European investors have considered moving to areas in Cambodia which have more affordable land prices, such as Kampot.
The islands off the coast of Sihanoukville are being sold to large-scale resort developers, and a number of luxury hoteliers are also being granted exclusive property rights to large stretches of Sihanoukville’s beaches.
In terms of the hotel scene- both on the shoreline and the multitude of surrounding islands, including the popular Koh Rong, Koh Rong Sanloem, Koh Russey and Krabey Island- this has exploded over the last few years.
Of special note is Six Senses on Krabey Island, a mere 20-minute boat transfer south of Sihanoukville, and Alila Villas on Koh Russey, with both resorts opening in 2018. Both will offer the full island experience, with snorkeling, diving, and all other beach amenities for tourists to enjoy.
Gambling is one industry that appears to be gaining popularity as integrated hotel and casinos multiply yearly, particularly targeting the rising number of Chinese visitors. The casino industry has grown two-fold in the last year and now sits at a total of 15 casinos, with a further five applications under processing. The growing potential of online gambling which most casinos now offer is bolstering this growth. The seaside province’s casino boom now puts the city on a par with Poipet, near the Thai border, in terms of the number of licensed facilities, though, still lags behind in volume.
Foreign Investment Overview
Although investment in the seaside province has traditionally flowed from westerners, Chinese investment in Sihanoukville has been rapid and dominated Sihanoukville over the last few years.
Mr. Thim, the Sales and Leasing Manager of Sihanoukville Property, explained the reasons for this dominance, stating: “Currently, Chinese investors are dominating the real estate market in Sihanoukville with the goal of turning the province into a ‘China Town’ in the future.”. With the recent influx of Chinese investment, this is rapidly changing with the Chinese now holding 65 percent of the total investment in Sihanoukville. Casinos, condominiums and hotel complexes are the major focus of Chinese investors.
Sihanoukville developed into a hot tourist destination in a relatively short space of time. What was once a city defined by scattered bungalows – and very little else – is quickly being replaced by high-end resorts and beachfront condo developments, casinos, world-class golf courses and monopolized mass tourism networks.
By the middle of 2017, tourist arrivals to Sihanoukville had increased by 12.8 percent on the previous year, bringing the total arrivals to 2.66 million visitors. One of the major reasons for this tourism growth is the opening up of Sihanoukville International Airport to include ongoing international flights from China, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Domestic flights also increased their frequency in the first quarter of 2017, which lead to an overall passenger traffic increase of 182.2% to 33,040 passengers from the previous year.
Significant reserves of offshore oil have been prospected near Sihanoukville and are currently being sold by the Cambodian Government to various international extraction companies. Thus considerable amounts of international aid has flowed into Sihanoukville to improve the infrastructure of the province. Oil and gas exploitation is set to begin in 2019, with the currently untapped reserves primarily located off the coast of Sihanoukville.This exploitation is also set to boost logistics investment dramatically in the area, in the near future.
Weather, Climate and Geography
Sihanoukville is approximately 868 square kilometers in the surface. It is situated in the very South of the country and is bordering to the North with Koh Kong province, to the East with Kampot and West south with the Gulf of Thailand. Sihanoukville experiences two seasons: wet and dry. The maximum average temperature is around 30°C; with the minimum being about 24 °C. Maximum temperatures range between 32-38°C, with May being the hottest month of the year. The total annual rainfall average ranges between 1,000 and 1,500 millimeters, with most rain between August to September. Humidity remains high throughout the year but is highest during wet season.
The province boasts many sand white beaches and idyllic islands, making it a key destination choice for overseas visitors and locals alike. There are several options for day trippers, water sport activities and sailing. The following beaches are some of the more popular to visit:
- Ochheuteal Beach: This 3.3 km long strip of white sand is lined with native coastal trees, umbrellas, sun lounges and beach huts serving food and drinks. This beach is very busy and seems to be the most popular in the area. The northern part of the beach serves a number of well-established mid-range hotels and high-profile residences. The southern end is almost totally undeveloped.
- Serendipity Beach: Serendipity (lying at the western end of the popular Ochheuteal beach) offers a charm of its own, with a lively selection of bars and restaurants that are popular with both tourists and locals. A path that snakes along the top of Serendipity Beach brings you to a rocky headland that connects with Sokha Beach, which is part of a marine conservation area. There is accommodation available on Serendipity Beach itself and also several wooden and bamboo style bungalows with a splendid view of the ocean amid trees on the low hill overlooking the beach.
- Otres Beach: Around 4.6 km long and past Ochheuteal Beach is the long sandy strip known as Otres beach. With clean white sand, this beach is much less developed than its neighbor Ochheuteal and the preferred haunt for bohemian visitors due to its laid-back vibe and party scene. This year the government authorities have ordered owners of numerous beach bungalows, dormitories, and restaurants to be cleared due to their illegal occupation on the beachfront, ignoring the environmental laws of erecting permanent structures at least 100 meters from the shoreline.
- Sokha Beach: Located to the west of Serendipity Beach, the 1.2 km Sokha Beach is privately owned and occupied by the luxury Sokha Beach Hotel group, the first five-star coastal hotel in Cambodia. The area is secluded and beach hawkers are not permitted.
- Independence Beach: The 1.3 km long Independence Beach is situated at the north-western end of Sokha Beach. The beach takes its name from the Independence Hotel, which towers on top of a rocky cliff at its northern end.
- Victory Beach: Situated in the most northern tip of the peninsula is the 300 meter long Victory beach. A favorite with budget travelers, it’s also located right near the Sihanoukville deepwater port.
- Ream Beach: To the south of Otres beach lies Ream beach. At 7.7 kilometers long, this extensive stretch is composed of several parts with portions containing rocks and vegetation.
Off the coast of Sihanoukville province, there are 22 islands. Many of these islands are at some stage of development. Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem have undergone the most development and are two of the most popular islands in the region. The following are some of the well-liked islands:
- Koh Rong: Koh Rong is the largest of all the Cambodian islands encompassing an area of 78 km squared and is easily accessible from the mainland. Approximately 26 km west of the Sihanoukville coastline, the landscape is predominantly hilly with the lush vegetation and forests. The island has undergone significant development over the past few years, with plenty of accommodation styles to suit all budgets, restaurants and beach bars in the main strip. Although Koh Rong has a reputation as a party island, parts of it remain untouched and virtually deserted.
- Koh Rong Sanloem: South of Koh Rong lies the smaller sister island of Koh Rong Sanloem. Equipped with stunning beaches, this island is covered in dense forest with lovely hills that can be trekked. Koh Rong Sanloem offers many good diving spots with its rich marine life. This serene island is quieter than Koh Rong and perfect for honeymooners. Daily ferry services are available.
- Koh Tuich: A small and picturesque island off Koh Rong, it offers some nice snorkeling areas due to clear and shallow sea water. This makes Koh Tuich a great day trip from Koh Rong.
- Koh Pos: Also known as Snake Island, this landmass lies 800 meters off Victory Beach. It is currently under construction and in the process of converting the island into a luxury holiday destination and opulent residential estate. Snake Island has been linked to the mainland by a road bridge since 2011; however, it is not currently open for public traffic.
- Song Saa: Koh Song Saa sports petite atolls off Koh Rong’s north-east, and houses the exquisite private Song Saa Resort. This resort offers an exclusive hideaway just 35 minutes by boat from the mainland harbor - which takes luxury to a whole new level in Cambodia.
Ream National Park:
Ream National Park is a popular tourist destination. Easily accessible from the Sihanoukville town center, the park offers a diverse landscape with marsh plains and waterfalls, and with pristine mangroves, wildlife and beaches. This is a haven for keen birdwatchers with almost 200 different bird varieties living within the park. Take a cruise on the Prek Tuk river via the many tour operators in Cambodia and check out lush mangrove forests and all kinds wildlife.
Sihanoukville is best known for its fresh-caught seafood with a plethora of eateries to enjoy these local flavors - from seafood shacks that line the beach, to more upmarket restaurants aimed at holidayers. On the beaches, you will find excellent value for money on popular evening BBQs, and the freshest seafood in Cambodia.
Sihanoukville is a town that knows how to party with no shortage of bars and nightspots. There is a variety of beach bars and off beach options, including live music venues and hostess bars. Alcohol is highly inexpensive.
Schools & Educational Institutes
Sihanoukville’s educational facilities still remain somewhat limited with the concentration of quality international schools still in Phnom Penh. Some international school options include Idea source school, International French School (Ecole Française de Sihanoukville) and Regent School. Additionally, Sihanoukville is home to Don Bosco Technical School one of the only vocational and technical training schools for disadvantaged Cambodian youth. Build Bright University also has a campus in Sihanoukville city.
The CT Clinic offers a wide range of medical services and is often most preferred by expats due to English-speaking doctors available on call. Located on Borei-Kamakor Road: Tel: + (855) (0)34-936666 + (855) (0)81-886666 + (855) (0)12-738803 Sihanoukville International Clinic is also situated downtown in the city center. Several languages are spoken and the clinic offers general medicine, surgery and inpatient care. Call for 24-hour emergency services: Ekareach Street. Tel: + (855) (0)92-911911 + (855) (0)97-891191 Sihanoukville Referral Hospital is located on Ekareach Street and offers extremely limited facilities and emergency care: Ekareach Street. Tel: + (855) (0)12-738803 + (855) (0)16-712646 + (855) (0)81-88666. General dentistry clinics are also available offering full dental services.
Key Transport Services
Overland: The city does not have any form of intercity public transport. However, motor-taxis (moto-dops) and tuk-tuks are readily available. Sihanoukville is served by several bus companies and taxis. Transport business operators maintain booking offices in the urban centers.
Boats: Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem islands have daily ferry services. Access to smaller islands is generally provided by local holiday resorts, dive operators or private operators. Additionally, small long boats and medium-sized cruise boats can be hired privately for sightseeing, fishing, and diving at guesthouses, travel and transport agencies and diving operators.
Flights: With Sihanoukville International Airport has been operating flights from South Korea, Singapore, and China, as well as daily flights to Siem, Reap throughout 2017 meaning accessibility between this province and wider Asia is much easier than in the past.
Sihanoukville International Airport has been undergoing major renovations, whilst the construction of a new terminal promises to increase capacity to 500,000 passengers per year. Once completed, Sihanoukville Airport is set to be the Kingdom's largest airport. Already new flight routes have been added, with additional ongoing international flights from Vietnam, and Malaysia.
Further to this, Grand Union Group, the developer of Dara Sakor Seashore Resort Casino in Koh Kong received permission in 2017 to build another airport. Although Koh Kong is not directly in the province, it still represents another key point of access which is within a few hours driving distance to Sihanoukville. Construction is anticipated to commence on this airport in early 2018, and will involve a total investment of 500 million USD.
Roads: Roads in Sihanoukville city are in relatively good condition, although smaller streets can be sub-standard. From the nation’s capital, Phnom Penh, National Highway No. 4 will take you to Sihanoukville and National Highway No. 3 will take you to Kampot.
National Highway 48 attaches Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh with the southwestern province of Koh Kong with the road ending at the Thai-Cambodian border.
A four-lane expressway connecting Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville is due to commence within the first quarter of 2018 supported by a loan from the Chinese government. Sihanoukville sits in the direct path of the One Belt, One Road Policy initiative which demonstrates that infrastructure is developing alongside the residential and commercial developments, which will solidify future investment into the province.
Special Economic Zones (SEZs):
Sihanoukville province has three operational Special Economic Zones, (Sihanoukville SEZ, Attwood SEZ, and Sihanoukville Port SEZ). Various foreign manufacturers are operating in these SEZs, utilizing the advantages of the strategic business location connecting them to the international market. SEZs in Cambodia are well suited to industrial ventures and create attractive conditions for businesses to open in Cambodia.
The Sihanoukville SEZ remains Cambodia’s largest, with an area of over 1,000 hectares at present, and is still developing. The $320 million development, once completed, will be capable of hosting 300 factories, 80 to 100 thousand workers and will cover 11 square kilometers. Approximately half of this space is designated for textile, clothing and electronic manufacturing, as well as light industry products. In mid-2017 over twenty plants had been constructed, comprising of 16 Chinese investment enterprises, with this set to increase as the development nears completion.
Government Authorities & Emergency Services
The Sihanoukville police’s main headquarters are located 1.5 kilometers from the town center, near Victory Hill. The smaller Sangkats in each district also have a police station. Tourist Police (speak English etc.): + (855) 011-683307; + (855) 068-640416. Emergency Hotline, 24hour: + (855) 097-7780008.
There are two post offices in the center of the municipality of Sihanoukville. The main office is situated on Ekareach Street, just outside of Victory Hill, and a small office near the central market. Tel: + (855) (0) 34 933 539/ 034 933 426.
Medical Evacuation from Sihanoukville:
This is available through International SOS Medical Clinic in Phnom Penh: Tel: + (855) (0)23-216911.