Updated 2 years ago

Sihanoukville is a popular beach party destination that is also the gateway to idyllic islands. If you can't bear to say goodbye to the beach barbecues and generally laid-back scene, then the town has plenty of seaside employment options and places to lay your head.

Sihanoukville's reputation has somewhat plummeted in recent years, as more of the backpacker crowd have extended their search filters past Thailand's full moon parties and have turned their attention to the beaches in Cambodia. During the high season, the town is now teeming with young travellers soaking up the sun and the cheap beer. However, everywhere is considerably calmer in the low season, and there are also lots of non-adolescent expats living in Sihanoukville, as it's a base for many child-protection NGOs and there are English-teaching jobs in town (although they tend to pay less than in the capital). It's also popular with the middle-aged male crowd, as many expats who were formerly living in Pattaya have hopped over the border due to Thailand's visa crackdown.

The boom in tourism that Sihanoukville has experienced means that it is developing rapidly — you'll notice several construction sites and high-end hotels popping up everywhere to attract a wider range of travellers.

If you do choose to make this your beachside base, do be aware that there’s no quality medical care or much in the way of shopping in Sihanoukville, so you may need to head up to Phnom Penh to stock up on supplies and to visit a doctor when the need arises. However, the beautiful beaches around the town and the stunning nearby islands should more than make up for it.

Where to live

The town consists of three main areas, which are less than 10km from each other — Victory Hill, Serendipity Beach and Otres Beach. Each of these has something different to offer, so choosing where to live will depend on what you're after. If you want to party, you might want to be near Serendip; if you want to hang out with an older crowd then Victory Hill may be for you; and if you’re looking for a very laid-back vibe, it could be worth considering Otres.

Serendipity Beach is at the epicentre of the Sihanoukville coastline and is where the action is — here you will find beach bars serving drinks in buckets and pumping music every night of the week during high season.

If you want to be away from the party scene, a quieter area is Victory Hill, which is more of an expat locale than a tourist hub (it is particularly popular with Russian expats, who own many of the businesses in this area). There are some good, affordable restaurants, but the nightlife tends to be more geared towards retirees and it can feel quite seedy. The area is located on a hill, which offers some nice seaviews but also means a bit of a trek if you want to get to the nearest beach on foot, and you'll probably want to take a tuk-tuk whenever you go to Serendipity Beach.

Last but by no means least is beautiful Otres, which is a very laid-back stretch of the coastline that offers little but beach and (boutique) bungalows, and is loved by many a Phnom Penh expat when they want to escape the city chaos.

Costs

There is no shortage of places to live in Sihanoukville, and new buidings are popping up all over the show. Once you have decided on your preferred locale, your choice will simply depend on your budget, choice of location and requirements — you'll find a range of accommodation, from basic rooms with a small bathroom, fridge and gas stove; to luxury villas with ocean views. And prices vary accordingly, from about a hundred dollars to a thousand. However, with a monthly budget of US$150 to US$250, you should be able to find a comfortable enough place.

Before you sign a lease in Sihanoukville, be sure to check how much the electricity rate is, as many landlords sneakily add a premium to the local rate, which can have an unfortunate impact on your budget.

Most rental accommodation usually comes with surprisingly fast WiFi, but if you freelance and plan to work from home, then it can be a good idea to use a speedtest app when you're viewing the property. And if it's not up to speed, you may need to factor in the price of setting up your own internet connection.

You may also need to budget to buy your own furniture if a place that you like comes unfurnished. However, this isn't difficult and it can be very affordable if you're happy with wicker furniture. Alternatively, you can find Western-style furniture in town, and you can even have bespoke pieces made if you're so inclined. You can also buy everyday household things that you might need, such as kitchen utensils and household goods, from the market, stores, or the second-hand homeware shop.

Finding a place

When you start your accommodation search, it's worth first checking out local notice boards, such as the ones at Samudera Market or Mottha Travel, to see if anything catches your eye. Once you have an idea of where you want to live, it's also a good idea to hire a moto-dop or tuk-tuk to take you around the area so you can look out for any ‘For Rent’ signs hanging outside properties. Many local owners choose to advertise this way, rather than online, and this will help you to get to know the vicinity better and scope out the neighbours — you probably won't want to be next to a Karaoke bar or a metal workshop.

If you don't have any luck on a drive, then it could be worth joining relevant Facebook groups, such as Sihanoukville Real Estate and Sihanoukville, Kampot, Kep Real Estate, which are specifically geared towards accommodation hunters in the area. Or ask other expats for advice or leads on the Sihanoukville Online Forum. The information in local groups and forums tends to be more up-to-date and reliable than what you can find on some specialised rental websites.

However, if you do wish to go down the estate agent route, then there are several who will be happy to help you. Just be warned that they are likely to show you places that are at the highest end of your budget, so either start off low or consider saving money by just doing things yourself.

Before you sign a lease, it's advisable to find out whether there is a generator at your desired accommodation, as it's not easy trying to sleep without a fan in the height of summer when the power goes off, which is often the case in the town.

Useful links

Sihanoukville Real Estate - https://www.facebook.com/groups/333298533478529/

Sihanoukville, Kampot, Kep, Real Estate- https://www.facebook.com/groups/sihanoukville.properties/

Things for Sale and Wanted in Sihanoukville - https://www.facebook.com/groups/buyandsellsihanoukville/

Sihanoukville Onlnine Forum - http://www.sihanoukvilleonline.com/forum/index.php/

Sihanoukville Specials and Events - https://www.facebook.com/groups/121785961308333/about/

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