Curious about where the best places to live in Cambodia are? Keep reading!
While the cost of living in some parts of Southeast Asia is slowly rising, Cambodia remains an all-round cheap destination for visiting and living. The country is also home to famous ancient ruins, stunning beaches, and friendly locals.
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Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are the two most well-known cities among foreigners living and working in Cambodia. However, plenty of other fantastic options offer a quieter, more relaxed way of life.
So whether you prefer a fast-growing metropolis, a charming ancient city, or a beautiful beach town, here are the best places to live in Cambodia for expats.
Phnom Penh is the capital city and, thus, is naturally one of the best cities in Cambodia for expats looking for work opportunities and a modern lifestyle.
Located along the Mekong and Tonlé Sap rivers in Southern Cambodia, the city has an estimated population of over 2 million, including a large foreign community.
The capital city blends old and new, with ancient colonial buildings and temples alongside the growing number of skyscrapers.
There are endless things to see and explore in Phnom Penh, including strolling around the art deco Central Market and tasting the local delights in one of the restaurants by the riverfront.
The modern amenities, international restaurants, and increasing number of western-style condos make Phnom Penh a welcoming city for expats.
What’s more, the presence of global companies, major financial institutions, and English schools mean jobs for foreigners are plentiful.
The capital also boasts a vibrant nightlife and live music scene where locals and foreigners come together. However, like all busy cities, Phnom Penh has some downsides, namely heavy congestion, frequent construction, and a lack of pedestrian walkways.
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Although everywhere in Cambodia has a low cost of living compared with western countries, Phnom Penh is the most expensive city in the country. Depending on the location and quality, you can rent a one-bedroom apartment for anywhere between $300 to $550.
While Phnom Penh may be the capital city, Siem Reap is the most famous place in Cambodia. This historic city is a major tourist destination, drawing in over 2.5 million tourists each year to visit the famous Angkor Wat.
Although Siem Reap is great for tourists, it’s also one of the best cities to live in Cambodia as it is smaller and more relaxed than the capital city.
You won’t find any skyscrapers here as the law forbids the construction of any building higher than Angkor Wat. This keeps Siem Reap’s heritage strong and maintains a rural feel in the outer parts of the city.
Siem Reap has a large expat community, and the locals are amiable toward foreigners. There are also plenty of western-style coffee shops, restaurants, and bars.
There are not as many big international companies here, but there are still many jobs for expats, such as in the education, wellness, and hospitality management industries.
Although Siam Reap is less congested than Phnom Penh, the weather can be unbearably hot, and the rainy season lasts longer here than in the south. However, if you don’t mind the extreme weather, you’ll enjoy a meager cost of living in Siem Reap.
Rent can be up to half the price as in Phnom Penh, and restaurant prices are, on average, 20% cheaper.
Kampot & Kep
Kampot and Kep are two up-and-coming cities in Southern Cambodia, thanks to their charming beachside location.
The infrastructure here is not as good as in the bigger cities. Still, it is slowly improving, and more and more modern amenities are popping up.
Plus, the simple lifestyle attracts digital nomads and remote workers seeking a slow pace of life and a local experience.
While these two towns are located next to each other, they have unique characters and charm. Kep is known for its French-influenced colonial villas situated along the coast.
Some were destroyed during the Khmer Rouge period, and the ruins remain today. Others have been renovated and turned into guesthouses.
Kampot boasts a coastal and riverside location, resulting in a relaxing and sleepy ambiance. The town is also close to the Bokor and Damrei mountains, serving as a stopover town for tourists hiking these peaks.
As you would expect, highly paid jobs are not abundant in Kampot and Kep. However, this doesn’t mean there are no business opportunities.
Most expats who live here run guesthouses or tourism companies. Others work remotely and take advantage of the meager living costs to build their savings.
Aside from fewer job opportunities, one downside of living in Kampot or Kep is the lack of western cuisine. You won’t find many restaurants that cater to foreign tastes.
Still, you will get to try some of the best local dishes and the highest quality seafood.
If the quiet, simple life in rural Cambodia appeals to you, you’ll be pleased to hear that you can snatch up a humble one-bedroom apartment for as little as $150 a month. Or you can get a bigger or more modern place for double that, which is still incredibly cheap.
Sihanoukville is another of the best places to live in Cambodia for beach lovers.
Located in the country’s southwest corner, Sihanoukville is a popular coastal city among tourists and expats. It has a bit of a party reputation, but you’ll also find plenty of laid-back vibes here.
What makes Sihanoukville so desirable is the 30 or untouched islands dotted around. Thus, if you base yourself here, you’ll enjoy plenty of beach time on your days off.
Like the other Cambodian seaside towns of Kampot and Kep, most foreigners here have invested in the hospitality industry and are running hotels and restaurants. Sihanoukville is particularly popular among Russian expats too.
If you’re looking to work for a company rather than own one, several NGOs and schools employ foreigners. However, note that the pay will be less here in Phnom Penh, even though the cost of living and rental prices are pretty much the same.
Another downside to Sihanoukville is that there are no good hospitals in town and fewer amenities such as shopping malls. If you need high-quality medical care, you’ll likely have to travel to Phnom Penh, a 5-hour drive away.
Still, the incredible coastal location of Sihanoukville is enough for expats to accept a drop in pay and lower quality medical services. So it all depends on your priorities.
Battambang is the second-largest city in Cambodia but one of the lesser known. Despite its size, it has a quiet, almost sleepy feel as very few tourists visit.
However, Battambang is still one of the best Cambodian cities, with a lot to offer.
Battambang is incredibly charming, full of old colonial buildings, and surrounded by ancient Angkorian temples. It looks similar to Siem Reap but without the tourist crowds, hagglers, or party strip.
You won’t find a massive foreign community here, but Battambang has proven popular with many French expats.
Investing in or managing local businesses is the most common form of making money for foreigners here, which has led to many high-quality bars, restaurants, and hotels.
Battambang is idyllic for those looking for a peaceful local-style life. With a population of 250,000, there is a strong community feel, but you’ll need to speak the language to fit in as not many locals speak English.
You’ll also have to give up some of your western comforts as you won’t find any international restaurants or shops selling western food products.
Final Thoughts On Best Places To Live In Cambodia
These five best Cambodian cities are fun, cheap, and relatively safe places to live. However, when deciding which part of the country to move to, consider your priorities and circumstances.
Suppose you want plenty of options for work, healthcare, education, and a solid expat community around. In that case, Phnom Penh is a top choice.
But if you prefer to integrate more with the locals and enjoy a relaxed lifestyle, check out Kampot, Kep, or Sihanoukville.
Not sure if Cambodia is the right destination for you? Read one of the following expat guides: