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Safety in Cambodia

Cambodia is a relatively safe country, and the political situation is generally quite stable. There are frequent instances of petty crime like pickpocketing and burglary, but expats don't need to be paranoid, just cautious.

One of the biggest risks to safety in Cambodia outside the city centres is landmines. Expats should never wander off the main thoroughfares in rural Cambodia and avoid any rockets, artillery shells, mortars, mines, bombs or other war materials they may come across. The most heavily landmined part of the country is along the Thai border area.


Health risks in Cambodia

Malaria is common in Cambodia, and anti-malarial precautions should be taken in almost all areas of the country, though Phnom Penh is considered risk-free. Dengue fever, also transmitted by mosquitoes, is prevalent in heavily populated areas, and the risk increases during the rainy season. Expats living in Cambodia should make use of insect repellent and keep their skin covered, even during the day.

Heatstroke, dehydration and sunburn are also risks in Cambodia, especially during the hottest months, March to May. Expats can avoid these risks by drinking plenty of clean water and staying indoors during the hottest hours.


Food and water safety in Cambodia

Tap water is not suitable for drinking, but bottled water is widely available. Expats should also avoid uncooked meat, unpeeled fruit, salads and food sold by street vendors, and beverages with ice.


Crime in Cambodia

Expats and foreign tourists are attractive targets for criminals, but violent crime is rare in Cambodia. On the other hand, petty crime is fairly common, especially in crowded spots like beaches and tourist areas. Bag snatching is prevalent and is often committed by people on scooters or motorbikes rushing past unsuspecting victims. Expats can lower their risk of being attacked by being vigilant and keeping their valuables out of sight, especially after dark.


Road safety in Cambodia

Cambodia has a high rate of road traffic accidents. Most roads are in poor condition, and travelling after dark is particularly risky. Hazards include overloaded vehicles, erratic driving, vehicles without lights and stray cattle.


Landmines in Cambodia

Cambodia remains one of the most heavily landmined countries in the world. Mined areas are typically unmarked. When hiking or visiting rural areas or temple complexes, expats should travel with a local guide and never stray off the main paths.


Terrorism in Cambodia

There is some risk of terrorism in Cambodia. Expats should avoid political gatherings and protests. Some governments advise their nationals to avoid the Cambodian-Thai border areas because of ongoing border disputes.

Accommodation in Cambodia

Thanks to its advanced urbanisation and development compared to the rest of the country, most expats live in the capital, Phnom Penh. Prices for accommodation in Phnom Penh range significantly, depending on the area.


Types of accommodation in Cambodia

The two main types of accommodation for expats in Cambodia are non-serviced and serviced apartments, though villas are also available.

With non-serviced apartments, expats typically have to pay for all the costs associated with the apartment. Owing to the demand for accommodation, some non-serviced apartments have begun to include perks such as internet, cable, water and cleaning in the monthly rental rate. Be that as it may, electricity is seldom part of the monthly rate.

The cost of rent in serviced apartments is all-inclusive, and they are also fully furnished. They're also often in better-maintained buildings with more luxurious amenities and modern fixtures.


Finding accommodation in Cambodia

Online property portals are a fantastic place to start when looking for accommodation in Cambodia, as they are accessible and can be used to research the property market, particularly when trying to gauge common price points.

We advise that expats use a Cambodian estate agent once in the country, preferably one who is bilingual and has experience working with expats. This can immensely ease the process of searching, negotiating and signing a lease.


Renting accommodation in Cambodia

Most expats in Cambodia rent accommodation and will have to negotiate agreements with landlords themselves or through a real estate agent. We recommend that expats use an agent to circumvent the possible language barrier and ensure the deal is watertight.

Leases

A tenancy agreement requires several documents, including a copy of one’s passport, visa and a letter from an employer. Leases tend to be a minimum of two months, but it is common to arrange one for 12 months. Expats moving into a serviced apartment should ensure the inclusion of a comprehensive inventory in the lease agreement.

Deposits

Typically, a deposit of one to three months’ rent is required. The deposit should be returned in full at the end of the lease period, provided there is no damage to the property beyond normal wear and tear.

Utilities

Expats moving into non-serviced apartments will typically have to take care of all the utilities, including electricity, water, cable and internet. Those in serviced apartments will have all the costs paid by the landlord.

Culture Shock in Cambodia

Expats moving to Cambodia may experience culture shock, especially those who stray further than the capital, Phnom Penh. The country is steeped in history and has experienced many hardships which are still evident today. Expats may be shocked by the level of poverty and corruption Cambodia still faces today.


Cultural differences in Cambodia

The greeting in Cambodia – the sampeah – is similar to the Thai wai. The greeting is done with a bow while pressing one's hands together as in prayer, and is generally seen as a sign of respect and politeness.

During a meal, expats should only start eating after the most senior person at the table has begun eating. Expats should also be aware that it is seen as disrespectful to make eye contact with anyone who is older or considered to be of a higher social status.


Poverty in Cambodia

The country is no stranger to struggle, but expats may be shocked by the level of poverty that still exists. Poor sanitation also means the country suffers from a high infant mortality rate.

Outside the capital, the majority of the population lives in rural areas, often as subsistence farmers. In the cities, the poor live similarly to those in the countryside, which is juxtaposed with the wealthy middle classes living in the urban areas.


Bureaucracy in Cambodia

The official political system in Cambodia is a multi-party democracy – but in reality, it is a one-party state. The government has received frequent criticism for ignoring human rights and suppressing political dissent.

Cambodia suffers from corruption and often ranks as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Expats may encounter corrupt practices in ordinary activities such as obtaining medical services, dealing with alleged traffic violations and pursuing fair court verdicts.

Expats should also be aware that companies deal with extensive red tape when acquiring licences and permits, particularly construction permits, and that the demand for bribes is common.


Gender in Cambodia

In terms of gender roles, Cambodia is still very traditional, with men considered above women in Cambodian society. Expat women should dress modestly, covering their shoulders and knees. In the capital, people are more open-minded, and Cambodian women hold jobs outside the house.

Healthcare in Cambodia

Healthcare in Cambodia and medical facilities and equipment may not meet the high international standards many expats may be used to. This is particularly true of public healthcare, but even private hospitals offer only limited care. Expats who fall seriously ill or are severely injured should consider medical evacuation to Singapore or Bangkok, where better quality care is available. It's for this reason that a good health insurance plan is essential.

While the public hospitals in Cambodia are generally understaffed and poorly equipped, there are a few good private hospitals in Phnom Penh. However, outside the capital, the options are limited.


Health insurance in Cambodia

Due to the poor healthcare standards in Cambodia, expats should purchase comprehensive medical cover before they move. The insurance plan should cover medical evacuation, which can cost thousands of US dollars if uninsured.


Private healthcare in Cambodia

Expats living in Cambodia favour private hospitals and clinics, but these tend to be expensive. Clinics mainly offer general medical treatment, whereas specialist departments are only available in hospitals. Private international clinics and hospitals in Phnom Penh also provide medical translation services and evacuations, and are mainly staffed by doctors who have trained in Western countries.


Pharmacies in Cambodia

There is a long list of over-the-counter medications available in Cambodia. However, counterfeit drugs are common, so expats are urged to avoid some smaller independent pharmacies, which have been implicated in the fake medicine trade.

Pharmacies are available everywhere in Cambodian cities, but expats should stick to larger pharmacy chains such as UCare and Pharmacie de la Gare in Phnom Penh. Medication in Cambodia often costs considerably less than in Western countries.


Dentists in Cambodia

Contrary to the general healthcare standards in Cambodia, dental services in the country are excellent. Indeed, Cambodia is making a name for itself for dental tourism, and English-speaking dentists who have trained in Europe or the US are relatively easy to come by.


Emergency services in Cambodia

Ambulance services in Cambodia are not always prompt, and the public emergency telephone number (119) sometimes goes unanswered. If possible, expats should make their way to one of the main international hospitals in case of a medical emergency.

Transport and Driving in Cambodia

One of the first challenges that expats moving to Cambodia will have to deal with is transport – indeed, one might say that getting around Cambodia is something of an adventure.

Improvements to the national highway network have made driving easier than it once was, with the building of new highways and the surfacing of many dirt roads. However, getting from A to B can still be time-consuming and dangerous, and expat-friendly public transport options are limited.


Public transport in Cambodia

There aren’t many options for expats to get around in Cambodia. Many local forms of transport are seen as dangerous, and there are very few local bus networks in Cambodia, with only a handful of routes in Phnom Penh (which aren’t widely used by expats).

When it comes to travelling from one city to another, often the best option is a domestic flight or a luxury bus service. Within the capital city, many expats rely on taxis.

Trains

There are just two lines in Cambodia, both originating in Phnom Penh. The train service is run by Royal Railways Cambodia and stops at Kampot, Takeo and Sihanoukville.

Buses

Buses are the cheapest way to get around Cambodia, and they connect all major cities and towns. Popular bus companies include Giant Ibis and Mekong Express, both of which operate luxury buses on the most popular intercity routes. All buses are privately run and fares are generally very affordable.

Minibuses

Minibuses are the main alternative to buses, at a similar price point. They usually serve the same routes as buses and also go to smaller destinations that are unreachable by bus. They tend to be slightly faster, but can get overcrowded.

Remork-moto

Remork-motos are large trailers hitched to a motorcycle and are used throughout rural Cambodia to transport people and goods. Often referred to as tuk-tuks by expats and foreigners travelling in Cambodia, these are a great way to explore temples.

Cyclos and motos

As in Vietnam and Laos, the cyclo is a cheap way to get around cities. These are Cambodia’s version of the bicycle rickshaw, but are becoming less common. The motos are more prevalent on Cambodian roads. These small motorcycle taxis are a quick way of making short trips around towns and cities. Not many moto drivers and cyclo riders speak English, so expats should know the local name of their destination. We'd also advise that expats settle on the fare with the driver before setting off.


Taxis in Cambodia

Hiring private taxis in Cambodia is getting easier, but there are still very few metered taxis, with just a handful of operators in Phnom Penh. Other taxi options include shared taxis and minibuses.

Grab became the predominant ride-hailing service in Cambodia after acquiring Uber a few years ago.


Cycling in Cambodia

Cycling is another free and healthy option for getting around in Cambodia, and bicycles are available for rent and purchase at shops in towns. That said, the main hazard is the heavy traffic – motorised vehicles always have right of way and expats cycling in Cambodia may have to veer off the road to avoid getting hit by speeding cars and trucks.


Driving in Cambodia

Expats who want to drive themselves around Cambodia will need several documents. The requirements can be confusing – by law, international driving licences aren't recognised in Cambodia. Yet, official sources state that expats will need a driving licence from their home country, an international and a local Cambodian driving licence. In most cases, it's better to be prepared rather than get caught unaware and issued a fine.

Cambodian licences can be obtained with relative ease by applying and paying a fee to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport. The resulting licence is usually granted quickly and is valid for one year.

Expats may enjoy driving themselves around and exploring Cambodia, but there are certain considerations they need to make. For example, many roads are in poor condition, local driving behaviour can be erratic and dangerous, and finding parking is a challenge.


Air travel in Cambodia

Phnom Penh International Airport is the largest airport in Cambodia, though the country’s busiest airport is Angkor International Airport in the tourist hub of Siem Reap. Numerous international and regional airlines operate at these airports, including the national carrier, Cambodia Angkor Air.

Education and Schools in Cambodia

The Cambodian education system has dealt with several setbacks throughout the country's establishment of its independence. Consequently, the standard of public education in Cambodia is relatively low, especially in comparison to other East Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea. Nonetheless, Cambodia has implemented measures to improve the standard of education over the last couple of years.

Most expat parents send their children to private or international schools in Cambodia. While pricey, this option minimises the disruption and discomfort of going to school in a new country.


Public schools in Cambodia

The Ministry of Education controls education on a state level, and the Department of Education manages school affairs on a provincial level. Cambodian general education is based on a national school curriculum, consisting of two main parts: basic and upper secondary education.

The language of instruction in public schools is Khmer, meaning that expat children are unlikely to attend a local school.

Even though public education is free in Cambodia, school attendance in rural areas is below average, as children often have to work to help their families.


Private and international schools in Cambodia

Private schools in Cambodia tend to operate from a particular religious ideology or foreign curriculum, allowing students to study in their home languages and religions.

Unlike public schools, which only teach in Khmer, private and international schools cater to different languages. This can make the transition easier for children. Many international schools, with most located in the capital, teach foreign curricula such as that of the UK, the US, France, Singapore and more. The language of instruction is typically that of the school's country of origin. While convenient, these schools do come with a hefty price tag.

Some schools have an entry assessment before accepting a child, and most also require a health check, including vaccination and health records.

Many highly rated private and international schools have waiting lists, so it is best to apply in advance.


Special-needs education in Cambodia

With mainstream public education already under-resourced, there is little support for students with special educational needs. Historically, such students have been overlooked at best and entirely excluded at worst.

That said, more robust support for special-needs education is slowly developing within the private-school sector as funding allows these schools the required resources. The level of support available varies widely between schools and may come at an additional cost.


Tutors in Cambodia

Though tutors aren't widely used by locals, expat families may find them useful in the move to Cambodia. Fortunately, there are many tutoring companies geared towards expats. Tutors can help ease the adjustment to a new curriculum or assist students with learning a new language or maintaining their mother tongue. Expats may also employ tutoring services in the run-up to important exams such as A-Levels or SATs.

Cost of Living in Cambodia

Though it can vary according to the type of lifestyle an expat maintains, the cost of living in Cambodia is generally affordable. Expats will find that certain things can be relatively cheap, including street food, entertainment and public transport, but the cost is usually higher in Phnom Penh. Internet and eating out can be exorbitantly priced. Although, for expats who choose to 'live like a local', Cambodia is the ideal destination.

Over the last couple of years, Cambodia has been affected by inflation, which has pushed up the prices of everyday items. This is evidenced by the country's ranking in the 2022 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, in which Phnom Penh was 134th out of 227 countries.


Cost of accommodation in Cambodia

Expats living in the capital will find that the cost of accommodation varies. In Phnom Penh, proximity to the river increases rental prices. Another place popular with expats is Siem Reap, which is largely cheaper than the capital. Housing will most likely be the highest expense for expats in Cambodia.


Cost of public transport in Cambodia

Getting around Cambodia is fairly cheap. Local transport such as tuk-tuks and motos are inexpensive and easy to use. Expats should negotiate a price with the driver beforehand to ensure they are not paying too much. Those who speak basic Khmer may find that they get a better deal than those who try to negotiate in English.


Cost of education in Cambodia

For expats with children in Cambodia, sending their child to a public school will likely not be an option. While public schools are free, the language of instruction is Khmer, and the standard of education is subpar. Fortunately, expats have plenty of private and international schools to choose from, but they should bear in mind that space is limited, and the fees are steep. Private schools are typically less costly than international schools.


Cost of food in Cambodia

Phnom Penh is home to several fine-dining restaurants with high price tags. For those with a more conservative budget, eating out can be a cheap and tasty experience, depending on where one goes. Local street vendors sell authentic Cambodian cuisine at reasonable prices. Some supermarkets stock imported products for expats looking to find home comforts, though these are significantly more expensive than local products.


Cost of living in Cambodia chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider as well as the city. The list below shows average prices for Phnom Penh in September 2022.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

KHR 6,089,981

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

KHR 3,266,656

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

KHR 2,235,875

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

KHR 1,324,506

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

KHR 7,471

Milk (1 litre)

KHR 9,059

Rice (1kg)

KHR 4,272

Loaf of white bread

KHR 7,136

Chicken breasts (1kg)

KHR 23,182

Pack of cigarettes

KHR 6,177

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

KHR 26,765

Coca-Cola (330ml)

KHR 3,500

Cappuccino

KHR 11,395

Bottle of local beer

KHR 4,118

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

KHR 96,765

Utilities

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

KHR 240.20

Internet (uncapped – average per month)

KHR 144,632

Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment)

KHR 506,469

Transportation

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

KHR 4,118

Bus/train fare in the city centre

KHR 4,118

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

KHR 4,851

Banking, Money and Taxes in Cambodia

The introduction of the current currency in Cambodia only came into effect in 1980. The country had no official monetary system between 1975 and 1980. Under the Pol Pot regime, the Khmer Rouge abolished money and destroyed the National Bank building in Phnom Penh. Because of this, most Cambodians prefer to use foreign currency.

Cambodia is still a cash-dominated society, but urban and tourist areas generally accept credit cards. Although, it is best to have some local and foreign currency if venturing further out of the capital.


Money in Cambodia

The currency in Cambodia is the riel, abbreviated as KHR or just an ‘r’ after the sum, divided into a hundred sen.

  • Notes: 100 KHR, 200 KHR, 500 KHR, 1000 KHR, 2,000 KHR, 5,000 KHR, 10,000 KHR, 20,000 KHR, 50,000 KHR and 100,000 KHR

The US dollar is also widely used and accepted throughout the country. Most prices will be listed in US dollars, but expats should note that they may receive change in riel. Also used – though largely in the west – is the Thai baht.

Expats should have some riel for taxis, snacks and other inexpensive items.


Banking in Cambodia

There are many banks located throughout Cambodia, especially in the capital. Widely available ATMs dispense both US dollars and riels. The Cambodian currency is non-convertible outside the country, so when expats leave Cambodia, they should ensure that they exchange or spend any remaining riels within the country before leaving.

Popular banks include Acleda Bank, Canadia Bank and J Trust Royal Bank (formerly ANZ Royal Bank).

Opening a bank account

Most banks are open from Monday through Friday, from 8am to 3pm or 4pm. Some banks are open on Saturday mornings. Expats should note that many Cambodian banks do not give loans to foreigners, but they may offer credit cards.


Taxes in Cambodia

If a person is considered a resident in Cambodia, they are eligible to pay tax. A resident is classified as a person who has lived in Cambodia for at least 182 days during 12 months. Resident expats are subject to income tax, calculated based on their earnings.

Expats should be aware that, depending on their country of origin, they may be liable to pay taxes back home, too. We recommend consulting an expat tax specialist on these matters to stay on the right side of the law.

Doing Business in Cambodia

The work environment in Cambodia places high value on hierarchy and respect. The principles of tradition and deference govern business conduct in Cambodia.

Business relationships are about mutual trust, which requires getting to know one’s counterparts. The concept of 'saving face' is important in Cambodia, especially in the country's business world. Although it can be frustrating for expats, they should respect that Cambodians prefer subtleness and indirect communication to solve a problem.


Fast facts

Business hours 

Business hours are usually from 8am to 5pm, with a lunch break in between.

Business language

Khmer is the language of business. English is sometimes used in the capital.

Dress

The dress code is formal. Men wear suits, and women should cover their shoulders and knees. 

Gifts

If invited to someone’s home, a gift of fruit, sweets or flowers is appreciated. Expats should give gifts with both hands.

Gender equality

Women are part of the workforce, but senior positions are typically reserved for men.


Business culture in Cambodia

The business culture in Cambodia tends to be conservative. Businesspeople are expected to dress in formal suits and conduct themselves professionally at all times. Punctuality, mutual respect and deference to seniority are valued and widely practised principles.

Face

Expats should be careful not to criticise, embarrass or insult a Cambodian counterpart, as this can cause them to lose face. Pushy behaviour is unacceptable, so if there is disagreement over an idea, Cambodians will remain silent. Expats should be aware of the importance of face to avoid conflict in the workplace.

Greetings

Handshakes are commonplace. With a Cambodian woman, it is best to see if she extends her hand first. Cambodians address people with the honorific title Lok for a man and Lok Srey for a woman, either with the first name alone or both the first name and surname. 

Meetings

Before discussing work-related matters, small talk is always a great way to get the conversation going. Expats will find that meetings do not stick to any schedule or agenda, but tardiness is generally unwelcome. Meetings tend to continue until the attendees feel that everything has been addressed.


Dos and don’ts of business in Cambodia

  • Do be on time, as arriving late shows a lack of respect

  • Don’t show emotions like anger or impatience, as this can lead to a loss of face

  • Do be modest when receiving praise

  • Don’t maintain prolonged eye contact

  • Do have a business card translated into Khmer on one side and English on the other

Keeping in Touch in Cambodia

For the most part, expats will find that keeping in touch in Cambodia is fairly easy with a number of service providers to choose from.

Although the country doesn't always have the most reliable internet, there are no bans or restrictions on the use of social media platforms such as Skype and WhatsApp, and many mobile companies offer packages geared towards international calling and texting.


Internet in Cambodia

Internet is widely available in Cambodia and offers relatively good value, with several providers competing for customers. Due to Cambodia's poor landline infrastructure, mobile broadband is much more commonly used than fixed broadband.

Internet is usually available at restaurants, cafés and hotels in the main cities of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and is free for paying guests. Signal and speed vary greatly and can depend on location (service reliability will decrease in remote areas) and unpredictable weather. Power cuts are frequent throughout the country, so expect service interruptions as a result.

Internet censorship

Freedom House rates Cambodia as 'not free' in 2022. Although access to social networking sites is not restricted, there have been cases where internet posts and blogs with an anti-governmental stance have resulted in arrests. During the 2018 elections, the government temporarily blocked a number of local and international news websites.


Mobile phones in Cambodia

There are a number of mobile phone networks to choose from in Cambodia, with the main ones being Cellcard, MetFone and Smart. Networks will often have international calling and texting plans on offer, so it's worth shopping around and comparing deals if planning to call home a lot.

Prepaid mobile plans are popular in Cambodia, so expats may find that it isn't necessary to take out a postpaid contract to get connected. SIM cards can be purchased almost anywhere. Retailers are meant to ask for identification when selling SIM cards, but often don't bother.


Postal services in Cambodia

While a Cambodian postal service exists, the reliability of receiving mail largely depends on whether one's house is easy to find, is clearly marked and has a mailbox attached to the gate. PO boxes are the way to go if wishing to receive parcels from overseas, because they are not reliant on doorstep delivery – instead, deliveries are collected in person from the post office.

International couriers such as DHL have local branches in the major cities and there are regional companies too, such as Kerry Express.


English-language media in Cambodia

Cable television is widely available, with several companies offering deals. Many landlords include cable in the rent too, so most residents (locals and expats alike) have access to television in their homes. Various channels are available, including English channels.

There are two main local English-language news websites: the Phnom Penh Post and Cambodia Daily.

Visas for Cambodia

Most foreigners looking to enter Cambodia will need a visa. Expats from Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, Brunei, Singapore and China, are eligible for visa-free entry in Cambodia. Expats from other countries will need to apply for a single-entry visa.


Tourist visas for Cambodia

The T-visa is valid for up to three months and allows visitors a 30-day stay in Cambodia. Travellers can apply and pay for this visa on Cambodia’s e-visa website. Those keen to explore Cambodia some more can apply for an additional 30-day extension after entering the country.


Ordinary visas for Cambodia 

Expats who have accepted an employment offer in Cambodia or received an invitation from a Cambodian registered company are eligible to apply for the E-visa. The E-visa allows a 30-day stay in Cambodia with the possibility for an extension of three, six or 12 months. Expats must submit their invitation letter and proof of health insurance with their application form and identity documents.

There are four types of E-visa extensions:

  • EB visa extension (for expats who are working, volunteering or freelancing in Cambodia as well as their spouses and children)
  • EG visa extension (for those searching for employment in Cambodia)
  • ER visa extension (for expats of retirement age who can show proof of sufficient savings)
  • ES visa extension (This is a student visa for those who can provide a letter from a registered Cambodian school and proof of funds to support themselves)

K-visas for Cambodia

Foreigners with strong family ties or those with parents of Cambodian descent can apply for the K-visa, which allows multi-entry into Cambodia and is valid until the applicant’s passport expires. Expats may submit their Cambodian birth certificate, their parents’ passport or Cambodian family book with their application to prove their family ties.


C-visa and B-class visas for Cambodia

The C-visa is a free visa specifically for those undertaking volunteering work or employment with an international organization with a valid memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Cambodian government. B-class visas are for employees of NGOs, such as the United Nations or World Health Organisation, who are in Cambodia at the government’s invitation. Both these visas allow for a three-month stay in Cambodia, are extendable for up to 12 months, and allow spouses and children entry into the country.

The employer typically has to secure the visa in advance and submit a letter of attestation from the Ministry of Affairs on the expat’s arrival at the airport.

*Visa requirements can change at short notice, and expats are advised to contact their nearest Cambodian consulate for the latest information.

Moving to Cambodia

A Southeast Asian country entrenched in historical sights and beautiful scenery, Cambodia's complicated past and dynamic present make for an enriching expat experience. Previously a French colony, the country still has remnants of its Francophile past. With Buddhism being the dominant religion in the ‘Kingdom of Wonder’, magnificent temples abound.

Living in Cambodia as an expat

Cambodia's capital and largest city is Phnom Penh – the country's political, economic and cultural centre. Despite the images of rolling hills and ancient fortresses that often come to mind when Cambodia is mentioned, the capital is urbanised and fairly fast-paced. Most expats who move to Cambodia settle in Phnom Penh, making it easy to meet people and make friends. Cambodia has one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia, showing a significant increase over the last decade. Agriculture is the most dominant economic sector. Other booming sectors and foreign investment attractions include textiles, construction, garments and tourism. Expats looking to work in Cambodia may find a role in one of these industries or in areas such as teaching English as a foreign language.

Despite Cambodia's advancing economic growth, the country faces some challenges and sociopolitical issues, including widespread poverty and a lack of political freedom. Much of this is the result of stunted progress due to decades of war, not to mention the Khmer Rouge regime that ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. With these events now in the distant past, the country is well on its way to growing its economy and implementing policies and programmes to eradicate poverty. Expats moving to Cambodia may experience elements of culture shock and should familiarise themselves with the local social conventions. 

Cost of living in Cambodia

The cost of living in Cambodia is generally cheap, depending on one’s budget and income. Many expats report that it is possible to enjoy a good quality of life and still have money to save. Accommodation varies in price, with the capital being the priciest place to live. There are noticeable variances in rental prices, so it is best to shop around. Expats will also have to budget for the cost of healthcare, as comprehensive private health insurance is essential in Cambodia.

Expat families and children in Cambodia

Education in Cambodia has faced numerous challenges, although there have been improvements over the years. The standard of state education might be significantly lower than what expats from Western countries are used to. Fortunately, there are several excellent international schools, with most located in the capital.

Expat parents will also have plenty to keep their little ones entertained during the weekend and school holidays. Nature-loving expats will enjoy exploring Cambodia’s idyllic beaches, national parks and water parks. History buffs and older children can tour the majestic temples and museums.

Climate in Cambodia?

Cambodia has a tropical climate, distinguished by the wet and dry seasons. The rainy season (May to October) comes with high humidity levels and mild temperatures, while the dry season is unseasonably hot.

Despite the challenges the country continues to face, the lifestyle in Cambodia is easy and affordable. With incredible sightseeing opportunities and proximity to other tourist destinations, Cambodia is an attractive choice for expats.


Fast facts

Population: More than 17 million

Capital city: Phnom Penh (also largest city)

Neighbouring countries: Vietnam, Thailand, Laos

Geography: Cambodia lies entirely within the tropics, with a long coastline along the Gulf of Thailand. The landscape is characterised by a low-lying central plain surrounded by mountains.

Political system: Unitary dominant-party parliamentary elective constitutional monarchy

Major religion: Buddhism

Main languages: Khmer is the official language. French is spoken by many older Cambodians, but English is becoming more prevalent thanks to an influx of tourists in recent years.

Money: The Cambodian riel (KHR) is divided into 100 sen.

Tipping: Tipping isn’t common practice in Cambodia, but a small gratuity for excellent service is effusively appreciated.

Time: GMT+7

Electricity: 230V, 50 Hz. Three-pin rectangular blade plugs are common, but two-pin plugs are also used.

Internet domain: .kh

International dialling code: +855

Emergency contacts: 117 (police), 118 (fire), ambulance (119)

Transport and driving: Driving is on the right-hand side of the road. Public transport options are limited.

Work Permits for Cambodia

Work permits in Cambodia are not very well regulated, and the legislation surrounding them can be confusing. Therefore, many expats working in Cambodia do not have a work permit. Be that as it may, it's recommended for expats to remain on the right side of the law and obtain a work permit.

Fortunately, expats will not have to go at it alone, as employers are legally mandated to assist employees with applying for work permits.


Work permit applications for Cambodia

Foreign workers must first secure an E-visa to enter Cambodia and will then be able to apply for a one-year work permit. The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training administers all applications via the Foreign Workers Centralised Management System. Expats will need to submit their identification card and passport, a copy of their E-visa, residential address, health certificate, current photo, education particulars and the details of their role in the company.

The sponsoring company will also have to provide multiple documents, including a list of all foreign and local employees, the registered business address and a certificate of incorporation. Expats must ensure they renew their permit between 1 January and 31 March annually to avoid incurring penalties.

*Visa and work permit regulations may change at short notice, and expats should contact their nearest Cambodian consulate or the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training for the latest information.

Public Holidays in Cambodia

 

2022

2023

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Victory Over Genocide Day 

7 January

7 January

International Women's Day

8 March

8 March

Khmer New Year

14–16 April

14–17 April

Labour Day

1 May

1 May

King's Birthday

14 May

14 May

Visaka Bochea Day

15 May

4 May

Royal Plowing Day

19 May

18 May

Former Queen's Birthday

18 June

18 June

Constitution Day

24 September

24 September

Pchum Ben

24–26 September

13–16 October

Former King Norodom Sihanouk Commemoration

15 October

15 October

King Sihamoni Coronation Day

29 October

29 October

 

Water Festival

7–9 November

26–29 November

Independence Day

9 November

9 November

 

Work Permits for Cambodia

Work permits in Cambodia are not very well regulated, and the legislation surrounding them can be confusing. Therefore, many expats working in Cambodia do not have a work permit. Be that as it may, it's recommended for expats to remain on the right side of the law and obtain a work permit.

Fortunately, expats will not have to go at it alone, as employers are legally mandated to assist employees with applying for work permits.


Work permit applications for Cambodia

Foreign workers must first secure an E-visa to enter Cambodia and will then be able to apply for a one-year work permit. The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training administers all applications via the Foreign Workers Centralised Management System. Expats will need to submit their identification card and passport, a copy of their E-visa, residential address, health certificate, current photo, education particulars and the details of their role in the company.

The sponsoring company will also have to provide multiple documents, including a list of all foreign and local employees, the registered business address and a certificate of incorporation. Expats must ensure they renew their permit between 1 January and 31 March annually to avoid incurring penalties.

*Visa and work permit regulations may change at short notice, and expats should contact their nearest Cambodian consulate or the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training for the latest information.

Embassy contacts for Cambodia


Cambodian embassies

  • Royal Embassy of Cambodia, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 726 7742

  • Honorary Consulate of Cambodia, Toronto, Canada: +1 647 533 9335

  • Royal Embassy of Cambodia, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 20 8451 7850

  • Royal Embassy of Cambodia, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for New Zealand): +61 262 738 064


Foreign embassies in Cambodia

  • United States Embassy, Phnom Penh: +855 23 728 000

  • British Embassy, Phnom Penh: +855 61 300 011

  • Canadian Embassy, Phnom Penh: +855 23 430 811

  • South African Embassy, Bangkok, Thailand (also responsible for Cambodia): + 66 2 659 2900

  • Irish Embassy, Hanoi, Vietnam (also responsible for Cambodia): +84 24 3974 3291

  • New Zealand Embassy, Bangkok, Thailand (also responsible for Cambodia): +66 2 254 2530

Weather in Cambodia

The climate in Cambodia is tropical. The rainy season occurs between May and October, with relatively cool temperatures and high levels of humidity. The dry season between November and April sees temperatures peaking at around 104°F (40°C).

The wettest months in Cambodia are September and October, when the moist winds blowing in from the Gulf of Thailand and Indian Ocean dump heavy showers on the country. The rain usually falls in the afternoon, with downpours lasting only an hour or two. The driest months are January and February, and there is virtually no winter to speak of.

 

Working in Cambodia

Historically, Cambodia has consistently been one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, despite being hindered by a high poverty rate, corruption and a low per-capita income rate. That said, the country's economy showed negative growth for the first time in years due to the effects of the pandemic. Luckily, Cambodia's economy is slowly recovering and showing growth signs once again.

Depending on the type of work expats are interested in, finding a role while in Cambodia may be easier than securing one before arriving in the country. Be that as it may, recruitment agencies usually handle the hiring processes for professionals in advance. Expats may find that the salary offered to an in-country candidate is lower than that of someone outside the country.


Job market in Cambodia

Expats will find that agriculture is the most dominant economic sector in Cambodia. Other booming industries include textiles, construction and garments. Tourism is the fastest-growing industry in Cambodia, with an influx of Japanese and South Korean tourists each year. Expats who are fluent in Khmer or another Asian language will have an advantage when trying to secure a role in this sector.

Teaching English is also a popular choice among expats. As schools prefer to meet the teacher before offering them the job, going to schools personally to submit one's CV can be a more fruitful process.


Finding a job in Cambodia

English-language newspapers such as the Phnom Penh Post and Cambodia Daily publish an array of job listings. Alternatively, the internet is always a valuable resource when looking for jobs. For a fee, expats can also consult a recruitment agency to enlist the help of an expert.


Work culture in Cambodia

As is the case in many Southeast Asian countries, the work culture in Cambodia leans toward the formal and has a clear top-down hierarchical structure. Business decisions tend to be exclusively made by the higher-ups with little to no consultation with employees. For expats used to a more egalitarian workplace, this may take some getting used to.