Is Cambodia the new expat paradise in Southeast Asia

Published:  24 Mar at 6 PM
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Rising from the ashes of the Khmer Rouge days and relatively unspoiled as yet, Cambodia’s modernisation boom is attracting adventurous expats eager to enjoy the country’s future.

Formerly a sleepy colonial outpost with a Royal palace, tree-lined boulevards, charming architecture and Buddhist temples, Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh is in the middle of an unprecedented construction boom fuelled by foreign cash. High-rise apartment blocks attract sophisticated buyers and ever-taller office buildings dot the skyline.

Foreign investment continues to grow, much of it arriving from neighbouring China and Japan, spurring on an already high rate of urbanisation. Investment from overseas companies is bringing in expat workers and the new Cambodian middle class enjoys air-conditioned malls crammed with Western delights, upmarket gyms, boutiques and restaurants.

The rapid growth of the Cambodian economy over the past 10 years combined with the country’s laid-back culture has made it an attractive choice for Western expats looking for an as-yet relatively unspoiled Asian experience. Visa regulations are much more foreigner-friendly than in the surrounding countries and it’s far easier to start a business, teach or become a digital nomad.

Historic Siem Reap and coastal Sihanookville are already favourites with established expats searching for an alternative to Thailand. Sihanoukville itself is slated to become a major shipping port and is already a hub for development, and Siem Reap appeals strongly for its established expat retirement community as well as its as yet unspoiled beaches and offshore islands. Quieter and more traditional Kampot, decades ago a hub for Phnom Penh’s wealthy weekenders, has quaint French colonial buildings set along the river estuary.

Unlike the Thais, the Cambodian people are happy to try out their knowledge of the English language in addition to welcoming expats into the local scene. Although, healthcare isn’t as sophisticated as in Thailand, demand is resulting in supply in the form of a recently-opened Bangkok Hospital in Phnom Penh. For emergencies, flights to Bangkok or even to Calcutta are brief and inexpensive. Most importantly, expat nest-eggs reap a high level of interest in one of the top five Cambodian banks.
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