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Work & Costs

The cost of living in Cambodia is about the lowest in the region. A person traveling in Cambodia can get by on $15-$20 a day, living reasonably well. On bare-minimum subsistence $10 is possible but difficult. Everything costs more for a foreigner, and few people are willing to live in the squalor required to survive on that budget. $10 a day would buy a filthy mattress in a nasty hotel, basic, greasy street food, cheap bottled water and not much else. Bus tickets are relatively cheap, as the country is quite small.

Living in Cambodia is cheaper than traveling, as always. Cooking your own food and staying in a cheap apartment, you can survive reasonably well on $10 a day. $500-$600 a month would mean a very comfortable living in Cambodia, with a comfortable apartment, laundry services, good home cooked food and decent restaurants, and some money to burn.

Vice is cheap, probably too cheap, and things like drugs and purchased sex drag a lot of foreigners who stay around awhile into the mud. A 10 gram bag of “skunk” (few seeds, nice green buds) shouldn’t cost more than $10, even in the dry season. “Grass” should be about half that price. A large bottle of beer at a restaurant or backpacker-oriented bar is usually $2, and there are usually deals on draft or mixed drinks. Other drugs are similarly cheap, and widely available.

Work in Cambodia is abundant, even for the biggest screw-ups and psychopaths imaginable. If a person can’t get a job here, he can’t do anything, anywhere. English teaching is the most common job, and pays quite well, at about $10-$16 an hour (in Phnom Penh) depending on qualifications and the particular job. Evening classes are extremely common.

Khmers don’t tend to take their studies that seriously, so even if you find work at a university, your primary goal should be to entertain the students, not teach them. No degree or experience is required for most jobs, and non-native speakers are also hired. The most important thing is a white face.

The most lucrative jobs are with NGO’s. Usually these workers make western salaries, drive nice cars, and live in $1000-a-month penthouses… Don’t forget to give generously the next time the charity canvassers come knocking…

Bar work is also available, as anywhere. Other things, such as starting a business are incredibly easy to do in a country as wide open and lawless as Cambodia. You might be in trouble, however, when the police come around and want their cut…

The visa situation in Cambodia should be a model for every other country. Anyone can stay for as long as they want after entering on a business visa. It costs $25 for one month, though they try to charge more at the border. Extension is possible for about $150 more for 6 months and about $270 for 12 months. It’s constantly changing.

M.J. Lloyd

James Tramplefoot has been, and will continue to be on the road indefinitely, for years and probably decades.