Many foreign teachers, ranging from those with degrees to backpackers wanting to fill in time, choose to relocate to Cambodia. Most are genuine, especially higher salaries can be found in neighboring countries.
The average teaching salary in Phnom Penh is around $15/hour, depending on experience, but less in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.
In the past, the majority of expats chose teaching in Cambodia because the barriers of entry were quite low. Getting a teaching job without a degree was not difficult. However, those days are drifting into the past. The top International Schools require teaching degrees, experience and references. They will also interview you at least once and have you under probation for a certain period.
Having a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate or CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) will get you a job at some schools, but the pay difference is significant. Most teachers are paid only for contact hours and pay is generally taxed at around 15%. Health benefits and holiday travel reimbursements may be part of the salary package. This will vary between schools and position level.
Depending where you end up, teaching in Cambodia can be frustrating or tremendously rewarding. Classrooms can be hot, noisy places, filled with children or young adults with little education experience. Having said that, many students are eager to learn and you will develop good relationships with them.
Support / information sites for teachers:
Where to live and things to know:
Popular areas where expats choose to live:
Boeung Keng Kang (BKK) 1 is an exclusive area in central Phnom Penh. Bordered by Sihanouk, Norodom, Mao Tse Tung and Monivong Boulevards.
BKK 1 is an epicentre of Phnom Penh and a popular area with embassies, banks, hotels, restaurants, shops and bars. A lot of business is transacted here and has been well known as the ‘foreign capital’ since the 1980s. It is well known for having luxury options able to meet international demand.
Here you will find the embassies of Switzerland, Bulgaria, Brunei and Sweden as well as various NGOs and international companies HQs. Many international schools offering world standard education are also located in this area.
BKK 1 is pricey, but is an attractive area for business, especially streets 278, 282, 63 and 51. Apartments and hotels are mid to upper standard due to location and build quality.
BKK market is located in the south of the Khan, offering a range of goods including fresh food, clothes, jewelry, money exchanges and household goods. Augmenting the market is a wide selection of international F + B options world including coffee shops and bakeries.
After dark the streets are alive with bars, clubs, hotel rooftops and restaurants open for punters. Things are pricier but you won’t want for much more. BKK has pretty much everything.
Riverside: the real downtown
Day and night Riverside is busy. It is probably the real downtown Phnom Penh where the oldest parts of the city are located. I am referring to Wat Phnom, Phsar Chas, Phsar Kandal, Chey Chumneas and Chaktomuk.
Preah Sisowath (honoring King Sisowath 1904 to 1927 reign) is the avenue / boulevard running along the riverfront. It starts at the Buddhist Institute near Sothearos Boulevard. Then continues north to the Japanese Bridge where it becomes National Road 6 leading to Battambang.
Generations of days gone by have left their footprints from Angkor kings to French colonists to UN troops. Riverside witnesses the confluence of the Mekong, Tonle Sap and Bassac rivers and where the Water Festival is best viewed each November. It is always stunning, especially at sun up and sundown.
In Riverside, there is a wide selection of restaurants, wellbeing services, hotels, shops and bars aimed at tourists. Among the restaurants, you will find good selections – German, Italian, French, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian and Malaysian.
Bustling Bassac Lane
Despite the widespread devastation of the hospitality industry by COVID-19, one precinct in Phnom Penh seems to be defying all odds and operating almost Business as Usual. In the leafy backstreets of Tonle Bassac are bustling Bassac Lane, St 308 and St 21. There you will find small, high-end bars and restaurants that will soon be surrounded by new condos and more night venues.
The neighbourhood is made up of groovy little streets with great bars and eateries tucked away that cater to locals and tourists. It is literally the fun area with a Western vibe. Each bar has a different theme or style to suit all tastes!
COVID-19 did slow business in the area for a while, but it bounced back and now on weekends, the night air is filled with music and laughter as people return to their old habits. Bassac Lane is now so full of bars and hole-in-the-wall venues, that new venues are spilling into Street 308 and Street 21.
Because land prices here are 10-20% less than BKK 1, prices are cheaper all round. Prices of food and beverages are comparatively cheap. You can find a bar selling cocktails at $3, draught beer at $1 and meals from $5.
Amidst the general activity, there is a sense of optimism despite the tight border controls keeping tourist numbers down. So instead of going to the usual haunts on Street 136 and Pub Street that have obviously been hard hit by the pandemic, check out Bassac Lane where the night lights are a little bit brighter.
Toul Kork or TK
Toul Kork or TK lies in the north and north west of Phnom Penh cut by Russian Boulevard from the CBD. Now its northern area is far more affluent houses similarly priced to those in town.
Toul Kork (shortened to TK) literally means ‘ground hill’ in Khmer. It is located to the north of the city centre, including the areas around Boeung Kak Lake and the areas further to the west.
Not being in the city, TK is good for people wanting a quiet life. It has a mix of properties on wide roads, giving it a spacious suburban feel. Now it has a more commercial feel, joining Tonle Bassac, Daun Penh and BKK. It now boasts an increased number of commercial activities and is a good housing option.
TK has many condo developments with supermarkets, hospitals, international schools, restaurants and coffee shops. AEON Mall 2, the country’s 2nd international mall 15 minutes away. There are many institutions and businesses in TK including RUPP, IFL, Institute of Technology, Pannasastra, Tax Dept and Ministry of Labour.
Despite many completed and ‘in construction’ high rises, villas and gated communities dominate the area. Wealthy Cambodian families like to live in or near TK. As affluence has grown, the area has seen an increase in retail shops. TK Avenue (the first international style complex) and Phnom Penh City Centre Mall are 2 examples. The Boeung Kak and Camko City developments also feature large scale housing and commercial spaces.
South TK has mainly low rise properties mostly owned and occupied by locals.
Tuol Tumpung (Russian Market)
The busy districts surrounding Russian Market (or Tuol Tompong) are some of the best in Phnom Penh for tourists and locals alike. Its name harks back to the large Russian expat population back in the 1980s.
In the market, you will find an assortment of souvenirs, such as silk cloth and scarves from the provinces, stone Buddha carvings and other religious icons, western and local handbags and branded clothing from local factories. Further inside is an array of fresh foods – fruit, vegetables, seafood and fish. There are also household items like lamps, wood carvings, fabrics and kitchen wares. At night there are many restaurants serving freshly grilled seafood.
Well-priced accommodation centre around the market and Wat Toul Tom Pong. Nearby you will find many retail outlets catering to foreigners like – Zando, Sundown, Brand Collection, Corner Cafe, Vega, Brown, Starbucks and Amazon Cafe. On virtually every corner there is a pub or bar where you can find anything from cheap beer to high-end wines and cocktails.
If you live around Russian Market, you will be within walking distance to everything with many international schools a short distance away.