Phnom Penh is quickly becoming an international neighborhood for expats and travelers, as it is known to be one of the cheaper countries to live in Indochina. The Kingdom of Wonder is filled with Khmer culture, delicious food, and warm smiles; despite its hard past. The city is also a good place to enjoy life at a slower pace, build a new network and even start your own business.
Friends back home were happy to know that the earnings here are in US dollars, yet curious about the cost of living. Hence, if you’re planning on moving to Cambodia, here are a few things to look into before arriving.
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The cheapest mode of public transportation would be the motodop or the motorcycle taxis which costs $1-$1.25 per ride. There’s also the remork kongbai, or the tuk tuk which are popular with tourists and expats. Their minimum fee is $2 per way though and this depends on the destination. Taxis are reliable and safe, available throughout the night with just a phone call to the company. They charge by meter and able to give you a receipt if needed.
Honestly, coming from another Asian country, the cost of housing in Phnom Penh city center can be quite high depending on the area. A flat (apartment) with one room could cost between $400-$500 in Daun Penh area while a two-bedroom starts at $600 a month. Another option is to rent a room in a shared villa or go for short lease apartment terms.
These monthly rental fees often includes utilities + cable TV ($10 a month). Other additional costs would be the Internet connection, which is $12 a month (by Digi Cambodia). A cheaper option for utilities is to request the water & electricity bills to come directly to you so that the landlord won’t be able to mark up the fee ($0.25/KW). So prepare to set aside around $400-$500 for your rental fee and 1-month deposit for the first month.
Dining out would cost more for expats compared to locals, as the prices tend to vary depending on the type of establishment. Food from the streets will cost more for tourists and expats while mid range restaurants have fixed price for any patrons.
Cambodian foods such as rice with pork or mee char (fried noodles) cost less than $2 while signatures ones like beef lok lak or amok fish could cost from $3. Coffee bought from cafes start from $2.25 while the ones from the street cart cost $1-$1.50.
During lunchtime, my colleagues would take me to the local food spots where 5-6 dishes can cost around 6,000-8,000 riel ($1.75-$2) per person and this is shared between 4 people. They definitely know where to go for cheap food.
Other costs of living
All in all, the cost of living in Cambodia is still cheaper compared to neighboring Indochina countries. Grocery items from the local wet market have good prices compared to the ones in the supermarket. Medical fees can be costly since there are not many good doctors and surgeons.
Despite the reality of things, I find it easy to adapt to a country that has somewhat similar food and culture. The pace of life here is more laid back as working hours are usually no later than 6:30 pm. If you’re able to take a step back, be patient and open-minded about the real scenario here then it’s definitely a good place to live and grow.
This post is by Yafieda Jamil. Yafieda is a Malaysian currently based in Cambodia, the Kingdom of Wonder where she spends the weekend exploring the city and it’s hidden streets. She stills wanders the world, one city at a time and writes about these adventures at Travel Chameleon.