Shutterstock.com
Updated 3 weeks ago

Finding accommodation in Cambodia can be quite challenging. But the recent rise of rental websites, such as HomeAway and Airbnb, have made it easier than ever to rent a room or a house on a short-term basis in Cambodia. Likewise, if you're looking to put down some roots, accommodation options also abound — from staying put in a guest-house, to signing a lease for your own house or apartment.

Many long-term rental properties in Cambodia come furnished, and may also include a washing machine, television, and air-conditioning units or fans. Consequently, you can often move in immediately and will just need to add a few personal touches as you go along. However, if you're planning to settle in the kingdom for a while, it can be worth renting an unfurnished space for a cheaper price, then decorating and furnishing it in your own style. New furniture is relatively affordable — especially of the wicker variety — and you can also often buy quality, pre-loved pieces from other expats when they leave, then sell it again when it's your turn to depart.

Once you have found somewhere with which you are happy, you will be given a lease, which you should read through thoroughly before signing. This will then need to be signed by you and the landlord — and don't be scared to negotiate any elements, such as price, requirements, or amenities. If anything is not up to scratch, chat with the owner about what you’d like improved. Owners are often willing to fix fixtures, add amenities, buy furniture, decrease price, or even change configurations to lock a tenant into a long-term lease.

Types of accommodation

If you’re only planning to live in Cambodia on a temporary basis, then staying in a guesthouse can be a simple option that doesn't need to break the bank, as most guesthouses are willing to negotiate rates for longer stays.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to move a bit further away from the tourist circuit but don't wish to sign your own lease or live alone, you could opt to rent a room in a shared apartment. A bedroom in a shared flat can go for between US$70 and $250 a month.

If you're moving to Cambodia as a couple or family, and wish for your own space, there is an array of accommodation options that you can rent independently. Do be aware that houses can come with more challenges than apartments — they aren’t as secure, so you may wish to hire a security guard, and they can require maintenance, so it's worth employing a good cleaner and having a handyman on speed dial.

Cheaper apartments or houses are usually located further away from the main areas of town and have basic kitchen facilities, consisting of a portable gas stove and small concrete counter, as well as heavy wooden furniture and older fixtures. If you’re after a real bargain, you can sometimes rent out the first floor of a property from a Cambodian family for around US$150 and they will live downstairs.

More expensive options tend to be in central locations and are generally more to Western taste, with higher quality finishes and furnishings. They may also include luxury amenities, such as swimming pools and gyms. Whether you rent your accommodation furnished or unfurnished, the general rule of thumb is that the more you pay, the better the kitchen is likely to be.

In Siem Reap, the prices tend to be lower than in Phnom Penh, and rent drops even further in smaller towns, such as Battambang and Kampot.

Utilities

When you're looking for accommodation, be sure to enquire about the utilities, such as WiFi and satellite TV; and services, such as a cleaner or rubbish collection, as this can vary depending on the property and the landlord. It's important to ask lots of questions before you sign a contract about what is included, and how much various utilities cost on average if you are expected to pay them. If possible, it's worth speaking to previous tenants (or other tenants in the building) to get an idea of costs and implications so you can budget accordingly for any additional fees. You'll probably be expected to pay any utility bills on a monthly basis when you pay the rent.

Do be aware that you are likely to need to pay the electricity bill yourself, and this can be expensive as some landlords have been known to charge increased rates to unsuspecting tenants. Verify the latest standard rates with other expats when you arrive, but it tends to be about KHR1,000/kilowatt (US$0.25). You can save on electricity by only using a fan, or closing doors when you turn the aircon on. That said, if you can afford it, it is worth renting accommodation that has at least one aircon unit (preferably in the bedrooms and the living room), as the heat can feel stifling — especially from March to May, in the months leading up to the rainy season.

It's also worth budgeting for a housekeeper if you don't live in a serviced apartment, as this is a relatively affordable expense that can make your life a lot easier while providing a source of employment for a local Cambodian.

Requirements

Most landlords require that you commit to a minimum of a six-month lease, although some may consider a shorter term if it's in the low season or if you aren't negotiating. However, it's worth bearing in mind that the longer the lease, the more bargaining power you have, so your rent can become considerably cheaper.

Typically, you will need to pay the equivalent of one to two month's rent as a security deposit, as well as the first month’s rent upfront in advance.

Do also be aware that you probably won't be able to rent a property for longer than a month if you only have a tourist visa. For long-term rentals of over six months, landlords are likely to require proof of a one-year business visa. Do note that if you plan to obtain this one-year extension, it's important that you choose the US$35 business visa when you enter Cambodia, instead of the standard US$30 tourist visa.

Finding accommodation

When you're looking for accommodation in Cambodia, it's worth asking other expats questions or reading advice on online forums, such as Cambodia Expats Online (CEO), which covers topics that may be of interest to long-term expats and newcomers. The Cambodia Parent Network is a Yahoo group that is also a great source of information when it comes to moving house, buying and selling furniture, and finding items that are tricky to come across in Cambodia.

To find apartment shares across the country, it's also worth joining relevant Facebook groups to get to know other expats and share news, such as Expats Network Cambodia or Expats in Cambodia. Or join more specific housing groups, such as Phnom Penh Housing, which specialises in properties and flatshares in Phnom Penh; or Siem Reap Real Estate, which can be a helpful resource when looking for accommodation in Siem Reap. Many estate agents tend to advertise on these groups, but they are also used by private landlords who may offer better deals.

 Useful links:

Cambodia Expats Online

Phnom Penh Housing

Siem Reap Real Estate

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.