Ask any expat what they consider to be one of the most attractive things about Cambodia and they will almost certainly tell you about their low cost of living. In fact, in International Living’s 2016 Annual Global Retirement Index, Cambodia ranked first out of 23 countries around the world for affordability (and it was up against some of the best countries in Asia, Europe, and Latin America).
So what exactly is it that makes this country such an affordable place to live?
For many expats it is the sheer convenience, high quality, and low cost of things, such as getting your clothes made for you by one of the many tailor shops in the main cities and towns of Cambodia. You simply select from a range of fabrics, pick out the style of cut that you prefer, and then one week later you get a new shirt and pair of pants, tailored to your precise measurements, for as little as $30. It is also possible to have one of the local shoemakers take a pair of your favorite dress shoes and make a near-perfect imitation of them for around $35.
There is also a reasonable tax regime on imported goods, which is appreciated for those seeking creature comforts from the Western world, as costs are low for American ice cream, French wine, Australian meats, and many other items that can be found aplenty in the supermarkets and minimarts in any areas with large expat populations. This also means that regular grocery shopping can be quite inexpensive, and the bigger cities in Cambodia all have Western style shopping chains and malls that offer everything you could possibly need, from fresh produce to organic fruits and vegetables.
Fine dining at a fair price is something that is often taken for granted, especially in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, where there are hundreds of restaurants of every nationality to choose from. Everything from French to Italian, American to British, and all types of Asian cuisines (including, of course, Khmer) are on offer here from $5 per course upwards.
The low cost of socializing is another element that makes expat life so attractive, with many bars and restaurants selling fresh draft beer at 50 cents for a glass, and with excellent European and Australian wines available at a snip of the cost compared to their import prices in the U.S. Spirits are also no exception to this low cost bonanza, making happy hour a must-do for any expats seeking a cocktail at sunset.
When it comes to rentals, the quality and range of what is available in cities like Phnom Penh can be jaw dropping, with expensive penthouse condos going for thousands of dollars a month. But for most people, the selection of Western style apartments and Khmer townhouses remains extremely affordable, starting at just a few hundred dollars a month.
Utilities are even more affordable with electricity varying between $80 to $100 a month, paid cable television at just $5, water from $5 to $10, and garbage collection at $2 per household, with the cost of having a cleaner come to your house each week setting you back $30 to $40 a month.
A local call on your cell phone will cost about 5 cents a minute (although many providers offer hundreds of free minutes each month), while international calls to the U.S. are between 5 to 7 cents a minute.
It should be no surprise that mobile data charges are also one of the lowest in the region, with 1GB of internet use costing around $1 (depending on your operator). This leads to many expats relying on their smartphone to connect to the internet, although those who need an unlimited connection pay just $20 a month for home WiFi connection from one of many reputable service providers.
So while the cost of living in Cambodia may be one of the lowest in the world, the quality and standard of living remain extremely high, leading to more retirees and expats choosing to make this country their home each year.
Here’s an example of a monthly budget for a single expat living in Phnom Penh:
|Rent: (furnished two-bedroom apartment)||$381|
|Pay TV (standard package)||$5|
|Electricity (including regular A/C)||$92|
|Phone (basic mobile phone and data plan)||$10|
|Entertainment (dining out and other activities)||$191|
|House cleaner (once a week)||$31|
|Healthcare (four $27 visits to a doctor/dentist per year)||$9|
|Transportation (regular tuk tuks)||$38|