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Lovely weather, a thriving culinary scene, business opportunities, famous temples, an artistic soul, and a generally relaxed way of life continue to attract many expats to beautiful Siem Reap. Read this article to find out where to live in this major tourist destination.

Siem Reap translates to “Siam defeated”, and it was named as a tribute to Cambodia's victory over Thailand in the 16th century. Thanks to its proximity to the temples of Angkor, which are a source of great national pride for the Khmer people, the tourism industry has boomed over the last couple of decades in Siem Reap, and significant development means that there are accommodation options for every type of traveller and expat.

As a result of its newfound popularity, which it owes in part to Angelina Jolie, Siem Reap is now a well-oiled tourist machine, and the revamped city is replete with backpacker hostels, boutique guesthouses, luxury hotels, and international restaurants. Accommodation, dining and transport options do tend to be more costly here than in other parts of the country, as locals and foreigners have been clever to capitalise on the increase in international visitors and the dollars they bring. However, if you plan to stay in Siem Reap for a while and make contacts, as well as learn to bargain in Khmer, it can still be an affordable place to live.

Situated just over 300km to the north-west of Phnom Penh, Siem Reap may be sleepier than the capital, but many foreigners choose to live in Siem Reap for this very reason, and feel it offers more than enough to keep life interesting. The expat scene may not be massive, but it is still vibrant — and many artists choose to make the city their home. There’s a lot going on in the creative community, involving both Cambodians and expatriates, and a number of galleries showcase incredible work.

If you move to Siem Reap during the rainy season from June to October, you should be able to take your pick of long-term accommodation rentals, as many expats working on short-term contracts often leave during the quieter (and very wet) months.

Where to live

Siem Reap is a small town compared to Phnom Penh and other popular South-East Asian destinations. Most foreigners working in the temple town tend to stay near the centre, across the river, or just on the outskirts.

The town itself consists of four main neighbourhoods that you can choose from — Sla Kram, Svay Dankum, Sala Kanraeuk and Kouk Chak. If you opt to live near the main areas, which are around Pub Street, the markets, and the Old French Quarter, you'll only be a short walk to most of the town's main attractions, and can enjoy having a lively atmosphere on your doorstep. There may be less going on after nightfall than in Phnom Penh, but the strip of bars and restaurants along Pub Street can still quench your thirst and keep you entertained into the night. This is a particular hotspot for fun-loving backpackers, thanks to the happy hours, English menus and vibrant party scene.

Alternatively, life across the river tends to be more relaxing, while still offering the convenience of being close to town. If you opt to stay a bit further afield on the outskirts, you can expect a much quieter existence and, so long as you don't stay too far away, you should still be able to walk into town. And when you wish to really get away from the tourist bustle, you can simply go on day trips in the beautiful countryside, where you can soak up the tranquillity of the paddy fields and the ancient temples before returning home.

Costs

Although rental prices in the most popular parts of Siem Reap have increased substantially over the past decade, the real estate market is still developing and many expats will find it to still be quite affordable to rent a house in Siem Reap on a long-term basis.

If you’re tight on funds, you can sometimes rent out the first floor of a house for around US$150 and the Cambodian owners will continue living downstairs. Otherwise, if you're happy with something small and simple that's a bit away from the downtown area, you can rent your own apartment in Siem Reap from around US$350 to US$500 per month.

You should be able to find a more centrally located and bigger place with nice furnishings from between US$500 and US$800. And, if you have more cash to splash, then US$800 to US$1,000 is likely to get you a large, modern, stylishly-decorated apartment in the centre of town. And a massive, modern villa or a beautifully-renovated Khmer-style house, with gardens and a pool, will set you back about US$ 1,500.

As a general rule, cheaper apartments tend to come with a very basic kitchen (think: camping stove on a concrete counter) and be decorated with heavy wooden furniture (which tends to be quite elaborate and glossy), while more expensive apartments are generally more to Western tastes, with modern trappings.

If you'd rather rent a one-bedroom serviced apartment, you should budget around US$180/night or US$1,600/month during high season, but you can get cheaper rates during the rainy season. There are plenty of fully-furnished serviced apartment complexes in Siem Reap, which tend to be quite centrally-located, spacious and secure, so you can take your pick. However, do be warned that they can also be more expensive than those of a similar standard in other South-East Asian destinations, and some are more comparable to hotels than serviced apartments.

Finding a place

The easiest way to find accommodation in Siem Reap is by chatting to other expatriates, who can make recommendations as to location and complexes. You could even ask tuk-tuk drivers for advice or availabilities, or hire a driver to go looking for properties with you. It's also worth checking the noticeboards outside Angkor Market for vacancies or meeting with local estate agents to see if they can help you to find something that suits your requirements.

Otherwise, you can start looking for your dream home online, by searching on specialised websites or joining expat forums and Facebook groups, such as Siem Reap Real Estate. If you're moving to Siem Reap on your own and wish to share an apartment with someone, it's also a good idea to join the Siem Reap Expats & Locals Facebook group to make contacts and see what is available.

When you're looking, if you see something that's not quite suitable, but you like the building or the area, it's worth contacting an owner directly to find out if they have any other properties and, if so, when other leases are due to expire.

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