Phnom Penh is a vibrant, bustling city with a rich history and many opportunities. It is the political and economic capital of Cambodia and home to over 2 million people.

It’s an exciting travel destination for expats, digital nomads, and westerners alike. But what is it really like to live in this city? Here’s a guide to living in Phnom Penh—from food and culture to language and nightlife.

Phnom Penh language and culture
Phnom Penh is Cambodia’s largest city

Culture & Language

Khmer is the official language; however, English is spoken in the city by those working in the tourism industry or employed by foreign companies.

As far as culture goes, most people dress conservatively due to religious beliefs, there are certain areas where it’s unacceptable to wear shorts or tank tops, such as temples. It’s always best practice to respect local customs when visiting any country abroad.

Phnom Penh property
Many foreigners own condos in Phnom Penh

Owning Property in Phnom Penh

One of the best things about Phnom Penh is the fact that foreigners can own property. Condos, offices and apartments are all on the table.

According to Cambodian law, foreigners are allowed to purchase any type of property except land or ground floor real estate. In recent years, many investors from all around the world have been attracted to Phnom Penh, and Cambodia as a whole, for its growing economy and favorable demographics.

Cambodian food is delicious and under-rated
Cambodian food is delicious and under-rated

Food & Drink

Phnom Penh is full of great options for food lovers. The city is known for its flavorful Khmer cuisine as well as international specialties from all over the world.

You can find traditional dishes such as Amok (a fish curry) or Bai Sach Chrouk (pork and rice). Or you can find something more exotic like deep-fried crickets or frog porridge.

In addition to local flavors, there are plenty of restaurants serving international cuisine such as French, Indian, Japanese, and more. Plenty of bars and pubs throughout the city serve craft beers, cocktails, wines, whiskeys, and more.

Cost of Living in Phnom Penh

The cost of living depends on your lifestyle but overall it’s fairly similar to other capital cities in Southeast Asia, such as Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur.

Bear in mind the Cambodian Riel is closely pegged to the dollar: This makes Cambodia more expensive than some of its neighbors depending on the current strength of the US Dollar.

Phnom Penh's districts vary widely
Phnom Penh’s districts vary widely

Districts in Phnom Penh

BKK1, Daun Penh and Riverside are some of the most popular neighborhoods in Phnom Penh. Each has its own unique atmosphere and attractions but all offer great opportunities for both tourists and expats alike.

Living in BKK1, the bustling business and entertainment district of Phnom Penh can be an exciting and rewarding experience. This vibrant area is packed with restaurants and bars, nightclubs, shopping malls, and parks, as well as cultural attractions such as museums and temples. It’s a great place to explore the city’s offerings of modern style and traditional Khmer culture.

Daun Penh is where Phnom Penh’s old city center still exists, with the iconic Central Market and Wat Phnom at its heart. This area is full of character, with colorful streets and a charming atmosphere. It’s great for people who want to experience the authentic culture of Phnom Penh, with a slightly more relaxed and laid-back vibe.

Riverside is one of the most popular areas for expats and digital nomads. Located along the Mekong River, it’s full of modern restaurants and bars, and luxury shopping malls, and is conveniently close to offices and embassies. It’s a convenient place to live and work, offering stunning views of the river and great nightlife. However, many expats claim the area is too gentrified and has lost its charm.

What’s next?

Living in Phnom Penh has something for everyone—from foodies looking for delicious local Khmer dishes or international specialties from all over the world; to night owls looking for adventure after dark; or even just expats wanting an affordable yet exciting place to live.

Whether you’re interested in learning about the Khmer culture or having fun exploring all that this dynamic city has to offer—living in Phnom Penh will be sure not to disappoint. So explore this vibrant Southeast Asian metropolis today.