Phnom Penh

phnom penh expats

Phnom Penh is the preferred spot for most of Cambodia’s expats.

Want to know more about living in Phnom Penh? Check out our new Phnom Penh guide for expats

Phnom Penh is Cambodia’s capital city, home to between 2 and 3 million Cambodians and the great majority of the country’s foreign expatriates. Some regard Phnom Penh as a charmless agglomeration of crumbling colonial buildings and towering architectural monstrosities, but to the expats who call it home it’s a vibrant city steeped in history and full of excitement.

Because it’s a big, busy metropolis, Phnom Penh offers an easy life for expats unwilling to give up the conveniences of home. Dozens of coffee shops have popped up in recent months, there are better grocery stores than you’ll find in many other Southeast Asian cities, and there are even two brand new big-screen, air-conditioned movie theaters showing Hollywood blockbusters.

The infrastructure in Phnom Penh is also quite good. The water is pretty much drinkable (although no one risks it), power cuts are rare compared to places like Sihanoukville, and high-speed internet is available.

Perhaps most enticing are the many job opportunities in Phnom Penh, due to the presence of several hundred NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and even more English schools. Salaries are also higher in Phnom Penh than elsewhere in the country.

In addition, the city is home to dozens of expat-oriented bars and pubs, including many, many girly bars, a couple of nightclubs, and even a rock-n-roll bar. Phnom Penh is the only city in Cambodia with any real nightlife to speak of, so if this is important to you, you’ll either have to move here or do a lot of weekend commuting.

If you’re thinking of moving to the big smoke, check out our Phnom Penh neighborhoods guide.

Interview with an expat

Why did you decide to live in Phnom Penh?

I moved to Phnom Penh to be closer to the Push Pull Cambodia weaving center and our sewing partners. I originally settled in Siem Reap and was hesitant to leave, but Phnom Penh is much closer to the hub of our business activities.

What is the best thing about living in Phnom Penh?

I’ve come to appreciate the energy of Phnom Penh. There’s certainly more bustle here–more art happenings, more concerts, more events generally. I also love that there are restaurants that serve gluten-free pasta and desserts in Phnom Penh!

What is the worst thing about living in Phnom Penh?

The transient nature of Cambodia is difficult, regardless of your city of residence. One thing I noticed more in Phnom Penh is how difficult it is to walk from place to place. Nothing is terribly far, but sidewalks are often extensions of homes and shops and not passable. I’d love to be able to walk down the street without actually having to step into the street and the traffic.

Leigh Morlock, co-founder, Push Pull Cambodia

This is an excerpt from Move to Cambodia: A guide to living and working in the Kingdom of Wonder. To learn more about 100+ topics that pertain to Cambodia expats, please consider buying the book.