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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. And, with the dominant religion in the ‘Kingdom of Wonder’ being Buddhism, beautiful temples abound.

Expats in Cambodia

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 mentioning Cambodia, the capital is urbanised and relatively fast-paced. Most expats who move to Cambodia settle in Phnom Penh. The capital has a large expat population, making it easy to meet other expats and make friends.

Finding a job in Cambodia

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 include textiles, construction, garments and tourism, leading to increased foreign investment and international trade. Expats looking for work in the country may find it in one of these industries, or in areas such as teaching English.

Despite its advancing economic growth, the country faces a number of 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's growing economy will hopefully lead to a brighter future.

Reasonable cost of living

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 discrepancies in rental prices, so it is best to shop around.

Schools in Cambodia

The education system 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. To offset this, there are a number of good international schools, mostly located in the capital.

How's expat life in Cambodia?

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


Fast facts

Population: Nearly 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 over 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.

Weather in Cambodia

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

The wettest months in Cambodia are during 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 arrives in the afternoon, and downpours last only an hour or two. The driest months are January and February.

 

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): +612 6273 1259


Foreign embassies in Cambodia

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

  • British Embassy, Phnom Penh: +855 23 427 124

  • 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 4 974 3291

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

Public Holidays in Cambodia

 

2021

2022

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

13–16 April

Visakh Bochea

26 April

16 May

Royal Plowing Day

30 April

19 May

Labour Day

1 May

1 May

King's Birthday

14 May

14 May

Former Queen's Birthday

18 June

18 June

Constitution Day

24 September

24 September

Ancestor's Day

5–7 October

25–27 October

Former King Norodom Sihanouk Commemoration

15 October

15 October

King Sihamoni Coronation Day

29 October

29 October

 

Independence Day

9 November

9 November

Water Festival Ceremony

18–20 November

7–9 November

 

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 of the city centres are landmines. Expats should never wander off the main thoroughfares in rural Cambodia, and avoid any rockets, artillery shells, mortars, mines, bombs or other war material 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 a risk-free area. 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 skin covered, even during the day.

Heatstroke, dehydration and sunburn are also risks in Cambodia, especially during the hottest months from March to May. Expats can avoid these risks by drinking plenty of clean water and keeping 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 present an attractive target for criminals, but violent crime in Cambodia is rare. Petty crimes, on the other hand, are fairly common, especially in crowded spots like beaches and tourist areas. Bag-snatchings are prevalent and are 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 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 often 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.

Working in Cambodia

Historically, Cambodia has consistently one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, despite being hindered by a high poverty rate, corruption and low per-capita income rate. In 2020, however, the country's economy showed negative growth for the first time in many years due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nevertheless, expats may find jobs available for them. Depending on the type of work an expat is interested in, finding a job on the ground in Cambodia can be easier than securing one before arriving in the country. That said, the recruitment of professionals is usually organised in advance through recruitment agencies, and expats may find that the salary offered to an in-country candidate is lower than that of someone outside of the country.


Job market in Cambodia

Expats will find that agriculture is the most dominant economic sector in Cambodia. Other booming sectors include textiles, construction and garments. Tourism is the fastest-growing industry in Cambodia, with an influx of Japanese and South Korean tourists frequenting the country each year. Expats who are able to speak the local language (Khmer) or another Asian language will have an advantage when looking for work 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

The English-language newspapers, such as the Phnom Penh Post and Cambodia Daily, have a wide 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 in order 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 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.

Doing Business in Cambodia

The work environment in Cambodia is based on hierarchy and respect. Cambodia is governed by principles of tradition and deference, which affect the way in which business is conducted.

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

In the Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2020, Cambodia was ranked at 144th out of 209 countries assessed. Though the country did well in ease of getting credit (25th), its score was brought drastically down by categories such as starting a business (187th) and enforcing contracts (182nd). Cambodia can therefore be a difficult place to do business in.


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. In the capital, English is sometimes used.

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. Gifts should be given with both hands.

Gender equality

Women can be found in the working world, but senior positions are usually 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 their conduct is expected to be professional at all times. Punctuality, mutual respect and deference to seniority are all valued principles and are widely practised.

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 not tolerated, and therefore if there is disagreement over an idea, Cambodians will remain silent. Expats should be aware of the importance of face, in order 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

Prior to the discussion of work-related matters, small talk is always employed. Expats will find that meetings do not stick to any schedule or agenda, but tardiness is always frowned upon. 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

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 – however, the cost is usually higher if living in Phnom Penh. Other things, such as internet and eating out, can be incredibly expensive. For expats who choose to 'live like a local', though, 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 can be seen in Mercer's Cost of Living Chart for 2020, on which Phnom Penh ranked 109th out of 209 countries. 


Cost of accommodation in Cambodia

Expats living in the capital will find that the cost of accommodation varies. In Phnom Penh, the closer an apartment is to the river, the more expensive it is. Another place popular with expats is Siem Reap, which is generally cheaper than the capital. Housing will most likely be the biggest 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, in order to make sure they are not paying too much. Those who can 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 is not a likely choice. While public schools are free, the language of instruction is Khmer, and the standard of education is below par. Expats have a number of private and international schools to choose from, bearing in mind that space is limited and fees are high. Private schools are generally less costly than international schools. 


Cost of food in Cambodia

Phnom Penh is home to a number of fine-dining restaurants that come with a high price tag. 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 Cambodian cuisine that is inexpensive and authentic. For expats looking to find home comforts, a number of supermarkets stock imported products, 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 February 2021.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

KHR 4,500,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

KHR 3,000,000

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

KHR 1,700,000

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

KHR 1,100,000

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

KHR 7,000

Milk (1 litre)

KHR 8,500

Rice (1kg)

KHR 3,500

Loaf of white bread

KHR 5,700

Chicken breasts (1kg)

KHR 17,000

Pack of cigarettes 

KHR 6,100

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

KHR 25,000

Coca-Cola (330ml)

KHR 3,000

Cappuccino

KHR 8,500

Bottle of local beer

KHR 3,500

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

KHR 90,000

Utilities

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

KHR 210

Internet (uncapped – average per month)

KHR 100,000

Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment)

KHR 360,000

Transportation

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

KHR 4,000

Bus/train fare in the city centre

KHR 2,500

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

KHR 3,500

Culture Shock in Cambodia

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


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. It is used as a sign of respect and politeness.

During a meal, expats should only start to eat after the most senior person at the table has begun to eat. 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 that the country suffers from a high infant mortality rate.

Outside of 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 against the rich middle classes that live in urban areas.


Bureaucracy in Cambodia

The political system in Cambodia is officially a multi-party democracy – however, in reality, it is a one-party state. The government has been frequently criticised for ignoring human rights and suppressing political dissent.

Cambodia suffers from corruption and is often ranked 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 have to deal with extensive red tape when obtaining licences and permits, especially construction-related permits, and that the demand for bribes is commonplace in this process.


Gender in Cambodia

In terms of gender roles, Cambodia is still very traditional, with women not being considered equal to men in Cambodian society. Expat women should dress modestly, covering their shoulders and knees. In the capital, people are more open minded and Cambodian women do hold jobs outside of the house. 

Accommodation in Cambodia

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


Types of accommodation in Cambodia

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

With non-serviced apartments, expats are typically required to pay for all costs associated with the apartment. Because of the demand for accommodation, though, some non-serviced apartments have begun to include perks such as internet, cable, water and cleaning in the monthly rental rate. However, electricity is almost never included as a part of the monthly rate.

The cost of rent in serviced apartments is all-inclusive and they come 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 good place to start when looking for accommodation in Cambodia as they are accessible from anywhere and can be used to get to know the property market better, particularly in terms of gauging common price points.

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


Renting accommodation in Cambodia

A tenancy agreement requires a number of documents, including a copy of one’s passport, visa and a letter from an employer. Typically a deposit of one to three months’ rent is required. Leases tend to be a minimum of two months, but it is common to arrange for a period of 12 months. 

Expats who move into a serviced apartment should make sure a comprehensive inventory is included in the lease agreement. At the end of the lease period the deposit should be returned in full as long as there are no damages to the property beyond normal wear and tear.

Healthcare in Cambodia

When it comes to healthcare in Cambodia, medical facilities and equipment may not meet the high international standards many expats are used to. This is particularly true of public healthcare, but even private hospitals offer only limited care. If an expat falls seriously ill or is badly injured, the best course of action is to be airlifted to Singapore or Bangkok, where a better quality of 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 some good private hospitals in Phnom Penh. Outside the capital, however, the options are limited.  


Health insurance in Cambodia

Because of the generally poor standards of healthcare in Cambodia, expats are advised to take out comprehensive medical cover before they move. The insurance plan should cover medical evacuation, the cost of which can run into 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 offer mainly general medical treatment, whereas specialist departments are found in hospitals. Private international clinics and hospitals in Phnom Penh also provide medical translation services and evacuations when needed, and are generally staffed by doctors who have trained in developed Western countries.


Pharmacies in Cambodia

A wide range of medications can be bought over the counter in Cambodia. However, counterfeit drugs are common, so expats are urged to avoid some of the smaller independent pharmacies that have been implicated in the trade of fake medicines.

Pharmacies are everywhere in Cambodian cities, but it’s best to 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 standards of healthcare in Cambodia, dental services are excellent. Indeed, the country 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 find.


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 own way to one of the major international hospitals in case of a medical emergency. 

Education and Schools in Cambodia

The Cambodian education system has dealt with a number of setbacks throughout the establishment of the country's 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. However, measures to improve the standard of education have been implemented over the last couple of years.

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


Public schools in Cambodia

Education on a state level is controlled through the Ministry of Education, and by the Department of Education on a provincial level. Cambodian general education is based on a national school curriculum that consists of two main parts: basic education 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, in rural areas the attendance at schools is below average, as children often have to work in order 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 own language or religion.

Unlike public schools, which only teach in Khmer, private and international schools cater to different home languages. This can make the transition of life in Cambodia easier for children. There are a number of international schools that 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. There are a number of private and international schools located in the capital. 

Some schools have an entry assessment prior to accepting a child, and many also require a health check, including vaccine and health records.

Many of the better private and international schools have waiting lists so it’s best to apply in advance.


Special-needs education in Cambodia

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

However, 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 from school to school and may come at an additional cost to tuition fees.


Tutors in Cambodia

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

Transport and Driving in Cambodia

One of the first challenges that expats moving to Cambodia will have to deal with is transportation – 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 many dirt roads now surfaced and new highways being built. 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 when it comes to getting around Cambodia. Many of the 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, connecting all major cities and towns. All buses are privately run. Popular bus companies include Giant Ibis and Mekong Express, both of which operate luxury buses on the most popular inter-city routes. Bus fares are generally very reasonable.

Minibuses

Minibuses are the main alternative to buses, at a similar price. They usually serve the same routes as buses, and also go to smaller destinations not served by bus services. They do 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, they’re 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 and less common. More prevalent on the roads of Cambodia are the motos. 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.

Uber began offering services in Phnom Penh a few years ago, as did Grab. After a few months, Uber's operations were acquired by Grab, making it the predominant ride-hailing service in Cambodia.


Cycling in Cambodia

Cycling is another option for getting around in Cambodia and bicycles are available for rent and purchase at shops in towns. However, 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 get out of the way of speeding cars and trucks.


Driving in Cambodia

Expats who want to drive themselves around Cambodia will need a number of documents. Requirements can be confusing – by law, international driver's licences aren't recognised in Cambodia, yet official sources state that in order to drive here expats will need a driver's licence from their home country, an international driver's licence and a local Cambodian driving licence. In most cases, it's better to overprepare rather than be caught unawares and get 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.

While driving their own vehicle can give expats the freedom to explore Cambodia at their own leisure, there are a number of considerations to take into account. 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. A number of international and regional airlines operate at these airports, including the national carrier, Cambodia Angkor Air.

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

Internet censorship

Freedom House rates Cambodia as 'partly free'. 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

Banking, Money and Taxes in Cambodia

The introduction of the current currency in Cambodia only came into place in 1980. From 1975 to 1980, the country had no official monetary system. 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. Credit cards are accepted in more urban and tourist areas; however, if venturing out further than the capital, it is best to have some local and foreign currency to hand.


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 change may be given in riel. Also used – though mostly in the west – is the Thai baht.

Credit cards are widely accepted in tourist areas, but it is best to have some riel on hand for taxis, snacks and other inexpensive items.


Banking in Cambodia

There are many banks located throughout Cambodia, especially in the capital. ATMs, which are widely available, dispense both US dollars and riels. The Cambodian currency is non-convertible outside of the country, so in the case that expats leave Cambodia, they should make sure 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 known as 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. However, 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 a 12-month period. Resident expats will be subjected to income tax, which is calculated in relation to how much they earn.

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

Expat Experiences in Cambodia

When considering a move to a new city, there is nothing more useful than hearing real life stories and experiences from other expats who have lived there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences. Please contact us if you live or have lived in Cambodia and would like to share your story.


British expat Clare Lawrence moved from the UAE to Cambodia. In her interview with Expat Arrivals, she shares her experience of Cambodia and how it compares to life in the UAE. Read more in Clare's interview about expat life in Cambodia.