Living in Phnom Penh vs Siem Reap: Which City Suits You Best

Share this Article  

Two of Cambodia’s most prominent cities, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, offer unique experiences and opportunities for residents and visitors alike. 

Phnom Penh, the bustling capital city, is known for its vibrant atmosphere and rapidly expanding economy, while Siem Reap, a smaller city with a more laid-back vibe, is renowned for its proximity to the world-famous Angkor Wat temple complex and its focus on preserving Cambodian culture.


As an individual’s personal preferences and needs vary, understanding the unique aspects of each city can help them make an informed decision about which location best suits their lifestyle. 

Whether you are considering a short-term visit or a long-term move to Cambodia, gaining insight into the distinct characteristics of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap will help you make the most of your time in this beautiful country.

City Culture and Vibe

Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, boasts a cosmopolitan atmosphere, attracting people worldwide. Its skyline features modern skyscrapers and French colonial architecture, reflecting its history and development. 

As the country’s economic and political center, Phnom Penh is a business hub, appealing to entrepreneurs and professionals. The city offers diverse cultural experiences, such as a vibrant arts scene, trendy cafes, and international cuisines, providing an exciting urban lifestyle.

Conversely, Siem Reap offers a laidback lifestyle and relaxed atmosphere focused on Cambodian culture and history. As the gateway to Angkor Wat, Siem Reap lures tourists, blending local charm with international appeal. 

The city center features colonial buildings, traditional markets, and artisan workshops, emphasizing sustainable tourism and supporting local communities. Siem Reap’s slower pace allows residents to immerse themselves in Cambodia’s rich history and culture while enjoying a welcoming environment.

Cost of Living

Phnom Penh’s cost of living is relatively affordable, with reasonable living expenses. However, accommodation prices can vary significantly based on location and housing type. Upscale neighborhoods come at a higher cost, while budget-conscious residents can find affordable options in less-central areas, ensuring a comfortable lifestyle.

On the other hand, the cost of living in Siem Reap is also one of the lowest in Southeast Asia, with living expenses generally cheaper than Phnom Penh. Accommodation prices are diverse, ranging from budget guesthouses to luxury villas. The city’s sustainability focus and community support allow residents to enjoy Siem Reap’s charm while maintaining a cost-effective lifestyle.

Job Opportunities and Industries

Phnom Penh offers a diverse job market and growing industries. As the economic and political center of Cambodia, the city provides numerous opportunities in sectors such as finance, manufacturing, information technology, and education. The city’s development and international appeal attract both local and foreign investors, further expanding the job market and creating an environment ripe for career growth.

Siem Reap’s job market primarily revolves around tourism and hospitality. The city’s status as the gateway to Angkor Wat means that industries such as hotels, restaurants, tour companies, and local artisan businesses thrive. Job opportunities in Siem Reap cater to those with skills in customer service, foreign languages, and cultural knowledge, providing a unique and specialized work environment for those interested in the tourism sector.

Education and International Schools

Phnom Penh’s growing expatriate community has led to the establishment of numerous reputable institutions offering various curricula, including American, British, and French. Furthermore, Phnom Penh is home to several local and international schools, making it a hub for higher education and academic opportunities.

Siem Reap offers limited but growing options for international education. As the city’s expatriate population and tourism industry continue to expand, so does the demand for high-quality educational institutions. While there are fewer international schools compared to Phnom Penh, Siem Reap’s educational landscape is developing, with new establishments emerging to meet the needs of local and expatriate families.

Leisure and Entertainment

Phnom Penh offers a vibrant array of nightlife, dining, and shopping options, catering to diverse tastes and budgets. Residents and visitors can enjoy the city’s bustling bars, clubs, and live music venues, along with a wide variety of local and international cuisine. In addition, Phnom Penh’s numerous shopping centers and markets provide the opportunity to purchase everything from high-end fashion to traditional handicrafts.

Meanwhile, Siem Reap presents a rich blend of cultural attractions, outdoor activities, and local markets for leisure and entertainment. 

The city’s close proximity to Angkor Wat and other historical sites makes it a cultural hotspot, while outdoor enthusiasts can partake in activities such as hiking, cycling, and exploring nearby national parks. Siem Reap’s colorful local markets offer a unique shopping experience, where visitors can purchase traditional crafts, clothing, and delicious street food.

Transportation and Infrastructure

Phnom Penh’s transportation infrastructure offers options like buses and tuk-tuks, though traffic congestion can be challenging. With ongoing projects enhancing the road network and public transit system, the city maintains strong connectivity to other major cities within Cambodia and beyond via its airport and bus terminals.

On the other hand, Siem Reap ensures ease of access and local transportation options for all. Its compact size facilitates convenient navigation, with tuk-tuks, bicycles, and motorbike rentals available. The international airport, bus, and boat services contribute to seamless connectivity with other parts of Cambodia and neighboring countries.

Expat Community and Networking

Phnom Penh boasts a diverse expat community, with individuals from various countries and professional backgrounds. This melting pot of cultures creates a dynamic atmosphere and ample networking opportunities. 

Similarly, Siem Reap features a tight-knit expat community, which allows for more intimate networking opportunities. The smaller population fosters close connections among expats, with various clubs, social events, and online groups providing platforms for interaction and support. 


The key differences between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap lie in their transportation infrastructure, size, opportunities, and expat communities. Phnom Penh has a more extensive public transit system, while Siem Reap offers a compact, accessible layout. The expat communities differ in size and atmosphere, with Phnom Penh being more diverse and Siem Reap being more tight-knit.

Ultimately, choosing between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap depends on personal preferences and individual lifestyle needs. Factors such as transportation convenience, professional opportunities, and the desired social environment should be considered when making a decision.

If you’ve made up your decision and you’re ready to start looking for a home or a real estate property in either Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, contact us today!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *