Living in Cambodia on Less Than $500 a Month

By Rhiannon Davies Published on 16th April 2009 .

Other than Pol Pot, the spectacular ruins of Angkor Wot and, according to the Cambodians, Muay Thai style kick boxing, Cambodia doesn’t really hit the map for an awful lot of things - and let’s face it, in the case of Pol Pot maybe some things are certainly best forgotten. 

But it is cheap – and there are very few places left in the world where you can live very cheaply, but if you’re prepared to live frugally it can be done here.  Prices in the capital Phnom Penh have been rising but you can still live on $500 (roughly £340) a month in Cambodia. 

So, if you want to move abroad to escape the recession in the UK, you want to find a more affordable nation where your pension will go far further or you just fancy discovering a very interesting nation – this article about living cheaply in Cambodia may well inspire you!

Rental apartments are difficult to find below $250 (£170) a month, but they are available if you look hard, or use the services of the now famous Art the homefinder, a Cambodian entrepreneur who sources living accommodation for foreigners in Phnom Penh. 

The influx of NGO’s, English language teachers and expats who’ve chosen to retire in Cambodia have all helped to push prices up.  When you put another $30 (£20) on each month for electric, you can see that renting an apartment in Phnom Penh including costs will run to around $300 (£200) per month.  If your budget is really tight there are plenty of cheap and clean hostels where accommodation can be found from $2-$3 (£1.35 - £2) per night, but you will have to share with at least one other person. 

As accommodation usually takes up the biggest chunk of a budget, managing to keep accommodation below $300 (£200) is a good start to proving that you can live in Cambodia on less than $500 a month.

So, you have arrived and got yourself sorted with accommodation.  What other costs are you going to have living abroad in Cambodia?  One of the first ones that’s probably worthwhile sorting out is a business visa.  On entry into the country you can pay $25 (£17) and receive a business visa, this allows you to work in Cambodia.  With this visa you don’t need to leave the country every few months and you can work if you can find a job - or you could just do as other expats do and just buy a bar!  To renew the visa after the first month costs around $250 (£170) for a year, so we’ll pop another $25 per month on the budget.  We’re now at $325 (£220) on our budget for living in Cambodia on $500 a month.

As regards eating out in Cambodia, local restaurant prices start from $1 - $2 (£0.70 -  £1.35) a meal - but if you’re on a budget then street vendors are great. Two meals a day can run to $25 (£17) per month.  Khmer, Asian and international food starts from around $3 (£2) rising to $10 (£7).  Beer tends to run at about $1 - $1.50 (£0.70 - £1.00) a bottle and spirits from $6 (£4), and if you want to go bar hopping a tuktuk, (a motorbike and side car or trailer) runs to about $10 (£7) a day.  Obviously if you hit the wine list you can pretty soon bump things up to $50 (£34), so street vendors and fruit shakes are the order of the day. 

Whilst you probably aren’t going to be saving much, and always watch out for the poverty trap, it is possible to live in Cambodia on $500 a month.

Rhiannon Davies's photo

Rhiannon Davies

Rhiannon is the Publishing Director at Shelter Offshore. With extensive experience as a technical author, Rhiannon's expat life began in Frankfurt with Deutsche Bank. Later as a freelance writer she was able to realise her ambition of living in some of the World's most beautiful locations.

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