What it Costs to Live in Cambodia

Cambodia living

How do these expenses for living in Cambodia compare to yours?

A 2-bedroom apartment with a pool for $350, a $5 massage for an hour, a full-time nanny or housekeeper for $120 a month, meals out for $2, taxis for a dollar or two.

As I’ve mentioned a few times before, I’ll be putting out a book later this year on cutting your expenses in half by moving abroad. (Update – it’s out now!) In the course of that, I’ve been interviewing loads of expats living in different countries. If you pinned me to the wall and said I had to tell you which country was the absolute cheapest place to live in different regions, Cambodia would be the answer in Southeast Asia.

cambodian food

Cheap Living, Easy Visa

On top of the cheap living and the pure ease of getting things done, you’re welcome to stick around for a while. “This is one of the easiest countries in the world to get a business visa,” said Justin Garnett. “You just pay a little extra when you arrive for the upgrade. Then you can extend for a full year for $280. From there it’s very easy to rent a space and open a bar, a restaurant, or a service business. As long as you don’t do anything stupid, it’s no problem.” Just keep it above board, he advises. “As soon as you start f#cking with the system, it’s going to come down very quickly. The judicial system is not going to be your friend.”

Khmer livingWhen I spoke to Humphrey of New Zealand, who lives in the capital, he echoed the ease of getting a visa in Cambodia and not having any hassles. “When I need to renew my visa, I give them some money at a motorbike shop or travel agent and hand over two photos. The next day I have my passport back and it’s done.”

Plus you don’t have to worry about sneaking around if you want to tend bar or take scuba divers out for PADI certifications. “This is one of the few countries in the world where you can just roll up and work,” says Humphrey. “It’s not like Thailand.”

Apartment and House Deals in Cambodia

As with anywhere you’d want to live, it pays to take your time finding a place to stay to get the best deal. If you look online though, the prices are quite reasonable even for those in a hurry. In Phnom Penh, the most expensive places are right by the river and you can pay as much as you do now if you want. But they go down quickly as you count the blocks back from there. It is common to spend $250-$300 for a one-bedroom condo and $400-$650 for one that has several bedrooms and lots of facilities. In Siem Reap prices are far lower. If you spend $600 there you’re going to have a swanky villa with a pool, all utilities included. Most of the condos and apartments you can find online range from $250 to $550 per month. Go to a smaller town with fewer tourists and it drops again from there.

When I asked Humphrey what he spends on a regular basis, he stressed that he was living large and wasn’t very careful with his money. “I earn about $2,000 a month and I spend about $1,500,” he said. Even in the nicest bars, it’s still 50-75 cents for a half pint of beer. Liquor here is cheaper than at duty free in an airport. If you spend more than $4 on a meal it was a very fancy place. Women are cheap, but I’m not a player now,” he insists. “I have a girlfriend.”

“There are plenty of dirty old men on a pension down at the beaches though,” he adds, “and I know a few that easily get by on $1,200 a month. They live well on that amount.”

Justin is a family man, so his story is very different. He’s got a house full of relatives in the compound, a place where he spends around $750 on rent, utilities, and maintenance for a 4-bedroom house “with a huge garden.” He estimates that he probably spends $3,000 a month supporting the extended family of his wife he met here, along with his own kids, but can’t imagine going back to his old life in Australia. “I pull up to the house and the kids run inside. I always know there’s someone to take care of them. We’ve never ever paid a babysitter.”

market stall

He now has a vacation getaway place he made happen from his savings. “I bought a block of land with a 3-bedroom house that needed some improvements,” he says. All told I’ve spent$21,000 and I have an acre of land. If you buy land somewhere, you can build a home here for 10 grand.”

I also interviewed a hotel manager living in Siem Reap who was just plain flabbergasted at how cheap it was where he was living. “I don’t know anyone who pays more than $500 a month for a nice large apartment or house here,” he says, “And even if you run the air conditioning 24/7 you won’t be able to spend more than $300 per month on all utilities added together.”

happy hourHe has worked in several other countries in Asia and can’t imagine spending less than he does now on food and drink. “I cannot think of anything outrageously expensive except some imported food stuffs.”

Cambodia is not for everyone, of course. It’s a hot tropical country with the bugs and diseases that implies. Most people fly to Thailand for serious medical care. The Khmer Rouge killed off everyone who seemed intelligent, which didn’t exactly result in an enlightened gene pool. The beaches here are okay, but they don’t compare to those in neighboring countries.

Do your homework and give the place a trial run before making a move. If your funds are limited, however, this is probably the best bargain in Asia outside the Indian subcontinent.

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  1. AJ

    ……. so you interviewed a few people about living in Cambodia and then wrote an article as some kind of person in the know? What a dick you are to presume to to know anything!

    • Tim Leffel

      And I’ve traveled there, I’ve researched housing prices, and I’ve read 30+ cost of travel/living articles as research for my World’s Cheapest Destinations book. If you’ve done all that, feel free to write a better blog post AJ.

      • Devi

        The comment regarding the khmer Rouge killing off all the intelligent Cambodians was very offensive.Do you speak Khmer? If not, how can you assess the intelligence level of a group of people you can barely communicate with? Typical westernized superior mindset.

        • Tim Leffel

          It says something of this sort in every analysis of the genocide and various studies have confirmed that the overall effect was a disproportionate drop in the level of the most intelligent residents. I’m going by third-party reports, not any personal impression based on English-only conversations.

          During Pol Pot’s campaign, “Anyone in opposition – and all intellectuals and educated people were assumed to be – must be eliminated.”

          • cloudy

            Don’t feed the trolls Tim.

        • KC

          I am myself have traveled Cambodia and spent a day touring the killing fields as well as the prison camps and can vouch for Tim when he says that they killed or disposed of anyone considered intellectual or intelligent. It even went as far as killing people that wore glasses simply because there was a misconception that eye glasses meant you were somehow more intelligent, that is seriously no joke. It was quite disturbing learning of the lengths Pol Pot went to maintain power over the population. The worst was his massive work force of children who would serve in his army and work as guards in the prisons due to there lack of formal education and could be easily manipulated into believing anything he wished them too. So before you go bashing us “western” minded people, perhaps you yourself should do some actual research or step foot in the actual culture and soak it up like a sponge you ill informed individual.

          • Billy K

            Tim and KC well said. You are quoting established facts.

    • Skins

      Don’t feed the trolls Tim.

      • Nate

        Pol Pot killed approximately 95% of the educated people during his brutal regime (said by a Cambodian tour guide very knowledgeable on Cambodia’s recent history). Cambodians understand the atrocities the Khmer Rouge committed and appreciate foreigners helping Cambodia recover from the dark period of time (I have done service work there for the villagers). I cannot tell if Devi are trolling or not.

    • Sophie Whiting

      What a horrible comment. You’ve submitted a totally unnecessary response to a good article.

      • Joyce

        They just want to look clever and score points, but in realty they are a keyboard coward who wouldn`t dare to say these things to anyones face. An immature, frustrated, smartarse, truly pathetic individual in fact to make such a moronic and inefective comment !!

      • Marion Wingfield

        “The Khmer Rouge killed off everyone who seemed intelligent, which didn’t exactly result in an enlightened gene pool.” I’m in shock reading that statement.
        This comment is deeply offensive. The Khmer Rouge killed millions of people, and in particular targeted people they regarded as western-influenced, and educated. This by no means implies they extinguished intelligence in the gene pool. It is both inaccurate and ludicrous to have written that statement, especially after what these people endured for four years. And I can assure you, deep intelligence is in great abundance in Cambodia.

        • Tim Leffel

          Sorry to offend, but I’ve read this multiple places in studies and it’s in at least one history textbook I’ve seen. Pol Pot studied Darwin and it was his expressed aim to wipe out a certain class of people (the intelligent and educated) and eliminate them from the gene pool. It’s only natural that genocide will affect what happens to the offspring: take out the majority of a particular kind of people and there will be fewer of those people breeding in the future compared to those not killed. That’s science, not a value judgment.

          • James

            Not even remotely science Tim. Intelligence and Education are not equivalent, and nothing you referenced is science.

          • Tim Leffel

            One of many studies on this. Most are hidden behind a paywall but can be accessed in university libraries.

          • superman

            Everything I read about for thailand was completely wrong and spent over a months researching before living there for over 8 months. Online is mostly a persons interpretation and like opinions, everyones got one but its usually a shit one.

        • Melancholy Mad

          bs. I’ve been around the world and know exactly what he’s talking about. Feel free to feed the PC of the world today, but anyone that’s traveled knows what he’s talking about. Lots of people that make it a little less than easy to get some things done that you usually take for granted. Great help for those of us that travel. Get over yourself protecting the world.

    • Long Timer

      You censored my “Comments” , what a shame!
      i understand that you have a book to sell, nevertheless This article provides innaccurate prices.

      I ve been living between Thailand and Cambodia for 14 years, so i am more than legit to give a testimony about the cost of living in Cambodia.
      There’re plenty of expat blog and forum that will confirm that your quoted prices infos are largely out of date.

      I am actualy planning to move to Spain because of the high inflation i’ve been endured during the last past years in Cambodia and Thailand, it tells all about the reality, Spain is nowadays cheaper than Cambodia for Food and House/Appartement renting or buying.

      You should read between the line and understand that most of the people who wants to move to South East Asia are motivated by a romantic feeling, they think that they could find a lovely wife and live with her for the rest of their life, so they are blinded by the real cost of life in Cambodia.

      • John O'Grady

        I’m considering retirement in Cambodia, I have been to Thailand and quite liked it. I’ve heard there’s much to do and much to see in Cambodia, and the prices are quite reasonable to live. You mention Spain as being relatively inexpensive place to live. I would love to hear more about Cambodia, as well as Spain, obviously both good and bad about each place. Keep in mind my lifestyle is quite simple, I don’t drink and don’t smoke and no drugs of any kind, I just needed an inexpensive place to live that is both clean and safe. Thank you

      • Bee

        Pfffft! Spain cheaper than Cambodia? You will be in for a very rude awakening if you truly believe that.

        • kim

          I would like to teach English in Cambodia. Can anyone advice me. I am currently in Trinidad and Tobago

          • Stan

            Kim, search for “No Joke Howard” on youtube. He has put up a BUNCH of videos on teaching and living in Cambodia.

      • Josh

        I don’t think your approach is ideal and possible you have suffered from the appreciation of the US$, which can hardly be blamed on Cambodia.

        I said it before and will say it again: Don’t move to a country because it’s cheap – move there because it’s the place you want to be in. Prices will go up everywhere eventually.

        Myself, not looking for a wife and not blinded, I’d say.

      • Iancas

        I have lived in Thailand from mid 2014 to date. I don’t think Thialand is cheap and I have been thinking of moving to Spain, Italy or Malta when my present Thai visa expires at end of March. I see parts of Europe as being a similar or lower cost of living as Thailand. BUT, I like Asia and I think I will give Cambodia a try for 6 months. I too have seen high inflation in the very short time (reletive to ‘Long Timer’) and it does not go unoticed. Plus, in Thailand, it is hard for me to stay here as I am too young for a retirment visa.

        On balance, I like to upbeat nature of the article and I’ll give Cambodi a go. I think a summer in Europe and then go to Cambodia for 6 months of living. Then, perhaps I can report back on what I find and what happens.

      • iain cannon

        Hi longtimer, do you know if that is still the case with Spain? Is Spain still one of the cheapest places to live just now?


      • cloudy

        Seems you’re under some romantic feels self deception yourself old chap

        • Tim Leffel

          Exactly. Spain (which has 25% unemployment I believe) costs double to triple in most of the categories that matter: restaurants, a beer, rent, utilities, cell phone bill, real estate… You can’t compare supermarket prices because most Cambodians don’t shop at one. I don’t think most people care about the cost of “tennis court rental.” Here’s the telling one: “meal in inexpensive restaurant” – +314.69 % higher in Spain.

    • Chris

      Hey I need to go

  2. Jeremy

    Cheap booze, good food, and daily massages – sounds like a good place to let go of all your stresses.

    • BamBam Abroad

      Someone got the point!

  3. Jill

    Um, AJ, I think what you describe is normally called an “article.” You can read ones like it in these things called magazines or newspapers that you hold in your hand.

  4. Jamie

    Hi there, just had to stop by and say I love your photos of this place! I was rierascheng a little on it to see if the hubby and I should check it out next weekend and I think we definitely will Looking forward to bringing my camera! Your shots (and blog as well) are lovely

  5. Skins

    Good read. I had a blast in Cambodia. Just returned to Bangkok and I wrote an article comparing life in Cambodia vs Thailand. I’d like your thoughts on it. Check it out when you have a minute.

  6. Cherry

    Hi Tim, we are a Filipino backpacking couple who are planning to do Indochina in August, but from what you wrote, we are rethinking our travel plans and perhaps move in to Cambodia as short-term expats. In Central Philippines we spend about US$400 for everything, and since our jobs are location-independent, perhaps we can look around for a cheap but clean and safe place and make Cambodia a base. You think we can live off US$500 a month here?

    • Tim Leffel

      Cambodia is far cheaper than the Philippines, especially for food and lodging. So yes, you’ll be better off unless you’re living with your family as it stands now.

      • Sir Bob

        I think you are full of it ……

        I have been living in S E Asia now for the best part of 25 years

        Your information is not reliable or up to date

        Your opinions are simply uniformed and/or focused on selling your book

        • Tim Leffel

          You did read enough to realize this was a guest post written by people who live there now, right Bob? Sorry about your bitterness.

    • kattie

      I just back from cambodia few days ago with my husband. $500 is possible unless you guys are renting a room cost about usd40 instead of apartment . Now a day tuk tuk is not cheap as you think , a simple meal in cafe or simple small restaurant cost min $3 without drinks you don’t mind for street local food , i am sure much more cheaper than.

  7. martin

    hey do you happen to know what are the best websites for looking for apartment in phenom penh ?

  8. Dee

    Hi Tim, thanks for a very informative site 😃 I live in Scotland and plan to visit Cambodia for the 1st time next year. Iv done the Thai thing to death and just fancy a change. I’d LOVE to live in Cambodia, let’s face it, you don’t get many warm days in Scotland 😜 beautiful though it is. However I’m a social worker and don’t think there would be many openings in Cambodia… So I will need to be content with visiting for three weeks once a year. I look forward to visiting and enjoying the country. Keep up the good work

    • Chris

      Hi Dee,

      I’m from Scotland too and just about to go out to Cambodia to work really interested to hear if you have made it out to cambodia yet?

  9. Ray

    We visited Cambodia (siem reap and penohm penh ) this year and have travelled extensively over the last ten years or so, my wife and I both felt Cambodia was a wonderful country and the people among the friendliest we have ever come across!
    It was without doubt the cheapest place to live for the time we spent there and we did some research as to returning and working in the next 5 years or so. There are rules and regulations about none locals buying property and running business but plenty of people willing to give advice and share experiences if you just ask! As in all ideas about moving to and living in another country they can cause worry and stress. Just use a little common sense, if something feels wrong or too good to be true it often is just that.ask and ask again until you are satisfied with the answers. Talk to other expats who have set up home there and locals alike, they will be happy to help if they can. My thoughts on Cambodia are that you could do far worse in other places and spend twice as much to do so, but you won’t feel as comfortable and relaxed while you are settling in to the lifestyle. Give it a go and thank me later… Cheers!

  10. salim

    my experience 35 trip in thailand & 3 trip in cambodia , my firt impression is thailand much more easy for a farang barang , in thailand u can go to big c lotus , makro & buy food as thai poeple same price u can go in market also is cheap but in cambodia there are no big c lotus ex there are some central but hell so expenssive , food for me in cambodia is expenssive than thailand & what l dont like in cambodia they make also a price for food for forgeiner l been in buffet , for a set they mistake & give us 2 menu 1 in khmer & another english , in khmer a set cost 6000 riel & in english cost 2 dollar about 8000 riel , so when we eat our buffet 20 dollars the cost was 6 dollars more expenssive .& transportation also they still make like old thailand , price for khmer & price for farang , accomandation in cambodia compare to thailand are expenssive & not much offer .the only thing cheap is internet in cambodia .there are not many thing to do in this country , l stayed in phnom phen hell boring , night time so scary no light , price electric so expenssive also .seriously if u have choice go thailand is much cheaper than cambodia & much more easy , but we all know why we chose cambodia easy visa , for that l spend a month in cambodia & month in thailand .but seriously if u go alone in cambodia its much more difficult to makde friendship than thailand

  11. salim

    ya and l forget l live on 500 dollars in cambodia with a rent 135 dollars room , and some of cambodia friend with bachelor degree work in traveling agency , earn 200 dollars and she told me not a bad salary for her ,so seriously when l hear some poeple talk about 2000 dollars , this salary what l hade in france

  12. Josh

    I’ve been visiting Cambodia for 11 years now and it is ‘the land of my dreams’, especially the lovely town of Kampot on the coast, the country’s 4th largest city (still “fun-sized” though). Many foreigners have already settled across the river in a village named “Bokor Mountain Village” and I will as well, after I stop working. It has one of the best micro climates I have encountered in all of SE Asia (fresh air coming down from the Elephant mountains regularly plus a very beautiful landscape). The area is already targeted for retirement villages for citizens from other Asian countries such as South Korea; many hectares have been purchased, so things are really happening around Kampot, with more conveniences being added in the future (and hopefully jobs for the locals). Bokor Mountain Village already has a store/snooker/massage place, an eco resort and a gym is not far, for example. I just hope that the pace of development can preserve most of the natural beauty of the region.

    You can own land there (via a trusted Khmer represantative) and build the house of your dreams. Some may prefer the hustle & bustle of Phnom Penh but the (ever increasing traffic ruins it for me) but I prefer the “middle way” of being out in the green, yet close to a medium sized city.

    But don’t move there because it’s cheap – move there because it’s the place you want to be. Cambodia may be rough around teh edges but it’s still a diamond for those of us who love Asia and can adapt reasonably well.

    • Long Timer

      Wrong again, and this is a very dangerous false info you are bringing here.
      the best you can get is a a 90 years lease on Land, house, Condo (At least in Thailand you can own a condo).

      But beware legislation can change at any time, all legit and official documents are written in “Khmer” Language, so you can easily be misleading and scam.
      To be clear the authenticity and solidness of your lease contract is related to the rank of the high official you know , you need to be back up by a higly ranked official.

      I won’t recommand to contract such a lease to anyone unless you are a real somebody in this world with strong a influence and powerful relation, juridical system will always prove you wrong if you are involved in a trial, because you are a foreigner, that is the way.

      • Tim Leffel

        The people who have done it—and there are a lot—feel differently. You may be right and they’ll get burned, so thanks for the warning, but they obviously feel fine about the risk. And for the record, for most people a 90-year lease is essentially a purchase. They’re not buying it for their heirs. This is common practical in coastal Mexico for instance (you never own the land) and there are hundreds of thousands of foreigners taking that deal.

        • Long Timer

          As a man of letter you should understant that.

          99.99% of the people who got scammed in Asian property are not proud about that, it makes them looks stupid , plus they have been warned by whistleblower like me, so they feel even more guilty and stupid and they remain silent about their story.

          My advice is to not buy anything, go there and rent house or appartement for few years before planning anything serious. don’t go there on holliday for few months and assume that you know everything.
          Open your hear to every story and don’t get blinded by the usual local “girlfriend” you’ll find there.

          If you’re old and lonely you”ll dig your grave, no matter all the warnings you’ll will get from good samaritan. like tim leffel said “there are hundreds of thousands of foreigners taking that deal.” :)

        • Ian

          hi Tim,

          How do you put up with that arrogant know-it-all prick, its so irritating to read his smart aleck posts. Urghhhh…..

      • Julia

        My brother has been living at the beach there for 8 years in a condo he bought. He’s the happiest guy I know. I think he paid 30 grand or something silly like that. It wasn’t exactly something that drained his life savings.

        • Long Timer

          Obviously you or your brother is lying, There is no condo at all on the beach in Cambodia and especially 8 years ago, actually condominium are very rare in Cambodia you can count them on one hand and there all located in Phnom Penh.
          I’ve been living everywhere in Cambodia: Phnom penh, Siam Reap, Battambang, Kep town, Kampot, Sihanoukville, named it i’ve been everywhere and crossed every border.
          Sihanoukville is the Only develloped seaside town in Cambodia, i Know all the beachs, Otres Beach, Orcheteal beach, Hawaii Beach, Independance Beach. There are no Condo at all, only few guesthouse and luxury Hotel have direct access to the sea.

          Just google Cambodia property and you’ll will see the price and condo available that will prove you wrong.

          If like this article is saying you can find a 2 Bedroom appartement with pool in Cambodia just publish the adresse or a web link so i will be glad to move there.

          • Tim Leffel

            Give it a rest long timer. She said “at the beach” not “on the beach.”

            Whatever your bitterness is about, leave it at the door from now on when you’re in my house. There are plenty of very happy foreigners living in Cambodia and just because you’re not one of them doesn’t mean you have to rain on everyone else’s parade. Real estate is risky everywhere, as most Americans and Europeans found out the hard way not too long ago. The key anywhere is to do you homework, learn the risks (and real story) from other locals who have invested, and take your time.

  13. Eileena

    Hey Tim what is the procedure for buying land/house there. Any good sites? Thanks!

  14. Dan S.

    Ditto Eileena’s question above….

    Justin speaks as if one can go out and buy land with a house just as easy as
    doing so here in the U.S. I’m supposing that he was only able to do so because of
    a Cambodian wife, no?

    • Tim Leffel

      It totally depends on who you ask Dan, and how long they’ve been living there. On paper, foreigners can’t own land unless they set up a corporation. In practice, setting up that corporation is not very hard if you’re willing to pay a lawyer the right fees for paperwork and any money he has to slide to someone else to get it done. That’s what I hear anyway–I haven’t had any personal experience in it.

  15. Max

    One question: with all the Orange Agent used in Vietnam, Laos and Cambogia by the US in the past, knowing that dioxines last for many decades, I wonder how safe is tap water to drink and local food to eat.

    I bet no one looked into it since it is a very slow killer, slow and silent like asbestos.

    • Tim Leffel

      I’m sure plenty of people have looked into that Max if you do some research. You can’t drink the tap water anyway though, so that part is irrelevant.

    • Long Timer

      That is very true, Cambodia infrastructure are very poor, transport infrastructure is bad (Not a single highway in the whole country, road are dangerous, poor bus condition), Medical care is hazardous, so don’t expect any regulation on Food and Water Safety.

    • Laird

      Since Monsanto and Dow etc. have been spraying it on your food in the US for over 60 yrs. I don’t think you have anything to worry about.

      Thanks for the great article Tim.

  16. Ecuador Dean

    I would like to know more about this business visa. Or what about the ‘permanent tourist’ option, how long do you get on a tourist visa and can you just leave the country (for how long?) and come right back?

  17. Hitesh

    Hi there,

    Thanks a lot for detail… am going to move Cambodia very soon at least for next two years.
    I would like to know about average (perhaps 50 to 100$ ) house rent for single person and couple. I also like to know about transport cost if we go around. Thanking you in advance..

  18. ---

    Hey man, please, tell me how long can i survive there if i have only 100,000 USD? 10 years? 20 years? where is cheapest rent or some little houses around 10000-25000 usd? Thank in advance man. Is is difficult to find a wife there?

    • Tim Leffel

      That all depends on how you’ve invested and what your return will be. Local message boards and specific Cambodia articles will help more on answering these specifics, but it’s one of the cheapest places on the planet to live and one of the easiest for long-term visas.

  19. Mat

    Your prices are a few years out of date and discounted by 10% to 50% from present day.

    Also as this is a developing country food safety and pollution are hidden long-term costs. Many poisons banned and controlled in modern countries are present in the food and water. Air pollution from winter burning and wide-spread land-clearing is chronic for many months of the yer.

    There are many factors that will determine your long-term health and well-being here in Cambodia. These are hidden by a low cost of living!

    Take your chances. Your home country is modern and expensive for very good reasons.

    • Tim Leffel

      As always, prices are current as of the date on the post. They were based on interviews with expats that had just taken place. I have been in touch with several since and inflation appears to be mild. With prices based in dollars, they don’t shift much.

  20. Kristin McNeil

    Great article! This was very informative and helpful. I am considering studying for a Master’s in Tourism and am exploring all my options. Royal University in Phnom Penh seems to have a legit program in English. My husband and 13 year old son would come with me while I study. I think I will find an English International School but I’m wondering about employment for my husband. He currently works as a Sales Manager at a large car dealership. Do you think it is likely he could find a similar job (English speaking only)? Are there any large American companies nearby? Thanks!

    • Tim Leffel

      Kristin, yes, some of the people I interviewed for A Better Life for Half the Price were doing sales kinds of jobs, or working for a foreign company. Business is done mostly in English. If you have the book, nose around in the resources listed at the end. If not, see the links in this post and then start researching message boards and blogs.

  21. Peter Wierstra

    Great article Tim and very true I feel…I have been to Cambodia for 8 year and am now married to a lovely Khmer lady and will live soon in phnom Penh permanently or at least 6 months per year.
    I have travelled extensively in Asia ,but for me Cambodia offers me,as a pensioner,everything I need…cheap housing,affordable food and a warm people who welcome foreigners with open arms.
    Kampot and Phnom Penh are the places I will retire to..if you are prepared to immerse yourself in Khmer culture and life…this is the place!!

    • buster

      Peter you just said it in a nutshell happy retirement ,will be on that list soon ,

  22. Hermes

    Thank you for your article on living in Cambodia. I lived in PNH in 1994 and 2005 with many sojourns in between. In my experience Cambodia is like everywhere else, very good value in some things and OK or poor value in others. I am looking for a place that beats Cambodia in low-cost living. So far, Nepal and India come to mind. Vietnam is much better for infrastructure and whether it has more or less social/legal freedoms really depends on which factor. By ‘value’ I include advantages that have no financial cost. Cambodia is a very easy going place to live if you don’t dig roots too deep. I know too many men who have been assaulted, murdered, robbed by criminals, or mistreated by the justice system.

    Excellent value
    – visas
    – banking
    – easy going people
    – capital city not too large
    – beer

    Very good value
    – hotels and guesthouses
    – restaurants, local food
    – cannabis
    – flat so can cycle

    Good value
    – restaurants, foreign food
    – ‘nightlife’
    – easy language to learn to speak (no tones, however triple and quadruple vowels!)
    – expat friends (although cliquey)

    Poor value
    – medical care
    – public transit
    – rental apartments
    – clean and unpolluted
    – easy language to learn how to understand
    – shopping
    – beaches (I know of only on excellent one)
    – hotsprings (I know of only one marginally OK one)
    – making local friends

    Very poor value
    – property for sale
    – public safety
    – uncorrupt judicial system
    – human rights
    – easy language to learn how to write/read (unless you write Sanskrit)
    – vegetarian food in local restaurants
    – music (pre-Khmer Rouge being the exception)

    Cambodia is my second home, but groceries and infrastructure are better value in Malaysia, vegetarian food and history in India, shopping and beaches in Thailand, etc.

    • Redwoods-California

      Hermes —
      Thank you for your excellently organized assessment of the pros and cons. I would enjoy seeing this format utilized when evaluating other destinations. It is a great way of showing the advantages and disadvantages of the destination.

      You wrote: “beaches (I know of only on excellent one)”
      I’ve been to Cambodia once, Laos twice, Thailand three times… and am considering traveling to Cambodia again, as I did not get to the coastal area there.

      Which beach do you consider to be the excellent one ?

      Thanks !



    • Tim Leffel

      I live in Mexico, so I think you’re in a better position than me to find both!

    • sean rithya

      hi, if u need assist about finding good place to live in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Feel free to contact me. i can guide you as my sister run a tourist agency. Free consultance.
      email: seanrithya at gmail.com

  24. Matilda

    I’ve visited cambodia many times since 2006 to 2013 and lived there for over a year in 2011. The capital is cheap but accommodation prices are rising and the city is getting bigger,busier , traffic is so crazy now especially during peak hours.(deafening moto engines echoing city)I used to pay $300 a month in 2012 for a 2 bedroom unrenovated apartment near the waterfront (great spot). That same unit now costs $500 a month rent. And the whole street is unrecognisable with all the new swanky boutiques and rich Khmer with their four wheel drives lining the streets. At the same time crime (robberies) are at their worst ever. Tuk Tuks now have to cover their vehicles with mesh wire to stop thirds robbing passengers). Home robberies are also on the increase (I have friends who live there so report on life in Cambodia )You see There is big money now flooding the city and the country. And redevelopment is ripe with high rises popping up everywhere at the cost of the locals who have been evicted by the thousands from their homes to make way for these high rise apartments- it’s almost at par with Vietnam and Bangkok in the speed that it is changing. I thought of going back to live there again but it’s changing too fast that I’m afraid most if what attracted me to it is fading(as one expects when foreigners flood it’s borders with money and investment – part of the inevitability of development)
    So I suppose if u like to be living in the middle city going through fast development and change then maybe it will be for u. I personally liked it when it was slower, smaller, harder and cheaper!! (Still cheap but not dirt cheap anymore). Other parts of Cambodia are moving at a slower pace of development but as more foreigners move to these areas also big change is still evident.. On a positive note -i do like one change I see- Khmer women slowly becoming more interested in becoming financially independant as they continue to get more educated and influenced by expat presence ..good too see not all foreign influence there has been bad. So If u are looking for what’s left of an easy cheap lifestyle I suggest u get there soon or u might miss out. Better still I hear Myanmar has a few spots left but foreigners are also rushing there in droves. So hurry 😉

  25. Matilda

    *..if u like to be living in the middle of a city going through fast development and change..

  26. BRAD

    You are so full of sh*& with your prices !!! A delicious meal for 2 dollars where ? A 2 bedroom condo with pool for $300 where not buy the river, like you were suggesting, HAVE YOU EVER BEEN HERE TOO CAMBODIA? Do some some research!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    This post is useless

    • Tim Leffel

      I’m removing all your foul language Brad. Don’t wear muddy shoes into my house.

      But yes I have been there and kept track of every dollar spent in a notebook. I’ve got receipts even for less than $7 for three with drinks–in a a restaurant nice enough to have a waiter giving you a receipt. As for research, I interviewed five expats actually living there and got the lowdown on what they spend day after day.


      If you actually read the post instead of skimming, I didn’t say $300 was a riverfront condo in the capital. If you read the book you’ll see more detailed prices broken down and I clearly state that the area you’re referring to is for the rich. But if you need a second opinion that this is the cheapest place in SE Asia to travel or live, here you go:

      • Ray Ray


        why are you quoting backpacker website???
        Backpackers don’t live in Cambodia they just cross the country the faster they can, following whatever book or website guide, so they are not a relevant source of infos, this article is targeting a different lifestyle isn’t it?

        i am agree with the few comments that are pointing that your price infos are out of date,

        I’ve been living in Cambodia 2 times for a year period in 2009 and 2014, and it is true that inflation is a factor it is really high in Cambodia, it is even higher than Thailand especially in Phnom penh and Siem reap.

        1) FOOD
        True! a 2$ meal is possible at local market, you can get a fried noodle SMALL meal for 1.25$ from street vendor, but could an expat handle this every day, hell nah!!
        most likely you will pay 3.5$ to 5$ in a descent place, prices depending on the amount of meat you’ll get :).


        300$ for an apartement is also possible, but you will not get a swimming pool ;).
        For that price expect , bad location, no safety, bad neighborhood, NO KITCHEN and unfurnished apartement.
        you will probably paid 500$ + to get a renovated apartement fully furnished but still no swimming pool. just google apartement rental in phnom penh and you’ll see the 2016 market price you’ll be shocked and as it been said above it is true that Spain has far far better apartement and house price. this is reality check in 2016 :)

        3) TAXI, TRANSPORT

        2$ for taxi again it is true but you won’t go far and you will only get a moto taxi “motodop”, transport is quiet expensive in the city, there are no public transport company, and Tuk Tuk won’t move for less than 4$ for a kilometer so actualy transport could be expensive if you are moving a lot in the city.
        Beware of Tuk Tuk and taxi they will take a commission at every business and place they’ll bring you, plus in the worst case they’ll set you up for big trouble.

        4) MASSAGE

        No comment :) or just one Thailand have better massage and maybe cheaper.

        Tim don’t get mad at my comment because it doesn’t go in your way, i just share my personnal experience in Cambodia, i’ve been there unlike some peoples commenting here and wishing to move there, i still have few expats friends in Cambodia, many many have left the country as it is harder and harder to have a descent life over there.

        However people who wish to live their should give it a try,but don’t rush anything, play it safe :)

  27. Christopher hewitt

    Hello Tim,many thanks for info provided and i look forward to more. One thing which being new to such sites as this is why such bitterness exists from others who Choose to comment, is it perhaps they want to keep the place to themselves or may they simply require attention? I find it queer! That aside, I am researching possible permanent relocation following divorce etc. How would you recommend such to a laidback45yr man with good capital for happiness and commerce and safety, many thanks from an optimistic entrepreneur

    • Tim Leffel

      Start here, then there are lots of resources at the end of each chapter for specific countries. There’s also a bonus infographic meant to help you choose the ideal spot for you.

      • Jeff

        Tim, get a life. You got already a certain age and you are not a kid anymore. Instead to write blogs or ‘shitty’ books because in your Country you could no make a penny during the past, it is time finally find a proper work! …go to clean Windows ‘ cars on the street’ corners around Asia or joust find a 2 dollar a day job in a farm. At least you will do something usefull in your life!

        • Tim Leffel

          I’m going to have six figures on my tax return for 2015 Jeff and I support a family whether I’m living stateside or in another country, so I think your assumptions aren’t very well researched. My body of work has already done plenty of useful things and changed lives. You?

          Funny too that you put an agreement comment to yourself from another person—that you really wrote yourself. I can see the IP address. Leaving this one up to show the ignorance, but any further nastiness will be deleted. No muddy shoes in my house.

          • ryan

            It is an interesting textual contribution to an array of varying information on ever changing moments. People who insult or present response with such vulgar disgusting language, irrelevant to the topic should be ignored. Although the one point regarding the elimination of the ‘intellects’ is unnessecary regardless of scientific research since its a subjective argument and rather insulting. Food can be bought in those regions of price. As I was there yesterday, accommodation prices are increasing but still not a far off figure, life is good there if it fits your positive perception fields. Most importantly this was a nice and helpful read to which one can take into account when considering all information fields. Thanks Tim though for a nice blog

  28. Digger Matt

    I worked in the country in the 1990s as an UNTACC peacekeeper and have been back a few times since. I am going back again this month. Progress has been slow for Cambodia as the country resources are limited . The friendliness and resilience of the people is their greatest asset. This and other blogs re designed to share information; the educated reader should do their own research and make smart decisions about how to use the info. The bitterness and negativity of many responders here astounds and saddens me. I hope these unhappy pathetic people avoid Cambodia as the country does not need more bitter failed people. Seek help for your mental health issues rather than troll please.

    • Ron

      Rudeness, nastiness, vulgarness is not needed here. People are entitled to their opinions but should say them with courtesy and respect to others. Such language and actions make the person saying them appear to be foolish and illiterate. Show some couth. Thanks for the informative posts Tim

  29. Mikey

    Hey cool blog man. I just came back from Cambodia. It is awesome. I agree on the price but they seemed a little cheaper than you listed. Siam Riep locals said they spend around 150 dollars for rent and yes food and drinks are that cheap! It was absolutely wonderful! I know where i am retiring!

    • Tim Leffel

      This was for the capital city. You can get a cheaper place to rent in smaller towns, including Siem Reap. The expat I interviewed for my book who lived there said most expat professionals he knew were paying $500 or less for a big western-style condo with a common swimming pool. Obviously on a budget you could do far better.

  30. Paul

    Wow is this from 2014? So shocking to hear Cambodia is more expensive than China 2016 ( not Beijing or Shanghai or Guangzhou of course, but still).
    I’m renting and eating for less than what i read here.
    Food is also cheaper and life is super safe.
    good read.
    Best regards.

    • Tim Leffel

      You need to compare city to city or rural to rural to get a true sense of costs. The prices in this post are not for the countryside of Cambodia, which is of course much cheaper than the capital.

  31. Dabs

    hello, i am hoping to visit Siam Reap in the next two weeks. I have never been to Cambodia. My flight arrives at night and my plan is to secure a visa on arrival. Can any advise what I should in terms of accommodation at night . Is it possible to spend the balance of the night on the airport and look for a rental unit next day. i plan to get a long term lease . Thanks for any response.

  32. Simon

    Hi people, I make fiberglass things, looking at cambodia as a possible destination, wondering if there are any hill country highlands where the temperatures aren’t so high?
    (I heard that bokor highlands was sold for gambling resort and that I wouldn’t be able to set up there…)?

  33. Mark

    I think every country now has foreigners who like living there, so they try to find a way to make a living there without I guess a real job . Maybe Tim had one but I see this everywhere now . They all start a blog and write a book. What a way to make a living.

  34. Ankitha Rajput

    Awesome post. Great information.

  35. Phal

    Poor Tim…..

    Some just can’t appreciate ones opinion without getting offended. This what’s wrong with this world.

    It was a good read and very informational.

  36. Mo Fowler

    the cheapest and in my opinion the best place to live in the world is bulgaria. I bought a great house with big stone barns and organic land for 5000 euors. Meals out at the best restaurants were around 4 euros, it is simply fabulous with unspoilt countryside everywhere and you can do what you like in your house, my son and i tore down walls and put in two woodstoves…theres no need for all the permission and bullshit one has to go thru in other countries. Animal neglect was the only thing that was bad, but i helped and rescued and homed as many as i could. The weather is, for me, perfect. Long, hot summers and a short deep snow winter. good wine 2 to 4 (nz) dollars a bottle and the very best whiskey i have ever tasted (forget about Chivas Regal…..) was 5 euors a large bottle, its called “black ram”. Many of the younger people speak english. I had to leave for family reasons but i miss it desperately.

  37. Markus

    I m living in 11 years in Thailand and one in Cambodia, Thailand has all you need , the only thing in Thailand is that prices are getting high the last 2 year for the night live , bkk rent are highest but if you go like in Pattaya you can find good rooms at good prices. The thing to remember is that Thai people are not what they use to be , the night live is well going down the drains big times in pattaya …

    Cambodia from my experience was nice cheap but no much to do really , I was happy to leave Cambodia at the end 1 year was way to much for me there .

    To finish I can tell you that even Thailand with all the visa then 90 day reporting the dual pricing and go go bars prices going up and the girls not nice like before , most of the people that have lived in Thailand the last 10 years are leaving , just like me I had a gut full of it ,

    Some of my friends when back to Europe, as for me I’m not sure yet where I’m going next but one thing is sure this is my last year in Thailand.

    One thing not to forget I did got sick and the hospital cost me a fortune, I had a stomach bug and it took them 6 months to figure it out cost me well 15000$ at the Bangkok hospital , and sure my insurance did not want to cove it ,

    The bug was a ulcer and insurance say it should not have cost more then 1000$ so they refund me only 300$ .

    The good thing in Cambodia was you can smoke pot all you want no one will bother you,

    That does not help me I don’t smoke .

    11 years ago it was paradise….. but NOT anymore I can guarantee you that . Just to give you a idea they are going to find people smoking cigarettes on the beach 3000 usd in Thailand ,,, https://pattayaone.news/en/smoking-ban-set-hit-thai-beaches/

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