From its incredible beaches to its rapidly growing economy, Cambodia is a nation that’s embraced change and progress more than any other in its region. Despite its shocking recent history and low levels of personal income, Cambodia has turned itself into a desirable retirement location for those seeking peace, quiet, and some of the world’s most impressive natural surroundings.
Located east of Thailand and west of Vietnam in Southeast Asia, Cambodia is a country that offers a remarkable range of different lifestyles for retirees. With an incredible low cost of living, life in this rapidly growing country can be luxurious and comfortable, even for those planning to retire on what would be thought of as a ‘shoestring’ budget in the Western world.
Cambodia’s capital is Phnom Penh, an old world city that’s rapidly growing into one of the region’s most important areas. Entirely deserted forty years ago by the country’s radical communist regime, Phnom Penh is now a thriving city moving forward at a rapid pace. Despite this, it retains its olden-style atmosphere, due largely to the country’s period as a French foreign colony.
If wide streets, impressive boulevards, and warm daytime weather are your forte, Phnom Penh is the best place to reside in Cambodia. Despite the city’s immense poverty level – many Cambodians live in simple housing and have relatively low incomes – there is surprisingly little crime in most of the city. Most areas, particularly the city’s higher-end neighborhoods, are safe places to live.
Phnom Penh has a reputation for expense, but it’s far from expensive for most Western retirees. The city has a range of new apartment complexes, some of which have luxurious two-bedroom units for as little as $300USD monthly. Other options include staying in a house, which is equally cheap, or a serviced apartment complex, which can be found for as little as $400USD monthly.
Other interesting places to live include Sihanoukville, a beachside town on the country’s western coastline, and Siem Reap, a small city that’s close to the famous Angkor ruins. Both of these towns offer many of the conveniences that foreign visitors expect, including local convenience stores and ATM machines that accept foreign bank cards.
Cambodia’s banking network is growing at a rapid pace, but it’s still far behind that of most Western countries, or even its neighbors. International banks such as Australia’s ASB Bank have spend quite a lot of money investing in infrastructure in Cambodia, bringing ATM machines and foreign banks to the nation’s capital, as well as major tourism hotspots like Siem Reap.
As such, withdrawing foreign money from within Cambodia is a relatively simple, painless process. ATM machines dispense US currency – the de-facto second currency of Cambodia – and are one of the easiest ways to manage your personal finances within the country. Retirees with bank accounts in Australia will also be able to manage them in Cambodia through local bank branches.
Unfortunately, it is relatively difficult – and somewhat unreliable – to transfer money into a local bank account, particularly for those with a significant net worth. Cambodia’s banking sector has shown some serious growth recently, but it remains less stable than those in foreign countries. It’s best to carry out your banking at home, and withdraw cash while in the country for expenses.
Medical care in Cambodia ranges from reasonably reliable and modern – the type of care found in private hospitals and international clinics – to downright dangerous. Local hospitals are inexpensive but unreliable, with diseases often misdiagnosed and cleanliness a second priority. Private care can be found in the country, but it is rare, particularly outside of destinations like Phnom Penh.
Most expatriates based in Cambodia use the country’s own health care for minor issues such as small cuts and bruises, and the nearby higher-quality care found in Thailand for severe issues or serious illnesses. Inexpensive flights are available from Phnom Penh to Bangkok, making local medical tourism – even if it’s simply a short flight away – an affordable and reliable option.
Due to the country’s unreliable medical care, it’s best to purchase an international insurance policy from a foreign insurance company – one that covers both care within Cambodia and within nearby Thailand. This offers a relatively high level of security for expatriates based in Cambodia should the need for high quality medical care ever arise.
Public transportation in Cambodia is unreliable, although private transportation is widely available and generally inexpensive. Private taxis and motorcycle riders provide transportation in the major cities, while intercity buses and flights make long-distance travel inexpensive and simple. Cars are significantly cheaper in Cambodia than in neighboring countries such as Thailand and Laos.
Despite its lack of economic development, particularly compared to nearby Thailand and Malaysia, Cambodia is an interesting and relaxing place to live. Beach resorts such as Sihanoukville offer an incredible mix of agreeable weather, beautiful nature, and affordability, with fantastic beach houses and apartments available from as little as $200USD per month.
In fact, it’s this mix of great weather, relaxed and calm people, and incredible affordability that has made Cambodia such a popular place to retire. Despite the country’s infrastructure problems – most of which have been solved through large-scale development – this tropical Southeast Asian country is a great place to live for those that seek nature, relaxation, and a convenient global location.
As the country continues to develop, as its reputation abroad improves, and as more retirees learn about the quality of life that can be found in Cambodia, we expect that more people will think about retiring in this exotic yet comfortable destination. If you require a luxurious lifestyle without a hefty budget, it’s worth thinking about Cambodia as a serious potential retirement destination.