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Expat Exchange - 7 Tips for Living in Phnom Penh 2024
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7 Tips for Living in Phnom Penh

By Betsy Burlingame

SJB Global
SJB Global

Summary: Advice for people moving to Phnom Penh or thinking about moving there.

This is a must read if you're moving to Phnom Penh or thinking about moving there.

Phnom Penh, the bustling capital of Cambodia, is a city that's rapidly growing in popularity among expats and digital nomads. With its rich history, vibrant culture, and affordable cost of living, it's no wonder why so many are choosing to call this city home. However, living in a new country can be a daunting experience, especially if you're not familiar with the local customs and way of life. Here are seven key tips to help you navigate your new life in Phnom Penh.

1. Learn the Local Language

While English is widely spoken in Phnom Penh, especially in the business and tourism sectors, learning the local language, Khmer, can greatly enhance your experience. Not only will it make everyday tasks like shopping and ordering food easier, but it will also help you connect with the local community on a deeper level. There are many language schools in the city where you can take classes, or you can opt for online courses if you prefer to learn at your own pace.

2. Understand the Cost of Living

One of the main attractions of Phnom Penh for expats and digital nomads is its affordable cost of living. However, it's important to understand that while some things are cheap, others can be surprisingly expensive. For example, local food and public transportation are very affordable, but imported goods and western-style accommodation can be pricey. It's a good idea to do some research and plan your budget accordingly.

3. Explore the Local Cuisine

Phnom Penh is a food lover's paradise, with a wide variety of local and international cuisines to choose from. Don't miss out on trying traditional Khmer dishes like Amok (a coconut curry) and Lok Lak (a beef stir-fry). Some popular local restaurants include Romdeng, which serves traditional Khmer food, and Friends the Restaurant, which offers a modern twist on local cuisine. Both are located in the city center and are highly recommended.

4. Get to Know the Neighborhoods

Phnom Penh is divided into several neighborhoods, each with its own unique character. Daun Penh, for example, is the city's historic heart, home to many of the city's most famous landmarks like the Royal Palace and the National Museum. Boeung Keng Kang 1 (BKK1), on the other hand, is popular among expats for its western-style cafes, restaurants, and shops. Take the time to explore different neighborhoods and find one that suits your lifestyle and preferences.

5. Embrace the Local Culture

Cambodian culture is rich and diverse, and embracing it can greatly enhance your experience in Phnom Penh. Visit the city's many temples and museums, participate in local festivals, and try to learn as much as you can about the country's history and traditions. The National Museum and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum are both excellent places to start.

6. Stay Healthy

While Phnom Penh is generally a safe city, it's important to take care of your health. Make sure you're up-to-date on your vaccinations, and take precautions against mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever. Also, be aware that the quality of healthcare can vary greatly, so it's a good idea to have comprehensive health insurance that covers medical evacuation in case of serious illness or injury.

7. Get Involved in the Community

Finally, one of the best ways to feel at home in Phnom Penh is to get involved in the local community. There are many opportunities to volunteer, join clubs or sports teams, or participate in community events. This not only gives you a chance to give back, but also helps you meet new people and make friends. Remember, the best way to find these opportunities is to do your own research and find something that aligns with your interests.

Living in Phnom Penh as an expat or digital nomad can be an exciting and rewarding experience. By following these tips, you'll be well-prepared to make the most of your time in this vibrant city.

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.


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