Cambodia //

Getting there

There are no direct flights to Cambodia from Europe, North America, Australasia or South Africa, so if you plan to fly into the country you’ll need to get a connecting flight from elsewhere in Southeast or East Asia. There are regular direct flights to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap from an increasing number of cities in the region; these include Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei and Vientiane. Airfares to Cambodia peak during the high season (July, August and the latter half of December) and are cheapest during the low season (roughly from mid-April to the end of May).

Flights from the UK and Ireland

There are plenty of daily flights, many nonstop, from London Heathrow to Southeast Asian cities, with some airlines offering connections to Phnom Penh. Flight times vary depending on routing; it takes 11–12 hours to fly nonstop from London to Bangkok, and another hour from there to Phnom Penh. Departing from elsewhere in the UK it may be more convenient to fly from a regional airport with a European carrier, such as Air France and KLM, who offer flights to Southeast Asia via their respective hub cities. From Ireland, it’s a matter of either getting a cheap connection to London Heathrow or flying to Cambodia via a different European hub city.

Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines offer some of the most competitive fares to Cambodia, with flights via Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur respectively, from where there are regular connections on to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Return fares to Phnom Penh start at around £600 in low season, rising to £850 or more in high season.

Flights from the US and Canada

Flying from the east coast of North America to Cambodia it’s quickest to travel via Europe. Conversely, from the west coast it may well be cheaper to fly westward via an Asian city such as Seoul or Taipei (the latter has direct connections to Phnom Penh on EVA Airways). There are daily flights from New York and Los Angeles to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, all of which have onward connections to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Fares from both the east and west coasts to Phnom Penh in low season are around $1000–1250, rising by $350 and more in high season. From Canada, low-season return fares from Toronto to Phnom Penh start at around Can$1180, and Can$1000 return from Vancouver.

Flights from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa

There’s a wide selection of flights into Southeast Asia from Australia and New Zealand, to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Ho Chi Minh City with onward connections to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. for full details see Airlines, agents and operators. Return fares from Australia to Phnom Penh start at around Aus$1000 in low season, rising to as much as Aus$2000 in high; from Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington expect to pay between NZ$2000 and NZ$3000, subject to seasonal variations.

In low season travelling to Phnom Penh via an Asian hub city from Cape Town you should expect to pay around ZAR12,000 return, while a return trip from Johannesburg will be about ZAR13,315.

Round-The-World flights

If Cambodia is only one stop on a longer journey, you might want to consider buying a Round-The-World (RTW) ticket. Cambodia can be added to itineraries offered by airline consortium Star Alliance (whttp://www.staralliance.com) for example. Bangkok or Singapore are more common ports of call for many RTW tickets; from the UK, figure on around £1000 plus taxes for an RTW ticket including either of these destinations.

Getting there from neighbouring countries

If you’re travelling overland to Cambodia, you can consider a number of border crossings open to foreigners, currently six from Thailand, six from Vietnam and one from Laos.

Overland trips to Cambodia from Thailand are well publicized in Bangkok, particularly on Khao San Road, where travel agents sell their Bangkok–Siem Reap trips by alleging that doing the trip independently entails “problems” (dealing with Cambodian border officials, sorting out onward transport, and so on). In fact, it’s straightforward to travel to Cambodia from Bangkok independently by public transport, and the convenience of travelling with one of these private firms is offset by the frustrations of their various scams: “we’ll get your visa” (for 1200 baht); “you have to change $100 to riel” (you don’t); “it’s too late, you’ll have to stay at this guesthouse”. Travelling independently, the trip from Bangkok to Siem Reap costs anything from $10 (train to Aranyaprathet, then a place on a public minibus) to $50 (bus to the border and then a taxi onwards) and takes around eight hours; using Khao San Road packages ($15–25) the journey can be considerably longer – twelve hours or more. Though some of the companies which run these packages are reputable, others aren’t, and a significant number of travellers report the kinds of problems mentioned above. If you’re intent on travelling with one of these outfits, it’s worth asking fellow travellers about companies they would recommend or avoid. Check out whttp://www.talesofasia.com for the latest.

All border crossings between Thailand and Cambodia are open daily (7am–8pm) and visas are issued on arrival at all points; however, e-visas are currently only accepted at Poipet and Koh Kong. The Aranyaprathet/Poipet border crossing is ideal if you want to start your visit to Cambodia in the north at Battambang and Siem Reap, but it is the most problematic. From Bangkok you can reach Aranyaprathet by train (2 daily; 5–7hr) or by a/c bus from either Suvarnabhumi, Bangkok’s inter-national airport (2 daily), or Bangkok’s northern bus terminal, Morchit (frequent departures from 4am; 4–5hr). Once in Aranyaprathet take a tuk-tuk to the border (10min) and walk across, collecting your visa ($20) on the way. In Cambodia ignore all the touts and take a tuk-tuk or moto to either the taxi stand near the market or to one of the more reputable bus offices (Capitol, Phnom Penh Sorya Transport and Neak Krohorm) on the main road; a free shuttle bus runs from the border area to the transport stop where in theory you can take a bus – but they are infrequent. Onward transport on the Cambodian side of the border is readily available from Poipet to Sisophon, Siem Reap, Battambang and Phnom Penh for details. There is no train station at Poipet.

The Trat/Koh Kong crossing further south is good for Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh. From Bangkok there are a/c buses from Bangkok’s eastern bus terminal to Trat (12 daily; 5hr). On the Cambodian side of the border, depending on when you arrive, you have the choice of continuing your journey straight away (the road linking Koh Kong through Sre Ambel to National Route 4 is good) or staying the night in Koh Kong; boats no longer run to Sihanoukville.

The other crossings are in the east at Ban Paakard/Pailin (Psar Prom) and Ban Leam/Daun Lem, from where you can head to Battambang (just over an hour on an excellent road) and in the north at Surin/O’Smach, and Chong Sa-Ngam/Anlong Veng (actually the border is about 25km north of Anlong Veng) – both 150km north of Siem Reap (2hr by taxi). These are not busy crossing points though, so your transport options on the Cambodian side will be limited.

There are currently six border crossings open to foreigners travelling overland from Vietnam (7am–5pm). These are: Moc Bai/Bavet, 200km southeast of Phnom Penh; Chau Doc/Kaoam Samnor on the Bassac River; Tinh Bien/Phnom Den near Takeo; Hat Tien/Prek Chak east of Kep; Trapeang Phlong east of Snuol; O’Yadow, east of Banlung. Cambodian visas are issued on arrival at all points. From Bavet, it’s easy to get shared taxis to Phnom Penh (around 2hr30min) on National Route 1. Phnom Penh Sorya Transport Company runs an international bus service between Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh (4 daily). From Chau Doc there’s an express boat (1 daily; around 5hr) up the Mekong River direct to Phnom Penh in the morning. Sinh Café in Ho Chi Minh City organizes a daily transfer by minibus and boat to Phnom Penh and the Capitol Hotel in Phnom Penh does the trip in the other direction. If you enter Cambodia at the other border crossings, transport options are at present more limited and you’ll need to take a moto to the nearest town or a place in a shared taxi depending on your destination.

From Laos you enter at Dong Khrolor (7am–5pm), 56km north of the Cambodian town of Stung Treng. Cambodian visas are available on entry. From the border you can either get a bus to Stung Treng or Phnom Penh (2 daily in the early morning), or take any of the mini buses or taxis that wait at the border; alternatively, if you’re not in a hurry, you could cross by land and then charter a private boat for the two-hour trip down the Mekong to Stung Treng, but expect to pay around $50.

Tour operators

If you want to avoid the hassle of making your own arrangements you might consider travelling with a specialist tour operator. However, although Cambodia is well covered, many tour companies still include it only as part of a visit to another Southeast Asian country. Tour prices start at around £500 for land-only options; those that include international flights tend to be £1200 to £1500, while choosing luxury accommodation and specialist activities, such as golfing, can set you back more than £4000. Single travellers, or those nervous about travelling alone could consider the offerings from Explore or Intrepid. Plenty of small-group tours are available, some with an ethos of contributing to the local communities.

 

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