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Cambodia gets nod as retirement destination

Phnom Penh’s laid-back cafe culture is part of the appeal for retirees moving to the capital.
Phnom Penh’s laid-back cafe culture is part of the appeal for retirees moving to the capital. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Cambodia gets nod as retirement destination

For the first time, Cambodia has entered International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index, indicating growing global recognition of the Kingdom as a retirement destination.

The annual index, which was released at the end of 2014, is now in its 23rd year.

Cambodia has entered the list at the bottom of the index’s 24 countries that get the nod as most ideal for North Americans to retire to. But as International Living notes in its commentary on this year’s selection: “Remember, we measure here only the very best havens. So the country last on our list – newcomer to the Index Cambodia – is still one of the best in the world.”

Cambodia might be new to the Annual Global Retirement Index, but its entry isn’t news to the increasing numbers of foreigners who are already living in other parts of Asia.

Michael Thomas, 65, an American who has been living and working in Bangkok for 12 years, said he has decided to retire in Cambodia after having made a number of reconnaissance trips.

“Phnom Penh is a much better option now than Bangkok,” said Thomas, who cited the increasing cost of living in Bangkok and stricter visa requirements as disincentives to retiring in Thailand, while adding that “the charm has worn off” for him.

Among the categories used by International Living’s index are real estate, climate, healthcare, entertainment and amenities, ease of integration and cost of living. In terms of cost of living, Cambodia shares top place with Guatemala.

“I see Cambodia as a way to reinvigorate my life,” Thomas said. “There’s a huge variety of excellent restaurants, many streets I still haven’t explored, and Phnom Penh moves at a slower pace than Bangkok.”

Harold Unland, 46, who runs popular watering hole and lodge Sundance Inn and Saloon, has seen first-hand that increasing numbers of retirees are choosing Cambodia as an option. But he says the majority at this stage are coming from Thailand, which has far more restrictive visa requirements than Cambodia.

“I hear more people currently based in Thailand talking about the move than actually making it, but I’m expecting a heavy influx,” said Unland, who also pointed to the emergence of “a real foodie scene”, a vibrant live music environment and a proliferation of art venues as winning draw-cards for retirees.

Unland estimated there are as many 300 foreign-run restaurants in the popular districts of Phnom Penh, such as Riverside and BKK1.

“There are also more and more Western-standard condominiums under construction, and they’re getting more affordable due to competition, while local construction companies are getting better at building and outfitting apartments and condominiums to Western standards,” Unland said.

The website Retirecambodia.com echoes such sentiments, arguing that “Cambodia . . . is set to be the new Thailand.”

Unland agrees that may well be the case – with easier visa rules and a lower cost of living – but he jokingly adds the caveat: “For some people, most of the cost savings involve the bad stuff.”

“Every hour is happy hour when you live in a place where the bars serve one-dollar beers,” he said.

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