Leisure and lifestyle in Cambodia

Updated 2018-07-24 09:51

The expat scene in Cambodia is thriving with interesting people of all ages from all corners of the globe. Read this article to find out what you can expect of life in this South-East Asian kingdom.

Cambodia is so much more than its temples, and its urban areas have become surprisingly sophisticated. The charismatic cities of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap have been revitalised in recent years, with cosmopolitan cafes and a pulsing nightlife. While smaller places, such as Battambang and Kampot, never cease to charm their audiences with their colonial architecture, dreamy living and creative scenes.

Most expatriates live in Phnom Penh, as this developing city offers a wide range of activities and job opportunities for foreigners. There is something for everyone in the capital ' from soaking up the culture at one of many events or art exhibitions to joining an expat society, such as The Phnom Penh Players, which puts on plays and pantomimes to raise money for local charities and entertain the community. It is also a popular place to raise children, as there are plenty of activities, such as a rockclimbing wall at Kids City and an ice skating rink at AEON mall, that will keep kids entertained.

You can find out what's going on all over the country every week by joining relevant Facebook groups of your interest, or subscribe to websites, such as Kumnooh and Leng Pleng, that list events and happenings around the country.

Food and fun

Whether you are seeking western comforts or wish to experience a more local way of life, Cambodia has everything your heart could desire ' and at significantly lower prices than in most developed countries. As an expat, there's not much in terms of food that you could miss from 'back home', as you can buy just about everything you want in Cambodia. The French influence particularly still lingers, so croissants, charcuterie and cheeses are never far away.

If you're a cappuccino aficionado, you'll be pleased to know that the cafe culture has also significantly developed in recent years. The country's first Starbucks opened in 2016 and coffee shops seem to have sprouted on every corner in Phnom Penh. Quality and costs range significantly to suit all tastes and budgets ' while a flat white at a continental-style cafe costs around US$3, a local ice coffee with condensed milk costs around KHR3,000 (US$0.75) from a roadside vendor.

There is a comprehensive wining-and-dining scene in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh ' you can savour some of the most authentic international food in beautiful villas, or enjoy Cambodian cuisine at street stalls, in markets, or at training restaurants, such as Romdeng, where tarantulas are on the menu.

As is the case for the coffee, food also ranges in quality and price. Local street fare can cost less than US$2, while a meal at a mid-range restaurant tends to be between US$7 and US$10. And if you have a lot of cash to splash, a lavish dining experience at an upscale restaurant can even set you back over US$100. However, drinking at restaurants is relatively inexpensive across the board, especially during happy hour when many cocktails are half price. Local beers, such as Angkor and Anchor, range from $0.75 to $1.50 at most restaurants, and you can buy them even cheaper from a local shop.

If you are a big drinker, you'll be pleased to know that spirits come cheap in Cambodia 'most 750ml bottles cost between US$10 and US$20. However, wine is considerably expensive (especially the good stuff), and there are a few shops selling imported wine and craft beer if the mood takes you.

Events take place most days of the week in the capital. From networking events, quiz nights, restaurant openings, athletic tournaments and film viewings, to art exhibitions, riverboat parties, live music performances and stand-up comedy, there's always something going on in the play Penh.

Sports scene

Many expats could easily give the impression that there isn't much else to do in Cambodia apart from eating and drinking. Especially as the humidity, pollution, and lack of open spaces in the capital do all combine to make it difficult for exercise enthusiasts to do their thing.

However, you'd be surprised by how much you can actually do ' from playing rugby at the Phnom Penh Social Rugby Club to joining a football team or softball group. There is even a circle of Ultimate Frisbee players who practice twice a week, or you could go on various jogging expeditions with the Hash House Harriers and train for the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon and the Kep Half Marathon. Alternatively, if you'd rather run alone, you can also easily escape the city by catching a 20-minute ferry ride across the river, then going on an idyllic jog through the fields and orchards on the other side.

Whether you want to start Khmer kickboxing or Kundalini yoga, the sports scene is thriving in Phnom Penh, and you could quite easily partake in a different sporting activity each day of the week, with a different group of people. And, if you just want to work out on your own or with a personal trainer, there is also an abundance of gyms to suit all budgets ' from luxury fitness centres, to those that barely have a working fan ' and many new rental apartments also have gyms. You can even practice your front crawl at various swimming pools in preparation of the annual Mekong River swim, which takes place around Khmer New Year.

Suffice to say, Cambodia is a great place to start a new form of exercise, or further enhance an established fitness regime.


One of the best parts of living in Cambodia is its accessibility to other destinations in South-East Asia. Thanks to the renovations and expansion of Phnom Penh International Airport ' along with the sheer amount of public holidays each year ' it is easy to go on frequent getaways to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore or Taiwan. There are short, direct flights to cities across the region, and you can often find cheap fares on budget airlines, such as AirAsia and Jetstar.

Extensive bus services also make Cambodia a great base from which to travel overland to neighbouring countries or hop on a bus to simply explore more of the Kingdom of Wonder itself. With its lush rural landscapes and tropical islands, there is so much to be discovered in this magical country. Whether you want to go an ecotourism adventure in the Cardamom Mountains, try to spot a Critically Endangered Irrawaddy dolphin in Kratie, eat peppered crab in Kep, float on the river in Kampot, ride the bamboo train in Battambang, kick back in a hammock on Koh Rong, swim in a volcanic lake in Ratanakiri, cycle around the temples of Angkor, jump off a waterfall in Mondulkiri, there are so many fantastic things to do and beautiful places to explore that you'll never get bored.

Useful links:

Find out what's happening on Cambodia's art scene
Phnom Penh's live music guide
Phnom Penh Hash House Harriers
Nightlife Phnom Penh
Wat's Up! Events in Siem Reap
Dining & Drinking in Siem Reap
Siem Reap Nightlife
Sihanoukville Specials and Events

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