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Expat Exchange - 10 Things to Know Before Moving to Cambodia
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Siem Reap, Cambodia


10 Things to Know Before Moving to Cambodia

By Joshua Wood, LPC

William Russell
William Russell

Summary: If you're planning a move to Cambodia, here are 10 things expats living there wish they had known before moving to Cambodia.

Are you considering a move to the Kingdom of Wonder? Cambodia, with its rich history, vibrant culture, and friendly locals, is a popular destination for expats from around the world. However, before you pack your bags, there are a few things you should know about life in this Southeast Asian nation. Here are the top 10 things to know before moving to Cambodia.

1. Understanding the Cambodian Culture

Cambodian culture is deeply rooted in Buddhism and respect for elders. It's important to understand and respect these cultural norms. For example, when greeting someone, Cambodians traditionally use the "sampeah" gesture (placing palms together at chest level and bowing slightly). Also, it's considered rude to touch someone's head or point your feet at people or religious artifacts. Learning about these cultural nuances can help you integrate more smoothly into Cambodian society.

2. The Importance of Learning Khmer

While English is widely spoken in tourist areas and by younger Cambodians, the national language is Khmer. Learning some basic phrases can go a long way in making your life easier and showing respect for the local culture. Plus, it can be a fun and rewarding experience!

3. The Cambodian Climate

Cambodia has a tropical climate with two distinct seasons: the rainy season (May to October) and the dry season (November to April). Be prepared for high temperatures year-round, especially in the dry season when it can reach up to 40°C (104°F). The rainy season, while humid, brings beautiful green landscapes and is a great time for visiting the countryside.

4. The Cost of Living in Cambodia

One of the biggest draws for expats is the low cost of living. Rent, food, and transportation are significantly cheaper than in Western countries. For example, a one-bedroom apartment in the city center can cost as little as $300 per month, and a meal at a local restaurant can be as cheap as $2. However, imported goods and western-style amenities can be more expensive.

5. Healthcare Facilities

While Cambodia's healthcare system has improved significantly in recent years, it still lags behind Western standards. Many expats choose to travel to Thailand or Vietnam for serious medical issues. It's crucial to have comprehensive health insurance that covers medical evacuation.

6. The Delicious Cambodian Cuisine

Cambodian cuisine is a delightful blend of flavors, with influences from India, China, and neighboring Southeast Asian countries. Popular dishes include amok (a coconut curry usually served with fish), lok lak (stir-fried beef with a tangy dipping sauce), and kuy teav (a noodle soup). Street food is also a big part of the culinary scene, offering a variety of tasty and affordable options.

7. The Vibrant Festivals

Cambodia is a country of festivals, with celebrations taking place throughout the year. The most important is Khmer New Year in April, a three-day celebration filled with traditional games, music, and food. Another major festival is Pchum Ben in September or October, when Cambodians pay respect to their ancestors. Participating in these festivals can be a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture.

8. The Ease of Travel

Cambodia may be a small country, but it's packed with incredible sights, from the world-famous Angkor Wat to the pristine beaches of Sihanoukville. Plus, its central location in Southeast Asia makes it easy to travel to neighboring countries like Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. However, road conditions can be poor in rural areas, so it's important to be cautious when traveling.

9. The Cambodian Visa Process

Getting a visa for Cambodia is relatively straightforward. Most nationalities can get a visa on arrival or an e-visa online. For long-term stays, you can apply for a renewable Ordinary Visa (E class) once you're in the country. However, the rules can change, so it's important to check the latest information from the Cambodian embassy or consulate in your home country.

10. The Friendly Locals

Last but not least, one of the best things about living in Cambodia is the people. Cambodians are known for their friendliness and hospitality. Don't be surprised if you're invited to a local's home for a meal or a wedding - these experiences can be the highlight of your time in Cambodia.

Moving to a new country is always a big step, but with some preparation and an open mind, you're sure to have an unforgettable experience in Cambodia. Good luck with your move!

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


William Russell
William Russell

William Russell
William Russell

Siem Reap, Cambodia

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SJB Global

SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
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SJB GlobalSJB Global

SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
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