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A few questions about startup/living expenses in Phnom Penh

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Paul Barufaldi

Joined: 09 Apr 2004
Posts: 271
Location: Beijing

PostPosted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 10:44 pm    Post subject: A few questions about startup/living expenses in Phnom Penh Reply with quote

1. How cheaply can you get a guesthouse private room with cold water, fan, and internet in Phnom Penh for a medium term stay (in a desirable area)?

2. Are such rooms generally available year round?

3. Is it difficult to start a local bank account?

4. Can one find reasonably priced tailors? How much should I expect to pay for a custom dress shirt or a pair of slacks?

5. Do you need a local driver's license to ride a motorscooter? How viable are bicycles as a means of transport in Phnom Penh traffic?
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Paul Barufaldi

Joined: 09 Apr 2004
Posts: 271
Location: Beijing

PostPosted: Fri Jan 24, 2020 9:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll answer my own post as I gave this place a go for four months after.

1. Accommodation: Cheap! Be very wary of guesthouses. I stayed in three low cost places. The first was ridiculous with nonstop security problems. Everyone was just taking money and pocketing, staff being fired, etc. The owner was remote and hadn't paid rent or taxes on the place for several months, so it got shut down by the police while I was staying there. In a rush, I found a place for $140 a month but it was filthy. I had to mop the floor three times a day. The last place I got for $200 was quite good. So I guess my point is shop around. It seems like a lot of the guesthouses in Siem Reap are empty and various owners complained about low revenues and how they would probably need to sell/shut down.

2. Food: Pricey! The low cost market khmere food I found almost inedible. (And I"m not picky.) Low and mid range restaurants offer decent fare at prices that I would not call "low." Street food such as grilled chicken, noodles, etc can be had for $1-3. Cheap western food runs $3-$5 per meal but the quality is lacking. The good stuff gets quite expensive. All in all and taking nutrition into account, I'd say you can eat better and cheaper in an actual western country.

3. Cigs and alcohol: Very cheap! $0.50 for a pack of smokes says it all. Imported liquors are sold at comparatively low cost. Local vodka/gin runs $3-$5 for 40% ABV and local palm "whiskey" (actually 20% ABV wine) goes for only $1. Rice wine runs dirt cheap. High ABV Chinese hooch at the supermarket is probably the best bang for your buck.

4. Beverages: Not cheap. I found myself consumer more liquids and it does add up. You can spend $0.50 for a ultrasweetened ice coffee that goes down like liquid ice-cream and is probably a good deal if you are into that sort of thing. That 50 cent point also goes for a lot of other stuff, like a liter of water or a can of soda. Juice is way pricey but you can get fresh stuff, like smoothies, from street vendors for $1. Instant coffee is about the same as anywhere while decent brewed joe gets pricey.

5. Durable goods and clothing: Not cheap.

6. Jobs: Cheap (in the bad way!) I found from $800 - $1300. They are hard to find, highly demanding, and do not offer airfare, paid holidays, annual vacation, housing or utilities. I'm guessing the availability of unqualified teachers drives the wages down. Even for them, I cannot understand the appeal of paying for international flights and startup costs on top of an 8% income tax and then maintaining housing, bills, food, etc on a salary that deplorably low. One might be able to cover costs and put a little away in savings by living like a pauper, but I just don't see how it's worth it.

Positives: Interesting local culture and expat scene. Lots of activity and places to walk around. I definitely met some great people, Cambodian and foreign alike. Students are considerably better to work with than other Asian countries.

Negatives: Too many shady tuk-tuk drivers, thieves, scammers, prostitutes and drug dealers targeting westerners. You can't trust people you are doing business with and always need to keep your guard up.

Final Verdict: Despite cheap rentals, the cost of living versus salaries makes Cambodia a very poor choice. I'd say it's still worthwhile as a tourist destination, and investing in your own school could provide a decent lifestyle there. But otherwise, pick another country. I gave up and left Cambodia for a job with triple the renumeration -plus housing, insurance, airfare, and vacation. It isn't nearly as exploiting/demanding either.
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Joined: 05 Sep 2011
Posts: 26

PostPosted: Fri Jan 24, 2020 11:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's an awesome post, thank you!
I visited Cambodia in 2009 and I loved it. I thought about working there, but was a bit afraid of their standards. I guess I should consider myself lucky that I did not take a job there last year.
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