FAQ (and not so FAQ)
Most recent update: May 17, 2010
are the overland options for traveling to Cambodia from neighboring countries?
A: It is possible to travel overland from all neighboring countries, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. There are presently at least six open crossings from Vietnam, one from Laos, and six from Thailand.
1.) Aranyaprathet/Poipet which is the main checkpoint between the two countries and generally the one to use if going to Siem Reap from Bangkok and with improved roads in Cambodia is also suitable for Phnom Penh and really, any destination in Cambodia except the south coast. This border offers the most onward transportation options in both Thailand and Cambodia. This is also the busiest, most chaotic crossing. The infamous road from here to Siem Reap is no longer infamous as it is now a fully surfaced proper highway.
2.) Hat Lek/Koh Kong a.k.a. Cham Yeam, is the southernmost crossing and best used for Sihanoukville and a more scenic route to Phnom Penh. While border guards tend to play games at all border crossings this is the place where, historically, you are most likely to be scammed for the highest visa and stamp fees.
3.) Chong Jom (Surin province)/O'Smach crossing, north of Siem Reap, west of Anlong Veng, useful for travel to/from Vientiane in Laos or Thailand's Isaan region.
4.) Chong Sa-ngam (Si Saket province)/Anlong Veng, also north of Siem Reap and useful for travel to/from Vientiane in Laos or Thailand's Isaan region.
5.) Ban Pakard (Chantaburi province)/Phsa Prom Pailin is on Cambodia's west side south of Poipet, north of Koh Kong and is a convenient entry point for travel to Battambang and also for travel from Thailand's east coast beaches such as Pattaya to anywhere in Cambodia. Connects with Chantaburi province (Pongnamron district), Thailand.
6.) Ban Laem/Daun Lem Border (Kamreang district of Battambang province) is also on Cambodia's west side south of Poipet, north of Koh Kong and is equally convenient as Ban Pakard/Pailin as it is just to the north of it. Also connects with Chantaburi province (Pongnamron district), Thailand.
Voeung Kam, Laos - There are actually two border crossings - the river and the road. Cambodia visas are available here, but according to some reports only at the road crossing.
Moc Bai/Bavet : The most popular crossing from direct access between Phnom Penh and Saigon.
Ving Xuong/Kaam Samnor (Chau Doc) : The increasingly popular Mekong River crossing into or from Vietnam's Mekong Delta.
Tinh Bien/Phnom Den : West of Chau Doc, useful if coming from or going to Kampot and Sihanoukville.
Xa Xia/Prek Chak (Ha Tien): southernmost crossing near Kampot/Kep.
Xa Mat/Trapeang Phlong (Kompong Cham province, Memot district) : out in the sticks of eastern Cambodia and to/from Tay Ninh province.
Le Thanh/O Yadao: In the far northeast of Ratanakiri province oneard to Pleiku in Vietnam.
Apparently in Kratie province there is the Trapaing Srae province from one totally remote area to another.
Cambodia visas are issued on arrival at all entry points.
There is copious amounts of information on border crossings and transport in Cambodia on the Overland pages elsewhere on this website.
A: Basically anywhere you want to go. Regular air-con buses ply the routes to and from Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville, Kampot, Kompong Cham, Kratie, Stung Treng, Kompong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang, Siem Reap, and Poipet. There isn't really much inter-provincial bus services other than connecting any two towns along any of these routes which all originate or terminate in Phnom Penh. There are a few exceptions, for example Siem Reap to Kompong Cham or Battambang, but by and large everything starts or ends in Phnom Penh. One notable exception is the tourist buses that run between Poipet and Siem Reap, which if you've read much of this website you know you probably shouldn't be using, anyway.
With the exception of the Poipet to Siem Reap buses, prices for the buses are fixed and reasonable. Service is generally okay. So many bus companies have come and gone that I've given up trying to list them all. The two best bets are Mekong Express, presently $11 between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and slightly cheaper Paramount Angkor Express. Both companies use reasonably new buses with toilets, A/C, decent seats.
At most destinations, buses will stop at some totally chaotic excuse for a bus station (or as is the case in Siem Reap, their own private bus lot) where over-zealous local motodrivers will practically carry you off the bus. The bit with buses dumping their cargo at a commission-paying guesthouse is by and large the exclusive domain of the tourist buses from Poipet to Siem Reap.
For other destinations and most inter-provincial travel that doesn't involve Phnom Penh you have to hassle with shared transport in the form of Toyota Camry taxi, van, or pick-up truck. Taxis can be shared or hired privately outright.
For further information on transport to and from Siem Reap, see the Talesofasia Guide to Siem Reap.
In Phnom Penh, share taxis are available to most any destination, Siem Reap, Kompong Thom, Kampot, Sihanoukville, Koh Kong, Battambang, Vietnam border, etc. For most destinations, they can be found at the northwest corner of the Central Market. The exception is for southeastern destinations (i.e. Moc Bai, Vietnam border crossing). These taxis leave from a stand near the Monivong bridge. Provincial capitals also have taxis going in every direction. If you can in any way connect two destinations, you can probably find a share taxi or pick-up truck going there, even to some very remote areas.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, most routes have a fixed rate which the locals pay and bargaining is rarely an issue. Unfortunately, as a foreigner you probably don't know these fares and you may be forced into a discussion about it. Usually when such discussions take place you'll end up paying more than you should. If at all possible, discuss rates only with the driver and avoid touts, motorbike taxi drivers etc, as they are only hustling for commissions which will raise your cost. For pricing in northwest Cambodia and more details about negotiating prices, see my Overland section.
Pick-up trucks, once the only way to get around Cambodia, are gradually being relegated to their place in Cambodia transport history. They are still used in the countryside, but much less so on the major routes as improved road conditions and bus services render them redundant.
Well, sort of and yes and no.
The yes: Between Siem Reap or Phnom Penh and Saigon there are about four different reputable bus services. These are scheduled routes that transport locals (Cambodian and Vietnamese) as well as foreign expats and tourists without scams or hassles. There is no change of bus at the border (though if you are traveling to or from Siem Reap you will change buses in Phnom Penh) or unnecessary delays other than whatever it takes to get everyone's passports stamped.
The no: Between Siem Reap or Phnom Penh (either via Poipet or Koh Kong) and Bangkok or any point in Thailand. Although the roads to the Poipet and Koh Kong border posts are finished, these bus routes are still the domain of non-scheduled backpacker scam buses interested only in transporting tourists. Unlike with Vietnam, all border crossings between Thailand and Cambodia require a vehicle change. And with it are excessive and pointless delays, visa scams, and in some instances no transport at all willing to transport you on the other side despite whatever kind of ticket you bought. Conventional wisdom here is if coming from Thailand, only arrange transport to the border while in Thailand and take care of the Cambodia portion after you've crossed over and if traveling the other direction, again take care of Cambodia in Cambodia and sort out Thailand when you are physically inside Thailand.
No matter what an agent or guesthouse might tell you, avoid combo tickets between Thailand and Cambodia and it should go without saying, don't even think about buying a Bangkok-Siem Reap-Bangkok return ticket!!!!
A: For many years foreign embassy reports (i.e. Canada, USA, England, well, all of them I guess) and some guidebooks advised against overland travel for security reasons. This was even then and certainly now, complete nonsense, highway banditry hasn't been a problem since 1999. Any "roadblock" you encounter is some form of a toll (though the legalities of these tolls may be subject to debate, you as a passenger need not be concerned with them). Except for the tollbooth on NH 4 on the way out of Phnom Penh which is a proper toll plaza, here a tollbooth is a bamboo gate and some guy in a uniform will move that gate when you give him the money or alternatively, he just waves a baton at whoever he wants to stop. They even issue receipts at some. But whatever form of a toll it is, if it even is one, it is entirely between the driver and the person with their hand out and has absolutely nothing to do with you the passenger. There is nothing whatsoever for you to be concerned about if you're hurtling down the highway in a taxi or truck and some guy in a uniform stops the vehicle.
I have traveled throughout Cambodia and have encountered almost nothing but friendly curious locals. Embassy reports that advise against overland travel are written by people that quite frankly, have never been outside of an office in Phnom Penh if they've even been in Cambodia at all.
What I will suggest, however, is that you do not travel at night. This is largely due to dark lousy roads, vehicles that may not have headlights, and all manner of obstacles that find their way onto the road even though they shouldn't be there.
A: With any luck this from of transport will up and go away and the sooner the better. Fortunately, it is indeed moving towards extinction. Your refusal to submit yourself to their ridiculous prices and dodgy conditions will help bring this about.
At present only two services remain:
Siem Reap/Battambang : Dodgy as dodgy can be, but outrageously scenic, it's the kind of thing you do once for the experience but if you need to do it again, you take a taxi. However, other than the scenery, don't expect anything by way of safety or reliability. The trip could take four hours, it could take fourteen hours. You might get stuck in the mud, you might even have to get out and help push it free. You might sink - this usually means everyone grabs their bags and stands in waste-deep water for a couple of hours until another boat comes along. Or you might get where you're going in a few hours without fuss. You never know. Take this boat for scenery and adventure, don't take it if you just want some transportation. One early morning departure per day. Prices fluctuate from $15-20.
Siem Reap/Phnom Penh : A complete waste of time and money. It's nearly three times more expensive than any bus and you really don't see much. Half the trip is in the middle of the lake, "Oh, look dear, all the brown water, it goes on forever." And the rest is spent rushing down a river for a couple of hours passing endless houses on stilts with naked kids running circles around them - the same view you get from the bus. And you can sit downstairs with blasting karaoke, frigid A/C, and puking Khmers. Or ride on the top and get burned to a crisp. Unless it rains. Then you just get wet. Take my advice: there are better ways between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap - the bus. And better ways to see the lake - book a half day trip to Kompong Phluk or Kompong Khleang while you are in Siem Reap. One early morning departure per day. Prices have been hiked to $35 for foreigners and $20 for Cambodians. Ridiculous at either price.
Any guesthouse or travel agent can purchase a ticket for you and it won't cost any more to allow them to do so.
A: Some people have been led to believe that there is a ferry service that crosses the border at Hat Lek/Koh Kong. There is not. The border is a land crossing. The boats that run between the border area and Sihanoukville are found in Koh Kong town which is about eight kilometers from the border, however with the completion of the highway from Koh Kong to Sre Ambel, these boats have apparently finally met their demise.
A: Yes you can - except in Siem Reap and more recently Sihanoukville - which in the past two years or so has been sort of an on-again, off-again thing. But the question is should you? My answer is probably not. Unless you have experience operating a car or motorcycle in a third-world country where driver education is non-existent, traffic laws erratically enforced, and people, cows, dogs, chicken, children, dust, rocks, rats, ghosts, and hallucinations come at you - literally - from all directions, you'd do better either to hire a car with a driver or stick to motorcycle taxis. Cambodia's roads are dangerous and of all the possible dangers that exist in Cambodia, highway accidents are number one.
Siem Reap has prohibited tourists, as a distinct entity from expats, from renting motorcycles since April 2003. Though technically in effect throughout the province, enforcement is limited largely to the temple area. However, as enforcement is directed more at the rental agencies then at the renters, it's a moot point because no one is likely to rent you a bike, anyway. Occasionally tourists bringing up rented bikes from Phnom Penh have had problems with the police but it seems to be the exception nor the norm.
Almost every resident expat who owns a motorcycle, which is most of us, has had at least one accident. I had two friends killed in separate motorcycle accidents early in 2002. So please, give it serious thought before riding a motorbike around this country. And if you do ride - wear a helmet! Which by law you are required to, anyway.
Though there's probably a law somewhere that says you must have an international driver's license to rent a vehicle (car or motorbike) in Cambodia, I have never heard of anyone ever being asked to produce one for this purpose. But you do need a Cambodoa driver's license to operate a car or motorbike. For some time now this has been enforced in Phnom Penh and enforcement is now moving into the provinces as well.
A: Motorcycles first.
In Phnom Penh there are rental agencies all over town. Common sense dictates that you thoroughly check out the condition of the bike before operating it. All the shops will require you to leave your passport as deposit on a rental. You will be absolutely 100% responsible for any damage, or worse, theft. The practice of shop owners stealing back their bikes seems to be a thing of the past, but it doesn't hurt to use your own lock and make sure the guesthouse or hotel where you stay is able to secure the bike at night.
In smaller towns you'll probably do best to inquire at your guesthouse or hotel. You can also try what we did when I was in Kratie a number of years ago (1999) - find a moto driver and offer him some cash to rent his bike for a day. You may be surprised to find him agreeable to this. Just be diligent in returning to the agreed upon location at the agreed upon a time, lest you either give him a heart attack or worse, he sends out a posse of his motodop friends to track you down.
I know of no self-drive rental car agencies in Cambodia. However, car hire with driver is available from just about anywhere to anywhere. Cars are commonly hired for tourist purposes by the day in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh and can also be hired for multi-day long-distance trips. Talk to any taxi driver. And if he won't do it, he'll surely have a "brother" who will.
A: If you're out in the sticks and you think you are not at fault and nobody's been left flat out across the road, you might consider getting yourself out of there as quickly as possible because whatever happens it will cost you money. However, if you are at fault and there are injuries or damage to the other party, then you better stick around and face the music, which may be unpleasant, financially anyway. In Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and other provincial capitals, fleeing the scene is not necessarily the best course of action, especially if it wasn't your fault. Being a foreigner doesn't necessarily result in you automatically being found at fault, though you may be found at fault for having the most money! I've heard plenty of anecdotal stories of cases where police did not hold the foreigner responsible and just as many cases where they did even when the evidence clearly showed the foreigner was not at fault. Draw your own conclusions.
Anyway, what happens at an accident scene is first, every Khmer for miles comes around to watch what's going on. If you're injured they will try to help. This is unfortunate as help usually means picking up the unconscious victim and shaking him or her in an effort to revive them. I don't even want to think about how many accident victims were further injured by this practice, but regrettably, as the average Khmer knows nothing of proper medical procedures, shaking the unconscious person seems like the right thing to do.
If you're in an isolated area or it's late at night and not too many people are around it is quite possible that the first people on the scene will rob your unconscious body of everything worth stealing.
By law, you're not supposed to move anything, not the bikes, not the cars, not anything. I witnessed one accident where the police held an injured accident victim in place until they could draw a chalk line around him! The police will conduct an investigation and usually try their best to come to a proper conclusion. Of course the word proper is open to various interpretations.
Often the police will try to confiscate the bikes until they complete their investigation as it insures they will be compensated for their time. Fast talking and a little money can sometimes allow you to avoid this unpleasant situation.
If you're at fault and you know it and neither party is seriously injured and the motorbikes still work, it is in your best interest to try to resolve the matter before the police arrive and then disappear quickly and quietly. If the other party makes a reasonable request, just shut up and pay it because if the police investigate you'll still have to pay the other party and you will also have to pay the police!
If you're convinced you're not at fault and you can't come to an agreement with the other party, then you'll have to involve the police. Also, if you do believe it's the other person's fault, they may believe the same as well and try to flee. Stop them by whatever means necessary.
A: Trains? What trains?
A: There are three international airports in Cambodia, in Phnom Penh, in Siem Reap, and in SIhanoukville. The Phnom Penh airport was renamed from Pochentong Intl Airport to Phnom Penh Intl Airport and the airport in Siem Reap is called Siem Reap-Angkor Intl Airport. The airport in SIhanoukville was only recently opened and for the time bieng does not have any commerical flights, though Cambodia's latest entry to the airline market, Cambodia Angkor Air, intends to offer domestic flights there. For the time being there are only flights from regional locations in Asia though there are plans to build a new airport in Siem Reap later this century that will permit long-haul flights.
To Phnom Penh there is service from Bangkok (Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Air Asia), Hong Kong (Dragon Air), Guangzhou (China Southern), Shanghai (Shanghai Air), Singapore (Silk Air - subsidiary of Singapore Air, Jetstar), Saigon (Vietnam Airlines), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia Air, Air Asia), Vientiane (Lao Aviation), and Taiwan (EVA).
To Siem Reap there are flights from Bangkok (Bangkok Airways), Vientiane and Pakse (Lao Aviation), Singapore (Silk Air by way of Phnom Penh, Jetstar), Saigon, Hanoi, and Danang (Vietnam Airlines and sometimes Bangkok Airways for Danang), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia Air, Air Asia), Kunming (China Eastern), and Seoul (Asiana and Korean Air). Bangkok Airways monopolizes the Bangkok-Siem Reap route and has round-trip fares in excess of of $275 for the 45-minute flight! It's a cozy deal for them we're sure. Vietnam Air enjoys a similar monopoly for the Saigon-Siem Reap route.
For reasonably accurate and up-to-date information you can check out the Cambodia Airports official website here: http://www.cambodia-airports.com and yes theirs and mine information does contradict each other, thus is the volatile world of air travel scheduling.
I try to keep some updated flight information on Siem Reap in my Siem Reap - Angkor guide, but it's a tough undertaking as the schedules change so often. Most important thing to do is verify any information with an airline or travel agent, or anyone really, who is capable of actually giving you a reservation and a ticket and not some guy like me who only has a website.
See the Legalities section for visa information and customs procedures.
There is presently no national carrier. The former national carrier, Royal Air Cambodge went out of business in October 2001, something many people considered a blessing. A few optimistic folks have bounced around the idea of having a national carrier but no one has been able to pull it off. No doubt we can find someone in the government to blame.
A: As safe as it is anywhere else, I suppose, and certainly safer than the highways. Most of the dodgy domestic carriers come and go in short order and at present the only reliable domestic flights are between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Until last week Bangkok Airways was the sole carrier (formerly operating in Cambodia under the name of Siem Reap Airways). They use French-made ATRs and Boeing 717s. Newly formed Cambodia Angkor Air is the new national carrier and is in partnership with Vietnam Air. They are flying ATRs as well and first indications are that this, too, should be a reliable air choice.
PMT, yes that really is their name, tries to fly between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and Phnom Penh and Ratanakiri. Sometimes they make it, sometimes...
Hopefully Cambodia Angkor Air will last but Cambodia does not have a good record of airline longevity... Mekong Air, Royal Khmer Air, First Cambodia Air, Royal Phnom Penh Airways, Angkor Airways,... Angkor Beer remains a better option.
A: International departure tax is $25 at both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports, domestic departure tax is $6. You decide if it's worth it or not.
A: Phnom Penh - there is a taxi booth where you pay $7 for the ride into town by car. This is a fairly high price given the distance. There are now official motorbike taxis, you'll see them outside wearing vests, that'll run you into town for $2. You can walk out to the street and you might be able to find a moto to take you in for a dollar. Sometimes you can walk away from the taxi drivers and one may then chase after you lowering his price to $5 and maybe less if he thinks he can get you into a hotel of his choosing, which is what he's more interested in doing, anyway, then actually delivering you into town.
Siem Reap Airport is controlled by the Tourist Transport Association. A car costs $5 and a motorbike is $1. You don't have to pay at the desk, so don't. Pay the driver directly and you'll stand a much better chance of getting delivered where you want to go.
For more information on transport from the Siem Reap - Angkor International Airport see my Siem Reap - Angkor guide.
A: Motorcycle taxis, a.k.a. motodops, are the standard form of transport. In Phnom Penh they cost 2000-3000 riels for very short trips, up to 5000 riels for a ride across town. At night, double the fare and try to use one you know. These prices are slightly inflated foreigner prices. In Siem Reap you should pay around 1500-2000 riels for a ride in-town, but these days they tend to expect a dollar from anyone not Cambodian. Drivers who speak English will often ask for higher prices than those who don't.
Some drivers speak no English. Just tap his shoulder and point in the direction you want to go when you need to turn. If you forget to tap his shoulder he'll keep driving straight, possibly forever. We're not quite sure how far these guys will straight-line it, but back in 1999 an ex-pat hopped on the back of a motorbike with the plan to see how far the driver would go before turning around and asking where they were going. They headed out of Phnom Penh in a northerly direction and were never heard from again. We reckon they ran into bad weather in Siberia or something.
A: Historically, no. But as the motodrivers have become more sophisticated in foreign fare extraction, it's probably a safer bet to set a fare in advance. Particularly in a tourist destination such as Siem Reap or Sihanoukville and/or the driver speaks a bit of English.
With long-distance taxis it's not so straight-forward. Taxis are generally fixed-priced though most tourists don't know this. If you absolutely know the correct fare you can get away with not discussing it beforehand, but you better be sure you know the true fare just in case the driver tries something at the end. It is normal procedure that everybody pays at the end so you can just watch what the Khmers pay and do the same.
If you have no idea what the correct fare is than you may have to discuss it. Unfortunately, all too often you'll agree to a fare, get to your destination and watch as all the Cambodians hand the driver half of what you agreed to. It's a Catch-22 situation. If you don't know the fare, then you'll have to discuss it, but by discussing it, you're letting the driver/tout know that you don't know what the fare is and you'll probably pay too much as a result.
But however you agree on a price, all fares should be paid at the end of the journey only! I can't stress enough how important this advice is.
A: Not really and there aren't too many left, anyway, but they are a tourist thing to do in Phnom Penh. It's a slow ride and you'll pay more than if you were riding on a moto, but still, most cyclo drivers aren't the hustlers like their brethren in Saigon. Take a ride to say you rode in one but if you just need to get somewhere, take a moto.
A: Many expats end up purchasing their own motorcycle for transportation. Most of us have 250cc enduro-type bikes. These are basically large dirt bikes with headlights and turn signals. Honda XR/XLR/Baja are the most popular models, 2-stroke Honda CRMs are fairly common as well. Because of the poor state of Cambodia roads these bikes are the best option, though not as necessary as they were say, five years ago.
Most Cambodians ride the smaller step-through Honda Dream/Wave/Cub bikes, most with 110cc or 125cc engines. I do not recommend one of these small bikes as they are not suited for long-distance travel and believe it or not, these smaller bikes, especially the newer models, are highly susceptible to theft. The big bikes are rarely stolen because they appeal to a smaller market and are thus harder to sell and easier to trace.
For the larger bikes, there are no new bikes in the country. Most of the bikes come from Japan, often disassembled, and some are of dubious origin. An older 250 that's been in the country for awhile can be purchased for as low as $500, newer models (three years old or so) can run up to $2000. Other less common models, such as a Honda XR400 can run several thousand dollars. Prices have gone up on 250cc bikes as there have been some importation problems as of late and there's a bit of a scarcity on these bikes sometimes.
Recently the government, and particularly in Phnom Penh, have become much stricter about licensing and registration requirements. At this point, and again, I emphasize this if you're in Phnom Penh, your bike must be legally registered, with all import taxes paid, and it must display a real number plate. And if that's not enough, you need a local driver's license. If you're outside Phnom Penh it's not so strict, but they have been stepping up enforcement.
A: Yes, at least from Thailand.
Cambodia is a member of ASEAN and one of the agreements designed to remove barriers to international overland travel calls for any vehicle registered in any ASEAN country to be permitted open access to any other ASEAN country. All regional countries (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia) fully honor this agreement while Vietnam is still the lone hold-out. Make sure you bring all documents related to vehicle ownership with you.
Here are a couple of reports, albeit dated, of people bringing their own cars in:
I received the following report in June 2003:
I received the following report in March 2003:
A: Not a problem so long as you own the bike. At least between Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, it seems not to be a problem. Vietnam can be more problematic as they have a prohibition against anything larger than 150cc and are still holding out on the ASEAN agreement in regards to international land travel and ASEAN registered vehicles (see the previous question).
I have seen the odd Thai-registered, and even Singapore-registered bike in Cambodia, and I do know a few expats with Cambodia-registered bikes that met little resistance getting their bikes out of Cambodia and back in again. Make sure you have all your registration papers with you. When entering Thailand, the authorities there will usually assign a limited number of days you may have the vehicle in the country so be sure to over-estimate the number of days you plan to visit so you don't get caught short.
Obviously (I think), if you've rented a bike in Cambodia you will not be able to take it out of the country or conversely, bring in a bike rented in Thailand.
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