What’s going on with work permits in Cambodia?

Update 8/28/2014:

In today’s Cambodia Daily, there’s an article entitled Work Permits Now Required for Foreigners. “The Labor Ministry has begun to enforce a long-neglected law that requires foreigners employed in Cambodia to have work permits, according to ministry officials.
Teams of inspectors have begun scouring the country to ensure that foreign employees and businesspeople have the proper documentation, with employers and workers facing hefty fines in the event that they are not certified.” The article also mentions large retroactive fines and payments for prior years.

Elsewhere, the French Embassy has been advising its citizens that they should get work permits, but pay for 2014 only, ie. no retroactive fines for previous years.

In Francophone Cambodge Mag, Anthony Galliano of Cambodia Investment Management reports back from his recent meeting with the Ministry of Labor. He reports that they have clearly stated that volunteers, retirees, and the unemployed will not need work permits. Anyone drawing an income in Cambodia will need a work permit from a registered business. If you are a shareholder in a licensed, registered business, you do not need a work permit. If you are self-employed or are a shareholder in a non-registered business, it would behoove you to register your business, although it seems unlikely that the self-employed will be one of the first groups targeted. Galliano suggests using this reprieve as a chance to quietly get all necessary paperwork in order.

Update: 8/22/2014 

The Cambodia Daily has published an article saying the Ministries of Labor and Interior “met on Thursday to outline the government’s plan to more strictly enforce measures for employers of foreign nationals to ensure that their staff has proper documentation.” It looks like they will be asking all employers to get work permits for their employees. There is no mention of any other class of visa holder such as volunteers, self-employed, retirees, etc.

8/8/2014

You may have heard that the situation with Cambodia work permits has changed recently. That’s half true. In order to work in Cambodia, one has always needed a work permit. However, it was very rarely enforced and the great majority of people didn’t bother. In the last few weeks, however, there have been several announcements that the work permit requirement is now going to be enforced.

Here’s what you need to know.

First, this announcement has happened every few years for a long, long time. Most of the time, they crack down on a few expats and then the issue is dropped. This time the threats seem more serious, but it is still very much up in the air. There have been a few crackdowns this year, most notably in Kampot, but nothing has changed yet for the great majority of expats in Cambodia.

It appears that if you work for a company in Cambodia you will, at some point in the near future, need to get a work permit. They are going after the largest and most visible companies first.

Expats who have been in Cambodia the longest have the most to worry about. Work permits cost $100 per year, and they are checking passports and counting how many years you have in Cambodia and charging for the previous years. They also add fines into the mix–which are, of course, not listed in the prakas and are subject to the whims and financial solvency of those collecting. This means that those with newer passports will pay less.

Thus far, it seems that Kampot has been the only city to be seriously affected. Even in Kampot, while many people were told to get work permits, many more were ignored. In other cities, there have been reports of police going door to door asking foreigners for a copy of their passport and visa. It’s possible that this is a prelude to a work permit crackdown later in the year, or it’s possible that the sangkats are just getting their records up-to-date, as they are supposed to keep track of where all foreigners live, anyway.

At the present time it is the employer’s responsibility to secure the work permit for their employees, although this may be changing. Any foreign employee of a registered business will need to get a work permit, although there is probably no need to do it until the Ministry of Labor demands it. However, many large employers are finally getting the message and registering their foreign employees, so you may be one of the lucky ones that gets your work permit quickly and without any hassle.

It’s important to note that at the current time, work permits are not tied to visas. So even if you are on a “business” visa, you do not have a work permit. Moreover, it’s an entirely different department that is is issuing work permits than the one that issues visas. This means that even if you do not have a work permit, you will be able to renew your visa, and you won’t be stopped coming in to or leaving Cambodia if you don’t have a work permit.

And then there’s the residency card. According to the prakas, foreigners need a visa, work permit and residency card. Thus far there has been no proof that any residency card has ever been issued to a foreigner, so for the moment, this point can be ignored.

But I’m a volunteer, retiree or unemployed?!

The status of volunteers, retirees, the unemployed is still very much up in the air. Work permits may be required for all holders of long-term visas. However, a recent visitor to the Ministry of Labor says that those not drawing a salary in Cambodia will not be affected.

So what should I do?

Probably nothing. This may, as it has many times before, blow over. If you work for a large organization, your employer will secure a work permit for you. If you work for a small organization, it’s likely that you will not be asked for a work permit for at least a while. It is my personal opinion that marching into ministries and waving cash around trying to solve problems that have yet to be clarified or put on paper is a bad idea. So I wouldn’t advise doing anything until the rules become more clear, unless your employer has already brought it up.

But, but, but…

These rules have been on the books since 1995, and there’s nothing wrong with Cambodia finally deciding to enforce them. Of course it’s not ideal that are choosing to retroactively punish expats for not having work permits when it was often not possible to get work permits in years past. But it’s important to remember that Cambodia, even with an extra $100 a year tacked on for a work permit, still offers one of the easiest and cheapest visa/work permits in the world.

This is all of the information that is available to date. Clear as mud, right? Remain calm and let’s see what happens. We’ll update this blog if anything changes.

Looking for more information? Check out our page about Cambodia visas and our page about Cambodia work permits.

Cambodia visa fees increasing

The Cambodia Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently announced that the price of one-month visas will be going up as of October 1, 2014. The price of the 30-day tourist visa will rise from $20 to $30, and the price of a 30-day “ordinary” visa, also called the business visa, will rise fro $25 to $35.  The price of E-visas (aka tourist visas that are purchased online, as opposed to E-class ordinary/business visas) will rise to $37. Visas will continue to be free for those under 12.

In their statement, they also went back to calling the “ordinary” E-class visa a “business visa”, but in light of the fact that the statement was called a “ress release” we are unsure of the significance of the visa name change, if any.

The price of the tourist visa (not including extensions) has remained the same for more than two decades, so we think this price hike is not worth moaning about.

So far, they have not announced an increase in long term visas (3-month, 6-month, and 12-month) although it seems likely that is coming down the pipeline.

There have also been rumors that the 12-month visa may be eliminated and others saying that Cambodia visas will eventually allow free entry into ASEAN countries. There’s been no confirmation that either of these rumors are true, however.

This is on the back of the recent work permit rumors (link has been updated with today’s news). While it’s true that apart from the price hike of the 30-day visa everything is still idle speculation on the part of Cambodia’s expats, it seems likely that with the creation of the Department of Immigration earlier this year, some things may change.

For the full scoop on Cambodia visas, read our page about Cambodia visas.

Review: All-you-can-eat sushi at Sushi Kaihomaru, Aeon Mall

It’s no secret that I’m a big sushi fan. And apparently I’m not the only one, because Phnom Penh is awash in new sushi joints. In a desperate bid to set itself apart from the competition, a new sushi restaurant in Aeon Mall is offering all-you-can-eat sushi and all-you-can-drink beer for just $10. Can it be true? Yes, it is. Can it be good? Surprisingly, yes.

 all-you-can-eat sushi and all-you-can-drink beer

80 minutes of all-you-can-eat sushi and all-you-can-drink beer for $10. Don’t bother reading the review, just go.

Sushi Kaihomaru is on the second floor of the new Aeon Mall (more, undoubtedly, about that later). They have a conveyor belt sushi bar, as well as tables that seat up to six. The deal is you get 80 minutes of all-you-can-eat sushi and all-you-can-drink Angkor beer for $10. They will charge you an extra $5 if you leave too much rice on your plate–this is to stop people from eating the sushi sashimi-style and leaving two dozen perfectly formed rice balls on their plate. Even if you choose to skip the rice and pay the extra $5, it’s a ridiculously good deal.

Free beer at Sushi Kaihomaru Phnom Penh

You heard the sign. Free beer.

I’m not sure if they’ve been open long enough to know that when two large foreigners walk through the door, they’re going to take a loss for the night, but they were so friendly that I suspect not. The sushi is good quality, with a surprising number of expensive choices including scallop nigiri, which goes for $4 for two pieces at The Sushi Bar. At Sushi Kaihomaru it’s the same quality, but all you can eat for $10. I can’t pretend to understand the economics behind this.

The sushi chefs at are Japanese, as are a fair number of the staff. They say that all of their fish is flown in from Japan and I have no reason not to believe them, other than the fact that the whole thing does not seem financially viable. There’s another Sushi Kaihomaru near Central Market, although they don’t have an all-you-can-eat deal, so maybe…I have no idea. If you can figure it out, let me know.

All you can eat sushi Sushi Kaihomaru

Sushi Kaihomaru at Aeon Mall. Eat up, dudes.

Most of the sushi that comes around is nigiri, with lots of salmon and tuna. It’s not the best salmon or tuna sushi you’ve ever had in your life, but it’s surprisingly good for the price and pretty ridiculous value for money. If you sit around long enough–and with an 80 minute limit I suspect you’ll try–special offerings show up including raw prawns, salmon roe, and octopus. They’ve also got some strange maki creations, many of which involved sweet corn, that I was unwilling to try but which I saw many Cambodian families appreciatively consuming.

Sushi Kaihomaru Aeon Mall Phnom Penh

Cooked food at Sushi Kaihomaru, also surprisingly good.

There’s also a small hot food bar with cooked food including miso soup, udon, noodles, tempura, fried mackerel and beef. Again, for the price it seems impossible that they’ll be able to stay in business if they have very many hungry Western customers.

Overall, Sushi Kaihomaru offers excellent value for money, even if you’re skipping the beer and drinking free-flow tea and soda. The staff was friendly, the beers came faster that I’d expect (although you’ll have to ask for a refill each time) and the sushi selection was surprisingly diverse. I know I used the word surprisingly a half-dozen times in this post, but that’s because I was actually surprised by the whole operation. I don’t expect this bargain to last, so go soon.

They’re open 10:30 a.m. and the last seating is 8:30 p.m. The close the doors around 9:00 p.m., so if you want your full 80 minutes of sushi madness, show up by 7:30 p.m. or so.

Sushi Kaihomaru

Aeon Mall, 2nd Floor
#132 Sothearos Blvd, Sangkat Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
T: 023 982 625

What Cambodia expats need to know about insurance

This week we talk to Anna Mischke from Forte Insurance about insurance issues that affect Cambodia expats. If you’ve read the Move to Cambodia book, you’ll know that I’m a strong advocate of having good health insurance in Cambodia. Forte is Cambodia’s leading insurance company and a Move to Cambodia advertiser. They’re here to answer all of your questions about travel and health insurance (and why you need it).

Why do expats in Cambodia need health insurance?

“Health insurance is important no matter where you live, not only for expats, and not only in Cambodia! Unforeseen illness and accident that can be detrimental to finances, put a patient in debt, or even lead to death because of lack of coverage are only some of the reasons health insurance is an investment that someone should consider.

In Cambodia, expats may not know the healthcare system well or where to go, or have their usual network of family and friends to rely on. On top of that, there are tropical diseases their bodies may not be used to, mysterious pains and sicknesses, and unfortunately the frequent and extreme cases of traumatic accidents. Health insurance gives peace of mind knowing that in the event of health problems, trauma, or concerns they have the resources to cover them financially, physically, and in many cases emotionally.”

What’s the difference between health insurance and travel insurance?

“There are some similarities between health insurance and travel insurance but the main difference between the two is that health insurance is generally a policy that gives medical coverage to an individual throughout the period of an entire year and covers only accident and illness, not things like luggage or personal liability.

Travel insurance provides medical coverage to an individual for a specified period of time in a particular area or region. Depending on the coverage level of travel insurance, it can include coverage on things like loss deposits and cancellation charges, hijacking, personal liability, loss of personal money, and overseas medical expenses and additional expenses. Travel insurance in many cases is bought in addition to annual health insurance for additional protection during travel for goods and extra precautions.”

Why should an expat choose health insurance over travel insurance?

“It is not necessarily a choice of one or the other when it comes to health insurance and travel insurance. Health insurance is extremely important for coverage throughout the year; you never know when you may get stung by a mosquito and come down with dengue fever for a week or when a car may come careening into you as you drive. With health insurance, treatment both locally and abroad can be taken care of by the insurance company as long as it falls within the inclusions (please read policy wording documents provided by your insurer!).

Travel insurance, as mentioned, is many times bought alongside an annual health insurance policy. In many cases, a traveler will want an extra level of protection not only for their health but also for their belongings as they travel, both near and far. The additional coverage amount for their health is also a safety net if their annual health insurance limit (the amount they have per year to spend on medical treatment through the insurance company) is depleting or on the lower end.

If you are coming to Cambodia for six months or a year and you know you’ll be living here locally, it makes most sense to get a local plan. Claims procedures are generally much quicker this way and the company is usually more knowledgeable about the services and availability of treatment in the area. If you are visiting for less than a year (policies are generally 12 months) then it’s most likely you have a policy “back home” which will cover you. You can always purchase travel insurance from your home country but as an expat in Cambodia, a healthcare plan is necessary for day to day (outpatient) and traumatic accident (inpatient) coverage.”

If an expat already has health insurance that covers them abroad, why would they need travel insurance?

“The added security that travel insurance offers specifically for things like luggage, money, problems with flights, and hijacking are not covered under a general health insurance policy. When traveling, it releases the traveler from wondering “what will happen if someone steals all my money?,” “I need to change my ticket, will I lose my deposit?”, or if they suddenly need their appendix removed and their general health insurance limit will not cover those costs at an expensive hospital abroad.”

If someone is moving to Cambodia for less than six months, is health insurance necessary?

“Usually if someone is moving to Cambodia for six months or less, they will have an existing health insurance plan from their country of origin. In this case, it would be recommended to take out travel insurance rather than a general health insurance plan. Usually health insurance policies are taken out annually and signing up for a policy for less than a year will tack on additional fees. Travel insurance, especially if purchased from the destination country, is a safe and proactive move even if the person has an existing policy.”

Forte Insurance is Cambodia’s leading insurance agency, offering health insurance plans for expats and locals as well as travel insurance. To learn more or to get a quote, please visit forteinsurance.com.

Review: Direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap

If you’re heading from Thailand to Cambodia, the Bangkok to Siem Reap direct bus is the easiest way to do the trip overland. Why might you want to go overland, one might ask? For one, it’s a lot less expensive, with the direct bus costing $23. For another, if you’re looking to transport large or bulky household goods, the direct bus is an easier option, particularly because they don’t make you change buses at the border.

Nattakan Transport Co bus Bangkok to Siem Reap

The direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap (and vice versa)

Buying tickets

The direct bus tickets are handled by Transport Co., Ltd. on the Thailand side, and Nattakan on the Cambodia side (apparently it’s the same company).

From Bangkok tickets cost 750 baht ($23). They can be purchased at the Northern bus terminal in Bangkok, sometimes called Mo Chit 2 bus terminal, sometimes called Chatuchak bus terminal. Taxi fare to the bus station is around 150 baht from Sukhumvit.

Transport Co Ltd Bangkok

The Transport Co. Ltd station inside the Northern/Mo Chit 2 bus terminal, Bangkok

On the ground floor a booth labeled The Transport Co, Ltd. sells the Bangkok to Siem Reap tickets. If you are in Bangkok, you can also call them and book your tickets over the phone and then pay for them at any 7-11, although you may need someone who speaks Thai to help.

From Siem Reap, tickets cost $28 and can be purchased at the Nattakan office on Sivatha Blvd in Siem Reap or through many guesthouses and travel agents.

They claim there are two buses that run each day, at 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. in either direction, however they often only have one bus each day as the other is sometimes reserved for private groups.

The bus journey

The direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap takes between 8 and 11 hours, depending on how crowded it is at the border. Passengers are allowed two bags each with a maximum weight of 20 kg, although the weight limit was not enforced when I hauled two suitcases of Ikea merchandise to Cambodia. There is limited storage space above the seats in the bus, so if you want to stow something inside, board early. The Bangkok-Siem Reap direct buses are Korean, and seats are comfortable and lean back more than they probably should–watch out for the knees of the person behind you!

Nattakan Transport Co bus Bangkok to Siem Reap

It’s not the worst place to spend eight hours…

On my recent trip, the 9:00 a.m. bus from Bangkok left on time. We were given a bottle of water and a snack, which was a limp-looking Asian pastry. There was a toilet break at 11:00 a.m. at a rest stop with a giant 7-11 and some fast food and local food options. At 1:10 p.m. we stopped at the Transport Co., Ltd. office in Aranyaprathet and were each given a ready-made hot lunch from 7-11, in my case it was shrimp and basil stir-fry. I’m ashamed to admit, but I thought it was pretty good if a bit on the small side. Vegetarians be warned, you’ll need to bring your own lunch. Later, we were given the choice of an orange juice or an iced coffee. You won’t starve if you don’t, but it’s definitely worth bringing some food of your own on the trip.

By 1:40 p.m. we were at the border, and everyone had finished their visa process and we were on the road at 3:15 p.m. We arrived in Siem Reap at 5:30 p.m., for a total of 8.5 hours.

The border

When you approach the Poipet/Aranyaprathet border, the bus will stop and let off all passengers. You can leave your bags on the bus (that’s why they call it a direct bus, there are no bus changes). You’ll then be expected to walk yourself through the various border checkpoints. There’s not a lot of instruction from the crew and the process can be confusing for those who have not done it before, but it’s actually quite simple. Just remember that you need to be stamped out of the country you came from and get a visa for the country you are entering (so two stops).

If you are heading from Bangkok to Siem Reap, after you go through both offices, turn back around and the bus will be waiting for you in front of the Grand Diamond Casino. They wait there for every passenger to complete their visa process, which takes an hour or two in total, so don’t be afraid to go into the casino and have a drink or a meal in the Chillax Cafe. It sounds awful, but the food isn’t too bad.

Visas

Most nationalities do not need to get visas in advance (check out our page about Cambodia visas if you want to know more). On the Cambodia side, a tourist visa costs $20 (the price will go up to $30 on October 1, 2014). They will ask you for 800 baht ($25) or if you insist on paying in dollars, which you should, they will ask for $20 and a 200 baht processing fee. There is no processing fee, it’s just a bribe. Arrive early and refuse to pay and eventually they will stamp you through. Do not worry, the bus will not leave without you. The other option is to secure an e-visa in advance. The price these days is $27, though, so you won’t save any money doing it that way, although it may help minimize border-induced rage that is not uncommon in Poipet.

poipet border checkpoint

This is the official building that you get your Cambodia visa in. If you stop somewhere before the border, don’t bother wasting your money.

I have read reports that the bus will stop before you get to the border and try and get you to use an agent to process your visa for 900 baht by calling it a VIP service. They did not do this on my recent trip, so hopefully this is no longer an issue. However, if they do stop and try and get you to let them process your visa, just say no. There is no such thing as VIP service, they will just charge you extra so they can take a cut. You can do it yourself at the border, no matter what they tell you.

On the Thai side, you will get stamped through and do not need to pay anything.

Overall, this is a much easier way to travel overland than the other methods I have tried, which always involve haggling at the border for taxis and buses. The Bangkok-Siem Reap direct bus is not as cheap as the mini-bus/casino bus combination (which is usually around $11 or $12) but the peace of mind is worth it.

Transport Co., Ltd.

Mo Chit 2 Bus Terminal (หมอชิต 2 (อาคารผู้โดยสาร), Bangkok [map]
+66 2 936 0657; +66 89 281 1396
home.transport.co.th

Nattakan Transport

22 Sivatha Blvd, Svay Dangkom District, Siem Reap [map]
T: 063 96 48 96; 078 975 333
facebook.com/Nattakan-Cambodia-CoLtd

What you need to know about renting in Phnom Penh

Today we talk to Chris Desaulniers, the co-founder of Elevated Realty, a Phnom Penh real estate company that specializes in finding the perfect homes and apartments for expats. Elevated Realty combines the best of expat-style service with local knowledge. The business is run by Chris, a Canadian, and American Leah Valencia and their Cambodian partner, Khannarong “Ron” Un. They’re a Move to Cambodia advertiser, but before they signed up I went on a house-hunt with them and was suitably impressed.

If you’re planning on looking for a home or apartment in Phnom Penh anytime soon, listen up. We get the low-down from Elevated Realty on some of your burning real estate questions (and if you have more, please feel free to leave them in the comments).

Elevated Realty Phnom Penh

Chris Desaulniers and Leah Valencia, the expats behind Elevated Realty.

What is the difference between different types of serviced apartment and how do they compare to furnished and unfurnished apartments?

“Though many apartments in Phnom Penh call themselves serviced, there is a distinction between an apartment providing services and a fully-serviced apartment. A fully-serviced apartment is comparable to a hotel, providing everything you need to live comfortably. You can expect that it will be completely furnished, decorated and contain all necessary household appliances. This includes linens, a fully outfitted kitchen, and concierge service. In these types of apartments rates are generally all-inclusive; providing cable, internet, water, cleaning, parking, and often electricity as part of the rent. Fully-serviced apartments are typically meant to be alternatives to a hotel when your stay will be slightly longer than a typical hotel stay, but not long enough to sign a lease, though they can also be used for long-term living. However, the price tag attached will be in line with the services being provided.

Recently, many apartments in Phnom Penh apartments have started including some services and amenities as part of a monthly rental fee. It has become standard for mid-range to high-end apartments to be furnished but they will not usually include small kitchen appliances, dishes, utensils, linens, or other household items. Many of these apartments will provide Internet, cable, water, and cleaning in the monthly rental rate. Electricity is very rarely included as a part of the monthly rate.

At the lower end of the market in Phnom Penh are flats or unfurnished apartments, flats being a floor of a shophouse or villa that have been converted into a private apartment. These places usually have sparse furnishings (think rattan) and will often not include any services such as internet, cable and the like.”

Phnom Penh serviced apartment

Is it a hotel? No, it’s a Phnom Penh serviced apartment.

What are common services and facilities included with properties, and how should an export value those amenities?

“The most common services that are often included in many Phnom Penh apartments are Internet, cable and cleaning. Having these services included as part of your monthly rental rate has several advantages.

Firstly the value of the services themselves. If sourced individually, Internet will cost a minimum of $15/month, basic digital cable will cost $10/month (plus a $49 installation fee), and cleaning twice a week will cost on average $50/month. Having your landlord deal with the various service providers and installations will save you time and spare you headaches.

Moreover, if there are service interruptions or issues that arise in the future the owner or property manager will resolve these on your behalf (oftentimes proactively because they are affected by the outages, too). Additionally, having services included means not having to deal with billing or making payments at the various offices. On the whole, included services can save expats time and energy.

In addition to services, many apartment buildings now have facilities such as fitness centers, swimming pools, and sauna/steam rooms. Though these things are luxury amenities, having easy accessibility to these types of facilities can automatically have an impact on your lifestyle and well being. Whereas without it, your other options are limited. The alternative is signing up for a membership at a Phnom Penh gym for between $40 and $60 a month (and up). Alternatively, if the property which you are renting at has these facilities at your fingertips there is immediate value in it’s convenient and at no additional cost.

In total, these services (Internet, cable, cleaning, and fitness membership) can add up to $135 a month or more. This, along with the time and energy saved, should be taken into consideration when deciding between apartments.”

What is the value of a longer-term lease versus a short-term lease?

“Many expats are living in Cambodia only temporarily and are nervous about signing long-term leases whereas most landlords are unwilling to have tenants stay for less than six months.

Signing a six-month or year lease is beneficial because it locks in a rental price in a market that is only going up. Rental prices are currently rising by 10-15% annually, and with the high influx of new buildings offering the aforementioned amenities, you can expect that prices will continue to rise.

Many expats who have been here for a number of years are caught off-guard when their lease term ends and they are unable to find an apartment of the same value for the same price. Signing a long-term lease also gives you more negotiating power, if there are any requested changes at the time of signing a landlord is more likely to be flexible with you if they know you are going to stay for a longer period of time. It is about relationship building, most owners wants to build and maintain a relationship with their tenants. Settling into a place allows you to create a home away from home, make your apartment your own and integrate into the community around you.”

Elevated Realty Phnom Penh

If you lived here, wouldn’t you want a long-term lease?

When signing a long-term lease, what sort of changes can reasonably be negotiated with the landlord?

“Most everything in Cambodia is negotiable, and that includes rental housing. Often the most important item for expats is monthly rental price, and there is almost always some flexibility in it. Other things that are within reason to negotiate with the landlord include the installation of window screens, fans, removal of furniture so the space can alternatively be used for a home office or other purpose. Willingness to negotiate depends on the owner, of course, but generally reasonable requests can be accommodated. If you have an extensive list of changes, though, be prepared to meet in the middle.”

What is the value to use a reputable agency rather than searching on your own?

“There is great value in using a reputable real estate agency. They are experts at what they do and possess the knowledge to understand your housing requirements and the market. They are able to advise and drive your property search in the most efficient manner. When moving to an unfamiliar city or country, it is an asset to have someone to help you navigate the city and the marketplace. Additionally they will negotiate on your behalf, draft and facilitate a fair lease agreement, and ensure all your expectations are met before, during, and after move-in.

Agencies provide service at no charge to the client, a commission is paid to the agency by the property owner, and this fee is generally standardized. Although the commission is paid by the landlord, good agencies are loyal to their customers as well because they depend on word of mouth for their business. A reputable agency will be showing you properties that best match your requirements, and not show favoritism between properties. If you find that you are consistently being shown properties that do not suit your needs, you should look for another agency. Most of the reputable agencies in Phnom Penh are privy to the same properties and will get you the exact same rate. Their objective is to make your search efficient and clear. You should choose an agency that you feel comfortable with and that understands your requirements. The experience should be fun.

The alternative to using an agency in Phnom Penh is to tackle it independently, which may be best for those on a very tight budget. This includes attempting to weed through the various housing options and levels of standard, cross a language barrier and invest the time to embark on this undertaking on your own. Though many hidden gems can be found this way, it may not be advantageous for someone coming into an unfamiliar country and is not accustom to the culture and norms.”

Elevated Realty specializes in tailor-made home searches in Phnom Penh that are a hassle-free way to find the perfect space. View their properties on their site, Elevated Realty, or give them a call at +855 (0)23 220 609.

Why I’ve started using real estate agents in Cambodia

It wasn’t long ago that I wrote a post called ‘Why you shouldn’t look for an apartment in Cambodia before you arrive.’ In it, I explained why it’s best to wait until you’re in-country to begin your house hunt, but I also gave a good deal of space to disparaging the Cambodia real estate industry.

the interior of a Phnom Penh apartment

Looking for an apartment in Cambodia? The times they are a-changing.

It’s true that not too long ago using a real estate agent or letting agent in Cambodia was probably the worst way to look for an apartment. But just like everything else in Cambodia, this is quickly changing, and for my most recent house search, I used a real estate agent.

What’s changed? The market, for one. The expat demographic in Cambodia is changing, and changing quickly. More and more young professionals are moving to the country, and they don’t want to live in an apartment with squat toilets and moldy rattan furniture. An increasingly large pool of landlords are catering to this new market.

In my post last year I complained about how only the savvy landlords knew to list properties online. That’s still true, but there seems to be a new wave of young, wealthy landlords–many of whom have lived abroad–who have a better grasp of what is required to make an apartment in Cambodia worth $1,000. As such, the prices listed are finally starting to make sense. A year or two ago a property listed online would have been the same as one that wasn’t, just twice as expensive.

I spent some time looking at apartments in Phnom Penh recently and while the ones I saw through a new agency, Elevated Realty (a Move to Cambodia advertiser who answered all of your burning real estate questions here) were definitely not the low end of the market, the apartments were outfitted to a higher standard than anything I’d see on my own before (and I’ve been house-hunting in Cambodia many, many times). And perhaps most surprisingly, the prices were commensurate with the quality of the property.

If you’re looking for a Cambodian-style apartment in Phnom Penh (meaning: fluorescent lighting, tiled walls, no counters in the kitchen) and are looking to spend less than $250ish a month, you may still be better off walking around and looking for ‘for rent’ signs in the area you have your eye on, enlisting the help of a tuk tuk driver, or trying to find something through word of mouth.

But if you’re looking for something a little nicer, using a good agent can save you headaches. That doesn’t mean that all agents in Phnom Penh have magically become honest or that all of the prices you see are going to be reasonable and fair, but the odds of finding a mid-range or high-end home through an agent is higher than the chances you’ll find one on your own.

In Siem Reap, even the least expensive apartments and houses seem to be found most easily through an agent, although a large number of the agents in town are, to put it kindly, a waste of time. After trying several others, we ended up finding a place with Rich Cam Globe Realtor and were very happy with their services.

So how do you know if you can trust your agent? A good way to start is by telling them your specifications. If you say you want to spend a certain amount or live in a certain location and they only show you things that are outside your budget or in a completely different neighborhood, that’s a bad sign. A good agent will care about what you are looking for and will help you try and find just that, or explain why what you want might not be feasible. Either way, they should be able to have a conversation with you about it. For our most recent house-hunt, we went with several agents to many properties, and it became clear very quickly which agents were actually listening to what we wanted.

And if all else fails, feel free to email me some photos or property listings–I’d be happy to give you my opinion!