Cambodia – A Magnet for Expats and Tourists: Unlocking the Charms of the Kingdom of Wonder

In recent years, Cambodia, often referred to as the Kingdom of Wonder, has witnessed a growing influx of expatriates from various corners of the world, particularly the United States. While the iconic temples of Angkor Wat undoubtedly contribute to Cambodia’s allure as a must-visit destination in Southeast Asia, there is much more that transforms tourists into long-term residents.

The nation’s rich history, vibrant traditions, and cultural diversity attract a multitude of expats, alongside the economic advantages offered by one of the most open economies in the region for foreign investors and professionals.

One recurrent reason cited by expats and tourists alike for their affection towards Cambodia is the warm hospitality of the local population. Foreigners are often welcomed with the renowned “Khmer smile” and treated as honored guests wherever they venture.

English has become a second language of choice for many Cambodians, particularly in major cities and tourist hubs, reflecting the growth of tourism and the increasing presence of international companies.

Notably, Cambodia stands out as one of the few countries worldwide to use the U.S. dollar as its de facto currency, providing economic stability and convenience for business owners and individuals relying on overseas incomes.

Select Your Setting: Colonial Cities, Beautiful Beaches, Pristine Islands, and Ancient Temples

Embarking on a journey in the “Pearl of Southeast Asia” often begins in the capital city, Phnom Penh. This bustling metropolis offers a blend of colonial-era architecture, royal palaces, Buddhist pagodas, and local markets, juxtaposed against a modern skyline of skyscrapers and condominiums. Investors and professionals favor Phnom Penh, while Siem Reap, with its renowned Angkor Wat Temple Complex, serves as a key driver behind the thriving tourism industry.

For beach enthusiasts, Sihanoukville is the go-to coastal destination, catering to all budgets, from bamboo huts for backpackers to luxurious five-star hotels with private beaches. Other favored expat havens include the colonial city of Battambang, the relaxed riverside town of Kampot, and the laid-back coastal resort town of Kep.

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Cambodia: The Heart of Southeast Asia

Situated at the heart of Southeast Asia, Cambodia has evolved into a hub for regional travelers, boasting three international airports in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville, accommodating millions of visitors annually.

Expats and retirees are drawn to Cambodia for its laidback tropical lifestyle, professional opportunities, or to establish their businesses. With over 100,000 expat permanent residents, the country hosts a variety of international restaurants, reflecting its diverse community.

The thriving economy, fueled by foreign investment in manufacturing, agriculture, telecoms, banking, and tourism, provides both locals and expats with abundant business and job opportunities.

Convenient Living in Cambodia

Cambodia stands out for offering one of the most flexible and accessible long-term residence visas in Asia. A one-month business visa, extendable annually with minimal paperwork and costs, makes Cambodia an attractive destination for those seeking hassle-free residence.

In terms of cost, Cambodia earned the top spot in the Cost of Living category in International Living’s 2020 Annual Global Retirement Index. With a monthly budget of $1,250 for a single person or $2,000 for a couple, Cambodia provides a comfortable lifestyle at an affordable price.

Dreaming of a Southeast Asian Experience?

If you’re considering a move to Southeast Asia for a higher quality of life, Cambodia might just be the ideal destination for you.

Pros and Cons of Living in Cambodia: A Closer Look

  • Enjoying a Lifestyle Upgrade

Pro: Luxury Living at a Fraction of the Price

Cambodia offers a remarkably affordable cost of living, allowing even those with limited incomes to enjoy a significant lifestyle upgrade. Monthly expenses for a couple in main cities can be as low as $1,355, covering rent, groceries, and entertainment.

Con: You May Never Want to Leave!

Once accustomed to the affordable luxuries Cambodia offers, the prospect of leaving may become less appealing when comparing costs to those back home.

  • Leading A More Active Social Life

Pro: There’s No Shortage of Things To Do

Expats in Cambodia have a plethora of options for socializing, with numerous bars, pubs, clubs, and hotels hosting various events and promotions. Affordable sundowners, fresh draft beer for $0.70, and reasonably priced spirits and cocktails make expat life vibrant and engaging.

Con: You Have to Balance Your Activities

With tempting affordability in social activities, maintaining a healthy lifestyle requires balance. Expats can also explore free meditation sessions and cultural events to diversify their experiences.

  • Great Options For Eating Well

Pro: Dining Out Every Night Is Not Expensive

Dining out in Cambodia is a budget-friendly option, with enticing choices for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The diverse array of expat-run restaurants offers high-quality meals at surprisingly low prices, ranging from $4 to $7.

Con: It’s Easy to Overdo Things

Indulging in the culinary delights of Cambodia may lead to overindulgence, but the availability of inexpensive gyms provides a solution to maintaining a healthy balance.

  • Professional Dental Treatment

Pro: Excellent Dental Hospitals

Expats benefit from top-notch dental treatment in Cambodia, particularly in Phnom Penh. Dental clinics offer state-of-the-art services with substantial cost savings compared to similar treatments in the U.S.

Con: Root Canals Anyone?

Despite cost savings, dental treatments, including root canals, may not be the most enjoyable experience.

  • Visas and Immigration

Pro: Cambodian Retirement Visa Now Available

Cambodia introduced a Retirement Visa (ER visa) for individuals aged 55 or older, providing a convenient option for retirees. The visa, obtainable upon arrival, allows for annual extensions through travel agents or visa brokers.

Con: Work

While the Retirement Visa is popular, it prohibits employment in Cambodia. Those seeking work or business opportunities may opt for the Business Visa, although the allure of low living costs and abundant leisure activities might make work seem less appealing.

In conclusion, Cambodia’s magnetic appeal lies in its affordability, warm hospitality, diverse landscapes, and thriving expat community. Whether seeking a laidback tropical lifestyle, professional opportunities, or a vibrant social scene, Cambodia has something to offer for every expat dreamer.

Gareth Johnson
Author: Gareth Johnson

Gareth Johnson is the founder of Young Pioneer Tours and has visited over 180+ countries. His passion is opening obscure destinations to tourism and sharing his experience of street food.