Getting there in Cambodia

Airports & Airlines
Phnom Penh International Airport is the gateway to the Cambodian capital, while Siem Reap International Airport serves visitors to the temples of Angkor. Both airports have a good range of services, including restaurants, bars, shops and ATMs. Sihanoukville International Airport currently only offers domestic links with Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
Flights to Cambodia are expanding, but most connect only as far as regional capitals. However, budget airlines have taken off in recent years and are steadily driving down prices.
If you are heading to Cambodia for a short holiday and want a minimum of fuss, Thai Airways offers the easiest connections from major cities in Europe, the USA and Australia. Singapore Airlines’ regional wing, Silk Air, and budget airline Jetstar offer at least one flight per day connecting Cambodia to Singapore. Other regional centres with flights to Cambodia are Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Hanoi, Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Pakse, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Shanghai. Further afield, there is also a route to Doha in the Middle East.

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Domestic airlines in Cambodia tend to open up and close down regularly. Given the choice, enter the country on an international carrier rather than a local outfit.

Some airlines offer open-jaw tickets into Phnom Penh and out of Siem Reap, which can save some time and money. The majority of the following telephone numbers are for Phnom Penh offices (023). See the Siem Reap section for airline offices there.

  • Air Asia Daily budget flights connecting Phnom Penh and Siem Reap to Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.
  • Asiana Airlines Regular connections between Phnom Penh and Seoul.
  • Bangkok Airways Daily connections from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap to Bangkok.
  • Cambodia Angkor Air Daily connections from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap to Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).
  • China Eastern Airlines Regular flights from Siem Reap to Kunming.
  • China Southern Airlines Regular flights from Phnom Penh to Guangzhou.
  • Dragon Air Daily flights between Phnom Penh and Hong Kong.
  • Eva Air Daily flights between Phnom Penh and Taipei.
  • Jetstar Daily budget flights from both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap to Singapore.
  • Korean Air Regular flights connecting Phnom Penh and Siem Reap with Seoul and Incheon.
  • Lao Airlines Regular flights from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap to Pakse, Vientiane and Luang Prabang.
  • Malaysia Airlines Daily connections from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap to Kuala Lumpur.
  • Myanmar Airways International Regular flights from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap to Yangon.
  • Qatar Airways Regular flights from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City and Doha.
  • Shanghai Airlines Regular flights linking Phnom Penh with Shanghai.
  • Silk Air Daily flights linking Phnom Penh and Siem Reap with Singapore, plus some flights between Siem Reap and Danang.
  • Thai Airways Daily flights connecting Phnom Penh and Bangkok.
  • Tigerair Daily budget flights between Phnom Penh and Singapore.
  • Vietnam Airlines Daily flights linking both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap with both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, as well as Phnom Penh with Vientiane, and Siem Reap with Luang Prabang.


Border Crossings

During the bad old days of communism and the Cold War, pretty much none of the land borders were open to foreigners. Times have changed and there are now more than a dozen border crossings connecting Cambodia with its neighbours.
Cambodia shares one border crossing with Laos, six crossings with Thailand and eight with Vietnam. Cambodian visas are now available at all the land crossings with Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Neighbouring visas are available on arrival in Laos and Thailand but are not available on arrival in Vietnam. Most borders are open during the core hours of 7am to 5pm. However, some of the most popular crossings are open later in the evening and other more remote crossings close for lunch.

There are few legal money changing facilities at some of the more remote border crossings, so be sure to have some small-denomination US dollars handy.
Tourist visas are available at all crossings for US$20, but Cambodian immigration officers at the land border crossings, especially with Thailand, have a reputation for petty extortion. Travellers are occasionally asked for a small ‘immigration fee’ of some kind or some sort of bogus health certificate costing US$1. More serious scams include overcharging for visas by demanding payment in Thai baht (anywhere between 1000B and 1200B instead of 600B) and forcing tourists to change US dollars into riel at a poor rate. Hold your breath, stand your ground, and don’t let this experience flavour your impression of Cambodians overall.

Before making a long-distance trip, be aware of border closing times, visa regulations and any transport scams. Border details change regularly, so ask around or check the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree (www.lonelyplanet.com/thorn tree). For the latest on Cambodian border crossings, check out the Immigration Department website at http://cambodia-immigration.com.

Laos

Cambodia and Laos share a remote frontier that includes some of the wildest areas of both countries. There is only one border crossing open to foreigners.
Trapaeng Kriel–Nong Nok Khiene
The border between Cambodia and Laos is officially open from 7am to 5pm daily. It is very popular as an adventurous and cheap way to combine travel to northeastern Cambodia and southern Laos.
To enter Cambodia using this route, visas are available on arrival at Trapaeng Kriel. Lao visas are also finally available on arrival, ranging from US$30 to US$42 depending on nationality. Both sides of the border charge a processing fee for those crossing, (US$2 at any time; US$3 to US$4 after hours).

To leave Cambodia, travel to the remote town of Stung Treng. From Stung Treng there are minibuses (US$5) heading north to the border at around 7am or so and again just after lunch, but as onward transport is almost nonexistent on the Lao side it may be best to book a transfer on to Ban Nakasong in Laos, which guesthouses can help arrange. There are also a couple of buses during the day, including Rith Mony at about 8am and Phnom Penh Sorya Transport (from Phnom Penh) after 3pm, the latter continuing to Pakse.
Heading south, most of the above can be done in reverse. The minibuses head back to Stung Treng any time after 8.30am and the buses both depart the border around 10am or so. If you’re stuck, it might be possible to charter a minibus for about US$30 and a moto for around US$10 if you bargain hard.

Thailand
Cambodia and Thailand share an 805km border and there are now six legal international border crossings, and many more options for locals.

Poipet–Aranya Prathet

The original land border crossing between Cambodia and Thailand has earned itself a bad reputation in recent years, with scams galore to help tourists part with their money.
There are two slow trains a day from Hualamphong train station in Bangkok to the Thai border town of Aranya Prathet (48B, six hours); take the 5.55am service unless you want to spend the night in a border town. There are also regular bus services from Bangkok’s Mo Chit northern terminal to Aranya Prathet (1st/2nd class 215/125B, four to five hours). From Aranya Prathet, take a túk-túk (motorised three-wheeled pedicab; 80B) or local bus (15B) for the final 6km to the border.

Once across the border, try not to get roped into the ‘free’ tourist shuttle to the ‘International Tourist Terminals’, which arrange transport to major cities, but at inflated prices: Phnom Penh (US$15, seven hours), Siem Reap (US$9, two hours) or Battambang (US$10, two hours). Stay solo and walk to the bus-company offices for cheaper fares. The vast majority of the buses depart very early in the morning (before 8am).

The road to Siem Reap (153km) is now in superb condition, making the onward journey just two hours in a private vehicle.
Leaving Cambodia, it is easy enough to get to Poipet from Siem Reap, Battambang or even Phnom Penh. By land there is no departure tax to leave Cambodia. From Poipet, take a túk-túk to Aranya Prathet, from where there are regular buses to Bangkok between 4am and 10pm or the slow train at 1.55pm.

Cham Yeam–Hat Lek

Getting to the border The Cham Yeam/Hat Lek border crossing, between Cambodia’s Koh Kong and Trat in Thailand, is popular with travellers linking the beaches of Cambodia and Thailand. It offers connections from Bangkok, Ko Samet and Ko Chang to the Cardamom Mountains, Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh. Leaving Cambodia, take a taxi (US$10 plus toll) ormoto (US$3 plus toll) from Koh Kong across the toll bridge to the border. Once in Thailand, catch a minibus to Trat, from where there are regular buses to Bangkok.
At the border Departing Cambodia via the Hat Lek border is actually pretty straightforward, as there are no visa scams for immigration to benefit from. Coming in the other direction and arriving in Cambodia via Hat Lek is a bit of a nightmare, as visa overcharging is common – up to 1000B or more than US$30. Avoid this problem by arranging an online e-visa in advance of travel.
Moving on From the Hat Lek border, take a minibus straight to Trat (120B). From here there are regular buses to Bangkok (from 225B, five to six hours) heading to the Thai capital’s Eastern or North and Northeastern bus stations. Buses depart regularly from 6am until 11.30pm. Anyone heading to the nearby island of Koh Chang can arrange onward transport in Trat.

Other Crossings

Several more out-of-the-way crossings are open for international traffic. The O Smach–Chong Jom crossing connects Cambodia’s Oddar Meanchey Province and Thailand’s Surin Province, but it is very remote. Share taxis link Siem Reap (30,000r, four hours) with Samraong via NH68. From Samraong, take a moto (250B) or a charter taxi (US$25) for the punishing drive to O Smach (40km, nearly two hours) and its frontier casino zone. On the Thai side, it’s easy, as sawngthaew (pick-ups) and motos take arrivals to the bus stop for Surin (70km, 1½ hours).

The Choam–Choam Sa Ngam crossing, a short distance from the site of Pol Pot’s cremation, is 16km north of Anlong Veng or 134km north of Siem Reap. From Anlong Veng, a sealed road heads up to the border (US$3 to US$4 by moto). On the Thai side, you are in a pretty remote area, but there are some sawngthaew to Phusing, which has bus connections to Kantharalak or Si Saket.
The border at Psar Pruhm-Ban Pakard is 102km southwest of Battambang and 22km northwest of Pailin via rapidly improving roads. To travel this way independently, take a bus from Bangkok to Chanthaburi (160B, four hours) and then a minibus from there to Ban Pakard (150B, 1½ hours). A private taxi from Chanthaburi to Ban Pakard is about 1000B. On the Cambodian side, visas cost US$20 or 800B and the crossing is hassle-free. Cross the Cambodian border into the casino area and then arrange transport to Pailin.
There’s also a crossing for visa-less day trips at Prasat Preah Vihear, the stunning Cambodian temple perched atop the Dangkrek Mountains. It is currently closed due to the earlier confrontation between Cambodia and Thailand over border demarcation in the area. However, it looks set to reopen now that relations are thawing once more.

Welcome to Scambodia

Poipet is a Wild West kind of place and has attracted a lot of unsavoury characters clinging to the coat-tails of the economic boom. Unfortunately, many of these are involved in the travel business and carry on like some sort of mafia, giving Cambodia a bad name. The Cham Yeam border, near Koh Kong, is not much better and notorious for overcharging for visas. Below are some tips to navigate the maze, but rest assured that not everyone in Cambodia is out to scam you.
To avoid any visa overcharging at Cham Yeam and Poipet, it may be worth arranging an e-visa in advance. It takes three days to issue and you can exit at any land border crossing.

POIPET–ARANYA PRATHET

Right after you cross the stinky stream that marks the border, you come to ‘Cambodian Visa Service’, where the price of a tourist visa is posted as US$20. However, before you make it this far, plenty of enterprising people will have expended lots of creative energy in trying to make you part with up to double the actual cost of the visa.
A Cambodian ‘consulate’ has been set up inside Thailand, but there are no marked prices and ‘officials’ try to charge anywhere between 1000B and 1300B (US$33 to US$42) for the visa. Various techniques are employed, including the line that visas are no longer available at Poipet or that the visa will take two or three days to issue at the border. The trick is to survive the Thai side and make it to the ‘Cambodian Visa Service’ counter. Pay for the visa in US dollars only, as if you pay in Thai baht then the charge will immediately jump up to 800B to 1000B.

CHAM YEAM–HAT LEK

Immigration officials at the Cham Yeam border are known to demand 1200B (US$42) for a tourist visa that should cost US$20. Government employees in Cambodia are notoriously underpaid and many ‘buy’ their jobs from senior officials. This involves a ‘monthly fee’ to keep the position and it seems tourists are being made to foot the bill.
We have heard reports of polite and persistent travellers who have managed to pay just US$25 or even US$20 (by claiming they only have US dollars, asking for a receipt or threatening to complain to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Interior in Phnom Penh), but these visas tend to be processed very slowly. Others have been told that if they don’t pay the 1200B fee then they can go back to Thailand.

Vietnam

Cambodia and Vietnam share a long frontier with a bevy of border crossings. Foreigners are currently permitted to cross at eight places. Cambodian visas are now available at all crossings, but Vietnamese visas should be arranged in advance, as they are not available on arrival.

Bavet–Moc Bai

The original land crossing between Vietnam and Cambodia has seen steady traffic for two decades. The trip by bus between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City takes about six to seven hours, including the border crossing, although it can take a lot longer before and after festivals. There are lots of companies offering direct services with no need to change buses. All charge between US$9 and US$12.

Kaam Samnor–Vinh Xuong

This river border is very popular with independent travellers. It is a far more interesting trip than taking the road, as it involves a fast boat on the Mekong in Cambodia and travel along some very picturesque areas of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. Coming from Ho Chi Minh City, it is possible to book a cheap Mekong Delta tour through to Chau Doc and then make your own way from there.
There are several boat companies offering direct services between Phnom Penh and Chau Doc. Capitol Tour is the cheapest direct option to Chau Doc, departing at 8.30am daily. Hang Chau pulls out from Chau Doc at 7.30am and departs Phnom Penh at noon. The more upmarket Blue Cruiser departs Chau Doc at 8am and Phnom Penh at 1pm. Both take about three to four hours depending on the efficiency of the border crossing. Victoria Hotels also has a boat making several runs a week between Phnom Penh and its Victoria Chau Doc Hotel. All of these boats depart from the Tourist Boat Dock in Phnom Penh.

There are several companies offering luxury cruises between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap via this border crossing. International player Pandaw Cruises is an expensive option favoured by high-end tour companies. Cambodian company Toum Teav Cruises is smaller and is well regarded for its personal service and excellent food. Heritage Line offers the most sophisticated cruise boats on this route with the original Jayavarman VII now complemented by the striking Jahan.

Prek Chak–Xa Xia

Getting to the border The Prek Chak/Xa Xia border crossing has become a popular option for linking Kampot and Kep with Ha Tien and the popular Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc. It is easy enough to travel between these destinations in one day with some smooth transport connections.
The easiest way to get to Prek Chak (open 6am to 5.30pm) and on to Ha Tien, Vietnam,is on a minibus from Phnom Penh (US$16, five hours), Sihanoukville (US$16, five hours), Kampot (US$10, two hours), or Kep (US$8, 1½ hours) to the border. Buses are no longer allowed to make the crossing through to Ha Tien itself. Virak Buntham has a bus from Phnom Penh; Virak Buntham and two other companies ply the Sihanoukville–Kampot–Kep–Ha Tien route.
A more flexible alternative from Phnom Penh or Kampot is to take any bus to Kompong Trach, then a moto (about US$3) for 15km, on a good road, to the border.
In Kep, tour agencies and guesthouses can arrange a direct moto (US$8, 40 minutes), remork (US$13, one hour) or taxi (US$20, 30 minutes). Rates and times are almost double from Kampot. Private vehicles take a new road that cuts south to the border 10km west of Kompong Trach. It is also possible to buy through tickets to Phu Quoc, including the boat, and these cost US$18 from Kep.

At the border As always, it’s necessary to have a Vietnamese visa for travel to Phu Quoc, the Mekong Delta and on to Ho Chi Minh City.
At Prek Chak, motos ask US$5 to take you to the Vietnamese border post 300m past the Cambodian one, and then all the way to Ha Tien (7km). You’ll save money walking across no-man’s land and picking up a moto on the other side for US$2 to US$3.
Moving On Travellers bound for Phu Quoc should arrive in Ha Tien no later than 12.30pm to secure a ticket on the 1pm ferry (230,000d or about US$11, 1½ hours). Extreme early risers may be able to make it to Ha Tien in time to catch the (slower) 8.20am car ferry to Phu Quoc. The scheduled buses from Cambodia to Ha Tien arrive before the 1pm boat departs.

Other Crossings

Getting to the Border The remote and seldom-used Phnom Den/Tinh Bien border crossing (7am to 5pm) between Cambodia and Vietnam lies about 60km southeast of Takeo town in Cambodia and offers connections to Chau Doc. Most travellers prefer the Mekong crossing at Kaam Samnor or the newer Prek Chak crossing near Ha Tien to the south. Take a share taxi (10,000r), a chartered taxi (US$25) or a moto (US$10) from Takeo to the border (48km).
At the Border Vietnam visas are not available at the border, so arrange one in advance through a travel company in Kampot or Kep or via the embassy in Phnom Penh.
Moving On Travellers are at the mercy of Vietnamese xe om (moto) drivers and taxis for the 30km journey from the border to Chau Doc. Prepare for some tough negotiations. Expect to pay somewhere between US$5 and US$10 by bike, more like US$20 for a taxi.

Car & Motorcycle

Car drivers and motorcycle riders will need registration papers, insurance documents and an International Driving Licence (although not officially recognised) to bring vehicles into Cambodia. It is complicated to bring in a car but relatively straightforward to bring in a motorcycle, as long as you have a carnet de passage (vehicle passport). This acts as a temporary import-duty waiver and should save a lot of hassles when dealing with Cambodian customs.

As written on lonelyplanet.com

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