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Explainer: Cost of living in Cambodia

Gareth Johnson

What is the cost of living in Cambodia? While generally seen as an affordable place to live, the true cost of living in Cambodia is often debated by investors. In this explainer, we look at the actual cost of living in Cambodia and how it compares to other nations.

Cost of living in Cambodia – where do we rank?

There are a number of cost of living analyses done by various organizations, but generally, the most respected one is run by numbeo.com. The metrics used by the site are the cost of living index, rent index, groceries index, and overall local purchasing power. 

For some context the first two places are taken up by Bermuda and Switzerland, with unsparingly Singapore at 10th being the most expensive country in Asia, shortly followed Hong Kong in 12th place. 

Despite the Kingdom’s reputation as being cheap, particularly for retirees, it is certainly not the cheapest country in the world, nor even Asia. Cambodia ranks 58th in the world, one above Croatia and one below Jordan. 

Within ASEAN Thailand ranks at 75th, while Vietnam comes in at 89th and the Philippines in 92nd. 

It should be noted that these rankings are for the cost of living in general and do not refer specifically to the cost of living for ex-pats with regards to things such as visas, with Cambodia regularly voted one of the best places in the world to retire to in both Asia and the world. 

To read about retiring in Cambodia click here.

Cost of living in Cambodia – Property 

Cambodia is a cheap place to rent a property. A “decent” apartment in Phnom Penh might set you back $200 monthly or so. If the budget is increased to $500 plus and you’ll be able to rent a serviced apartment with a gym and a pool. This obviously increases exponentially as your budget increases. 

Overall average rents are 62.39% lower in Cambodia than in the United States again according to Numbeo.

Rent costs are also lower when you get out of the capital, particularly in Siem Reap and to a larger extent in Kampot, where rents for similar properties are half of what they would be in the capital. 

Sihanoukville is largely an exception to this rule due to the large number of Chinese residents and capital in the city, although with China currently closed deals can drill be gotten.

Buying property in Cambodia

As previously covered in Cambodia Investment Review foreigners may buy condominiums, or apartments so long as they are not on the ground floor of a building. Foreigners may not legally buy land in Cambodia. 

To read about buying property in Cambodia click here.

Again prices vary, but a studio apartment on the outskirts of Phnom Penh in a decent development can cost as little as $60,000, with financing also available. 

Cost of living in Cambodia
TRIBE Hotel Phnom Penh.

This is a price that goes up depending on location and size, but is comparable in price to places such as the Philippines and generally cheaper than western locations.

Foreigners can circumvent the law on not owning land by engaging in one of the cheapest citizenship by investment programs, which you can read about here.

Cost of living – food in Cambodia

Generally speaking, food costs are a mixed bag of tricks in Cambodia, with it depending greatly on if you are buying and eating local produce, or relying on imported products.

According to the aforementioned Numbeo a meal in an inexpensive restaurant would average $2.50, while a “pint” of local draft beer would average $1. For those drinking 50-cent beers in the country, these are usually half a liter, or half a pint glasses, with bottles and cans averaging the same. 

Milk on the other hand averages over $2 per liter, extremely expensive by western standards, with the majority of it, certainly in supermarkets being imported. 

This is mirrored with other imposed goods such as cheese, or bacon which are more expensive in Cambodia than in the countries, or regions of the source. 

Cambodia, like everywhere else in the world has been affected by the conflict in Ukraine and the effect it has had on food and oil prices, with groceries having gone up in 2022. 

Sadly as Cambodia does not have a McDonalds we cannot use the Big Mac index. 

Salaries in Cambodia

Salaries in Cambodia are something we will cover in a later explainer, but they are worth including to give some form of context. Again according to Numbeo the average monthly salary in Cambodia is $250 for local people.

The average salary for foreigners depends greatly on the job that you do and indeed your expertise. The vast majority of foreigners though are still employed in the teaching sector, where salaries range from the low hundreds to a few thousand per month. 

Again a distinction needs to be made between Westerners and Filipinos for example. Currently, Western teachers would earn between the $1,000 to $2,000 bracket at least in Phnom Penh.

There is no official sum on this but generally, $1,200 to $1,500 is considered a “living wage” for westerners in Phnom Penh. And it is not just teachers that earn in this ballpark, but also journalists, office workers and even professional sports stars. 

So, while people will and do often argue the toss with regards to the cost of living in Cambodia and if it is a cheap, or expensive country, particularly when compared to other countries in Southeast Asia, the truth is it depends on how much you earn and quite how you decide to spend your money. 

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