Phnom Penh, Cambodia Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phnom Penh, Cambodia 11/15/20

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I’ve also lived in Kuala Lumpur, Addis Ababa, Niamey, and Mexico City.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

San Juan, Puerto Rico. Between 32-36 hours away. Phnom Penh, Seoul, New York or Detroit or Atlanta, San Juan. It’s a pain to get home.

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3. What years did you live here?

2018-2020.

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4. How long have you lived here?

2.5 years.

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5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic Mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

My house is huge. High ceilings, separate kitchen, separate laundry room, upstairs family room, bathroom in each bedroom, covered outdoor space on the 2d floor and exposed outdoor space on our roof and in our small yard. The house is old, there is dark wood everywhere, and we have a grandiose staircase. Our windows are tinted and natural light is blocked by the external property walls, which are a few feet from the window. We do have a bit of green space outdoors.

Expats outside of the diplomatic community usually live in apartments with modern amenities and lovely views of the city and river.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries and other supplies are expensive. You can get almost anything if you’re willing to shop around and be flexible with brands.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Organic, sulfate, paraben, and aluminum-free toiletries.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Tons of western, including increasing amounts of vegan and vegetarian options.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Not really. I’ve heard ants and cockroaches can be an issue, but if you don’t leave food out you will be ok. Some people have issues with termites.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

No clue about local mail, but I know oriole have found options.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Nannies, cooks, cleaners, gardeners and drivers are all cheap. A few hundred a month for full time.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Limited gyms and expensive, especially if you want western standards, but I live in an area with lots of expats and have several choices nearby. Diplomatic families join Sofitel for swimming and tennis. There’s a country club for horses. You can get passes for roller skating, trampoline, rock climbing. Most of the places don’t have A/C, so be mentally prepared to sweat.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I only use ATMs that are physically attached to a branch bank. Stand alone ATMs often have fake money. People use credit cards for groceries and shopping at western style shops, but I don’t.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There’s a handful but I haven’t visited any.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You can survive with just a few words, a few basic phrases will help with tuk tuks and the market, but you would be ok without any. There are many places where you can take lessons.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes! No proper sidewalks, crazy traffic, few places to walk to, no ramps.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Tuk tuks are really cheap and available through an app. Cars are also available but I only use them for airport trips.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Small SUV because of dirt roads outside of town and flooding during the rain season.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. Just a few days by to install. Mostly prepaid and mostly reliable.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Local provider with prepaid service. Super cheap and easy to get credits anywhere in the country. Not sure how calls are charged, but internet seems to last forever on prepaid.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

There are a couple of options.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Expats come here with diplomatic missions, schools and NGOs. Some spouses have started small businesses or worn with their sponsoring organizations, but most don’t work.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Conservative, but not extremely formal, except with diplomatic missions. It’s too hot to wear suits.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Purse snatchings by motos.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Dengue. There is some medical care, but most foreigners see other foreigners and there are few specialists. Before CoVid people traveled to Thailand and Singapore for care.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

It’s generally ok, but can get hard for some during the dry months (April and May).

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Language will be an issue with food allergies and restaurants.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Groundhog Day syndrome can affect some.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot and humid or hot and dry.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are many great choices.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Minimal.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Many. Also many after school activities in schools and elsewhere.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, but mostly paid and not super varied. Playgrounds are not a big thing here.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge and great.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Bars, western style markets, informal groups by area of interest. Everything is on Facebook.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes to all. Slow pace of living, lots of expats, great schools, good weekend escapes, amazing restaurants, availability of products. Expats are happy here. Life is more expensive than in other pm cities in the region, but life in general can be affordable and is way cheaper than back home.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

I don’t have local friends, but I don’t speak the language and haven’t made a huge effort either. My work comes with a community and my kids’ school is another. That’s been enough for me.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Kids’ school, freedom from CoVid!, weekend escapes, cycling across the river from the city.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Cycling across the river, weekend escapes, restaurants, art workshops.

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Not tons, but there is a growing market.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

No Covid.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

It’s worth traveling locally.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I’d rather move somewhere else, but if the choice is back home versus here, I’d stay here.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes, fancy clothes, car for daily life.

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4. But don't forget your:

Bike, flip flops, light cotton clothes, mosquito spray, sunblock, bathing suits...

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Phnom Penh, Cambodia 05/02/17

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No--I've also lived in or near Seoul, London, and Tokyo.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Pacific Northwest, USA. But I've lived in several other places in the States.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Development work

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

I live in a tile house. No air conditioning, but a fan works for me during the hot season. It really depends on your salary, needs, and the kind of life you want to live. You could rent a really nice 1-2 bedroom apartment with all the trimmings plus amenities like a gym or a pool for under $800 a month, or you could share a large house with other expats for under $200 a month. Inner Phnom Penh close to all the expat amenities can be quite expensive. I find that the Tuol Tompoung neighborhood has the most laid-back, pleasant vibe and comparatively low crime while still having a decent commute time to most places of employment.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

There are several Western-style supermarkets which sell almost anything you could want, as long as you aren't especially picky about brands and don't mind paying a bit of a premium. French, Thai, and Vietnamese brands predominate but you can sometimes encounter lovely surprises like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Some products are consistently available but a few are random in their appearances. It can be a little frustrating to be unable to read labels. I imagine it's even more so for someone with dietary restrictions. The Khmer markets are good for produce and are much cheaper. A single person could expect to spend $50/week on groceries if you shop at the local markets as much as possible.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Honestly you can get almost anything here, but it can get a little expensive. If you cook with SE Asian ingredients you can cut back on grocery bills.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are several websites which offer food delivery from most restaurants, and I believe a new food delivery phone app called Tesjor has been started but their offerings are still limited. About every cuisine imaginable (including sushi!) can be found here but you have to be careful. I make a practice of avoiding the "everything" restaurants. They have Khmer, Thai, Chinese, Italian, burgers, pizza, and usually none of it is very good. Stick with the restaurants which serve only one kind of cuisine and you'll probably be happier.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

The usual tropical pests. Ants, roaches, drain flies, rodents, that sort of thing. I found that a cat solved the last problem for me quite well.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I don't really send or receive much mail but the local post office has been fine when I have. A bit slow, but fine.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

I don't use household help, but a full-time housekeeper or cook or nanny or whatever should be paid at least $300/month, plus bonuses and paid holidays if you can afford it and want to be generous. The salaries here are really low and upward mobility is so difficult to achieve so honestly if you're a (comparatively) wealthy expat, the least you can do is pay your staff well.



The work ethic and culture is also really different from the west. Family always comes first so if your nanny's sister is getting married in another province she will definitely leave for at least a week and hopefully she will give you notice ahead of time. It's a good idea to have backups on speed dial for such situations.



I'd also recommend having a couple of good, knowledgeable tuktuk drivers and developing strong relationships with them, which includes generous compensation for their services. In addition to getting you where you need to go, they will look out for you and can be valuable allies in a challenging situation, and you may find yourself being introduced to new cultural experiences.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are a few gyms around the city. The good ones are a little expensive but for some people it's worth it. I work out at home. There are also frequent classes happening everywhere, like yoga, dance and Pilates.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Larger stores and expensive restaurants catering to expats will accept them, as will AEON mall. Otherwise this is a cash society ATMs are generally easy to find. Use the normal precautions that you would anywhere.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

This is a Buddhist country with a substantial Muslim minority. There are several Christian churches but I can't speak to any of them as I am not religious at all.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Many people find that English gets them where they need to go, but life will be easier and Khmer people will very much appreciate you if you learn a little Khmer. Tutors are cheap and easy to find.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Depends on the disability. It's definitely not a wheelchair-friendly city. However, Khmer people are often very kind and helpful. I've had random people on the streets rush to help me with heavy bags as I exit a tuktuk, for example.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Tuktuks are generally the way to get around the city. For long distance travel you can hire a private taxi or take a bus. The roads are very dangerous, so be careful when and how you travel.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Anything with AWD. But traffic is very, very bad in Phnom Penh so I wouldn't want to own a car here.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

It took the company a few weeks to show up at my house but once they got it installed, it's been fast enough for my needs. Many apartments come with internet already installed.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Local providers are reasonably good and cheap. I pay about $5-7 a month for my phone plan. Bring an unlocked smart phone from your country if you can, but be careful about the power here as it can ruin electronic batteries.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

There are a few Western vets in the city who will be able to take good care of your pet, assuming they don't need particularly complicated care. Not sure about a quarantine but probably not. Sadly, it's not uncommon for dogs to go missing and many are stolen for food. The situation for animals is pretty heartbreaking. There are no laws about animal abuse and a very limited public understanding of or compassion for animal well-being and suffering. Be prepared to have your heart broken a lot.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

It's fairly easy to get a job teaching English, though it probably won't pay a lot. There are also a lot of NGOs that are often looking for staff.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Dozens, but practice caution as many NGOs are not especially ethical. Orphanage tourism is a sad reality here.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Cambodians are sharp dressers in the professional realm. Be clean and tidy. Men wear button-down shirts, trousers, and closed-toe shoes. Women usually wear skirts and blouses.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Violent crime against foreigners is uncommon unless you really go out of your way to get mixed up with the wrong sort of crowd. Most Cambodians are friendly people who will be nice to you but poverty can impel people to bad choices. Theft, such as bag-snatching, is sadly very common. Keep your bag close to you and don't carry too much cash. Being friendly, getting to know your Cambodian neighbors, and learning to speak some Khmer will go a long way towards keeping you safe in your neighborhood.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Air quality isn't great but could be worse. Depends on your area. Traffic is terrifying and motor vehicle accidents cause many deaths and injuries. Routine medical care can be found here, but for anything serious you'll probably need to go to Bangkok. Dental care and physical therapy is also available--many Western practitioners have set up shop in Phnom Penh.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Motor vehicle fumes, and sometimes dust during the dry season. Also, nobody here ever seems to clean out their air conditioners, so the filters are often full of mold which gives me terrible cold-like symptoms.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Peanuts are in a lot of things. Shellfish is also popular. The concepts of food allergies and food safety are not always fully understood here so be cautious. Carry an Epipen if you need one.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Wherever you go, your problems go with you, and Cambodia seems to have a way of bringing that out in people. The lax law enforcement combined with the easy availability of alcohol and drugs can lead to some unfortunate circumstances for people with poor impulse control.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Very hot in dry season (March-May) a bit chilly for a few weeks in December-January. The rain cools things down a bit. Rainy season is usually June-September.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Several IB international schools which are very expensive, and several other international schools (not IB) which are of varying quality, some pretty good. I wouldn't send my kids to the Cambodian public schools.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Nannies are cheap, and several preschools exist. I haven't used them.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Not many, but the local expat community sometimes organizes events.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Lots of expatriates, but there are three basic types--the professional NGO and government workers, the backpacker-type English teachers and volunteers, and the long-term expats who teach English or maybe moved here to start a business. They tend to stick in their own circles, with only occasional mingling, and sometimes exhibit disdain for one another. You can be very happy here, there's a large expat community with lots to do and regular events, but choose your social group wisely as it's also not difficult to get sucked into troublesome circles.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There are exercise clubs, music clubs, poetry clubs, gaming clubs--really almost any hobby you could come up with, there's a group for it. Regular events too like art shows, trivia nights, and sports events.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It depends on what you're looking for. I know people from all three groups--some are happy, some are not. There are a lot of options here and your experience will probably be what you make of it. I had a lot of fun with my partner going to events and exploring together. There's a stereotype that Western men who move here only want to date local women, but I'm not sure how true that is. There do seem to be more single women than men.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Cambodia is very tolerant in general. Khmer LGBT people may experience discrimination and often won't come out to their families, but violence is very uncommon. I think LGBT expats get by just fine. Some clubs in Phnom Penh have regular drag nights, there are a couple of gay/lesbian bars, and there is a burgeoning LGBT culture.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

"Soft" discrimination against women, but expats, as always, have it easier than locals. There's some prejudice against people of color due to the culture (white skin means educated and rich, dark skin means poor peasants), and there's often suspicion towards black people because there have been some very public criminal incidents involving African nationals (mostly Nigerian) over the past several years. It's normal here for people to point out physical characteristics, including skin color, and it's not considered hurtful or rude. People will also ask questions that may seem very personal ("Are you married? Do you have children? Why not?") but it's all part of getting to know you here.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Getting to know local people has really made my time here pleasant. Speaking Khmer with locals opens a lot of doors to cultural experiences I wouldn't have had otherwise, and it changes the way people interact with you. You feel less like a walking dollar sign and more like a human. Khmer culture values harmony and maintaining a humble, positive vibe and generally just being chill will earn you a lot of street cred around here.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Kampot is a beautiful little coastal city and you should definitely spend some time there. Siem Reap is touristy but a can't-miss place. Sihanoukville has some nice beaches but can be a little seedy. I hear wonderful things about Mondulkiri but haven't been myself.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Lots to be found at many markets, but be careful, it's not all ethical. The garment factories are legendary for treating workers poorly (as in, people have died!), and anything wood could come from an illegally logged forest. I've even seen ivory in some markets. Shop fair trade--there are lots of options!

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Rich culture, lots of culinary adventures to be had, a diverse community of expats to hang out with, generally pretty affordable compared to the US although more expensive than you'd expect for a developing country and considering the average local salary.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I actually did a lot of research before moving but some realizations only come with time and experience. Like learning how to interact with locals on their terms rather than coming in like a know-it-all Westerner.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, I'm glad for my time here, but I don't think I'd want to move back. There is a lot of beauty but also a lot of heartbreak.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Superior attitude, winter clothes, stash of Western snacks.

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4. But don't forget your:

Good running shoes, comfortable clothes, a theft-proof bag, and smile.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

First They Killed My Father (book and movie), In the Shadow of the Banyan, Don't Think I've Forgotten, The Killing Fields.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Samnang laor!

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Phnom Penh, Cambodia 10/24/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. Previous postings (though it has been many years) in West Africa, Eastern Europe and Thailand.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Pacfic Northwest USA. About an 18-hour flight usually through Seoul or Tokyo.

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3. How long have you lived here?

We lived in Phnom Penh from mid 2011 to mid 2015.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

The first year and a half we had a modern spacious apartment; then we moved a bit south to a gated community, stand-alone house (4 bedroom) with a small "yard." Embassy and other USG housing is shifting from the apartments to houses.


If your kids are in the International School of Phnom Penh it might be a good idea to be south of BKK 1 which is the main expat enclave, because ISPP has opened its new campus about 15 minutes south of there.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can get anything you need or want in Phnom Penh though you may not find it all in one place. Of course you may not find exact brands. Imported items like berries are expensive but overall things are moderately priced. shopping in local markets for local fruits and vegetables is very cheap. There are decent grocery stores in addition to many markets and now big malls.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I really did not miss much except specific microbrews and a few specialty items or perhaps some pet supplies.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Everything and anything of varying quality but generally this is easy and cheap and there are many many great restaurants and bars in the Penh.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

No, typical tropical stuff like occasional sugar ants, but overall nowhere near as bad as I would have thought.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Diplomatic Pouch. I never used local mail.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Good availability. A full time housekeeper/cook costs around $250 per month. Quality varies but overall our experiences were good.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

New places open up all the time and there are numerous options including at the big hotels like Sofitel. Prices vary.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I rarely (never? ) used credit cards. It's a cash economy and the US dollar is widely accepted.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Don't know.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None, but speaking Khmer even passably will be much appreciated, and will greatly open up and enrich your experience.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, it is not easy to access places (crazy-high sidewalks in disrepair, no real ramp access for wheel chairs etc. Crazy traffic and parking would make navigating outdoors a challenge for blind folks I think.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yuk Tuks are relatively safe and easy. Moto taxis are available but risky. Many expats I know bought a scooter. Some rode bicycles but it also pretty risky because the traffic and driving is crazy.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

It's not really high speed but it is good enough for streaming. Cost varies but we paid $100 per month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Bring an unlocked phone and get a local sim. Very easy and cheap.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Yes there is one European Vet (Agrovet)that is decent though resources were limited. Bringing pets in and out was easy. No quarantine.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Teaching and other opportunities abound where permitted. Not sure about current status of bilateral work agreements. My spouse worked at the International School.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual for work and casual in public though somewhat conservative (short-shorts and bare shoulders are viewed as disrespectful). More conservative dress is expected at temples.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Phnom Penh is rated "critical threat" for crime and we had 24-hour embassy guards at our house. However, though purse snatching is a common occurrence, exercising basic precautions, not walking alone later at night, not flashing money in public, etc etc will keep you pretty safe. I never felt threatened and Phnom Penh seemed to me like one of the safest places I have lived.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Dengue fever is a concern though less so in the city. Food handling is not always sanitary and I advise against eating street food. There is a Thai hospital that is pretty good and an internationally-staffed clinic but serious issues will usually require medical evacuation to Bangkok. Decent dental care is available.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

It can be dusty in the dry season and there is some trash burning. It is not terrible.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

I don't know. My son has hay fever in the US but was completely fine in Cambodia. There is MSG in a lot of food I think so that might be an issue. It would be hard to avoid fish or nuts if you have those allergies.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

No.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It is hot except for a couple of months in the "cool" season. There are torrential downpours in rainy season but they tend to just last a few hours. Overall it is sunny year-round. I loved it.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The International School of Phnom Penh is excellent and my kids had a great experience there. I have several friends whose kids attended ICAN and loved it. The French School also got good reviews.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I don't think there is much.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, but my experience is limited.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, lots of activities through the school and elsewhere.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Phnom Penh is a relatively small town but I felt like there are lots and lots of expats here. Morale is generally good -- Phnom Penh is an easy place to live overall.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Lots of going out to eat, meeting friends at bars, entertaining at home. There are cinemas, a bowling alley, ice skating and a kid-tastic indoor play place and climbing gym, with more things appearing all the time. Lots of people have book clubs or movie clubs and there is organized sports like soccer.



There is a country club with horseback riding and archery and lots of stuff like that though it is a bit far out. Golf is easily accessible and inexpensive, tennis courts, swimming pools and fairly inexpensive lessons are readily available.



Fun markets to poke around in, shopping etc. Lots to do for the imaginative and open-minded.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I had single friends who had a great time here, it is good for families for sure. Most people seemed to like it. It is what you make of it.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes, Cambodians are very open and non-judgmental in my experience.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes lots of sexism and gender equality issues among Cambodians. Prejudice against the Vietnamese and ethnic minorities exists.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The Cambodian people are lovely and the country has an amazing and rich -- though tragic -- history. It was a privilege to learn about it. Angkor Wat is amazing! Good beach trips (if you can get over the trash issue)and places like Kampt and Battambang are gems. It is also really easy and relatively cheap to travel to other great SE Asia destinations from Phnom Penh.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

One of the most memorable things we did was to rent boats and cruise on the Mekong River with friends. Many wonderful memories!

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Yes tons to buy here though I suspect much of it is imported from Thailand! Silk, of course but so many other cool things. A visit to Art Street or the Russian Market are rewarding. Lots of innovative things being made by the gazillion NGOs.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It may be the least expensive place I have ever lived. You can literally get anything done or made if you just ask. Lots of cool and interesting people to meet. Great travel.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I think I knew what I needed to know. Like anything else your expectations make it what it is. Be open and relaxed and flexible, take necessary precautions and enjoy this place. Things will certainly drive you crazy but overall it is pretty great.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Bad attitude and complaining; winter clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

Flip flops, sunscreen, sense of wonder.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Cambodia's Curse

The Killing Fields

Don't Think I've Forgotten: A Lost History of Cambodia's Rock n Roll

The Missing Picture

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Phnom Penh, Cambodia 05/18/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Others Asian and European cities.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

U.S. takes 18-22 hours and 1-3 days (depending on the routing). Most direct is through Tokyo but others go through Seoul (or even Singapore).

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years in the traffic-filled, noisy, construction dust, purse-snatching expat neighborhood of massage parlors, coffee shops, "international schools," and fast food restaurants known as "BKK1" living in a locally-built mid-rise noisy apartment house.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Assigned by my government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

BKK1 mid-rise apartments are filled with loud/noisy neighbors. BKK1 stand-alone houses are disappearing and converting to businesses/big apartment blocks. People are moving farther south to a few gated communities. If you want to live like a local, then you can get a cheap room rental for a cuople hundred bucks. Expat apartments are usually US$1,300-2,300/month. Things are surprisingly expensive for housing/living like rents, restaurants, and groceries (more expensive than Thailand or Vietnam).

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Can buy things but not always in stock. Pencil carries a good variety of Thai or Vietnamese-made household stuff. AEON Mall has a grocery store with Japanese products. Thai Hout carries a lot of French household products and food.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

More nuts, chocolate, and my favorite detergent/soaps. Anything imported is expensive and you don't know what the importers will want to buy.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Burger King. Some Japanese restaurants. KFC. Normal to a bit higher than U.S./Japan prices.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Ants of many types. Cambodian city rats are the fattest/ugliest around and you'll have them in every yard or parking garage. Normal cockroaches for Asia. Mosquitos abundant along with malaria and dengue fever. Flies with their usual nasty little diseases. In some darker sidewalks, you will find human execrement. Some companies will provide mosquito nets to its expat employees.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Local mail has worked for me to send/receive letters to neighboring countries. FedEx is also surprisingly fast from the United States.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Your US$250 or whatever a month means a lot to help them move up in the world and to support their family. Yes, pay for their English class, driving class, cooking school, etc. It's just a small amount of money to you but will increase their life-long earning potential. In reality, it's really hard for one person to live on US$90-100/month in Phnom Penh. They also need money for school supplies, their family, an occassional t-shirt and for a treat.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit cards are only used at hotels and big restaurants. Cash is better but US$20 bills and lower.

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4. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes. Not many sidewalks. Even then, they are taken-over by plants, motos, and cars. Streets have pot-holes. Very hot and noisy outside. The only blind people we see are beggars playing flutes while being led by a young boy with a string (or working in Japanese shiatsu-type Seeing Eye massage shops). The deaf live in isolation without education or sign language.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Just started a local bus service in the city. Cheap but not sure how often (or where) it runs. Local buses are popular with backpackers to other cities - but they seem to often crash.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Anything Toyota; especially Land Cruisers, Highlanders, Camry. Kia Vistos. Just think like you're the most obnoxious, Type-A driver in the USA and buy the biggest/showiest SUV with tinted windows. You will fit in perfectly. Import duty is 85% of the government's estimated car cost according to engine size. Haven't heard of carjackings as much as moto jackings. (Maybe coz the locals have off-duty cops riding shotgun as body guards and supposedly a lot of people have a gun in their car.)

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Phone & Internet:

1. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Just buy a cheap local phone and use it until it gets stolen. Keep an eye out in the Phnom Penh Post for the latest calling promotion.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots of teaching jobs because most people stop school before finishing high school. Take your pick: girls, poor kids, etc.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Expats are rich. Should dress the part at least with a tie if you're a teacher or office worker.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Tons of purse-snatchings which can lead to hospital stays and death. An occassional home burglary in the expat neighborhood leading to death. Occassional casino robberies in the neighborhood where winners have been robbed/shot outside their apartment. Reports of people getting their laptop stolen either a.) as they're sitting in a coffee shop using it or b.) while carrying it across the street to get to that coffee shop/mini-mart. People getting car parts like side mirrors stolen.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Yes; malaria, dengue fever, chicken pox/measles, cholera, bird flu, infections, etc. Bad health care. Even the King goes to China for his medical checks. Middle class goes to Vietnam. Upper middle class to Thailand and the rich to Singapore/United States. The only time you'd visit an expensive/limited international clinic because of a life-threatening illness. To Calmette hospital for a traffic accident. Buy your medevac insurance!!

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

City is at the base of four rivers so our "soil" is sand which leaks out and gets blown around. So it can get dusty. You also have the "dust" from multiple construction sites at different stages. I just cleaned-out my vacuum cleaner and had to get out the tootbrush to remove what appears to be cement at the bottom.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

MSG is here (and some of us love it). Pork is abundant. Not many nuts in dishes coz nuts are expensive imports.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Great weather. Sunnier than Jakarta. About the same as Ho Chi Minh City. Only 2-3 months a year when it's not humid. Otherwise hot and humid the rest of the year. Can get big rain which means some streets flood within 5 minutes (then 45 minutes after the rain stops the streets usually unflood). But this is water mixed-in with raw sewage and can get into your car; so think about that! And water-borne cholera.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Only that there's an "international school" on every other block.

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

See above answer but if I had young kids I wouldn't bring them to Cambodia because there are too many observed and reported crimes involving children as victims (think pedophiles, seriously).

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Expat Life:

1. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Eating, drinking, traveling, seeing a movie at one of three theaters. Some expats focus on religious recruitment.

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2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Families and single men seem to like it the best. Couples and other singles would find it too small, dirty, moderately expensive (except alochol) and BORING. Plus even the locals get inside their home and lock the gates around 8:30 p.m. It's still dangerous at night because of crime and drunk drivers. Lots of hit and runs. Crimes don't get solved here.

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3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Probably although the Royal Government hasn't followed the lead of the late King-Father to allow same-sex marriage or equal rights. It's a taboo subject in general but the population is Buddhist which are more tolerant and understanding than more Western-orientated dogmatic religions.

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4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Like other Asian countries, Africans aren't treated well. They seem to allow the Mormons, Baptists, and others to do their recruitment thing all over the country. The only Catholics are the Philippinos and the down-trodden ethnic Vietnamese.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Weather is usually pretty sunny. It's just hot and humid (sometimes with rain/flooding). Seeing Siem Reap and Angkor Wat a few times since can get there through US$12-15 buseses and cheap guest houses.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There's some temple on a mountain on the outskirts of town. The only hidden gem in Phnom Penh would be the latest hidden bar or expat restaurant.

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Tailored clothes and rough wood carvings. Best bet are inexpensive semi-precious stones like smokey topaz and enhanced stones.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Hardship differiential, cheap hired help and tuk-tuk drivers. Tuk-tuks are fine for a while. But better just to buy a car instead of relying on a tuk-tuk driver. You can always use the extra money to hire another maid. Locals don't earn much so it's nice to spread the wealth; especially to the poorer young adults with little education.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How dirty the sidewalks and streets were.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Attitude. No one care about how things are done in your country. Standing in line, not spitting, not tossing trash on the ground everywhere, not pissing in the street.

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3. But don't forget your:

Umbrella.

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4. Do you have any other comments?

If you come here, be nice to everyone (but don't let the tuk-tuk drivers and touts walk all over you). Learn 5 words/phrases in Khmer and use them. That's enough and it'll be a nice thing.

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Phnom Penh, Cambodia 02/13/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

2nd expat experience. Previously lived in Africa.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

United States is home base. The trip is long...too long. Common routing was through Seoul or a hop over to Bangkok first and then there were various options from Bangkok.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2013-2014.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government - U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

I lived in The Hamptons apartments in the BKK neighborhood. It was spacious and adequate for us. However, the kitchen was small and closet space limited. Expat housing location and amenities vary widely depending on if you're with the diplomatic community or with an NGO. Diplomats are often in BKK or Bassac. NGOers were spread around the city. Phnom Penh is a small city and most commutes in the central part of the city would likely be 20-40 minutes.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

If you shop local, it will be cheap. If you shop for Western products, it will probably be more expensive and you may have to drive to several stores to find what you're looking for. If you have special products/foods you use/eat, bring them. I had a housekeeper who did our shopping for basic groceries and cleaning supplies, which made life easier and cheaper for me.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Stock up on summer clothes, tank tops, sandals, flip flops. It's hot! Most Western style clothing is either too small (in the open markets) or too expensive (in the chic boutiques). But there are plenty of tailors who can make clothing to fit.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Sadly, more Western fast food joints are popping up. BKK now has a Burger King, KFC, and Domino's Pizza.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes - there's no malaria in Phnom Penh, but they do carry dengue fever. Lots of ants in pretty much everyone's home.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We used the mail service through the Embassy.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Very available and very cheap. Depending on the exact hours and duties, you could hire a part-time person for about US$200 a month.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

I was a member of The Place gym. Membership was US$650 a year (with an embassy discount) and included full use of the facilities (including pool) and all exercise classes. The Place is in BKK and was a 10-minute walk from my house. I loved it, went 2-3 times a week, and left Phnom Penh in possibly the best shape of my life.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I never carried or used ATM or credit cards.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Not necessary. Many expats didn't learn it and didn't need it. Cambodians speak pretty good English and most signs are in English. However, the moment you jump in a tuk-tuk with a driver who nods that he knows where you want to go and five minutes later you discover he doesn't and he also doesn't speak a lick of English, you'll want to know how to say "Turn left on St 51." So, you should invest some time in learning tuk tuk directions (straight, left, right, stop) and numbers.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Anyone with mobility issues would have significant difficulties. I can't recall many handicapped-accessible features anywhere and no wheelchair ramps, unless you count the ramps used by motos to drive up onto the sidewalk.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Tuk-tuks are the best! Most one-way trips cost US$2. I hired a regular tuk-tuk driver who took me to and from work every day. I would also use him on evenings and weekends for dinners or errands. During the day, I felt comfortable hailing any tuk-tuk driver. But at night, I preferred to have a driver I knew lined up. The biggest security concern with tuk-tuks is not the actual driver, but to keep an eye on your bags since a moto can easily drive right up next to you, reach in, steal your stuff, and drive off.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We had a Honda CRV, which was a great car for us, and we never had issues getting parts/service. In the city, you can get by quite well with tuk-tuks and motos without needing a car at all. But we liked having the car for weekend trips or late nights out when tuk-tuks might be harder to come by. A smaller car is probably better for maneuvering the busy streets, but bigger vehicles do rule the roads. Any car would probably do; I'm not aware of any import restrictions. Security while in a car is not a problem, except you need to be alert not to run over the motos darting in front of you.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

My internet was great. It was provided free by my apartment building, so I don't know the company or cost.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

My husband had an unlocked I-phone and bought top-up cards available at almost any street corner vendor.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

If flying through Bangkok, be sure to double-check airline pet policies and pet visa requirements. Entry into Cambodia was easy, with no quarantine or regulations beyond the usual rabies shot and health certificate. Most expats use Agrovet veterinarian, which is very good. I brought all cat food/litter with me. As seems usual overseas, pet food is expensive in Phnom Penh. The city overall has very, very little green space for dogs.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

It's okay, but competitive. Just showing up as an expat isn't going to get you a job, or even a volunteer gig. You need to have a marketable skill.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty, but you should do your research to be sure any organization is reputable and not engaging in child tourism.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Work - business casual or lower. Public - very casual. Flip flops rule the day in Cambodia.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

There is a lot of bag snatching - about one embassy member a month was a victim. So I was always on guard when I walked around with a bag or purse. Without a bag, I felt free and easy. I never let it hinder my activities. I would leave my purse at home when possible, only carry a small amount of cash, and never carry ATM/credit cards.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The healthcare system in Cambodia is very weak. You will likely travel to Bangkok or Singapore for almost anything beyond the common cold or a sprained ankle. Many people have tummy troubles (or worse) from the food, although I didn't personally. There's nothing else I can point to as a particular health concern.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

I have asthma and allergies and the air quality seemed fine to me - except, of course, when you're riding in a tuk-tuk stuck behind a truck spewing exhaust...duh.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

I have asthma and allergies and the air quality seemed fine to me - except, of course, when you're riding in a tuk-tuk stuck behind a truck spewing exhaust...duh

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot and hotter. May-October is rainy season, which had some spectacular downpours, localized flooding in Phnom Penh, and more dramatic flooding in the provinces.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

There are a lot of expats in Phnom Penh, due to the high number of NGOs. I would say the expat community is divided into two groups. There are the people who just absolutely LOVE Cambodia, think it's the best place in the world, and never want to leave. And there are the people who think Cambodia is alright, but a bit boring, and are ready to leave after twelve months. I was in the 2nd group.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

If you don't like to eat out, there's not a whole lot of other activities going on. People didn't seem to host many large dinners/parties/gatherings at their homes, so evenings and weekends could get boring. Phnom Penh is a sleepy city. Cambodians go to bed early and wake up early. So there's not a lot of nightlife except on St 51 or the Waterfront. After hitting the major destinations (Silk Island, Udong temple, Killing Fields), I didn't find many good day/one night trips driving distance from Phnom Penh.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think singles are bored and families with young children find a lack of activities for them. Couples with kids age 8-18 seemed happiest. Phnom Penh is not a happening city.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Not sure. Probably better to maintain a low profile.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

No overt racial prejudice, to my knowledge. Cambodians don't exhibit strong religious prejudice, although I think they assume all other Cambodians are Buddhist. Men are certainly considered the head of household. Cambodians won't hesitate to stare if they see something different or odd to them.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Internal trips to Siem Reap/Angkor temples. Regional travel to Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Hum...Phnom Penh doesn't have a lot going on and is pretty much an open book in terms of activities to do. I think Wat Phnom is one of the nicest spots in the city and many people give it a miss. Weekly foot massages and pedicures are a nice treat. Siem Reap/Angkor Wat is a 45-minute flight away and is great for seeing the temples and is a fun city to visit. Bangkok is a 1-hour flight away; many other vacation spots are in easy flight distance. Beaches are a 3-4 hour drive, too far for me for a weekend, but great for a 3-day trip.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Silk fabric/clothing/accessories, tailored clothing, Buddha statues

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Phnom Penh is a very easy place to live. It's also cheap. You can easily hire domestic help and not break the bank. There are a gazillion restaurants with every type of cuisine Americans are used to eating, including Mexican! Restaurants are cheap, so you can eat out all the time. Everything can be delivered to your home or the Embassy, including a single cup of coffee. I fell in love with the silk fabric. I had a ton of clothing made or altered by a tailor.

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10. Can you save money?

Absolutely!

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Our expectations were way too high. Phnom Penh is an okay place - not terrible, but not fabulous either. Phnom Penh is a concrete jungle. Most houses have concrete patios instead of yards. There is very little grass and few trees - although the U.S. Embassy grounds are a nice oasis of lawn, trees, and flowers. But if you need green space in your life, this is not the place for you.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I would still go for the first posting, with more tempered expectations. I don't think I would return for a second posting.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes. Fancy clothes. Expectations for a hip, happening city.

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4. But don't forget your:

Flip flops, bathing suit, bug spray, curiosity, patience.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

The Killing Fields,

Wish You Were Here,

City of Ghosts,

Same Same But Different

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider [HD] (only to see the scenes shot at Angkorian temples)
There are various Khmer Rouge movies, but they weren't as good as I'd hoped.

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land,

The Rent Collector,

The Land I Lost.

There are various other Khmer Rouge memoirs (The Gate; First They Killed My Father; When Broken Glass Floats), but they didn't resonate with me as much as the first one I read. Much of the narrative is similar. Pick one and you'll be good.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Phnom Penh is an easy city to live in, but not an exciting one. You'll make what you want of it. And a lot of that will depend on the people who are there with you and social circle you develop to make your own fun.

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Phnom Penh, Cambodia 08/13/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, I have also lived in Malawi, Congo, and Brunei.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

From the East Coast it is about 14 1/2 hours to Seoul, then another 8 hours on to Cambodia.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

In BKK 1 the houses are big but on the older side. Most of the houses in the city have a small front yard but a backyard is rare. Apartments generally have workout facilities and pools but limited, if any, green space. There are two main gated communities, Bassac Gardens and Borei Chamkar Morn. Both have a good neighborhood feel to them and would be good for kids who want to ride their bikes and play. Bassac also has a small Canadian preschool and a shopping center with a Western grocery store and several other shops opening.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can get anything here, for a price. Groceries (especially fresh fruit) that has to be shipped here can be very high priced -- but it is available. It's better to eat fruit that is in season here as it is very cheap and delicious. Same goes for household supplies, use the local brands and it won't cost much, but can be cheaply made too. If you are not wanting to switch brands then I would suggest either shipping consumables in advance or preparing to spend a lot of money.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

More consumables like shampoo for which I don't want to switch brands.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There is KFC, Dairy Queen and Burger King. There are also several knock-off fast food places like Lucky Burger (McDonald's), Pizza Company (Pizza Hut) and Fatboys (Subway). All have prices similar to the U.S. You can also find just about any kind of food here for a reasonable price. And you can have pretty much anything you want delivered to your door (hot cup of coffee, pint of ice cream, a meal that is still hot). With all the choices available you'll find that you end up ordering in or going out more than you ever cook.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Ants get into everything. Even things that are sealed up can be compromised. It's best to keep anything sweet or easy to get into in the fridge. There are also lots of mosquitos, and as dengue fever is a problem here, you should be careful not to get bit. You will see cockroaches around (usually at night) but they generally stay outside the house.

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Daily Life:

1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Most people have a housekeeper at least, sometimes a gardener, driver, cook or nanny too. You can put up an ad for househelp or hire someone's housekeeper as they are leaving. Most of them speak at least a little English and are always wanting to learn more. However it can be very frustrating as most of them will happily nod their heads yes they understand what you're saying when they have no clue. You may go through several before you find someone who fits your needs.

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2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes there are gyms around the city, though some may not be up to most U.S. standards. Most of the hotels have gyms that you can join and some of the bigger ones have tennis courts and a pool. There is also the Cambodian Country Club which is just outside of town (down the road from North Bridge) which has tennis courts, a swimming pool, horseback riding, a playground, basketball courts, a restaurant, a skate park, and is currently building some apartments. There is also a gym at the Embassy.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Some of the bigger hotels will accept credit cards (with steep overhead charges) but otherwise it is best and easiest to use cash for everything. Make sure to have plenty of small bills (ones, fives, tens) when you arrive because you will be using them for everything.

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4. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

The Cambodia Daily is a good English summary of Khmer and international news. There are a few English channels, though it's mostly reality shows, CSI and Nat Geo. You can use a VPN to watch Netflix or Hulu.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Lots of people speak a little English but people tend to be happier when they know at least a little Khmer. Cambodians are very appreciative if you attempt to speak their language and a simple "thank you" in Khmer goes a long way.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Loads. The sidewalks are barely pedestrian accessible as they are used for parking and are littered with trash and chunks of rock and tile.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are safe as long as you use a service, you can call them to pick you up. There are some buses that the locals use which are small and have no AC, most people don't take them. There are bigger buses with AC that will take you to villages outside of Phnom Penh, but they tend to be crazy drivers as they are the biggest car on the road so they can get away with it. Tuk tuks are a good option for traveling around the city. Most people find a driver that they like and just call them when they need a ride, or you can pick one up almost anywhere. A regular tuk tuk ride (a few blocks) costs about two dollars, same with a taxi.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

I would recommend not bringing a very long car as parking could be tricky, most places have pretty limited parking. If you plan on doing a lot of driving outside of Phnom Penh then an SUV might be best for the dirt roads. Otherwise, any car works here.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

We use Ezeecom, it is pretty good, I can stream movies and video easily, though at peak times it can be slow. It goes out every once in a while but is usually back up after an hour or so. We pay US$175 a month for 4GB unlimited service. There are cheaper deals too though.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Bring an unlocked cell phone and you can get a sim card here (have your housekeeper do it, otherwise you will need to bring your passport). You can get phones here but they are all knock-offs at the same price as U.S. equivalents.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

I think it's best if you learn how to groom your own animal so you don't have to try and deal with that here. Most people just pay their housekeeper a little more to look after their animal if they leave. If you need a vet there is Agrovet, I haven't been there, though.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Teachers are always welcome. Lots of expats have started restaurants here. Labor is very cheap here though, so most places prefer to hire Cambodians.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Work is pretty casual, but you can also dress the same as you would in DC. Most women wear work skirts or pants with a nice blouse or a dress. Men wear wear a suit or pants and a button up shirt. In public dress the same as you would in the U.S. but slightly more conservatively (not super short shorts, short skirts, spaghetti tank tops, etc.).

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Petty theft, ocassional break-ins, demonstrations. Just keep your wits about you and you should be fine. Be wary of tuk tuks after dark (pay attention during the day too though), don't carry anything with you you wouldn't be willing to lose. Don't take out anything of value in a tuk tuk, people will drive by and snatch it from you.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care isn't great, basic injuries can be treated here but most people go to Bangkok.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

There is constant constuction in the city and as a result the air is always filled with dust. No matter how much you clean your porch, within and hour it will be covered in a fine layer of dust again.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot and dry and hot and wet. During "winter" you will see Cambodians bundle up in winter coats as it gets down to a chilly 85 F. At night it can be plasantly cool, though.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There is the International School of Phnom Penh and Northbridge. ISPP is in BKK 1 and so very accessable for most families. Northbridge is just outside of town (about a 1 hour drive) so not many Americans go there, though I have heard that it has very nice facilities.

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2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

There are some after-school activities for kids and sometimes ISPP will work with the Cambodian Country Club to have kids go after school for horseback riding lessons, swimming or tennis. Kids can also take tennis or swimming lessons at hotels.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Pretty big; there are a lot of Europeans here that tend to hang out at a lot of the same places. You will easily find all the expat hangouts.

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2. Morale among expats:

Fairly high, I think. The community gets along quite well (excusing the older gentlemen who hang out at bars with young Khmer girls).

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, yes and yes. Phnom Penh is very family friendly but has plenty for everyone to do.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I have not heard of any incidences.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Cambodians are very friendly towards w]Westerners, especially Americans. I have heard however that some people with darker skin have a bit harder of a time here.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

In Phnom Penh there are movie theaters, lazer tag, ice skating, rock climbing, lots of cafes and malls to hang out at, markets, historical sites and spas. Just outside of Phnom Penh there is Oudong, and a couple hours away is Kep where you can see the ocean and explore the crab market. About 7 hours away there are more beaches with sand, and a little further are the Wats. There are lots of Wats though, so definitely make several trips up there because each one is unique.

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Statues, scarves, fried tarantulas.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

There is lots to see in Phnom Penh and just outside of it, if you can stand the heat. There are many great places to visit besides Angkor Wat, like the beaches (some only a couple of hours away), and the villages can be fun to explore too if you're more adventurous. The culture is very rich here and you won't get tired of seeing monks hopping on the back of motos or tuk tuks for a quick ride.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't only buy very Western things.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Logic (seriously, no one uses it here), winter clothes, bad attitude.

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3. But don't forget your:

Smile, all the patience you have, kitchen knives (knives here are very dull).

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4. Do you have any other comments?

Fair warning, the driving here is often described as the "wild west" and that's pretty accurate. People go where they want without regard for any laws and the police will only enforce the law when they see someone doing something wrong that they think they could get a bribe out of. Cambodia is certainly an interesting post and it can exhaust you after a while but you will make lasting friendships out of it.

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Phnom Penh, Cambodia 01/16/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. This is my fourth expat experience.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

West Coast, USA. Trip time varies depending on your connections. Best connection currently is via Taiwan.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Over two years. Still living here.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Working for an NGO.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Lots of selection to choose from. BKK I is sort of the prime location, in terms of centrality. Many properties are also ridiculously overpriced, meaning it's favored by moneyed expats. Tuol Kork is home to hundreds of lavish (and some not so lavish) villas, and prices are more reasonable. The commute can be hellish, however, unless your office is in the right area. Chroy Changvar (over the Japanese Bridge) is cheap and sort of up-and-coming. Lots of new properties, which is a plus. But it's also far from the center. The riverside area is also popular, but can be expensive. Some good price/location ratio areas include BKK III, Russian Market and Boeung Trabek. One note: even in Tuol Kork, the commute might only be an hour at peak traffic times. Yes, this qualifies as "hellish" in Phnom Penh. But keep in mind that Phnom Penh is fairly compact, and that's an hour to do maybe 10-12 km (or less). Also, one of the nice things about this place is its compactness. It's a great place for going out at night, hitting bars and restaurants, walking along the river, etc. Being out in Tuol Kork could distract from that experience for some. One last general note about housing quality: It's fairly poor compared to other places in the region. Natural gas is bought in canisters and central hot water is pretty rare, though becoming more common in fancy new apartment buildings. Many kitchens resemble dungeons with little aside from a concrete "workbench" (this is where your "stove" goes - a camping-style device that plugs into your canister of cooking gas). Cabinets are a luxury. Bathrooms can be downright terrifying. Obviously conditions vary greatly, and things are improving as more foreigners come and more apartments are remodeled and constructed. If you pay, there's always something out there (though it might be on the sterile side). But the price-quality ratio seems a bit out of whack overall.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Very cheap compared to the west, though prices can be high if you go only for stuff imported from outside the region. There are plenty of good grocery stores, foreign bakeries, foreign butchers, wine shops, liquor stores, and other specialty shops. You can find almost anything, though you often have to make more than one stop while you're shopping.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

KFC is still the only major international fast-food chain, though I believe there are one or two Korean ones as well. There are local imitations. Of course, "real" local fast food can be found in markets, little restaurants, and street stalls. As has been mentioned here, Cambodian food is not quite as good as its neighbors, but it can grow on you if you give it a chance, try different things, and go beyond the obvious. Even if it doesn't grow on you, you will be spoiled for choice in terms of international cuisines. The choice is amazing for a city of this size. You can find virtually anything here, and prices tend to be reasonable. Many do delivery as well. Eating out (or ordering takeout) is definitely one of the pleasures of living here. We don't cook nearly as much as we used to in other places ...

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Labeled organic products can be found at a few places, as can gluten-free.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes can be bad, and some carry dengue fever. Ants are an annoyance, infesting random foods that are left out and even squeezing (or eating their way) through air tight Tupperware and plastic bags. Stuff like sugar has to go in the fridge. We can't leave bread out for more than a couple of hours. It will be covered in ants. Cockroaches are a part of life, but they mostly leave you alone.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The post office, but many advise against it. Getting a PO Box is best, or having things delivered to your place of employment. There's no regular home delivery service. Some have reported thefts from packages, and disappearing packages as well.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Help is relatively cheap, but price varies depending on language skills, experience, the job to be done, and, frankly, what you want to pay. I've heard prices as low as $100-120/month for a full-time housekeeper/nanny who doesn't speak English or French. More common is something in the $150-$200 range. I suggest paying even more if you find someone you really like. It can be very hard to find the right mix of skills (especially language). It's very useful to have someone around who can help with all the various issues that arise, from calling the cooking gas guy when the tank runs out, to knowing where to get some random item, to translating when your landlord sends a guy for to fix the electrical wiring. It's like anywhere else: The right person can make a household run so much smoother. The wrong person can create a lot of frustration.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Generally no problem, though lots of the banks charge about a $4 access fee (on top of whatever your home bank charges). It usually makes more sense to open a local account.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Two major papers - the Phnom Penh Post and the Cambodia Daily. Both do a good job of covering local events and carry a selection of wire stories. Cable TV runs around $100/year and has a dozen or so English channels, plus channels in other languages as well.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You can get by without much, but knowing a little will help in various ways, from getting you a bit closer to the culture, to getting better prices at the market (sometimes!). A food-related words go a long way when you walk into a random restaurant in the provinces, where there's no English menu and no one speaks a word of English.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Many. Sidewalks are for parking and driving your motorbike on, not for walking. Elevators are pretty rare.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Affordable, yes. Safe - more or less. Some bus drivers drive like maniacs, but they're the biggest vehicles on the road, so people tend to get out of the way. It's less safe for chickens, cows, and people on motorbikes.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

The Toyota Camry is still the king of the road here, though occasionally they seem outnumbered by Lexuses. Various 4WD models are also popular and quite useful. A 4WD isn't strictly necessary for day-to-day driving, but higher clearance can be very convenient due to the bumpy/pot-holed roads. Also good for road trips -- plenty of waterfalls, caves, and tourist sites that require heading 10-15 km down dirt roads.

Lots of people make do with a small scooter for getting around town. That's what most Cambodians use. Not the safest option, of course, but it's quick and economical. Rules of the road are a chaotic, but have a certain logic which you'll pick up on after driving a bit. It's not as scary as it looks at first. Car garages are a hassle. Repairs are usually cheap, but the quality of work and parts are poor, and it's not uncommon to have parts stripped (or disconnected, so that you have to come in for more repairs). Part of the fun, I guess ... having your own transport is still worth it.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet cannot be described as high-speed here. Our 1 MB connection is almost $90/month, and it goes out occasionally. Things have gotten better since we arrived, but it still has a long way to go. The latest thing is to use 3G modems that take 3G cell signals and route them through your computer. These are cheap (maybe $20-$30/month, depending on usage, for a 1 MB connection), but I've heard mixed reviews.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cheap and easy to get a SIM card, with tons of companies to choose from. If you have a smartphone, unlimited data plans only run about $5 a month. Much cheaper than back home! Coverage is decent in most places, but there are significant holes in remote areas, and 3G is only available in PP and the bigger provincial capitals.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Agrovet is a good French-run place with reasonable prices.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Yes. The English schools will hire anyone with a pulse, it seems, but salaries are fairly low and I've heard working conditions can leave something to be desired. There are a ton of NGOs, though competition is fairly intense. I've met many highly-qualified people who have been unable to find a job here. Often you have to be willing to work on a volunteer basis to start, to develop connections and a local reputation. The business community is quite large as well. Many expats open their own businesses -- bars, restaurants, shops, guesthouses, etc. In many ways this is a land of opportunity.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Relatively casual in the NGO world. It's hot -- not a place for a wool suit.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Nothing too serious. There are plenty of reports of petty crime, physical safety is rarely an issue. We've found Phnom Penh pretty safe, and have had no security issues whatsoever. But we've been careful and don't live in BKK I (which is Phnom Penh's primary upscale expat area). We've met plenty of people who've had run-ins, though. Usually break-ins or late-night muggings coming back through BKK I or the streets off the riverside. Common sense and the adoption of preventative habits goes a long way. Make sure your house has bars. Lock up your house religiously, even if you're just popping out for a second. Don't leave anything by the windows. Be aware of your surroundings and don't lose control if you're out drinking. And so on.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Yes - dengue is an issue, and there is some malaria in the provinces. Plenty of gastrointestinal stuff to go around as well, plus your usual assortment of tropical diseases. Riding a moto is also hazardous to your health. I've seen some pretty harrowing accidents. Medical care is pretty poor. You have to go to Bangkok or Singapore for serious stuff (or at least you *should* go there for serious stuff!)

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Surprisingly good, but seems to be getting worse as the city develops.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The seasons are hot, hotter, and hottest. December and January can be quite nice, actually, and the good weather can occasionally stretch into November and/or February. But generally it's hot and humid. There are intense downpours during the rainy season, but the showers typical for the tropics -- somewhat fleeting and you don't have entire days ruined by rain.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are a few major ones, all of which seem to enjoy decent reputations - the International School of Phnom Penh, Northbridge, and Lycee Descartes (the French school).

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

No expat preschools available for kids under 18 months, probably because most foreigners have a nanny. After 18 months, there are a number of options. A full-time nanny is relatively cheap, but price varies depending on language skills, experience, and, frankly, what you want to pay. See below for more on that.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge, especially for a city/country of this size. Lots of French, but probably an equal number of Anglophone expats, if you add all Australians, Americans, Brits, etc.

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2. Morale among expats:

Great, generally. Lots of people on short-term assignments, so they don't have time to get down. But lots of long-termers as well. They might be a bit more jaded, but they're still here!

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Fantastic, as noted above. Hundreds of bars and restaurants, dirt-cheap prices, good food, good atmosphere, friendly locals and an interesting mix of people. Most entertaining is done outside the home, but there are some fantastic house parties as well.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Great for all, I think, though it can get a bit claustrophobic with kids. There's just not all that much to do, and we make it a point to try to leave for as long as possible during summer and school holidays. Most here have a blast with the dining and nightlife scene. It's lively, diverse, cheap, and a whole lot of fun. It can also be easy to go off the rails a bit, so watch out!

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I've heard it's decent. Not the largest or liveliest scene, perhaps, but at least it's not hostile.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not that I'm aware of.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Travel (Angkor Wat, the southern coast and trips in the region), great nightlife and an interesting group of friends, fascinating work experience, and just generally getting to know the country and its people.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There are a great many opportunities in Cambodia, a place which most tourists come to only for Angkor Wat. The coast is great, whether it be Kep, Kampot, Sihanoukville, Koh Kong, Ream National Park, or the islands. Each place has a slightly different speed. For the more adventurous, there are places like Mondulkiri, Rattanakiri, Preah Vihear, Kratie, etc. There aren't really any blockbuster tourist attractions outside Angkor, but if you can get over that, traveling around the country is great fun. Cambodia is also smack in the middle of Southeast Asia, though air connections leave something to be desired. They're starting to pick up. A connection to Myanmar was just added in 2011. Bangkok and KL are regularly served, as are places like Korea, Taiwan and China. You can also go overland quite easily to Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Prahok and deep-fried tarantulas.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Phnom Penh is all about balance. No one single aspect of life here is off-the-charts awful or fantastic, but the mix of factors is great. It's a nice balance between a comfort, cost of living, a little edginess, interesting work opportunities, friendly locals and interesting expats, and good travel opportunities. It's just about perfect in my opinion.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you want to.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Warm clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Bug spray.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Phnom Penh, Cambodia 08/09/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Home is VA, depending on the airline, it's about 2 layovers making the total trip 20-24 hours

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government; U.S. Embassy

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Houses are huge, either single family homes or apartments.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

There are U.S. products but it's very limited and pretty expensive. You will most likely have to go to 2 or 3 different places to complete your grocery shopping. We ordered alot through amazon.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

KFC, Lucky burger (comparable to McDonald's) BBWorld (comparable to Burger King); Pizza Co. (comparable to Pizza Hut) and many great International restaurants. The cost range is inexpensive to U.S. prices

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We receive mail through the Embassy via APO or pouch. APO is much quicker

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Domestic help is very inexpensive. I would recommend using someone that has worked for previous embassy families.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, they recently opened a nice new gym near most Embassy housing in the BKK area

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

We only used the ATM machine located in the Embassy.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

We had cable for $100 per year, Probably about 10-15 of the channels were in English. HBO, Max, Stars, AXN and others. The embassy provided and AFN box as well.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

It's always good to learn the local language but most everyone speaks enough English to get by. Even at the local markets.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It's difficult to get around sidewalks because they are crowded with people, motos or vendors.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

There are no trains, few taxis and buses are mainly for traveling far away. There are tuk-tuks which are commonly used and very affordable. Many people hire their own personal tuk tuk driver for their main form of transportation.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Definately bring a 4x4 truck or SUV.Rainy season brings heavy floods and most small cars gets flooded inside.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet is pricey, for high speed internet through EZCom was around $100 per month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Crime is the same as anywhere, don't bring too much cash, jewelry or expensive items. Purse snatchings are common. The houses are very secure with very high gates and razor wires surrounding the houses. All embassy homes have 24/7 guards

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

The air quality is very dry & humid.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The weather is very hot througout the whole year. There are 2 months during the year where it cools down to about 90 degrees. Rainy season is from April to August approximately and it rains everyday mostly in the afternoons.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are 2 International Schools, ISPP & Northbridge. ISPP is currently located within walking distance to most Embassy homes, but the facilites are very old and run down. Northbridge is a beautiful school (more like U.S. standards) but far from the Embassy & most Embassy homes.approximately 20-30 min depending on traffic.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

There are sports programs for kids attending the schools.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

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2. Morale among expats:

Very good.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Great! Many bars & clubs.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It's a great place for families, singles & couples.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Swimming & Parks

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The locals are very kind people, it is very inexpensive to live, eat & shop. Travel to other countries is very cheap and we saved alot of money througout our tour here.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, definately.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Coats, mittens and scarfs. It's hot all year.

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3. But don't forget your:

Shorts, flip-flops & umbrellas.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Killing Fields.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Phnom Penh, Cambodia 08/06/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

First Expat Experience

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Mid-West, It takes around 30 hours via Soul and Atlanta

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two Years, Summer 2009 - 2011

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Large air-conditioned houses with courters for live-in domestic staff

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

There are three supermarkets in town, it takes a few hours to find everything one needs, lots of driving around. Local markets sell fresh fish and vegetable.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, baby food, diapers.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Restaurants are plentiful and home delivery is very popular.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Organic vegetables available.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Dengue fever

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Diplomatic pouch.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Very affordable, nannies, cooks, maids, gardeners and drivers available. Some people have problems with stealing.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, gyms are available. Very nice facilities and pools. Membership costs around $750 / year.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Cash economy, cc only in five star hotels.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Cable is available for $60 / months. Cambodia Daily Newspaper is decent.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Impossible to live in a city like that, would not accommodate special needs.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Tuk-tuks are widely available, two reliable taxi services in town.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

SUV Toyota, good for rainy season and local repair shops are used to fixing those. Driving is frustrating, traffic is slow and there are no rules. Lot of people get drivers for around $250/month.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Very expensive, at least $100 / month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Top-up cards available.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

View All Answers


Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Volunteering

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business or business casual at work, very casual in public.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Purse snatching during the day, dangerous at night, not recommended to walk at night or use tuk-tuks, robberies and occasional shootings at night.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Health care is very poor. Most people fly to Bangkok or Singapore.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

No problems

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Tropical climate with rainy season June - November and dry, hot season December - May

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Nannies very popular and affordable. Hard to train, knowledge of English very limited

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

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2. Morale among expats:

Depends what you are looking for, some people love it, some people can wait to leave. Depression among staff was a problem.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

REstaurants and bars are plentiful and affordable.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes for couples. Some families like it very much. I wouldn't recommend it, it's very dirty, hot, nowhere to walk to, extremely difficult to push a stroller around. You feel like you are under house arrest.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Traveling

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Traveling, volunteering opportunities.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Silk, gems, furniture

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Traveling around South East Asia and learning with buddhist culture

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11. Can you save money?

No if you are traveling around the region.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes

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3. But don't forget your:

Stomach medicine, it takes some time to get adjusted to local cuisine

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Travel books

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

City of Ghosts,

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Phnom Penh, Cambodia 10/09/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. Shanghai, China; Tokyo, Japan; soon Frankfurt, Germany.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

I am from California. Generally it will take about 24 hours to the West Coast with connections. Have to go through Seoul or Bangkok.

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3. How long have you lived here?

From May to October, 2010

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is either a villa or an apartment. The housing is not bad, the villas are huge, the apartments are generally nice, although the layouts are a bit strange sometimes. If you are affiliated with the U.S. Embassy, and are allowed to ship household effects, I would suggest bringing as much of your own furniture as possible. You may want to bring a car if you have one - people who don't have cars often use tuktuks, but this can be inconvenient during monsoon season when streets flood quickly. Overall, commutes don't take more than 20 minutes - Phnom Penh is not a very big city.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

I don't know how much groceries cost, my maid did most of my shopping. But, if you choose to shop at the markets for foreigners you will pay more than you would in the States - still the prices aren't totally outrageous.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

More consumables, a car, and my own furniture.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There is a KFC, but I wouldn't eat there. There are a few local fast food places, and I REALLY wouldn't eat there. If you choose to do so, I doubt that a meal is more than $2.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes! They can carry dengue fever in the rainy season, thus it is important to carry repellent during rainy season months.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

U.S. Embassy personnel will use the APO or diplomatic pouch.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Cheap. I had a maid for 40/hours a week who cooked and cleaned for $200 a month - which was on the expensive side. Most people don't pay more than $120 a month, but my maid spoke some English, was a fantastic cook, and could be completely trusted. This is not the case for most domestic help.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is at least one nice gym, but it will run you $70 a month or so..

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

You can withdraw money at most ATMs, especially ANZ Royal bank - however, you will pay at least $3 or $4 in surcharges. Cambodia primarily uses the dollar.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

If you have cable, the TV comes feeds come from Hong Kong and Manila, so mostly US programs in English. The Phnom Penh post and the Cambodia Daily are two newspapers that are in English.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Hmm, it may help in some situations, and the Khmer people will certainly appreciate it, with that said, most people, even the poorest, can speak a little bit of English.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Um, a person without physical disabilities may have trouble in the city.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No trains.. Buses: I never used them myself, but I heard the buses to Vietnam, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville were quite comfortable and inexpensive.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

You can survive with a sedan, but you may find it more practical to have an SUV during monsoon season. Carjackings are non-existent in Cambodia (so far).

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

It was included in my rent, so I am not sure how much it was - but I know it is expensive - and the speed was not that good.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

If you work for the U.S. Embassy, you will be provided with one. Otherwise you can buy a sim card locally. Cambodian cell phone service is surprisingly good and inexpensive.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Not that I am aware of.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

I think there may be a vet.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not sure how "decent" - but it depends on skills and education level. In general I would say not really, unless you find something before you arrive. You can always teach English I suppose.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Pretty casual, most of the U.S. Mission direct hire employees rarely wore ties.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security rates Phnom Penh as a HIGH threat crime post. The police pretty much disappear after 5PM, and purse snatchings and crimes of opportunity are quite common. Generally speaking, if you handover whatever the thief is demanding, you will probably be ok. If you resist, however, things can turn ugly quite fast. I never had any problems, and I frequently went out late at night. However, I would suggest doing so with a group of friends. If you read the local newspapers, you will see that when the crime does get violent, it is REALLY VIOLENT (acid being thrown on people, people being hacked to death, shooting people for really ridiculous reasons).This is by far one of the most violent countries in Southeast Asia.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Yes, dengue fever. Also, you don't want to get in a bad accident. There is a Thai hospital that is ok, and there is the SOS clinic for simple illnesses, however, for anything serious you will be headed to Bangkok or Singapore.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Phnom Penh is very much a developing city with lots of small motorcycles, and really nothing to control pollution. During the dry season dust can be quite bad, not helped by the fact that there is a lot of construction going on at the moment. With that said, Phnom Penh only has about 1.5 million people, and most of them do not have cars - thus, smog and industrial pollution endemic to other cities in the region is almost non-existent.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot, hot, and hot all the time. Monsoon season from May - November. Really dry and HOT the rest of the year.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I don't have children so I have no personal dealings with the schools. However, I know some people have chose to send their high school aged kids to school in other countries due to the quality of the international high schools in PP.I also know people who sent their kids to the local international high schools, and were quite happy with them.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

I think so.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

thousands

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty good - most people love it.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Bars, restaurants, house parties.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It is definitely not a bad city for singles, especially single males. Families seem to fine things to do: trips to Angkor, the beach, etc.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Definitely not a bad place, however, compared to other cities in Southeast Asia, it will probably leave a lot to be desired. There is one main gay bar, and at least one other one more for locals that I heard about. People have to be careful though, as a lot of the guys at the gay bar are prostitutes. There is one club which is mixed after about 1am: Heart of Darkness. Many of the gay and bi guys go to Heart instead of the gay bar, it's not as conspicuous, and there are a lot of straight people (foreigners and locals) so it is easy to blend in. Unfortunately, Heart of Darkness is currently off-limits to U.S. Mission personnel.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not really.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Visiting Angkor Wat, traveling to Bangkok and Saigon. Visiting the dark (but interesting) sites dedicated to the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Tuol Sleng (the school turned torture prison where the Khmer Rouge brutally murdered tens of thousands of people), Killing Fields, Royal Palace. After the aforementioned places, there is not much to do besides drinking. It is nice to get out of the city once a month.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Lots of carvings of the Buddha, Apsara, and other local icons can be purchased.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Fantastic historical sites: Angkor Wat. Also, very easy to travel to Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. If you work for the U.S. Government, you will find that the hardship pay for Cambodia is quite generous (25%).Things are generally pretty cheap, especially alcohol. Two people could easily fill themselves up on $10 total.

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11. Can you save money?

Definitely - if you don't spend too much money traveling to Bangkok all the time.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sense of adventure.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

"Off the Rails in Phnom Penh" - a must read. "Preah Ko Preah Keo." "Bophana".

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

The Killing Fields, Apocalypse Now, any documentaries about the Khmer Rouge.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Cambodia is a great country, while at times it can be a challenging place to live (especially when compared to its larger and more successful neighbor - Thailand), it is definitely worth a visit. I was originally supposed to be there for longer than I was, but I had to cut my tour short due to work related reasons. With that said, I would gladly go back if the opportunity arose.

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Phnom Penh, Cambodia 02/27/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I've also lived in Oberammergau Germany; Aspen, Shaba Zaire (DR Congo); Baghdad Iraq; Amman Jordan; and Erbil Kurdisatan, Kabul and Kandahar, Afghanistan.

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2. How long have you lived here?

15 years.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I work with a number of NGOs but also consult with the U.N, and U.S. Government.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

You can connect through Bangkok (Thai / United / others) or Ho Chi Min City (Vietnam / Northwest(?)) or go via Singapore Airlines, Malaysia or Korean Airlines.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Local and regional products are cheap and available.There are lots of imports from Europe and U.S. but they are more expensive. Wine and booze is very cheap.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Bicycle and bicycle parts if you need them.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Never think of fast food. I recall only one hamburger in 15 years here. There is too much good and cheap food from every cuisine here: Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Mexican, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, steaks, vegetarian, seafood, and, of course, great Khmer food with every permutation of fish, fresh and prepared vegetables, tons of fresh fruits, chicken, pork and beef, and a variety of spices. The main influences are Indian, Vietnamese, Thai and French cooking. Lots of local restaurants have a few extra staff on hand who will be happy to look after well-behaved kids.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

There is reasonable express mail available from Phnom Penh and regional capitals. Mail service in is OK. DHL, UPS and FedEx is available although there may be a request for customs fees. Mail can be sent out with travlers to U.S., Thailand or Europe.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Cheap.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

There are lots of ATMs in PNH and a few in provincial capital cities. Several banks offer free ATM withdrawal in US$. Others allow US$ withdrawals for a US$2 fee. Credit cards are becoming usable in Phnom Penh but generally only in upscale businesses.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes. Cheap cable - less than the U.S.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Not much. Cambodians, particullarly the young, study and like to use English, but it is not yet as common as Hong Kong or Singapore. Most places will have English speakers. If you do any of the fun off-track things above you need a bit of Khmer. A few older people speak French, there is a lot of Chinese in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. A lot of Vietnamese are in Phnom Penh and the South. A good amount of French is spoken in Siem Reap, Kampot and Phnom Penh, with a strong francophone community in each.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It is not very accessible but some efforts are being made. You can contact the National Center for Disabled People (NCDP).

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Thais on the left, Vietnamese on the right, Laotians in the middle and Cambodians all over! It's supposed to be on the right side although most locals have difficulty understanding the concept, and it is nice to have the option of the left side sometimes. The maximum fine allowed by law is only US$0.50 so never pay a fine/bribe too far above that!

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

There are very cheap local taxis, pick-ups, vans buses and boats. They are generally overcrowded and can be dangerous. There is a middle tier of buses and boats aimed at tourist that is more expensive and safer. Cars/taxis/vans can be rented with drivers that are safe and affordable. ~US$30 for a car for a day in Phnom Penh, which includes car, driver and gas. A bit more in Siem Reap.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

You can purchase locally a good and cheap used Japanese vehicle. These are may be simply imported used cars but can be ex U.S. wrecks that have been repaired. Everything from micro cars to Hummers is available. It's a good place to buy used motorcycles also (see Vay's Motorcycles).You only need a sedan to go to 90% of the provinces. If you are adventurous, and want to go everywhere, get a 4 wheel drive. Driving can be anarchic, so bring or buy a larger vehicle if you want more safety. Note also that locally available vehicles may have safety and pollution devices disconnected. It's more expensive to repair U.S. vehicles and there are delays for parts. All parts are readily available for common Japanise, Korean and German vehicles.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

US$80 to $100 for a DSL line with some limit to capacity. See www.online.com.kh or www.citylink.com.kh. The first has the best customer service, but slightly higher prices. The latter is a bit fly by night, avoiding taxes to reduce costs. Reasonable dial-up accounts and prepaid internet cards available. A few upscale locations have wireless available, but costs up to $5/hr. Most upscale hotels have internet available, but not usually included in the room costs; make sure to ask.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Mobitel is the most common, a bit more expensive, but with poor customer service. Others have less coverage. You are likely to be issued a phone. All services are cheaper than the U.S. if you choose your plan correctly. You buy your phone and service seperately; you own the phone. Lots of phones available. Local services use GSM 900 and 1800. Buy a triple band (adds GSM 1900) if you want to use it in the U.S.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Skype/internet. Private or at internet cafes for about US$1/hr.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Lots of NGOs, but local skills have increased dramatically, so jobs are tougher to find these days. It is easy to make your own business.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Casual to business. A jacket is not required to visit most government officials but it is nice to have on a tie at least for first introductions. Ministers will have on a tie, possibly a suit in their A/C offices. There are some formal and black tie events for special occasions.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

It depends on the area of the city: it can be unhealthy (dusty) on dirt roads or moderate in residential neigborhoods or good along river and outside the city.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

There is some minor crime but life threatening crime is unusual. It is generally peaceful.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

SOS and a few other clinics. Medivac to BKK or SIN for major cases is the norm. There is excellent medical and dental care in Bangkok at very good prices; almost 24 hours and 7 days a week. You do not wait for service/appointments. It's very affordable compared to the U.S.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

There is a cool season from November to March, a hot season spanning April, May and June, and a rainy season July to October.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The International School of Phnom Penh offers IB and has a central location but suffers from limited space. Northbridge has space but suffers now from management change, and is 25-35 minutes outside of town. Ican is a growing British school with a central location. There are lots of local and semi local schools, including religious and French schools.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

iCan is excellent. Private nannies are easily available and very reasonably priced.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Expats from the embassies, expats from the NGOs, expats in business and expats in tourism business and traveling through on tourism. There must be several hundred in Phnom Penh, a few hundred in Siem Reap and a hundred in Kampot and Kampong Som.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Homes, bars, restaurants...

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3. Morale among expats:

Good. It is an easy life, once you adapt.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

There are not a lot of Western attractions, but for families there are swimming pools, arcades, a few malls, and cheap DVDs, games and computer software. Kids can play together at each others' houses. For singles there is lots of nightlife, volunteer opportunities, local culture, restaurants and bars. All of the above is very inexpensive. It is easy to get out of town for beaches (4 hrs) or Angkor Wat (5 hrs) and to Ho Chi Minh. There are easy and cheap flights to Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Kuala Lumpur.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

It is very liberal but not a huge community.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

No.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Boat trips on the Mekong, elephant rides in Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri, explore Angkor Wat on a bicycle, motorcycling (dirt biking) in the countryside, bicycling along the upper Mekong, take a boat from Lao border to Stung Treng and ST to Kratie (Ramsar wetlands), see the Dolphins in Kratie and Stung Treng, go overland from Koh Kong to Pursat (experienced and adventurous travelers only), travel overland from Phnom Penh to Laos, travel overland from Ratanakiri to Mondulkiri, visit the protected areas in Koh Kong, Mondul Kiri, Ratanakiri. Weekends in Kirirom, Kampong Som, Kampot, or Battambang. Sit by any river anywhere and have a fresh coconut, cold beer, grilled squid or other delicacies.

Sit by the river or a park and watch life go by. Get a motorcycle and cruise around town. Eat great and cheap seafood in Kampot, Kampong Som, Phnom Penh or Koh Kong. Go to a spa in Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. Get a massage.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Silk and wood handicrafts and furniture.

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9. Can you save money?

Buy local, explore local, relax; yes.

Import only U.S. products, fly out every weekend, and eat only at the upscale places: no.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Desire for junk food, hectic pace, lack of childcare.

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3. But don't forget your:

Smile.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

W. Somerset Maughan said that in Cambodia you can see people in the villages living their lives in the same way as the images you see carved into the walls of Angkor Wat 800 years ago. Get out of Phnom Penh and and into the countryside to see it while it lasts, it's going fast.

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