A beachside view of Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Seaside Sihanoukville is popular with expats looking to maximize their beach time.

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Sihanoukville is Cambodia’s top beach destination and a favorite with those looking for a beachside vibe. It’s also got a bit of a reputation as a party city, for better or worse. Some expats say that the seedy reputation is undeserved, while others seem to delight in it.

Many child-protection NGOs are based in Sihanoukville, but English-teaching jobs in town generally pay less than in Phnom Penh. There are lots of expats in Sihanoukville; most of them seem to be middle-aged men. Many Pattaya refugees migrated here when Thailand began cracking down on expat visas. The city is also popular with Russian expats, who own many of the businesses in the Victory Hill area of town.

The newest of Cambodia’s major cities, Sihanoukville was founded in the 1950s. Now the place is filled with construction sites and new luxury hotels looking to capitalize on the tourism boom. During the high season the town and its beaches teem with young backpackers looking to eat happy pizzas and sleep in each other’s dorm beds. The town’s nightlife is active, if not very sophisticated, but it calms down and can get pretty quiet during the low season.

There’s no decent medical care in town, and a narrower range of shopping, so expats find themselves making frequent trips to Phnom Penh to see a doctor or to stock up on the essentials. For all the downsides, many of the beaches around Sihanoukville are beautiful, and the islands offshore are positively stunning.

Interview with an Expat

Why did you decide to live in Sihanoukville?

I came to Sihanoukville for vacation, fell in love, and saw lots of opportunity for business. I felt it was a good place to try to start my own first business. Since everything is so cheap, the risk isn’t such a great one.

What is the best thing about living in Sihanoukville?

I love the chilled-out lifestyle in Sihanoukville and being near the beach.

What is the worst thing about living in Sihanoukville?

As a business owner, the hardest thing is finding staff and the work ethic of people in general. Otherwise, the sense of being helpless when it comes to legal issues.

Christophe Hanson, owner, Le Mac Restaurant,

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.