Why You Should Move To Cambodia Immediately
Cambodia, the Kingdom, Kampuchea. The adopted second home of many digital nomads, creatives, retired travellers, and backpackers who just never left.
Often a quick stopover on the infamous ‘banana pancake’ trail, Cambodia is becoming a top destination to stay, settle and become part of the scenery. With the rise of world connectivity, freelancing and ‘digital nomadism’, many people are interested in finding locations that allow them to work remotely for a lower price of living and other added benefits (who wouldn’t want to live by the beach?)
Here are the top reasons why Cambodia should be your destination of choice.
GREAT LIVING CONDITIONS
Cost has got to be the number one factor when considering a move. Will this be feasible with my wages? Living expenses are particularly low in Cambodia compared to the western world. A simple apartment can cost as little as $100 USD a month, up to $500 for something high-end. All manners of comfort can be accommodated here, and there are many western style options for those unwilling to leave behind the trappings of their previous life.
Eating and drinking out is extremely cheap. Local Khmer meals can be found for as little as a dollar, and meals in Western restaurants are $3-5. Local beer is served at $0.50-1.50 a glass and wine/cocktails from $2-5. Coeliacs, vegetarians and those with allergies can comfortably eat here, especially after learning a little of the local language.
Supermarkets in Cambodia offer a variety of European and North American products, particularly compared to neighbouring countries. Many restauranteurs in Vietnam nip across the border for the much wider range of food products available. Whatever your penchant; cheese, sausages, cured meats, wine, bread or dairy, it is easily available.
Transportation is usually by bicycle, Tuk-Tuk or moped – enviable for those usually stuck in rush hour on the way to the office each morning. The laid-back pace of life here, even in the capital, is what draws many people to settling here. Outside of Phnom Penh, the pace slows further – Siem Reap, Battambang, Kampot, Kep or the local islands offers a lifestyle that would be utterly unheard of back home. Everything runs on ‘Khmer time’ which is basically any point within an hour or so window of the scheduled time. This can be a blessing and a curse, but certainly, makes you take life a bit slower!
Related article – Check out our costs of living in Chaing Mai, Thailand
THE DIGITAL NOMAD LIFESTYLE
For those specifically looking to relocate in order to freelance or live this digital nomad lifestyle, Cambodia offers many enviable benefits.
Wi-fi is widely available across most towns & cities in Cambodia, and mobile internet can be purchased very cheaply. There are myriad locations to work remotely, watching people go about their day in an air-conditioned cafe or sat in a leafy courtyard sipping excellent local coffee. The internet connections are fast enough to do most types of work, stream videos and upload files, but there are occasional power cuts which can be navigated by living somewhere with a generator in the apartment block. There are little to no restrictions on the websites you can visit and you do not need a proxy to access common sites like in neighbouring China.
Western wages, even from intermittent freelance work, can go a long way here. You can comfortably live on $600 per month, and $1000 per month would allow some savings, vacations to neighbouring countries and eating out two-three times a day. With such a wide range of options for living, eating and travel, a variable income could easily be accommodated if necessary.
One of the biggest draws of moving here is the ease of staying long term. For citizens of most countries, getting a visa for Cambodia to live permanently is painless. You can easily buy a business visa on arrival for $35, and then extend indefinitely from any travel agent. This is far less complicated than Laos, Vietnam or Thailand where visa border runs are necessary unless you have an official local employment.
Related articles – Check out our Digital Nomad Desires series
People in Cambodia are enormously welcoming. The Khmer language is easy to learn (containing no tenses or grammar) and English is widely spoken in the major towns. Integration into Khmer society is entirely possible and making friends here is for life! We were adopted by a Khmer family that we visited every day. When we eventually moved away they borrowed a Tuk Tuk and drove us to the airport to the tune of many, many tears from both sides. Feeling included in local society here is such an important factor in choosing a country to move to. Despite their tragic past, Khmer people are so unbelievably warm and generous and make you feel like you’re completely at home.
The expat/nomad community thrives in Cambodia, with most towns having a disproportionate number of writers, photographers, artists, journalists and academics. With such diverse and creative communities & small town laid-back vibes, there is frequent collaboration, friendship and business opportunities. This also means there are a number of great events and festivals in each town throughout the year to participate and network.
Cambodia as a destination gets over 5 million visitors a year, and for good reason! The culture and history rich Angkor ruins are an incredible site to behold. Spread over 1000 sq km the UNESCO World Heritage site can’t possibly be seen thoroughly over a few days or weeks. Living here gives you the time and knowledge to plan trips to far away and lesser known gems, and visit without all the other tourists!
Anywhere you live in the Kingdom, you are only a short flight or a bus to local attractions. Perhaps you want to visit the capital, escape to a paradise island, disappear into the countryside or hike up a mountain. You are also right next to Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia or the Philippines for trips further afield.
Even if you never leave the country, the warm weather, great food and lifestyle can feel like around the clock vacation. Cambodia has three distinct seasons: hot and dry, hot and rainy & slightly cooler and dry. Once acclimatised you are comfortable all year round, we were even there in the “hottest hot season in history” and were sunbathing by the pool and cycling around town as usual.
It wouldn’t be fair to describe all the reasons to become a digital nomad in Cambodia without mentioning the negatives too. We all have them!
The healthcare in Cambodia is pretty limited. There are Western hospitals but if seriously ill or injured, it’s recommended to travel to Bangkok or Saigon for more comprehensive healthcare. This is a great reason to purchase good medical insurance, but shouldn’t hold you back. This is something to consider though, for those with long-term health problems.
While there are still landmines in Cambodia and off-piste hiking is not recommended, you are very unlikely to come across any unexploded ordinance. All tourist areas have been completely cleared and if you follow paths and trails it is completely safe.
The poverty in Cambodia can be overwhelming at times. Seeing first hand the quality of life for the poorest in society is eye-opening and many find it uncomfortable. This for me is a reason TO be here. Putting my dollars into local businesses and getting involved in projects that nurture and regenerate the local landscape and community has brought a new perspective to my life and work. The cliché “it changed me” really is a fact here. You can’t possibly return with the same mindset that you arrived here with.
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This guest post was written by Elise who is a writer at Koo Tour. She is an intrepid adventurer, having travelled extensively in Asia and lived in Siem Reap for two years. She loves exploring new places, but also going back to old ones and seeing the changes.