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Living in Cambodia

Settling down in Cambodia allows you to experience a rather diverse and fascinating country firsthand. But living in Cambodia can also be quite a challenge. We offer advice on healthcare, the housing search, and education, as well as an insight into religion and Khmer culture.
Religion and cultural heritage are taken very seriously in Cambodia. It is important for visitors to be respectful.
  • A variety of different cultures and religions exist in Cambodia and learning to respect them all is part of the fun of moving to Cambodia. 
  • The cost of living is extremely cheap in comparison to that in the majority of western countries.
  • There are restrictions on foreigners buying property in Cambodia, so many expats decide to rent. Either way, the internet will be your best friend while house hunting.
  • The education system in Cambodia is severely underfunded and so the teaching quality is not of a high standard — international schools may be the best option for expat kids.

Getting to Know the Khmer People

Today, there are about 15.9 million people living in Cambodia, 90 percent of them being of Khmer origin. The remaining 10 percent is comprised of Vietnamese, Chinese, and other minorities. Cambodia is a country of rural dwellers. The majority of the population has settled down in villages and small towns in rural areas near the rivers, while just over twelve percent of the overall population lives in the capital Phnom Penh.

Local tribes and peoples living in Cambodia also include the Khmer Loeu and the Cham. The Khmer Loeu are highland tribes who live in the northeastern provinces of the country. The Cham are made up of two groups based on their religion, the traditional and orthodox Chams. Orthodox Chams live mainly around Phnom Penh while the other group is largely scattered across the country. They usually settle in villages among their own.

Respecting Religion

Similar to the population in Thailand, Burma, or Sri Lanka, most of the people living in Cambodia are practicing Buddhists. In addition, Christianity, Islam, Daoism and Confucianism are also practiced. The latter two are particularly common among the Chinese minority.

While living in Cambodia, you should be respectful of the local culture and religion. This includes dressing in modest clothing when you visit religious sites. Make sure to always cover your upper arms and legs, and remove shoes and hats before stepping inside. Moreover, it is customary to make a small contribution when visiting a temple.

Before You Leave and While You’re There: Staying Healthy

The average life expectancy at birth is about 68 years of age. The median age of the people living in Cambodia is 24. This is due to the bad health conditions in some parts of the country and the high mortality rate due to AIDS. In 2016, around 74,000 people living in Cambodia were living with AIDS. Moreover, PTSD and other stress-related conditions affect a large part of the population. Although all this sounds rather grim, the situation is slowly improving. In 1999, for example, the average life expectancy was only 48 years.

In the cities, modern healthcare services are usually readily available. However, this is not necessarily the case in rural areas. There, people try to cure their ailments with traditional medicine or have to travel long distances to get the care they need. Cambodia’s social security system currently only covers employment injuries for formal workers. In most cases, your employer will provide you with healthcare coverage.

Necessary Vaccinations and Precautions

Before you visit Cambodia or move there altogether, you need to take a few health precautions to prevent yourself from falling ill. The following vaccinations are recommended for everyone who plans on travelling to or living in Cambodia:

  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Typhoid
  • Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
  • Tetanus, diphtheria

If you plan on spending a lot of time outdoors and in high-risk areas, you should also get vaccinated against rabies and Japanese encephalitis. Moreover, Cambodia is a country with a high risk of Malaria infections. This is why you should take a malaria prophylaxis. Make sure to talk to your doctor about possible side effects. If you cannot take enough medication with you or plan on staying in an area without sufficient medical care, you should also always pack medication for emergency self-treatment, in case you develop any malaria symptoms.

As of 2016, the Zika virus is endemic in Cambodia. The risk to travelers is unknown and because of this, women who are pregnant or who are planning on trying for a baby should discuss their travel plans with their doctor.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.

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