We are often asked whether Cambodia is the best place to retire? I don’t think anyone can categorically say where the BEST place is because of individual preferences and biases. However, using widely accepted indices like affordability and lifestyle, regularly Cambodia comes up in the top ten.
Standard of living
Cambodia is considered in the top 5 places for Americans to retire, slightly bettered by Nicaragua, Peru, Colombia, and Vietnam. In 2019, ‘International Living’ placed Cambodia as Number One in its ‘Cost of Living’ Annual Global Retirement Index. In fact, Cambodia has held this place 4 years consecutively.
Some factors in obtaining this prized position real estate, lifestyle, healthcare and costs of living.
Real Estate in Cambodia allows for both frugal and luxurious lifestyles. Cheap apartments can be bought for as little as $60,000 USD or rented at $300/month. The mid-range around $120,000 USD or $800/month. The world is your oyster after that!
Food, household items, furniture, transport and clothing are cheap. There is a wide range of local and international cuisines available, with surprising little places opening up all the time. A street side feed can cost around $2 and a good quality Mexican meal with beer can cost around $8. Cheap household goods, food and clothes can be found in the numerous local markets. Not only are they cheap, they are fun too! Transport is easy and cheap too. Short trips by PassApp cost around $1, even less by motodop and a 3-hour bus trip to Kampot costs less than $10.
Maintaining health and treating ailments is of concern to retirees. Healthcare generally is far better now than in previous years. The major urban centres have many good quality pharmacies, GPs, specialists, alternative and preventative medical practitioners and dental surgeries. Quality healthcare is generally inexpensive and there are many social media forums to verify other people’s experiences.
Costs are not the only consideration for retirees. After years of working, many seek a relaxing lifestyle with loose routines and fewer stresses leading to a better quality in the later years of life.
Cambodia, the Kingdom of Wonder, has a rich culture imbued with a French influence. There are countless places to visit – ancient temples, colonial architectural gems, local markets, manicured gardens, sweeping mountain ranges, pristine coastlines and tropical islands. It is this mix that makes Cambodia so special.
Where is a good place to live in Cambodia?
Phnom Penh is where most expats settle. As with all international cities, it has everything a retiree would need. It has a mix of old and new with new developments, condos and shopping centres being established all over the city. There are still plenty of interesting places to visit, a wide choice of accommodation and a lively social culture, both daytime and at night.
Siem Reap is somewhat more laid back compared to the capital, Phnom Penh. For those who love history Siem Reap, home to Angkor Wat, is the place to be. Countless temples abound within a short journey in any direction and the city is much smaller, so it is easy to navigate. Apart from the temple scene, Siem Reap has a scenic river that meanders through its centre, local markets, a colonial quarter and famous ‘Pub Street’, a lively nightspot. This town offers a relaxed and friendly environment with less traffic chaos.
Although Battambang is the second largest city in Cambodia, it is a tranquil colonial city with growing expat population. Like other urban centres, it has an array of restaurants, bars, and hotels, making life convenient and comfortable.
Kampot and Kep
In riverside Kampot, life is slow and leisurely, known for its world-renowned pepper, said to be the world’s best. Kampot is a good stopover place for those visiting Bokor Mountain. It has a number of quality restaurants and hotels to accommodate ‘better quality’ tourists. This is the great place for retirees after the seaside, natural greenery and mountains.
Kep, some 20km from Kampot is famous for the ruins of what was a Mecca for ‘New Khmer Architecture’. In the 1960s, the Modernist architecture movement, infused with Cambodian flair, made Kep a design location for the rich and famous. Its ruins, following the actions resulting from the Vietnam War and Khmer Rouge are now being reclaimed and redeveloped. Kep is a peaceful retirement location since, apart from the architecture, the beach lifestyle and crab market offer many delights for the senses.
Now, despite the uniqueness of each location briefly mentioned here, Cambodia covers most bases. And… if it doesn’t, Vietnam, Laos, Singapore and Thailand are only short flights away.
Those wishing to retire in Cambodia must apply for an E-class visa at the airport on arrival. You must have a passport valid for at least six months and at least one blank page and a passport-sized photo. This visa is good for 30-days and costs $35. This is applicable to retirees from non-ASEAN countries. Those from ASEAN countries can visit Cambodia visa-free for 21 days.
To get an extension for retirees, applicants must show documentation of retirement from their home country and proof of funds to support their stay. People aged 55+ can get this visa, although some have been known to have been issued to younger applicants, which requires more paperwork.
The ER Visa cannot be issued to anyone employed, so ER visa holders do not need work permits. 1, 3, 6 or 12 month ER visas are available, but only the 6 and 12-month visas allow multiple entries.