How Much Does It Cost to Live in Phnom Penh, Cambodia?

two can travelThis is a gues post from Jen Joslin, best known for her blog www.twocantravel.com. She lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia with her husband, stand-up comedian Stevo Joslin. They have been living and traveling in Asia together since 2011, and have been living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia since 2015. Jen works as a first grade teacher at a small international school. When he’s not on stage, Stevo dabbles in curriculum consulting, teaches swimming, and does English tutoring. Combined they earn less than $35,000 USD per year, yet this is the happiest they’ve ever been; both pursuing their passions while enjoying the pleasures of daily life in Phnom Penh.

Phnom Penh is at that sweet spot of development for expat living. An influx of foreign investment in recent years has meant more businesses, amenities and quality international schools geared toward foreigners. While gentrification has it’s positives and negatives, there is much to be said for the comforts and ease of life these businesses provide expats. At the same time, Phnom Penh retains its chaotic pace and Cambodian charm. Its not hard to get away from the foreign influence and experience local living.

capital of cambodia

All the development means you’ll have the option to shop at organic food stores or pay half the price at local outdoor markets. A typical meal at a Cambodian restaurant costs less than $2, or you can enjoy an upscale dining experience for $100+. A cappuccino at a foreign coffee chain costs $3, while a locally sourced brew at a Cambodian stall costs less than $0.75.

You can rent a luxury, serviced apartment with a pool, gym, 24-hour security guard, and cleaning service for anywhere from $500 to $3000, or live in a comfortable Cambodian style apartment for under $300. Phnom Penh is a city of choice, and whether you are seeking western creature-comforts or want to experience a more local way of life, the city has what you are looking for at prices much less than what you would pay in most developed countries.

Tuk-tuks and motorbikes, called “motos,” are the preferred method of transport for both locals and expats, though more and more luxury SUVs are crowding the roads every day (mainly driven by Cambodian officials).

Cambodian international airport

Phnom Penh’s recently expanded international airport and bus services make it a great base for travel throughout the region. Southeast Asian countries are all a short plane ride away. Comfortable buses are available for travel throughout Cambodia and to bordering countries.

The expat scene in Phnom Penh is a thriving community with interesting people, young and old, from around the world. There are events taking place every day of the week. These can include networking events, restaurant openings, athletic tournaments, street fairs, documentary film showings, art galleries, plays, live music, stand-up comedy and more. Phnom Penh is a popular city for young families as well, with plenty of activities and businesses catering to children.

So let’s get down to the nitty gritty. What does it really cost to live in Phnom Penh?

Stevo and I earn less than $35,000 combined annually. We pay $350 per month in rent plus $75-$100 in utilities for a three bedroom, three bath Cambodian-style apartment on the fringes of the Russian Market, one of the more popular expat areas. We have a housekeeper come twice per week for $40 a month. We eat at mid-range restaurants about twice per week ($15-20 per meal for two), and go to events around the city several nights per week. Stevo belongs to a cross-fit gym. We travel around Cambodia about once per month to Kampot, Sihanoukville, Siem Reap, and other provinces. We have taken trips around the region to Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore, and are planning for more international travel.  We live better and feel happier than we did back in our hometown in southern California. Our life in Phnom Penh is simple, fulfilling, and never dull.

Money in Cambodia

Cambodia primarily uses US Dollars and Cambodian Riel. The exchange rate is roughly 4000 Riel to 1 USD, so most transactions are made in USD with small change given in Riel. ATMs dispense USD unless otherwise stated, in which case you become an instant thousandaire!

cambodia apartmentWhere to live in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is divided into districts. A majority of expats live in BKK 1, 2 or 3, Russian Market, or by the Riverside. BKK 1 and 2 tend to be more expensive with restaurants, bars and shops geared toward expats. BKK 3 (near the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum) and the Russian Market have a good blend of western and local amenities. The Riverside area tends to be crowded with tourists and can feel seedy due to the lady bars and night clubs in the area. However, it is close to many restaurants, shops and attractive tourist sites. Another area of the city growing in popularity with expats is Tuol Kork, located 20-30 minutes from downtown. Phnom Penh is expanding outward, and the further outside the city center you go, the less you can expect to pay in rent.

Housing Options

There are a variety of housing options in Phnom Penh ranging from upscale apartments with 24-hour security guards, pools and gyms, to basic Cambodian-style apartments in local neighborhoods. There are even old French colonial buildings and wooden countryside-style homes still available in parts of the city. Western-style homes in gated communities with tree-lined streets and parks are also available, and many more of these housing developments are popping up on the outskirts of the city and near the airport. Housing costs range from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on location, size and style.

Cost of Housing

Typically single expats pay anywhere from $150-500 per month depending if they rent their own place or live in a shared apartment. The Facebook group Phnom Penh Housing is a great resource to find a roommate and see what housing options are available.

Couples and families can expect to pay $250-$1000+ depending on what type of amenities they require.

roof pool at apartment

Utilities

Some apartments include utilities while others charge an additional fee for water, trash pick-up, cable, and Wi-Fi. One thing to note is that electricity is almost always charged in addition to rent and can be expensive. Landlords charge different rates to unsuspecting tenants, but the standard rate is usually 1000 Riel ($0.25USD)/kilowatt. We use a fan during the day and run our air-conditioner in one room for most of the night. Our electric bill is usually around $65 per month, just to give you an idea.

Finding a Place to Live

There are many real estate agencies in the city to help you secure accommodation. You should not have to pay the real estate agent a fee as the landlord will pay them a commission. We had a good experience working with a local agent we met through an apartment advertisement online. He spoke great English and took us to half a dozen different properties based on our criteria. Once we found a place, he went through the details of our lease together with us and our landlord. We gave a one month security deposit and first month’s rent, signed a six month lease, and were done!

Cambodian People

Cambodian people are some of the friendliest people in the world. They are quick to smile and happy to help. Many Cambodians in Phnom Penh speak English, making it easier to make Cambodian friends, and simplifying basic daily tasks like shopping or eating out. Sadly, petty crime has risen in the past decade in Phnom Penh, though not quite to the levels seen in Vietnam or Bangkok. But like in the rest of the world, a vast majority of people in the country are kind, decent, hard-working people who shouldn’t be overlooked.

Cambodia food stall

To understand Cambodia as it is today, it is important to know about it’s recent, tragic past. In the 1940-1960s Cambodia was developing at a similar rate to Thailand and Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, Cambodia’s northeast was heavily bombed, which, along with internal strife in the country, aided in the Khmer Rouge’s rise to power during the 1970s. Cambodia’s people suffered a mass genocide by the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975-1979, who killed an estimated 1/3 of the total population. People were forced out of Phnom Penh into the countryside and made to work as farmers. Educated people such as teachers, doctors, lawyers and business owners, were killed first. Hundreds of thousands of others, including women and children, died of starvation. Thousands more were put in prison, tortured, and forced into absurd confessions that they were spies of the KGB or had betrayed the Khmer Rouge in some way. They were brutally murdered and put into mass graves.

Today the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Choeung Ek Killing Fields in Phnom Penh are tourist sites aimed to educate visitors about the horrific atrocities committed against the Cambodian people. The Khmer Rouge retained their seat at the United Nations until the early 1990s. The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) located outside Phnom Penh has only started trying Khmer Rouge leaders responsible for the deaths of millions, within the last decade. The trials are currently ongoing and can be viewed by the public.

Cambodia is still recovering from the loss of the majority of it’s educated population and the subsequent trauma that has been passed down to the next generations.

Working in Cambodia

cheap living abroadDepending on their profession, expats in Phnom Penh live on an estimated $12,000 to $60,000 per year. Phnom Penh is a thriving city of opportunity. Expats work and volunteer in a variety of fields in Phnom Penh, from NGOs, education, hospitality and tourism, the medical field, consulting, technology, and business. Some expats come to the city on expat packages, in which case pay and benefits are usually more attractive. Many other people, including Stevo and I, simply show up and look for work. Integrating into the expat scene and learning about opportunities through word of mouth is a good way to find jobs that may not be posted online.

Bongthom.com, newspaper job listings, and the local HRinc site are all good resources to view job listings in the city.

Cambodian Visas

Cambodia has some of the most lax visa regulations in the world. Getting a ordinary E-class visa is as simple as showing up at an airport or border, ticking a box, and paying a few dollars more than the tourist visa price. You can easily extend an E-visa to a year-long visa for around $300. Technically as of 2014, foreigners working in Cambodia are required to have government issued work books. However, this law is not well regulated and it is up to businesses to provide work books for their employees. This is something to be aware of but not  too concerned about. Combined with the inexpensive cost of living, this makes Cambodia a prime place to work, start a business, or simply live a comfortable life of leisure without visa hassles. You can find up to date information about Cambodian visas here and here.

Medical Care in Cambodia

In the past the common medical advice for travelers and expats in Cambodia was “Go to Thailand!” Thankfully medical care facilities have greatly improved, and many ailments can now be treated in Phnom Penh by foreign doctors and foreign-trained Cambodian doctors. Dental care is also professional and affordable.

That said, certain medical procedures or tests may be unavailable or expensive, so it can be necessary to seek medical care out of the country, namely in Thailand, Singapore, or Malaysia. Even traveling out of Cambodia for medical care is generally cheaper than being treated in the USA. Many expectant mothers choose Bangkok for prenatal care and delivery.

During our first few months in Phnom Penh I had a freak accident. A glass door shattered onto my back, cutting me on my upper booty and ankle, but thankfully nowhere major. I took a tuk tuk to a local emergency clinic and was treated immediately by skilled Cambodian staff and doctors who all spoke English. I received stitches and had two follow-up appointments. The total cost was less than $300.

Food Shopping

There is a wide variety of choice when shopping at markets in Phnom Penh. There are open-air local markets, big and small, scattered throughout the city. We do all of our produce shopping at these. Local market shopping is always an adventure, and having sellers we regularly go to is a nice way to feel integrated into our neighborhood and practice our Khmer.

mangosteens

A large selection of fruits and vegetables are available at the local markets. Of course produce that is in season is cheaper, but prices are quite reasonable anytime of year. For example, in season mangoes are 4000 Riel ($1)/kilogram and avocados are 8000 Riel ($2)/kilogram. (Yes, they have avocados here! Be still, my Californian heart.) Imported fruits like apples and oranges are available at a price. I was once gifted four apples by a student’s parents that were bought at Aeon Mall, the largest modern mall in Cambodia. They left the price tags on, and each apple had cost $2.90!

We occasionally buy eggs at the outdoor markets too, but are skeptical of the meat that sits outside in the heat for hours on end. Instead we buy meat from air-conditioned markets geared toward foreign customers. There are stores catering to western customers throughout the city, especially in BKK 1 and 2, near the Russian Market and at the Riverside. The French influence in Cambodia lingers in the baguettes, croissants, and other fine baked goods at countless bakeries. Stevo and I find that we never crave anything from back in the States as we can buy just about everything we want here. Fancy meats and cheeses, name brand peanut butter and chocolate, breakfast cereal, good wine, you name it. A nice baguette or chocolate croissant costs $1-2, similar to prices in developed countries.

Cambodian food in market

 

Drinking in Cambodia

Hard alcohol and spirits are surprisingly cheap in Cambodia. A 750ml bottle of Absolut Vodka goes for $10, Blue Sapphire for $12, and very few bottles cost more than $20. There are a few wine shops in town selling imported wine from around the world as well as craft beers. The wines are about the prices you’d expect to pay at home or a bit higher. Drinking at restaurants is inexpensive. Cocktails, even at nicer restaurants and bars, are $2-8, and are often 1/2 price during happy hour. Local beers range from $0.75-$1.50 at most restaurants. A can of beer from a local shop is $0.50. There are also a couple of local breweries in town, and a rum distillery which is open for tastings once per week.

Transportation Costs

Getting around Phnom Penh is relatively cheap and easy. The main method of transport for expats and locals are tuk-tuks, carriages pulled by motorbikes. A ride across the city should cost no more than $5, and generally going from A-B within town will cost about $2-3. If you are riding solo, motorbikes are a cheaper option. Unlike in Bangkok, where the motorbike drivers are clearly distinguished by their fluorescent vests, Cambodia’s moto drivers are just regular guys who own motorbikes. They often hang out in groups on corners, or keep their eyes peeled for people who look like they might need a ride, slowing down to check as they ride past. They don’t usually provide helmets for passengers, or even themselves. Yes, it’s dangerous and don’t tell your mom, but man is it fun! Taxis are also available in the city, mainly coming from the airport. You will need to book ahead or else get extremely lucky to flag one down within the city as they are scarce. There are public buses as of 2015, but for now there are few routes, and the schedule is unreliable.

Getting out of Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh’s international airport is undergoing major renovations. The country’s first Starbucks just opened inside, which can be seen as a blessing or a curse. The airport’s expansion means more international flights to and from the city. There are non-stop flights to countries throughout Asia. There are about 10 flights to Bangkok,Thailand per day, and five to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for under $100. Air Asia is the largest budget airline in the region, and a flight to their hub in Kuala Lumpur costs about $50.

The buses in Cambodia are much better now than even just a few years ago. Giant Ibis has quality air-conditioned buses and mini-buses going to most parts of the country for under $20. Many bus companies also have air-conditioned buses around Cambodia and to bordering countries. An overnight bus from Phnom Penh to Thailand currently costs about $30. Cars with private drivers are also available to hire anywhere you want to go for a reasonable price.

Kampot

Phnom Penh is one of the best values for money in Southeast Asia. It is a city primed for opportunity and will best be enjoyed by those with an adventurous spirit and open mind looking to immerse themselves in a new culture, while still enjoying many comforts of the western world.

This is a guest post by Jen Joslin, who also shot the photos. She blogs at TwoCanTravel.com about travel and expat life in Cambodia and around Asia. Follow her and her comedian husband Stevo on Facebook and Youtube.

Comments
  1. Tina Ryder

    Cambodia is a magical, must see destination. I look forward to the day I can spend an extended, perhaps indefinite amount of time living there. The information in Jen’s blog will definitely be put to use! Well done!

  2. Linda Merrill

    This is the best and most accurate post about life in Cambodia I have ever read. I have learned a lot that I just took for granted. I am excited to share this post with friends that still on the fence about going to Cambodia.
    I love this country and one day hope to spend several months a year here.
    Thanks for sharing your article.

  3. Sinuon Va

    I’m really pleased when I heard and read your article about your lilfe style in Cambodia, and I sincere thanks very much for sharing the best experience ever. I hopefully all the people rest of the world will enjoy their life to live or visit in Cambodia someday, for Cambodia has lots of area that you can live in safely and visit in beautiful place like Koh Rong island, Angkor Wat (Siem Reap) and another provinces where I should let you check in webs. I suggest you to live in Phnom Pen and then should take a trip to visit as like she said in this article. Thank you once again for such a beautiful article.

  4. Herbert j Shiroff

    Good article
    Please read my novel RATH available on Kindle
    All about Cambodia and refugees
    Herb Shiroff

  5. wendy

    SO if you are retired and want to spend more than one month at a time there is that possible regarding a visa?
    Thank you

    • Wade K.

      They have a business visa good for a year that allows you to come and go as you please and you don’t actually have to have a business. Nothing unusual, everyone does it and they gladly give it to you(for a fee).

    • Jen Joslin

      Hi Wendy, Jen the author here. Yes, it is very possible. You can enter the country on an Ordinary (E) visa, then after one month you have the option to extend the visa at a travel agency without leaving the country for up to one year. The current cost of a one year visa is about $300. Many people move here for retirement!

  6. Norm Schriever

    I’ve lived in PP a good portion of the last three years and your article is spot on and super well done. I’ve rented an apartment before and was overcharged the Barang price and ripped off on the electric, so the last couple years I stay at a very nice hotel (G11 on chill 184 Street) and get a discounted long term rate. It is a little pricey – $750 per month – but that includes all the AC I want, cable tv, cleaning service, pool, free breakfast etc. if I go on a weekend or longer trip I can just leave my bags in their office and don’t have to double pay with my destination hotel too, so it pencils out.

    Anyway, great article and thanks again.

    • Jen Joslin

      Thanks so much, Norm! Staying at a hotel long-term sounds like a cool alternative to renting an apartment here. With all the amenities included and freedom to come and go without double paying on accommodation, it sounds like a great choice!

  7. sean rithya

    thanks for visit my country. your reviews is good for foreigner to know b4 visiting cambodia. The main problem in my country is traffic jam, hope the government will fix it.

    • jana

      Hi,
      Iam Srilankan
      I planned to go singapore,malasiya & cambodia next year march (2017-March)
      I am a solo traveler, i want to know

      In cambodia

      1. Chepest hotel
      2.i stay only 4 days how much need (usd $)
      3.Tourist important places
      4. travel plan
      Please advice me

      Note : i am searching for good friend in cambodia
      anyone intested pls contact below mail
      Contact :sjana.somu@gmail.com

  8. Naim

    A very accurate article on living in Phnom Penh, however, it does not mention the lack of hygiene, especially on the streets and also during the rainy season, how certain areas of the city can get flooded with water anywhere between knee/waist deep. Another, seedy aspect of Phnom Penh are the number of foriengers who are seasoned alcoholics, hardened drug takers or worse pheadophiles, they are about, just go along to Soroya Mall anytime of day. That aside Phnom Penh is a very pleasant and easy going place to live.

    • Jen Joslin

      Hi Naim, thanks for your comment. Although the things you mentioned are true, I don’t think they are necessarily unique to Phnom Penh. A lack of hygiene is common in many developing countries. It’s true that some streets do flood during the rainy season, but this is also true in my home state of California. I guess the difference is in California I’ve never had to get out of the tuk tuk to help my driver push us through the water :) Cambodia like many countries, does have a problem with drugs, however it is easy to stay away from that scene. Overall I agree that Phnom Penh is a very pleasant and easy going place to live!

  9. Portafaix

    Iam yvan french ..
    Iam was working in phnom penh as well as slave in one restaurant for 1500 usd.
    With this salary its hard life .
    So i am back again in international brand any where in world .here to get corect standard life you must get 2500 to 3000 usd .under you will be in trouble .
    Not forget you are foreigner. So more costl’y all…

    • Jen Joslin

      Hi Iam, while $1500USD would be low in a developed country, it is more than enough to live on comfortably in Phnom Penh. It all comes down to how you choose to spend your money. The average salary for Cambodians is under $500/month, well under that in many cases. As foreigners I think we are quite lucky to earn the salaries that we do here.

  10. Kate Green

    We loved both trips to Cambodia and enjoyed PP. Hoping to be living there in 2017/18 for a year. Do you have any insights into the international schools please? So expensive. Off to read your blog:)

    • Jen Joslin

      Hi Kate, that’s exciting! I do have some insight into the international schools. I am currently working on an article highlighting some of the schools in the city. I will pass that link along once I have completed the article, but feel free to email me in the meantime Jen (at) twocantravel (dot ) com.

  11. Jennifer

    Hi Jen,

    My husband is Khmer and we have lived in Las Vegas pretty much our entire life. We have a 5 year old… He is facing deportation to Cambodia. Me and my daughter want to keep our family together and I am just curious if Cambodia is safe for us. I always read “bias” posts how scary it is. Then I found your article. I am from central Illinois small white town, moved to Vegas in 2006 where I met my husband (small back story). His family has taught me to enjoy the culture very much and I could probably learn the language fairly easy as I have studied mandarin in college. I wonder what I would do for work… I am a high end jewelry designer, lead graphic designer and a production manager for a large format print company… Would those skills be useful there? I would probably homeschool or find a nice school for the kiddo. And would want to have another kid at some point am I bat $&•# crazy to do it in Cambodia?

    We also have three dogs whom we can leave behind as I am involved in animal rescue. I am rehomeing my pig already to best friends animal sanctuary in Utah. I have a mini schnauzer, an English bull terrier (spud McKinsey), and a blue nose pit bull. Not to mention miss kitty. ;) I have promised them the best of lives as my heart chooses not to endanger what my responsibilities are. Where do you buy food for them or do I simply cook for them rice and meat? Hehe please let me know your thoughts.

    Your blog is fantastic, adventure is out there! (Disney -UP).

    Your possibly to be friend and neighbor,

    Jennifer

    • Jen Joslin

      Hi Jennifer! Thanks for your comment :)

      I do think Cambodia would be safe for you guys. It sounds like you have adventurous spirits, and you already know you enjoy Cambodian culture! I know many families through teaching, and Phnom Penh seems to be a great place to raise kids. Of course choosing to have a baby outside of your home country is a personal decision, but you certainly would not be crazy to consider it! There are many expat families in Phnom Penh, and while a majority of women I know have gone to Bangkok, Thailand to give birth, the hospitals in Phnom Penh are improving and women are choosing to have their babies here as well.

      Your job skills could certainly transfer over here. I would recommend looking into US companies in your fields of expertise that have offices here and see if you can get a job secured before your move. Jobs that expats move for tend to have better packages than those secured within the country. However, if that isn’t possible I am sure you can find work once you arrive.

      As for your animals, having pets is becoming more common in Phnom Penh. There are animal clinics, doggie daycare centers, and pet foods available in several markets around town. There are also animal rescue organizations here you could get involved with if you want to continue that work.

      Hope that helps. Do get in touch when you guys make the move!

      All my best,
      Jen

      • Jennifer

        Thanks so much for responding. I am in the process of searching for homes in the capital city. Do you have any advise as far as locations for a family with small child and a yard for big dogs. :) Much appreciated!! I can’t wait to start my adventure with my family. <3

    • Christine

      Hi Jennifer,

      I have lived in Cambodia for 3 years and have 2 small dogs. While finding a pet-friendly apartment limits your options about half, there are always nice pet-friendly ones as well. My dogs get fantastic boarding and grooming at Happy Dog (both are $45 total for grooming with flea/tick treatment and boarding is $6 per day per dog when traveling), and they are taken to Agrovet for anything health-related. It is very easy to be a pet owner here, much less expensive and many mice walking places such as Wat Botom Park. I am from the US as well, life here is just a better deal! Back home I could never afford 2 dogs, and they bring me a lot of joy. I’m sorry about your family situation, hopefully the future will bring you peace and happiness.

    • Sam Fisherman

      Hi Jennifer,
      Just would like to share with you beside what Jen has bee graciously sharing concerning jobs possibility.
      There are many others American Hotel Chains in the country from Marriott Courtyard to Rosewood Hotel where you may try for a career change into the field of hospitality.
      Sales and Marketing and Communication would be suitable. You can try to type in google search “rosewood phnom penh careers ” and follow the link.
      https://kh.linkedin.com/jobs/view/161670102
      This link is for Marriott Courtyard in Siem Reap. They still need Director of Operations.
      Wishing you and your family all the best.
      I’m a Cambodian American who left the States about 8 years ago and settled 3 years in phnom penh, 5 years in Siem Reap now back to Phnom Penh again working with Rosewood Phnom Penh Hotel.
      It’s great to negotiate the deal with the Company as advised by Jen prior to moving into the country that way you are more secured. Good Luck Jennifer!
      Sam

      • Jennifer

        Hospitality is not my thing.. I am a creative individual with big ideas. I appreciate the lead though. I am in search of something to keep my busy with my artsy ways. :)

    • Kirra

      Hi Jennifer! I’m curious to hear about how your settling in Cambodia with dogs went? My partner and I are moving to PP in January and we’ll have a labradoodle in tow with us. How have you found the ease of life to be in PP with a dog? Did you have trouble finding housing in the city?

  12. Troy

    Hi Jen! Great article. I agree with your opinion of Cambodia. About a year ago, my ex-gf and I visited Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Cambodia by far stood out as the most friendly country of the 3. I loved it and I miss it. Now I’m thinking of moving there.

    Is it possible you could tell me how reliable the Internet there is? I recently got an online teaching job so that I could try and make the move and I would need a fairly decent stable Internet connection in order to do my job.

    I really want to move there and your article has really made me excited to make the move. I’m just worried that the Internet there is bad.

    And as far as the cost in Cambodia, it’s super cheap. In Siem Reap I was getting hour long foot massages for $3. They’d also have specials to compete with all the many other message shops of $2.50 hour long foot massages. You can drink all night for less than $6 if you buy the local beer.
    I would also buy the noodles from the guys on the street for as little as .50 cents. No reason a person couldn’t live in Cambodia on $1000 a month unless they’re living high on the hog. $1500 a month would be more than enough from my experience of being there.

    Again, great article and thank you for bringing your experience and knowledge to the rest of to read :)

    • Jen Joslin

      Hi Troy, thank you so much for the positive feedback! Glad to hear you love Cambodia too :) The people here are so lovely!

      In my experience the internet is reliable about 80-90% of the time here. To be honest I haven’t looked too much into the different internet service providers available. We use the company our landlord already had when we moved in. There may be more stable ones than what we’ve got.

      I definitely agree with you that it can be even cheaper to live here if you eat street food and at Khmer restaurants. There are plenty of places around town to find $0.50 beers as well! And yes, massage is still relatively inexpensive here, even at more upscale places in the city. Livin’ the dream :)

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

      Cheers,
      Jen

  13. Piseth

    Lifestyle could be even cheaper if you can absorb to the street food and common Cambodian restaurants in Phnom Penh.

    At the shopping mall nowadays selling reasonable price foods too. I eat out one most of the time and the living cost for a local like me is about $300 per month.

    • Jen Joslin

      Wow Piseth, that’s amazingly cheap! Eating Cambodian food can definitely save a lot of money. Cheers for your comment and thanks for sharing :)

  14. Jeremiah

    This is a typical article about the cost of living in Cambodia — it kind of misses the point.

    Medical care, if anything serious happens , is poor. One can not always be lucky with ones glass doors. Add in at least 5000 dollars per year for insurance that will send you to Thailand and actually pay. If one develops or already has a medical history one will not be eligible — retirees take note.

    For young families, cost of education for children — one that will allow them to reintegrate into western public schools or universities is even higher. Education is crucial these days for lifetime earning potential and work opportunities, so going to one of the fun sing song for profit international schools seems ok but really isn’t. There are more than adequate choices, but they are not affordable on a family income of 35000 dollars.

    The third thing that people miss is that one better have substantial savings already or a very high NGO director type salary and a savings commitment — there is no public support system for anything, and as Cambodia is a more dangerous place to live in (yes bad things can and do happen everywhere, but look at statistics ) .

    Finally prices are and have been going up very rapidly — inflation is very high here — wage growth is at a slower pace. Government taxation system , penalties , compliance costs all increasing. If for example you also have earnings in your own country, you are required (but almost no one does) pay taxes on this in Cambodia as well, a second time, as Cambodia has not gotten it together to make tax treaties with anyone.

    Fun place to live , great place to live , but it is cheap only if one is on holiday, or is lucky , or one neglects ones children.

    • Tim Leffel

      All of this is addressed between this article and the Cambodia chapter of my book (A Better Life for Half the Price) where I interviewed more people living there, including a family with children. None came to the country with “an NGO-type job” and most pay out of pocket for medical care, taking a cheap and quick flight to Bangkok for anything serious. You don’t have to be on holiday or lucky to know this is one of the least expensive places to live in the world.

    • Jen Joslin

      Hi Jeremiah, Jen the author here. I appreciate your insight and it’s always good to get varying perspectives. I’ll address your points, and I don’t disagree with you on all of them.

      As for medical care and insurance, for our first year in Phnom Penh my partner and I had travel insurance. We otherwise paid out of pocket for annual doctor visits or illness, which amounted to less than $1,000. We went to clinics and hospitals in both Cambodia and Bangkok. Medical care is much better now in Phnom Penh than it was in years past. While I agree that we were lucky nothing serious happened within that year, we were still well covered with travel insurance for accidents or repatriation. This year we have chosen to get international medical insurance, which also covers repatriation. As we are both under 30 and in good health this is costing us less than $2,500 annually.

      For your second point, yes, $35,000 is probably not a comfortable income to support a family with multiple children. My partner and I do not have children, however we know many families that do as we are teachers. While it’s true that the top international schools may be prohibitively expensive for some, the remainder are definitely not all “fun sing song for profit” schools, though those do exist too. Parents who move to Phnom Penh and are invested in their children receiving a quality international school education have many good options to choose from at reasonable costs.

      Thirdly, we moved here without much savings (under 5K), and I think there are few places in the world where a couple could do that comfortably. Saving money is a choice based on an individual’s priorities. We are able to live comfortably, travel frequently, and still save money with our salaries here.

      I agree with you that Phnom Penh is a fun and great place to live. It can be cheap too depending on how you personally choose to spend your money.

  15. Kev

    I read a comment above in the blog about Business Visa’s being valid for a year and you don’t even need to own a business etc. Please be aware that under the law any business visa requires you to have a work permit and employment book in this country. They have been threatening for many years to enforce this and I believe that this is the year they will and hundreds if not thousands of expats will get caught out. They have just recently issued a praka (government document) to tell employers that they are commencing checks. Don’t get caught out for the sake of a few dollars. I also am very aware that there are many differing circumstances for these work books etc, my advice is check don’t assume you will be ok.

    • Jen Joslin

      Agreed Kev. Definitely make sure that your employer offers a work book as government officials do come to businesses to check for them, albeit fairly randomly. It’s always best to follow the laws of whatever country you are living in to avoid any issues.

    • Tim Leffel

      I think this is becoming less and less of a consideration for most expats since a great number of them have no intention of working for a local company. They make far more money working from a laptop.

  16. L. Gill

    Hi Jen,
    I love this article. Its been the only one during my exhaustive search that gave clear and insightful information. I am disabled and have been researching places in the world to live cheaply to make my monthly disability go further. I am receiving just over $850 a month and have a small nest egg over $12,000 saved. Would I be able to legitimatly be able to live and thrive there? I hope, all I need is easy way to get around when I need since I don’t drive. The tuk -tuks sound fun. Area where I’d live in easy distance to walk to things I need close (markets, shops etc) I loved your information on healthcare cause I’d definitely need to see a Dr periodically. Any advise would be appreciated! Thank you in advance.

    • Jen Joslin

      Hi Gill,
      Thank you for your response and questions. To be honest, $850/month would be enough to live, but I wouldn’t say thrive. That said, there are ways to live quite cheaply, such as renting a room in a shared apartment and eating local food. It just depends on your lifestyle and what you are willing to compromise on. For convenience to markets, shops and restaurants the Russian Market area is very good. Getting around by tuk tuk or moto is quite easy, but if you are doing it frequently the costs add up. Healthcare is improving here, and with Bangkok a short flight away you also have the option to go there. Hope this helps! Feel free to email me if you have any more specific questions.

  17. Rick

    Hello Jen, this has been an awesome read! I am interested in relocating to Cambodia and intend to get an English teaching job there. I think it would be best for me to get a visa when I arrive then search for a good job and grab it, rather than finding a job before I leave my home country. What visa would you recommend for me (business?) and if I get a business visa don’t the officials need to see a work permit? Lastly, in order to get a work permit must I have an original degree, copy of one, legalized copy etc. I appreciate your input, Dave.

    • Tim Leffel

      See the section in the article titled “Cambodian Visas.” No work permit needed.

    • Jen Joslin

      Hi Dave, thanks for your comment! If you intend to stay in Cambodia longer than two months, then a business visa, now called an Ordinary (E) visa, is the way to go. After one month you are able to extend the Ordinary visa for 1, 3, 6 or 12 months. The Ordinary visa does not allow you to legally work in Cambodia. You can discuss getting a work permit with your employer once you find a job. It is better if your school is willing to help you secure your work permit so you don’t run into trouble if the government suddenly starts enforcing the law. As far as I know you do not need your degree in order to get the work permit.

  18. Dave

    P.S. Do you think in the future that you’ll need to show proof that you’re working for a local Cambodian company in order to get a long term visa which allows you to live in Cambodia? I am building an internet business and would just love to rely on that in the future instead of having to keep a job for the sake of visas. Also, do they have marriage visas?

    • Tim Leffel

      Visa laws can change at any time, but for now I’d imagine it’s a net win for them from all the expat money coming in. No idea on the marriage visa. That’s something people usually research after they’ve found a mate and decide to stay on.

  19. Dave

    To confirm, if I enter Cambodia and get the Ordinary Visa (business) then I won’t need a work permit from a company there in order to get the visa? I’ll simply be able to find a job when there and then get the work permit from the new job if they require that?

    • Jen Joslin

      That is correct. You don’t need a work permit in order to get an Ordinary (E) Visa. Once you find a job make sure that your employer offers you a work permit as that is the law. Not all companies do, so it is important to check.

  20. islander

    From what i read in this report phnom penh is not a cheap destination, those expat earn 35 thousand dollars per year, so …….. they are not cheap, transport could be quite expensive, i think thailand offer better for budget peoples,

    • Tim Leffel

      Sounds like you haven’t been there. Just because they earn that much doesn’t have anything to do with prices. There are people in both those countries earning 10 or 20 times that amount. So what? But if a couple earns $35,000 in Australia or the USA, they’re going to be barely scraping by.

  21. travel fairy

    Very helpful information. I have a friend who plans to stay in Cambodia for a few months and this exactly what she needs to read before going. Thank you. Cheers! c”,)

    • Jen Joslin

      So glad it’s helpful! Cheers for your comment :)

  22. Dallemand

    Hi there :)

    I live in Thailand but right now im in Phnom Penh. I ran the Phnom Penh international half marathon last Sunday and saw some of the city – it was hot and dirty, but a nice race, though.
    I am considering moving to Cambodia, but I think that I am more into Siam Reap. I feel that Phnom Penh is too crowded, and I prefer a peacefull and quiet lifestyle. Dont really care if the beers are cheap or expencive as i not drink that much anymore. The coke lights cost near the same as in Thailand :)

    In relation to what it costs to stay in Camodia I think it’s just as cheap to stay in Thailand. In Thailand, one would find much cheaper apartments/condos. I have a private (3 bed) house in eastern Thailand which costs $120/month + utillities. And sometimes i rent an apartment/condo in Phuket for about the same price, when I need some beach time.

    But I still considering moving to Cambodia and i liked your positive post. Its not common to find that online as most posts is about how dangorous it is to live here :)

    Thanks for a nice article

    • Jen Joslin

      Thanks for your comment! I have heard some very nice things about living in Thailand as well. It’s good to know you can find such inexpensive places to rent there, especially close to the beach!

      One reason many expats seem to be moving to Cambodia from Thailand is the ease of getting a visa in Cambodia. Good luck with your move!

  23. Makingsmilesbetter

    Hi there everyone,
    I am an orthodontist and looking out for work options in cambodia. Not running after money but I do want to know what would be a good package to be able to stay comfortably in this country. A keen traveller and always looking for new experiences so want to explore good work options in Cambodia. Any suggestions on good places to work and salary packages? thanks a lot

  24. Thao Nguyen

    Hi Jen,

    Thanks for great artical.

    I am Vietnamese and going move to PP for working. In general, I think PP is not as expensive as Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. However, I am still worrying about living cost there. How much for rental per month for an apartment with full furniture (1bed) near Russia market? And how much for other living cost for 1 person there? Is US$300/ month (excluding rental) is enough if I cook at home with not frequent social activity?
    Please advise.

    Thanks a lot
    Thao

    • Tim Leffel

      From what I hear, it would be very tough to live in that area for $300 a month. Most foreigners around the Russian market are paying close to that just for rent.

      • Thao Nguyen

        Thanks Tim.
        I have a seperate budget for rent ($300/month), and another $300 is for utilities & food. I also know it is tough with this amount ($600~$700/ month for all) but still enough, isn’t it?
        Nice day to you.

  25. Bobby Bones

    I am in phnom penh now and I am shocked at how expensive it is.
    If you live in BKK1 area then expect to pay prices equivaluenT to and often more than England e.g 330ml can coke is $0.75 and red bull $3.80!!
    Meat is expensive too and a $5 or less meat and rice/noodles meal will barely contain any meat.
    It is cheaper near the Russian market e.g. $0.45 for a can of coke.
    You can get a basic room in a shared house for about $150 per month with water, wifi and garbage collection about $15 and electric cost of about $40 month (so I hear, not been here a month.
    Travel is cheap, a bus ticket from phnom penh to the Thai border or vietnam, is $10.
    A carton (200) of Malborough is $13.50 and a litre of top brand vodka $10.
    Generally speaking, Phnom penh is very expensive compared to the level of development and infrastructure. I am paying daily prices in phnom penh shops that I paid at Bangkok airport – and we all know how expensive most airports are.
    The locals are generally said to charge expats x3 the local price, so keep smiling and negotiate until you are happy or reached half the original asking price. So far, PP people are friendly and will stick to a verbal deal, just don’t be shy to ask and don’t get impatient or angry when negotiating.
    Btw, it rains a lot so don’t expect unbroken sunshine 365 days a year.

  26. Faye

    Hello Jen, very nice article. It answered almost all of the questions I have in mind. I’ve started looking for apartments and yeah, they are really cheap and I like how the houses look.

    However, I would just like to know if it’s easy to get jobs that are related to Information Technology there? Thank you.

  27. Alice

    Hi, we are thinking about living in Cambodia capital, we need some help. Me, my husband and child (4 years old) need some informations, could it be possible to help us with informations about school and house living?

  28. Bender

    Don’t move to Phnom Penh. It’s dirty, it’s hot and/or rainy, the food is so so and expensive relative to the region plus Khmer people often get stomach aches and sick from it. and there are so many beggars. If you like smoking (and every expat/foreigner seems obligated to light up in the non-air conditioned restaurants, drink a beer, and forego food) and alcohol, both are very cheap. Drugs are, too, but you never know what you’re getting.

    The people are nice, but theft is a serious problem. You can’t trust anyone with your stuff. It’s always gotta be in lockdown–even when you’re sleeping at night.

    Traffic is extremely dangerous. You take your life in your own hands just walking down the street. Everyone in a Lexus thinks they own the road, and they will honk and speed up if they see you in their way. I’ve had my arm clipped by a rear view mirror, and I’m very careful.

    The sidewalks are unwalkable, too. Khmer strew tables and stands out front of restaurants, all their equipment if they’re repairing appliances or motorbikes, and they put signage or motorbikes along every pathway. When you see an opening, expect a taut to stand in your way and offer you a tuk tuk ride, food, or a bracelet.

    It’s fun to visit, and the people can be very charming. But it’s a hellhole.

  29. Diane

    Good morning from Canada i would like to know if i can bring with me my 3 cats I’m 65 years old and I’m alone and my cats are a big things in my live ,here i’m a pet sitter i have a great job. You think i can do this in Cambodia

  30. andrew

    Hello, My name is Andrew Daniel, After going through your articles,I must tell you that I have developed a very strong zeal and likeness to visit Cambodia, Anyway, I am from Nigeria west Africa and will like to know how to secure the visa and the requirements.i need your update

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *