From the moment I arrived in Cambodia—over a decade ago—I knew it was a special place. I had spent a year travelling around Southeast Asia and been to some amazing destinations, but as soon as I arrived in Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh, I knew I was home.
The welcoming local people made me feel instantly at ease. They see Cambodia’s growing expat population and booming tourist numbers as a cause for celebration and their hospitality is second-to-none.
And there’s other attractions too… A strong and fast-growing economy ripe with opportunity, a sense of freedom from the over-regulation that’s increasingly common at home and some of the most beautiful natural scenery you’ll find anywhere; from deserted islands to lush jungles, leafy city streets to jaw-dropping temples cast in crimson-red sunsets. And then of course, there’s the low costs.
The fact that Cambodia offers some of the most affordable living in the region is a major draw. But this isn’t living on the cheap. It’s serious value for money and for me, a move to Cambodia meant a major lifestyle upgrade.
I live in the city’s most desirable district, BKK1, (Boeung Keng Kang 1). Its thriving restaurant scene and glitzy shopping options make it a top choice for expats. My spacious, two-bedroom apartment includes a well-equipped kitchen, en-suite and guest bathroom, a living and dining area that’s perfect for entertaining, plus a home office. It costs me just $530 a month.
For utilities, including Pay TV, water, electricity and garbage collection, a cleaning service three times a week and a professional washing and ironing service, I pay a total of $143 a month. And my clothes are all tailor-made too. I pay around $10 to $15—depending on the fabric—for my made-to-measure shirts, $20 for trousers and between $100 to $200 for a bespoke suit. A pair of leather shoes, made to any style I want, will run me just $25.
With basic needs taken care of so affordably, I’m free to make use of the abundance of little luxuries and fun opportunities right on my doorstep. I might wander to my local coffee shop for a traditional Cambodian breakfast of grilled pork, steamed rice and pickled vegies accompanied by a freshly blended coffee for just $5 or head to the local supermarket to stock up on my favourite imported treats for less than $40. And at just $13, a relaxing, hour-long massage at an upscale spa can be a regular indulgence too.
When friends are in town, I can’t resist a trip to the five-star Raffles Hotel Le Royal for their Sunday Champagne brunch. At $143 a head, it’s far from the lowest-cost option around but it’s worth splashing out on. Free-flow champagne, wines and cocktails help get the party started and the extravagant spread of fresh seafood, cured meats and other tempting dishes is not to be missed.
Staying connected with friends and family back home isn’t going to hurt your pocket here either. A package including 10GB of 4G mobile data can be had for just a couple of dollars. And making friends here is a breeze thanks to the thriving expat community and welcoming locals who are pretty much guaranteed to invite you to a festival or celebration of some kind almost as soon as you arrive.
So, whether you want to feast on pizza and wine at an Italian joint for $14, take in a round of golf for $50 or watch the sun set from a rooftop bar with an ice-cold, $6 cocktail, for my money, Phnom Penh is the best place to do it.
And however you choose to spend your time, in Cambodia, you can afford to spend it in style…