Review: Backstreet Academy Cambodian dessert-making class, Siem Reap

Cambodian desserts are a world away from what you are probably used to back home, but they are uniquely delicious. If you’re not used to Southeast Asian desserts, the textures and flavors can take some getting used to, but once you give them a shot, you will be hooked! At least that’s what happened to me. I’m a big fan of these tasty treats, so when I heard that Backstreet Academy was offering a class on how to make Cambodian desserts, I had to try it out.

Cambodian dessert making

Savat and Samon, Cambodian dessert-making expert and translator.

Backstreet Academy is a website that allows local producers to offer classes and experiences to tourists directly. Backstreet Academy deals with the marketing and bookings, plus provides a translator and transport, but other than that, the classes are in the hands of the small-scale producers and small business owners who offer them. In Siem Reap several of the classes are offered by market sellers who wouldn’t otherwise have access to the hospitality business, and it allows foreigners access to local culture that they wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise.

Cambodian desserts

A table full of ingredients to make Cambodian desserts.

Our teacher, Savat Kan, used to sell desserts at Siem Reap’s Polanka Market, before she was recruited to be a chef in a private household. She didn’t speak a word of English, but was very encouraging of our efforts nonetheless, and always had a smile for us. Samon from Backstreet Academy came along to make sure we got the nuances of her instruction.

Cambodia’s Favorite Desserts: A Khmer Culinary Masterclass offers the chance to make four desserts in a half-day morning class. They have eight different desserts listed, and you pick which ones you will make in advance. We chose pumpkin and tapioca (it’s much better than it sounds), coconut jelly, and a few that weren’t officially on the list, but are two of my personal favorites, nom plai ay, and num thnaot, small steamed cakes made from palm fruit.

Cambodian dessert

One of the finished products, a delicious pumpkin and tapioca dessert made with coconut cream.q

Our class was just the two of us, and I suspect that because Cambodian desserts aren’t very well known, most classes will end up being private because not too many people are booking this particular experience.

Backstreet Academy’s Cambodian dessert-making class costs $22 per person, plus a $1.50 booking charge. Classes must be booked at least a day in advance. Students meet at the Angkor Handicraft Association (AHA) on Road 60, and transport is provided from there. You will be allowed to take your desserts home with you. If your class was anything like ours, you’ll end up with more you can eat and will be able to share with (and impress) your neighbors! Bring a notebook and pen if you want to take down the recipes to try at home later.

Making Cambodian desserts in Siem Reap.

Making Cambodian desserts in Siem Reap.

We haven’t tried any of the other Siem Reap classes with Backstreet Academy, but many of them look interesting and aren’t just the typical make-spring-rolls-and-amok cooking classes (although there are a few there, as well). I’d recommend reading the descriptions and reviews of each experience carefully because some of the classes seem to be run by orphanage owners and involve visits to schools or orphanages, which I strongly believe is irresponsible tourism. Other than that, I am impressed with Backstreet Academy’s program that helps local artisans and craftspeople connect with tourists in Siem Reap, increasing their income and visibility.

BackStreet Academy Siem Reap

Angkor Handicraft Association (AHA), Road 60, Siem Reap
T: 098 382 046

Organic groceries in Phnom Penh

We’ve just updated this post again because there are even more organic options now than ever (skip to the end for the new stores). These days, it’s not hard to find organic products in Phnom Penh if you know where to look. Even the big grocery chains usually carry some organic produce, but if you want the best selection, head to the organic and all-natural specialty shops.

Phnom Penh organics

Organic produce in Phnom Penh? Maybe. Chemical-free produce in Phnom Penh? Definitely.

Street 63 in BKK1 has several stores that specialize in organic and chemical-free products and there are a few others around the city. These stores work with small farmers and suppliers around Cambodia to bring the freshest produce to Phnom Penh. Be aware, though, that there’s no regulation on the use of the word organic, but most of these stores are members of Cambodia Organic Agricultural Association (COrAA), and carry products that are either certified as chemical-free, or the more stringent classifier, organic.

The following are Phnom Penh’s best organic grocery stores:

Natural Garden

Phnom Penh Natural Garden

Keeping it chemical free at Natural Garden.

Natural Garden is the godfather of organic groceries in Phnom Penh, and a leading produce supplier for many of the city’s hotels and restaurants. A member of Cambodia Organic Agricultural Association (COrAA), they grow and sell organic rice and chemical-free vegetables. Their stores sell both the product they grow themselves in their farm in Sihanouk province, as well as chemical-free fruits and vegetables from sourced from all over the country, including the Svay Rieng agricultural cooperative. They’ve started labeling products, so it’s possible to know the provenance of what you’re buying, from Battambang oranges and Kampot tangerines to Siem Reap melons and Mondulkiri passionfruit. Their selection is probably the best in town, with the widest range of products and highest turnover. However, it’s not always necessarily clear which items are chemical-free as opposed to organic.

Natural Garden also sells fresh breads, French Le Terrior 69 meats and charcuterie, and dry goods, including an expanding selection of locally-produced products such as jams and palm sugar. They also have a lot of tasty products for take-away such as soups, pate and lentil salads, as well as items including fresh-made tofu and Japanese natto. Their flagship store on Street 63 is also their best.

Natural Garden

Open daily, 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
213BC Street 63, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 023 555 2028
Street 240 at Street 51, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 060 444 058

Green-O Farm

Green-O Farm, Phnom Penh

Green-O Farm, Phnom Penh

Green-O Farm works with farmers in several villages in Kampong Speu to supply them with chemical-free products. They’re also a member of COrAA, and are certified chemical-free, and working towards organic status. They carry a large selection of locally-grown vegetables, salad greens, and herbs, as well as “safe imported vegetables.” It’s sometimes unclear which of their products are local versus imported and organic versus not, but they do seem dedicated to the idea of organic local produce.

Additionally, they carry a selection of Cambodian-produced items like Ratanakiri coffee and Mondulkiri coffee and imported wines and dry goods. We were happy to see Coco Khmer coconut oil products, including not just cooking oil, but coconut oil beauty products. Green-O Farm also offers door-to-door delivery.

Green-O Farms

Open daily, 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
216CD Street 63, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 023 667 0011; 012 300 955; 068 709 709

Amarak Veggie Store

Amarak Phnom penh

Newcomer Amarak does delivery boxes of chemical-free veg.

Amarak Veggie Store carries organic produce and locally-produced products, with everything from Pursat wild grape wine to Cambodian mango jam, as well as the more ubiquitous items like local palm sugar and Kampot pepper. They have a small but complete selection of high-quality fresh vegetables, herbs and fruits. The store also sells organic meats and ready-to-eat salads. Perhaps most excitingly (if this is the sort of thing that excites you — and it should) they offer weekly organic produce delivery boxes, where you get a random assortment of fruits and vegetables.

The store is the outlet for Amarak Farm, which is grows certified chemical-free produce. They’re a member of Cambodia Organic Agricultural Association (COrAA) and is working to receive its full organic certification. The farm isn’t far outside of Phnom Penh and they welcome visitors to come see how things work on a Cambodian organic farm. Soon, they will sell seeds directly to consumers who want to try their hand at growing their own vegetables. Amarak Farm is a supplier for chemical-free vegetables for many of Phnom Penh’s finest grocery stores, including Aeon Mall, Lucky Supermarket and Angkor Market. Skip the middle man and shop direct at Amarak Veggie Store.

Amarak Veggie Store

Open daily, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
219D Street 63, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 023 666 6889

Happy Farm

Happy Farm Phnom Penh

Happy Farm, happy stomachs.

Happy Farm carries a selection of locally-produced, chemical-free products from all around Cambodia. They’ve closed their flagship shop on Street 63 but their locations in Toul Kork carry a wide range of vegetables, herbs and produce, plus a selection of local fish and meats.

Happy Farm

Open daily, 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
1B Street 137, Toul Kork, Phnom Penh T: 070 555 555; 070 555 520
18A Street Northbridge, Sen Sok, Phnom Penh T: 070 555 555; 070 555 530
170, Street 138, Toul Kork T: 070 555 555; 070 555 540

Digby’s at DNAK Square

Digbys DNAK Phnom Penh

Digby’s has a small selection of organic products from Discovery Farms.

Digby’s offers a selection of produce from Discovery Farms, a farm in Kampong Speu that is certified organic by COrAA. (Discovery Farms also offers weekly organic produce baskets direct to consumers, call 096 294 8109). They don’t have a huge selection, but if you’re there anyway for a coffee, it’s worth a look. We get the sense that Digby’s had high hopes for being a major organic outlet, but their shelves are eerily bare, although they do have a nice selection of meats.

Digby’s at DNAK Square

Open daily, 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
197 Street 63, BKK1, Phnom Penh


Veggy's Phnom Penh

We’re not sure if they’re organics, but they sure taste nice.

We are slightly skeptical of Veggy’s half-hearted claims that their produce is organic. In response to our question “is this organic?” we got a blank stare, then, “yes, maybe!” Despite this, it’s worth a visit because they do carry a wide range of mostly-imported fresh vegetables and a selection of hard to find gourmet products like pinenuts and Spanish cheeses and charcuterie. Read our full review of Veggy’s here.


Open daily, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
23 St 240, Phnom Penh
T: 023 211 534

Aeon Supermarket

phnom penh organic

Aeon Mall has a surprisingly large selection of organic produce.

The Aeon supermarket has a surprisingly large selection of locally grown, organic vegetables, as well as organic vegetables imported from around Asia (including places they may have more stringent standards when it comes to growing and labeling organic). It appears that the imported produce is supplied by a Malaysian organic company, D’Lonek, but there’s surprisingly little information about them available online. What sets Aeon Supermarket apart from the rest on this list is that in addition to having a large selection of organic produce, they are also a full-service supermarket so you can do all of your shopping in one place, taking the hassle out of being healthy. Unfortunately it’s replaced by the hassle of having to go to the mall.

Aeon Mall Supermarket

Open daily, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
132 Sothearos Blvd, Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
T: 023 901 091

Farm to Table

phnom penh organic

Farm to Table has a selection of Discovery Farms organics, as well as potted herbs to grow at home.

Farm to Table by Artillery has a selection of vegetables from Discovery Farms, a farm in Kampong Speu that is certified organic by COrAA. The selection is pretty small and the prices are high, but they have a personal touch and have on-site events and daily specials. They can also organize weekly organic vegetable boxes from Discovery Farms (Farm to Table is one of the pickup stops), plus they sell potted herbs on site for $5 each.

Farm to Table

16 Street 360, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 078 899 722

La Vie Claire

La Vie Claire Phnom Penh

La Vie Claire brings French organic and GMO-free pantry items to Phnom Penh.

La Vie Claire is the latest organic shop that’s come to Phnom Penh. Filling a niche that was previously lacking in town, La Vie Claire specializes in organic and GMO-free pantry items and dry goods. They carry an extensive selection of grains, legumes, cereals, teas, juices, chocolate herbal remedies, organic baby food, and chemical-free cleaning and beauty products, among other things. They also have a large selection of various non-dairy milks and gluten-free products. La Vie Claire is a French health food store chain, and many of the products at the Cambodian branch are their own La Vie Claire house brand and certified to EU standards.

They also sell a selection of local products, including a tiny range of chemical-free produce. But there are lots of other places to get organic produce these days; we were most impressed with the selection of previously hard-to-find items like organic bulgur, buckwheat, and rye flour.

La Vie Claire

Open daily, 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
53Eo Street 13, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 012 905 070

If you’re looking for Phnom Penh supermarkets and grocery stores, check out our dedicated blog post. For more information about Phnom Penh organics, visit Real Food: Cambodia, a blog dedicated to organic, gluten-free, and vegan eating in Phnom Penh.

Got a correction for one of our listings? Submit it here.

What’s the difference between a hard title and a soft title?

If you’re considering buying property in Cambodia, you may have heard about hard titles and soft titles, and wonder which one you need. We talk to Leah Valencia from advertiser Elevated Realty in Phnom Penh to get the scoop on the difference between hard and soft land titles, and what are the pros and cons of each.

Cambodia hard title

Does the saying ‘go hard or go home’ apply to land titles in Cambodia?

What’s the history of land titling in Cambodia?

“During the Democratic Kampuchea regime (1975-79), the Khmer Rouge abolished ownership of property and destroyed all existing official property records in Cambodia. At that time, all property belonged to the state and there were no private owners. After the Khmer Rouge fell, and for the next ten years, the right to own property was still not recognized and all property was owned by the government. In 1989 a land law was issued which established a framework for the recognition of property and property rights throughout Cambodia. In 2001 the Land Law was updated in an attempt to further clarify property ownership.”

How are land titles registered?

“Under the Land Law, property can be registered in two ways, systematic registration and sporadic registration. In the systematic system, the government targets plots of land to measure, register and title, this will continue until the whole country is complete. In the sporadic system, the owner initiates the title registration through the central cadastral office. There are currently two types of titles legally recognized in Cambodia, soft titles and hard titles.”

What is a soft title?

“The majority of property in Cambodia is legally held under a soft title, 70% of properties in urban areas and 82% in rural areas. Property held under a soft title is registered at the local sangkat or district level, but not at the national level. Soft title documentation can take a variety of forms, such as a letter of transfer from the previous possessor stamped by the sangkat or district office, a possession status certificate from the local sangkat or district office, or a building application.

Buyers wanting to purchase a soft title property should conduct their own due diligence, at the sangkat or district office to confirm whom holds the soft title to the property. Similar enquiries should be made with the property’s neighbors. The property boundaries should also be carefully checked, as borders are often not properly demarcated and overlaps with neighboring properties can exist. Often a soft title is prefered due to the taxes, fees and the processes involved in obtaining a hard title. However, the option to convert from soft title into a hard title is a right, either when systematic registration occurs or via sporadic registration.”

What is a hard title?

“A hard title is an ownership certificate which is issued by the Cadastral Office and recognized at the national ministerial level as well as at the sangkat and district level. This is the most secure form of ownership, its registration should be the only evidence required of an indefeasible title.”

What is a LMAP title?

“In 2002 the Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP) was initiated, by the World Bank and other supporting nations, to implement systematic registration of property. LMAP and other similar initiatives have developed the legal framework for land administration, training of Ministry and technical staff, and officiating over a million titles. LMAP titles are considered reliable as they are anchored to GPS points, which may be valued at a premium by foreign purchasers. However, LMAP titles can be difficult to secure as many of those issued have been in rural geographical areas.”

What are the pros and cons of a soft title versus a hard title?

Soft title pros:
More properties available
Faster processing
Excludes 4% transfer fee and other costs
Can be converted to a hard title

Soft title cons:
Not registered at the national ministry
Provides less property information and history
Risk of boundary overlap
Cannot be used to secure financing

Hard title pros:
Registered at the national ministry
Ownership is indisputable
Full property information and history
Can be used to secure financing

Hard title cons:
Fewer available properties
Slower processing
4% transfer fees and other costs

→ Read more about buying and renting property and housing in our Phnom Penh real estate guide.

Elevated Realty specializes in finding the perfect home or property in Cambodia. View their properties on their site, Elevated Realty, or give them a call at +855 (0)23 220 609.

Review: CityLink Cambodia bus, Phnom Penh-Siem Reap

When I heard about CityLink, the newest luxury bus between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, it seemed like the sort of tall tale that gets passed around on the schoolyard that is expat life in Cambodia. “They have personal TVs!” “The chairs massage you!” “The seats are first class!” And most of it is true — get the details in the review below.

CityLink Cambodia buses

Need a big seat? CityLink Cambodia offers first-class seating from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap.

CityLink Cambodia bills itself as a luxury bus company, nay the luxury bus company, traversing the long road from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. CityLink has full-size buses and mini-buses going between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. It’s the full-size bus that everyone is talking about, so I bought a ticket and took it for a spin.

The Phnom Penh Post reported that the CityLink buses are new, the seats are modern, and they go to international locations. None of these things is actually true. The bus is old, but clean. The toilet is not modern; it is a squat toilet, but it is also clean. And CityLink only does domestic routes, at least for the time being. The bus is a double-decker with only 17 seats. The lower level is for luggage and the toilet, which is a nice layout because most buses with toilets tend to smell like urine, air freshener, disinfectant, or some combination therein. By housing the toilet below deck, CityLink escapes this fate.

Citylink buses Cambodia

It’s like a first class seat on a 1990s airplane!busbu

17 seats on a bus really isn’t very many, which means that the seats are massive. There are two aisles, with one seat on either side, and a row of three in the back. Because of the single-row seating, this is a great bus to take if you are traveling solo and don’t want to sit next to anyone. The seats are similar to first class recliner seats on domestic flights in the 80s or 90s; they are wide and padded, with a adjustable leg rest and considerable recline. There is, as rumored, a massage feature on every chair.

Each seat has a personal TV that shows programming in English, Mandarin, and Khmer. There is no headphone jack, but the speakers are housed in the headrest so the volume does not need to be very loud to watch a movie. Surprisingly, despite the fact that there were several people on my bus watching movies, the volume in the cabin was lower and less annoying than the standard movie sounds on other buses.

Citylink bus Phnom Penh Siem Reap

Yes, you can play dubiously licensed video games on the trip to Siem Reap!

There’s also a Super Nintendo-style video game controller and a selection of games, including one called Hero Pika that appears to be a counterfeit Mario Brothers, and a possibly legit Popeye. I must confess that I spent more time that I’d like to admit playing phony Mario, but that’s what long bus trips are for, right?

The CityLink staff are also very friendly; there’s a “flight attendant” on board who spent five minutes explaining how I could get my chair to massage me, and when my TV didn’t work, she immediately moved me to another seat. There’s even a buzzer on the armrest in case you want to summon the attendant back to your chair. The WiFi worked like a charm, and because there are so few people on the bus, is much faster than the usual bus Internet speeds. It even was able to maintain a connection when my Cellcard 3g failed me.

That said, my first TV didn’t work, and in my second seat, a large screw fell out of the ceiling and into my lap, which doesn’t inspire confidence. Happily, the driver drove safely and slowly for the entire journey. I am always worried about the bus maintenance and upkeep, though, because most Cambodian bus companies do not seem to place great (or any) emphasis on this. CityLink brough to mind Mekong Express, who despite having an excellent safety record, seem to have buses break down on the side of the road with alarming regularity. There were also quite a lot of stops to pick up and drop off people along the way, although they were speedy.

Citylink Siem Reap Phnom Penh bus

Each aisle only has one seat, making CityLink a good choice for solo travelers or those who don’t like their traveling companions.

Overall, it was a very comfortable ride. Although I suspect that Giant Ibis is more reliable, I would still recommend CityLink, particularly for solo travelers who don’t want to sit next to anybody. Tickets cost $16 (or $14 for the mini-bus) and the trip takes around six-and-a-half hours. Tickets can be purchased from the CityLink offices in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap or can be bought online in advance at I bought mine in the ticket office and would recommend avoiding that particular headache and book online.

In Siem Reap buses arrive and leave from the CityLink office across from Psar Samaki on Road 6. In Phnom Penh, the office is on Street 215, but they will make a quick stop to let people off by the railroad station before dropping off at their office.

CityLink Big Bus Schedule:
Phnom Penh – Siem Reap: 8:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m.
Siem Reap – Phnom Penh: 8:30 a.m.,  12:30 p.m.

CityLink Mini-Bus Schedule:
Phnom Penh – Siem Reap: 7 a.m., 3:30 p.m., 5 p.m.
Siem Reap – Phnom Penh: 7 a.m., 3:30 p.m., 5 p.m.

CityLink Cambodia

#7E Street 215, near Street 156, Phnom Penh
T: 023 939 939; 095 470 470; 0968 470 470
#148Eo National Road 6, opposite Psar Samaki, Siem Reap
T: 063 968 568; 085 470 470; 010 470 470
Book CityLink tickets online at CamboTicket

Attending university (as a foreigner) in Cambodia

Why attend a university in Cambodia? Because you can and it looks interesting on your resume. Roy, an American expat, who is working his way towards a degree in political science at the University of Cambodia, gives us the scoop on going to university in Phnom Penh in the post below.

Get educated at the University of Cambodia.

Get educated at the University of Cambodia.

Getting a degree in Cambodia

Attending university in Cambodia is an adventure and much more interesting than slogging through classes at a community college back home. Right now I’m finishing my second term at University of Cambodia. I love it here; the people are great. While there are a few students here from other ASEAN countries, I’m currently the only Westerner enrolled. Students and teachers all seem initially surprised, but quickly get used to having a barang in class. As a native English speaker, I get asked about pronunciations, definitions and grammar; it’s a bit like being a living dictionary. There are also opportunities where I try to explain the oddities of US politics.

The question I hear most often from my classmates is, “Why are you going to school in Cambodia and why did you decide to attend this school?” I explain that I love the country and the people. My choosing UC is based on instruction in English, the very helpful staff in registration and, if I’m going to travel halfway around the world to go to school, I want to be able to put something on my resume that makes it perfectly clear that I attended a university in Cambodia.

There are no “student visas” in Cambodia but as a student you can get a business/ordinary visa without a work permit. Phnom Penh has several universities that instruct in English, offering associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in a variety of topics. I’ll only discuss the two universities that I’ve had firsthand experience with.

University of Cambodia (UC)

The University of Cambodia is located 300 meters south of Russian Federation Boulevard on Northbridge Road. The prerequisite to enroll for undergraduate studies is an original or certified copy of your high school diploma and transcripts. If you have an associate’s degree it is possible to receive some transfer credits and it will allow you more flexibility in scheduling your classes. Later you may be required to take an English proficiency test and an entrance exam. View the admissions requirements for University of Cambodia.

The transfer of credits from a Western college or university without a degree is possible, but appears to depend on the dean or department head’s willingness to negotiate with the Ministry of Education. Transfer of credits between Cambodian schools is also problematic and there are limits that vary by school.

Foundation year is required for all students without a degree. It is a fixed track consisting of 12 classes over three terms. While it is not universally standardized, it is theoretically transferable between schools. After foundation year there is some flexibility in class scheduling,  with a maximum of five classes per term.

There are four class schedules, mornings, afternoons, evenings and weekends. Tuition is about $1,300 per year for foreign students. Textbooks are generally less than $5 per class.

Rent near the university is low with many available housing options, however, most are not furnished. Tuk tuks cost about $5 from the school to Riverside or, if you’re not in a hurry, the bus is available for 1,500 riel.

Paññāsāstra University Cambodia

The hallowed halls of Paññāsāstra University can be yours for just $1,800 per year.

Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia (PUC)

Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia is located 500 meters south of Independence Monument on Norodom Boulevard. It appears to be academically similar to University of Cambodia but with more Western instructors and staff. Tuition is slightly higher at $1,800 per year for foreign students.

From conversations that I’ve had with one of their deans, this would be my first choice if I was trying to transfer in credits from a foreign university.

Caveats of studying in Cambodia

At UC and PUC, all classes are taught in English. The origin and quality of the English varies by instructor but it is all passable or better. Classes tend to be noisier than in the West, so sitting near the front of the class is advisable. The administration of higher education in Cambodia is very different from what one might be accustomed to elsewhere. When doing anything out of the ordinary, everything seems to be just a bit more difficult than it needs to be. Fortunately the staff and students are helpful and friendly.

This post was written by Roy, an American expat who is working towards a degree in political science in Phnom Penh.

So you’ve found an apartment in Phnom Penh. Now what?

So you’ve been searching for the perfect Phnom Penh apartment for a while, and you’ve finally found it (using our expat guide to Phnom Penh real estate and housing, we assume). Whether you’re moving into a shophouse or a luxury apartment, there are a few things you should do before you sign the lease.

Phnom Penh housing

Phnom Penh is a city awash in housing. Find out what you need to do once you’ve found your pad.

→ Visit the apartment in the evening. Even if you can’t get access to the apartment itself, walk around the neighborhood and see who your neighbors are. You might not notice that you’re directly above a karaoke joint if you have only visited the apartment in the morning, but you will definitely notice once you are locked into a lease and spend your first night there.

→ Negotiate the cost of utilities and any other extras with the landlord. The actual rate for electricity is 820 riel/kWh (this is for users who use more than 100 kw in a month, which is most expats). Landlords will often charge up to 1,500 riel per kw, which can be a $20 to $30 a month difference. Many landlords will also charge a $10 or $20 flat rate for water, when if you paid by your actual usage, the cost would be closer to $2 a month. Insist on paying the going rate before signing the lease. If they refuse, walk. Landlords who rip you off from the get-go are almost certainly going to be a bad landlord in the long run. 

Confirm that the apartment has its own electricity meter. If not, you may end up paying the bill for the entire building. It’s also worth confirming that it actually works; check to see that the numbers are moving. Turn the main power switch for the apartment off and make sure the lights are still on elsewhere in the building.

Negotiate any changes or additions you’d like before you move in. Most landlords are willing to do things like remove furniture or add an air-conditioner before the lease is signed, but are less willing once you’re already ensconced in the apartment.

→ Check the meter readings and make sure that the starting reading is included in your lease or other documentation.

If you are moving into a serviced apartment, make sure you understand what services are provided, and if there any additional fees to cover them. Cable, internet, water, garbage, and security are often covered. A few even cover electricity. Find out in advance so there are no surprises down the line.

Discuss with the landlord if they will provide a cleaner, or if you will need to hire one on your own. Many landlords will prefer you to hire a relative of theirs or someone they know. If you choose to do this, negotiate a price in advance.

→ Document any damage to the apartment at the outset, to have a record for when you move out. Before moving in, get the landlord’s acknowledgement of the damages.

Talk to the landlord and your agent about what the landlord will be responsible for. Many landlords will take care of repairs and painting, but others will consider this the tenant’s responsibility. It’s better to know up front which camp your landlord falls into.

Make sure that the lease details all of the above: utilities rates (unless you are paying the utilities companies directly) who is responsible for repairs, plus an inventory of what furniture the landlord has provided and its condition.

Negotiate the terms for getting your deposit back. Will the landlord let you use it for your last month’s rent? Will they do a walk-through with your on your last day of tenancy and return it then? Make sure this is included on your lease.

Provide your agent or landlord with the required documentation: a copy of your passport, visa and several passport photos that will be registered with the Sangkat that you live in. Some landlords may ask for an employment confirmation letter from your employer.

Agree on the move-in date and sign the lease.

→ Pay a deposit, usually equal to one or two month’s rent. You are not expected to pay your agent if you use one; the landlord will do this.

Want to know more about how to find an apartment in Phnom Penh, recommended real estate agents, and info on buying property? Check out our Phnom Penh expat guide: real estate and housing

How to get from Kampot to Kep (and vice-versa)

If you’re visiting Kampot and are itching to see Kep, or are sick of eating crab in Kep and are ready to see sleepy Kampot, never fear, there are several options to go back and forth between Kep and Kampot. The trip is only 25km (15 miles) and takes between thirty minutes to an hour depending on which type of transport you choose. None of these requires advance reservation and all can be booked while in Kampot or Kep.

The road from Kep to Kampot

The road between Kampot and Kep is finally sealed, and a tuk tuk ride is a great way to see the Cambodian countryside.

Tuk tuk

Currently the trip between Kampot and Kep takes about 35 to 45 minutes by tuk tuk through the Cambodian countryside and several Cham Muslim villages. The road is now fully sealed, so it’s a much more comfortable journey than it was a year ago. When the road was being redone the journey cost between $12 and $15 due to the added wear and tear on vehicles—it was between $8 and $10 before that. These days, negotiations usually start at $15, but most drivers will be happy with $10 or $12 for two people. If you are looking to do a day trip, return trips are usually about the same (because most tuk tuk drivers turn around and go back after dropping you off, anyway). They will be happy to wait for you for a few hours for a couple of extra bucks.

You can catch a tuk tuk at any of the bus stations in Kampot or just on the road. In Kep, your guesthouse can call one for you or you can pick one up at the Crab Market.


A moto can be had for between $3 and $6 one-way. If you’re happy to drive yourself, you can rent a moto in Kampot or Kep for between $4 and $7 per day.


Taxis provide a smoother if less authentic journey between Kep and Kampot. As with most taxis in Cambodia, expect an older model Toyota Camry that seats four passengers (but not if you have as many large suitcases). The cost to take a taxi between Kep and Kampot is $20, and your guesthouse or any local travel agent can book one for you. The will start the negotiation at $30 or $25, but the going rate is still $20. The trip takes about thirty minutes.

Kampot Crab Shuttle

Take a sunset cruise from Kep to Kampot.


For a more scenic way to get from Kampot to Kep, the Crab Shuttle is a daily boat (weather permitting). The trip takes about two hours and costs $9.50 one-way and $13.50 return. The Crab Shuttle is more than just transport; you can buy drinks on the boat and enjoy the scenic cruise. The boat times mean you can spend the day in Kep and head back to Kampot for dinner.

The boat leaves at 9:30 a.m. from Kampot to Kep and arrives at the Rabbit Island Pier at around 11:30 a.m. The trip back from Kep to Kampot is at 3:30 p.m. In this direction, they go a bit slower in order to catch the gorgeous sunset on the river. The boat arrives in Kampot around 6 p.m.

The Crab Shuttle
T: 088 829 6644


Several companies are running mini-buses between Kampot and Kep, and all can be booked at any guesthouse, hotel or local travel agency. The schedules change often—sometimes on a daily basis–so although the times listed below are current as of writing, they change often so it’s best to check before you go.

Vibol Transport runs small buses twice a day between Kampot and Kep for $3 per person. The trip takes 45 minutes and they offer free WiFi (which doesn’t usually work). The times have been changing on a regular basis, but there is always a morning bus and an afternoon bus. Currently, the times are 7:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. from Kampot to Kep and 8:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. from Kep to Kampot, but it’s best to check with a travel agent as the Vibol staff seemed unsure themselves as to when their buses were leaving.

Vibol VIP Transport
T: 078 505 002; 070 954 502

Kampot Tours and Travel is a Kampot and Vietnam-based travel agency that has a mini-bus service that runs between Kampot and Kep. The cost is $3 and they run twice daily from Kampot to Kep. The current times are 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. They run once daily from Kep to Kampot at 2:30 p.m. (Although as usual it’s best to check the times to make sure they haven’t changed). The trip takes 45 minutes and they offer free pickup.

Kampot Tours and Travel
One block off the riverside, near Kronat Park, Kampot
T: 092 125 556; 097 982 8756

Champa Mekong Tours runs mini-buses between Kep and Kampot as well. Buses cost $5 per person and leave Kampot for Kep at 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. and Kep to Kampot at 8:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Published times are often different, so check to make sure.

Champa Mekong Tours
Ek Reach Street (also called Old Market Street. Next to the park, one block in from the riverside), Kampot
T: 023 696 8000

Hour Lian Lion is a new service that runs daily buses between Kep and Kampot that cost just $2. You can buy tickets from any agent in either Kep or Kampot (some will charge $3). Check the schedule, but at the time of writing we were told buses leave at 12:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.

Hour Lian Lion Transport
T:097 484 8485; 089 782 008