Retire in Cambodia

Cambodia has a wild untamed intrigue to it.  It is a land of contradictions.  For those susceptible to its magic, it transfixes; it burrows into the soul.  The Mekong River is its heartbeat.  Watch out, you might get hooked.  Many retirees and adventurers already have.

Cambodia today resonates its French colonial past.  Its capital Phnom Penh is the closest you get to 1970s Asia.  Cars, bicycles, cyclos and tuk-tuks go in all directions.  Horns blast.  The bars along the main street adjacent to the river pump out Neil Young and the Bee Gees. 

You can have a beer and good wine at super low prices as duties do not exist on liquor and you can even have a ‘happy’ pizza.  The country broadcasts personal freedoms.  But if you like it very quiet, that’s just around the corner.  You can luxuriate in the tropical heat by a pool and just ooze into the totally laid-back environment.

Cambodia is very affordable.  The cost of living is about a quarter of that in the West.  It is safe, visas are no problem and life is free and easy.

But Cambodia has its challenges.  It is the least developed of the Southeast Asian countries, its infrastructure is poor, medical care ordinary and there are a number of restrictions on foreigners buying any property other than above ground level apartments.

None of these issues though are show stoppers.  It’s early days for retirees in Cambodia but maybe it is the dream spot for someone in search of a real adventure. 


With a history both brutal and inspiring Cambodia is a difficult country to judge. While the terror of the Khmer Rouge is long gone, the country still ranks poorly in terms of poverty, corruption and its human development indexes are among the lowest in the world. Still, the majesty of the vast Angkor Wat temple complex and the rather charming Siem Reap town adjacent draws millions of tourists and much needed foreign exchange to the country.  Phnom Penh (the only real expat living choice) remains a rough and edgy destination for retirees and only the very brave and bold attempt permanent residence there.


Population:  15,200,000 (Est. 2013) 

Capital city:  Phnom Penh

Largest city:  Phnom Penh -  Pop. 2,100,000

Political system:  Constitutional Monarchy. King Norodom Sihamoni appoints the Prime Minister. One real political party led by PM Hun Sen.

Language:  Khmer - 90% Khmer, 5% Vietnamese, 1% Chinese, 4% other.


Cambodia, like most of South Asia, has its weather dominated by monsoon seasons. The rainy season runs from May to October with resulting high humidity but lower temperatures, as low as 22°C. The northeast monsoon brings drier weather November to April with temperatures as high as 40°C. Tourists tend to fill up Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor Wat in April, the hottest month of the year.  February and March are hot, but a better and slightly cooler time to visit than April.


The most direct flight from Toronto to Phnom Penh is with Air Canada to Shanghai; then connecting to Phnom Penh with China Eastern Airlines.  Tickets are about $4000 USD.  You can fly for under $2000 USD if you are willing to make 2 stops.