In this post and video, we explore the cost of grocery shopping in Cambodia. We look at what grocery and food items are available in the super and mini markets here in Siem Reap. We look at the costs of typical products and how these are slowly changing with time.
The video was shot in 2017 at our local mini-market close to the centre of town. Very little about grocery shopping in Cambodia has changed since then. The prices have changed little but the variety and availability of imported goods have increased significantly.
You are paying for convenience and for variety. Goods in super or minimarkets usually fall into two categories. Overpriced local produce that has been cleaned and wrapped in plastic is the main one. The second is imported processed foods that vary wildly in availability and cost. You can see the costs of some of these from the till receipt photo and from the video below.
The local produce is normally bought from wholesale suppliers who go to the large regional markets and suppliers, buy produce and prepare it and pack it to look like what we get in the west. The produce is often of variable quality and freshness and is nearly always overpriced in comparison to the same product at the local market. It is stocked as a convenience item as you don't have to go to the local market (which may be closed after 5 pm). You pay the extra as it is also cleaned and partially prepared which reduce preparation time once back home. It is also a status symbol for people to be seen affording these overpriced inferior products instead of the cheaper market produce. We find it nearly always better to go to the local market for these groceries.
You can find almost everything here in Cambodia these days. This has been the major change since our first few visits in the mid two thousands. You can now easily find a selection of European cheeses, marmite, mustards, pickles, preserved meats and other home comfort foods if you know where to look. The prices can vary hugely from store to store. You need to be familiar with the stock of many stores in your local area to find the most value for money. For example, a jar of our finest English Branston Pickle can be $4.80 in Angkor Market and only $2.60 in Thai Hout at the other end of the street (and round the corner a bit). But you don't go to Thai Hout for Marmite as it is almost twice the price - if they actually have it - as Chao Sang Hoc.
Other stuff - sugar and spice and all things nice!
The remaining items on sale are usually the forever popular highly processed sugar/salt/starch/fat-based snacks, drinks and sweets. These are normally packed in cartons that have as many E numbers on the inside as the packaging has bright colours on the outside. Its the kind of stuff that if fed to kids could be classed as child cruelty. Oh, I forgot about booze. Lots and lots of cheap booze. Jim Beam from $7.00, Johnny Walker Black Label from $17 and finest VSOP brandy from around $25. Beers start at 40 cents a can and cigarettes from as little as 35 cents a pack of 20.
New stores are bigger!
In the last year or so, there have been several new larger supermarket-style stores opening. These stock a huge range of imported grocery and other products. They look more and more like Wal Mart or Tesco superstore each day. The stock a larger selection of imported frozen food (think £1.00 fish fingers for $4.50) and a greater variety of non-grocery stock (think Vacuum cleaners and televisions).
As Cambodia plays catch up with neighbouring Thailand, new shopping malls are being built faster than businesses can fill them. The new malls are typical of these meccas of consumerism across the globe. Most have a supermarket on the bottom floor and a plethora of fast food outlets, toy shops and electrical goods stores in the remaining space. Some of them are actually quite spectacular, including the price of things.
Watch the video for an idea of available groceries and prices.
Below are valuable resources that we have developed to help you on your journey.
Getting to Cambodia
You will need a flight to Phnom Penh, Siem Reap or Sihanoukville. We have always found Skyscanner give us the best deals on flights. It is also easy to travel overland from Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. There are many bus companies that offer these services. Once in the county, travel between places is best done by internal flight or by bus. You can also travel by private car/taxi. For shorter journeys around town, you can hail a passing taxi or tuk-tuk.
Where to stay and long term accommodation
When you first get into town you will want to find a guesthouse or hotel for the first few weeks. We usually use Booking.com or AirBnB. When you want long term accommodation like an apartment or a house to rent then we suggest our fine friends Gemma and Cho at Siem Reap Property Services. Cho has always found us great places to live and is super helpful liaising with landlords and services etc.
We thoroughly recommend you take our travel insurance whenever you travel. We recently had to put in a claim for over $5000 when we had to cancel our flights and other bookings and quickly fly back to the UK due to a family emergency. The claim went through very quickly and we managed to recover most of our expenses. Without travel insurance, we would have lost the lot!
If you think you are going to be teaching then you are going to need a TEFL course. You do not need a CELTA straight away. CELTA costs a lot of money and is a big capital investment. You may decide after day three in the classroom that teaching isn't for you. Or you may find after a year of teaching that you really enjoy it and want to apply for better-paid jobs that require a CELTA. That is the right time to do one.
Buy a TEFL course from a reputable course provider. I found www.TEFL.org to be excellent. Tanya then went and completed one by i-to-i and I think it is better value for money. You also get better support and bigger discounts on things and better leads to jobs.
You can find out more about teaching English on Tanya's travel blog at Can Travel, Will Travel.
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