Our move to Cambodia (in retrospect)
It’s true – we’ve moved away from Phnom Penh. We absolutely loved living in Cambodia, but for personal reasons, it was time for us to move on.
We learned a lot during our time there and decided to compile a list of all the things we wish we had known earlier on. Now, it’s time to share it with YOU.
Tip #1: Come with $3,000.00 USD saved
Some people come with a lot less, but we don’t recommend it. We read this advice somewhere online before we moved to Phnom Penh and we both came with about half. If you can, make sure you have at least 3,000 USD in the bank.
- In case you don’t get a job right away, you will be sure to have the savings to float yourself before your first paycheck
- Many jobs in Cambodia pay monthly – at the end of the month. That means that even if you get a job right away, you will still likely need to wait at least one month until you receive some income.
- You’ll have enough money to cover a hotel for as long as possible before you find the perfect apartment to live in
- Most apartments require you to put down a deposit (usually first & last month’s rent) in cash
- If, heaven forbid, you have a medical emergency or something occurs at home, you always want to make sure you have enough funds to pay for the hospital or get you back to your home country in a jiffy
Tip #2: Make sure you come on the right visa
When you enter the country, go to the “visa on arrival” stand and get yourself an “Ordinary Visa” i.e. an “E-type Visa”. We cannot stress this enough – do not get this mistaken with an “e-visa” which is the online tourist visa that you can get in advance.
This visa will allow you to legally job hunt for 30 days and you will not need to do a visa run once you get a job. Ok – so we did this right the first time – but we have lots of friends who didn’t. (Bad friends, we know – they should’ve watched our vlog)
Tip #3: Really look for the RIGHT job
This is something we didn’t really do when we moved to Cambodia, and the reason why we suggest coming with double the money that we came with so that you can afford the time.
- Set up as many interviews as possible within a few days and go to all of them
- Talk to different staff members at the school that you’re considering and make sure it’s the right fit
- Get clear answers during your interview process – Will they cover your visa? Work permit? They should cover at least one.
- Don’t sign a contract that you’re not comfortable with. Make sure everything makes sense before you commit for a full year. Will you get paid on vacation days? Yes – you should get paid for public holidays. If there were an emergency back at home, will you be able to exit your contract? You wouldn’t believe that this was an issue we witnessed.
- Are they paying you well? Are your hours consistent?
Make sure you’re asking questions, noticing any red flags, and generally feeling great about the job you decide to take.
Tip #4: Live in Russian Market
This is just our opinion and we may have a lot of people disagreeing with us on this – but looking back, we really should’ve just lived in Russian Market.
A lot of expats live in this area when they move to Cambodia and now we know why. It’s cheap. There are funky apartments for less than $250/month, lots of great bars, and you’re right near a main market in the city. Different to Central Market, Russian Market is still easy to navigate if you don’t speak Khmer, but it won’t put a hole in your pocket (see our article Guide to Markets).
We lived in BKK1 which is a great area, but we calculated how much money we would’ve saved by living in Russian Market and it was nearly $200 a month. That is $2,400 a year – and that can get you very far in Cambodia.
Again – you don’t have to do this, it’s just our opinion – but if we’re being honest with you, we really regret not having done this the first time around.
Tip #5: Shop at local markets ONLY
With the exception of packaged meat or something imported, don’t go to the supermarket. Just don’t.
Tip #5: Rent (or buy) a motorbike
You will get around a lot faster and save a lot of money. We wish we had rented a motorbike sooner, as we wasted a lot of money by commuting in tuk tuks for 2 months when we first moved to Cambodia.
Tip #6: Download Grab & Passapp (but only use Grab)
Grab is pretty much the Uber for Southeast Asia, and Passapp is specific to Cambodia. Here’s our comparison between the two apps:
- Hire a rickshaw, tuk tuk, car or motorbike (to sit on the back of) to your location and get a set price for your trip.
- You don’t have to worry about being overcharged for a tuk tuk or motorbike ride.
- Your whole trip is GPS tracked so you can feel safe on the road.
- Earn points for riding on the Grab app – cash them in for free rides
- Grab is used widely throughout SE Asia so you can redeem your points in other countries as well
- Mostly the same as Grab, except for that it runs on a meter rather than a set price. If the driver gets stuck in traffic, or worse, blatantly chooses to take a bad route, the price can go up significantly higher.
- There is no point system for Passapp and it only works in Cambodia
It sounds like we’re sponsored, but we’re not. We just really support the Grab app.
We do still recommend that you download Passapp on the days where Grab doesn’t work (yes, that happens often) and vice versa.
When you move to Cambodia, this will be helpful right from the beginning. Both apps are way cheaper than hailing a tuk tuk or a motorbike.
Tip #7: Come with the BARE minimum
Most apartments come furnished and clothes are extremely cheap. Leave enough room in your bag to go home with a lot more than you came with.
Tip #8: Don’t stress out too much
People ask us so many questions about having tattoos, beards, long hair, piercings, etc. and how that will affect their employment when they move to Cambodia. We notice people also worry too much about where they’re going to live, work, etc. before they even enter the country.
We know that it’s nerve wracking to start a new journey but our advice is to just chill. The Cambodian people have a very relaxed lifestyle and if you’re going to live there, you’ll need to adopt one too.
There is a job and apartment for everybody. Enjoy the adventure and good luck.