The environment, friendly people, and captivating ocean are just some of the reasons expats and locals choose to live in Sihanoukville. It has transformed over the years from a quiet lazy beach town to a busy city and the city has something to offer everyone, whatever your budget range or preference might be.
Sihanoukville has experienced some serious changes in the past few years. With recent Chinese investment, modern real estates have been constructed at a rapid rate. You have the option to choose villas, apartments, shophouses, or traditional Khmer houses. Even guesthouses in the city offer monthly rates for their rooms. The rent for a bungalow is about $300 a month, but staying in a guesthouse is not the best choice for long term stay. Renting a villa is a good option if you require more privacy as villas are usually fenced in by a wall. There are also luxurious villas that offer private pools.
Apartments are another great alternative. Most have a kitchen, a bathroom, and one or two bedrooms. Shophouses can be found on main roads, and you can rent the full building or just one floor. If you want to really live like a local, you can opt for traditional Khmer houses. These houses are made of wood and usually on stilts. The most popular areas for expats are Central Sihanoukville, Otres Beach, Victoria Beach, and Koh Rong.
Unlike Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville is a small city and most places are in walking distance. The choice of public transportation is limited, but they are of good value. It is important to take note that all public transportation in the city does not have meters, so you need to agree on the fare. You can bargain a little, but be sure to do so before you set off. Tuk-tuks are the most common transportation in the city since they are comfortable, safe, and affordable. You can get around the city for $4 to $7. The drivers usually operate at a fixed price, so haggling is impossible.
Motorbike taxis are another common way to get around. The standard price is between $2 to $10 and the drivers do not have any fixed price which allows you to bargain. However, like in other parts of Cambodia, the drivers typically do not provide any helmet.
You can easily unwind from a busy and tiring day on the beaches. The main beach in Sihanoukville is Serendipity Beach. It is lined with beachfront restaurants, each with outside seating where you can relax under the sun. In the evening, the beach comes alive with parties. Otres Beach and Independence Beach are much quieter and cleaner. You can swim in the cool and refreshing water or have a seaside picnic. Both are equipped with small restaurants.
There is plenty of nightlife in the city especially on the beaches and Ekareach Street. There is also a handful of bars and restaurants such as Five Men Fresh Beer, Queenco Hotel, and Koh Por Food Shop. Five Men, Fresh Beer is named ‘fresh beer’ because they make beer on-site, including a German-style lager or stout. Queenco Hotel features happy hour cocktails, phenomenal sunsets, a swimming pool, and pool tables. Koh Por Food Shop is the best place to try Khmer cuisine, it’s very popular among locals due to its vast variety of dishes.
The city has seen an increase in petty crimes, but they are rarely serious. There are several cases of bag snatching, even from motors and tuk-tuks. The best way to avoid this is to keep an eye on your belonging, especially on the beach. It’s also a good idea to stay in well-lit streets because there have been a number of incidents regarding assaults in dark unlit roads.
English is widely spoken in Sihanoukville. Even when you go to rural and non-tourist areas, there will be people who can speak some English. It is worth learning basic Khmer as the locals are usually very pleased if you speak to them in Khmer and it will make haggling a lot easier.
The city has a tropical climate and experiences two distinct seasons. The temperatures are generally warm throughout the year. The northeast monsoon or the dry season lasts from November until April which brings sunny and dry weather. February to April are the hottest months with temperatures rising as high as 40 °C. The southwest monsoon or the wet season runs from May to October. Temperatures can drop to 22 °C, and it’s normally very humid during this season. There’s usually some rainfall, but the showers rarely last for long, so there are still many hours of sunshine.