Cambodia’s Best Spots for Expat Living

Sandwiched between Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, Cambodia offers a truly fantastic retirement experience, whether you’re thirsting for adventure or just want laidback beach living.

But where are the best spots for expat living?

Well, that really depends on who you talk to. For IL Cambodia Correspondent, Steven King, Phnom Penh is the number one choice. Long known as the “Pearl of Asia” and more recently dubbed the “Charming City”, Cambodia’s capital is the perfect choice for those looking to savour high-end luxuries without the hefty price tag.

“My cost of living here in Phnom Penh is a quarter of what is was back home,” says Steven. “And, as a bonus, I can enjoy all the little luxuries that were beyond my reach before moving here.”

Phnom Penh’s Central Market is an Art Deco masterpiece and a shopper’s delight.
©Steven King

Expat Kelly Williams, seconds Steven’s choice. Kelly, 69, made the move from Sydney in search of a better, more affordable life. And she found it in Phnom Penh. Here, her monthly expenses rarely exceed $1,800, but it’s more than just great-value living she’s discovered. “It really seems that all my senses have come alive again now that I live in Phnom Penh,” says Kelly. “I feel the spirit of real freedom and happiness here.”

Expat Tom Richter, 59, echoes that sentiment. “There is a real freedom to be found here,” he says. “It’s very safe and the country’s visa system is welcoming towards visitors.” Tom lives on a pension and finds it stretches much further here than back home. “My monthly budget is around $1,400,” he says. “But here, that’s a sizeable amount.” Tom rents a one-bedroom, city centre apartment which, including utilities, costs him just $490 a month.

But, if big city living’s not for you, Cambodia holds plenty of other alluring options…

A three-hour drive from the capital will bring you to Kampot. In years gone by, French colonialists and the Cambodian elite would retreat to the cool of the hill station here to throw decadent parties and gamble the night away. These days, the chilled-out, riverside locale still attracts a steady stream of visitors but retains the cosy feel of a sleepy hideaway. The main focal point here is its rustic riverside where restaurants and bars offer superb views of the river’s relaxing surroundings.

The expat community here is growing and Tasmanian couple Ron and Elizabeth Townsend number among them. Fed up of Launceston winters and the mundane routine of Western life, they retired to Kampot in their late 50s.

“I reckon we will live 20 years longer because of coming here,” says Elizabeth. “We feel 20 years younger and there are none of the restrictions you encounter in the West. Plus the sheer affordability still amazes me. The dollar goes further than anyone can imagine.”

Elizabeth and Ron are enjoying retired life in the riverside haven of Kampot.

Less than an hour down the coast from Kampot is the up-and-coming coastal resort town of Kep. Founded as a beach resort in 1908, French colonists dubbed it the “Saint Tropez of Southeast Asia”. For expats searching for simple, small town living in beautiful surrounds, Kep could well be the perfect fit. And your budget will stretch even further here too. On under $1,000 a month you could enjoy a laidback beach lifestyle in this peaceful spot.

Laidback living is the order of the day in the resort town of Kep.

For those craving a little more expat action, the vibrant, artsy city of Battambang in north-western Cambodia is worth a closer look. Here a mix of neoclassical mansions and Buddhist temples lend an ancient, otherworldly charm.

Single retiree Pat Music, 70, lives comfortably in Battambang on her small pension. “My monthly bills come to about $400 and that’s including rent, water, electricity and internet,” says Pat. “And I feel very spoiled and pampered here. The local people treat me like gold.”

The French colonial charms of artsy Battambang are hard to resist.

Sydney natives Morrison Polkinghorne and Robert Carmack have been equally charmed by Battambang. “It was actually a bit of a surprise for us that we like it here so much since we’re both from the big city,” says Morrison. “But when we saw the French colonial buildings, we fell in love. It’s an architectural gem. And the vibrant arts scene, with regular exhibitions and openings, really won us over.”

All of these expat favourites play host to welcoming communities and offer an alluring mix of low-cost, luxury living and vibrant entertainment options, meaning your biggest problem in Cambodia may well be choosing just one spot to call home…

Related Articles

Cost of Living in Cambodia

Retire in Cambodia

Understanding Cambodian Culture and Traditions