Guide to computer shopping in Phnom Penh

If you live in Cambodia long enough and use your laptop for both work and leisure you will eventually find yourself in need of a new one, or at least one that is new to you. So what can you do when the combination of heat and power fluctuations gives you the need for a computer? One option is to go to Singapore and buy one, but if you can’t get to Singapore, here’s a brief guide to buying a computer in Phnom Penh.

buy computer Phnom Penh

No, computer shopping in Phnom Penh does not need to be a nerve-wracking experience. (Nojima, Aeon Mall)

Do your computer research

Doing research before you head to the laptop store is a must in Cambodia. Some of the stores possess extremely knowledgeable staff, but some staff members are less knowledgable and you will never know which kind you will get until you are in the store. Similarly many of the major stores have websites which list computers and accessories on them, making it easy to do research from home before heading to the store. Some stores are better at updating their websites than others, but it is still a good way to check if the prices and selection meet your needs before you head out to buy you new machine.

Once at the store, you will usually find a sheet for each computer that includes relevant specifics and price. If you ask the staff, they will usually take a sheet from one computer to another section to compare, even if the store is multiple stories.

Know the software

Some non-Mac computers say they have DOS, while others have a specific version of Windows. If the spec sheets say DOS the stores will normally load an unlicensed version of Windows operating system onto your computer, which will work fine, but will not update.

Most stores will also ask what you need on your computer when you buy it and then upload software onto your computer. If they don’t ask you what you want on the computer feel free to ask them for specific software.

Phnom Penh computer stores

Guide to Phnom Penh computer stores (this is PSC).

Computer stores in Phnom Penh

PTC Computer Technology

PTC is the largest computer store with two locations in Phnom Penh, both near Central Market, one in Siem Reap, and one in Battambang. The smaller of the two in Phnom Penh is located across Street 126 from Central Market’s north side. This store has a smaller collection of computers than its larger sister store located a few blocks south on Street 63. Both stores have a separate area for each brand of laptop, with the larger store having entire floors devoted to specific brands. This makes it easy if you know which brand you want, but more complicated if you only know what style computer you want. If you are an Apple-only buyer, this large store is one of six certified Mac resellers in Phnom Penh, and is a good first stop. The computers are fairly well priced, some brands more so than others, but you could pick up a laptop for as low as $250 if need be. PTC often have sales on Cambodian holidays.

Chhay Hook Computer Trading

Located north of Central Market next to the smaller PTC computer store, Chhay Hook has a limited number of laptops for sale. When visited, they had only new ACER brand laptops, and a few used Dell computers. The prices seemed a bit lower on ACER than other places, but it was unclear if that was because they lacked a warranty or because they had a discount. They also have a selection of accessories for computers including printers, scanners, and projectors in case you are in need those as well.

PSC Computer Center

Across the street from Institute Francais, PSC is another of the large computer stores in Phnom Penh. The prices are comparable to PTC Computer Center so it is a good idea to check both as each tend to have special deals at different times (especially around Cambodian holidays). This store is not just for laptop and desktops. PSC also has a wide variety of accessories as well as hardware if you want to modify existing computers. The store is easy to navigate, taking up one floor of the building it is in, with staff that are attentive and helpful.

Nojima

Located in Aeon Mall this is one of the only stores I’ve found that sells computers alongside vacuum cleaners, cell phones, and dance pads for video games. The selection of between eight and ten laptops less than most other stores, and they are also more expensive than other stores. With less selection, what Nojima has going for it is ease of purchase as Nojima takes all credit cards and has an easy return policy in case of early problems. All software here is also fully licensed.

Chantra Computer Shop

Located near Russian Market on Street 468, this store used to be the go to place, but according to online reviews it has become a former shadow of itself. That being said, the shop still seems to be the place to go if you want to build a computer from scratch, or simply want parts for a computer you have built yourself. Their laptop and desktop selection is not as extensive as PTC or PSC but there are also some good deals to be found as well. They also have a nice selection of monitors. When you walk in they will end up eventually directing you to their website on a computer in their store if you have some complicated questions, so be sure to do a bit of research before you enter. Chantra sells both used and new laptops so be sure to ask about what type of computer you are looking at before you decide to buy. Though they do not have warranties on all their laptops, you can take it back to have it worked on for a good price.

PTC Computer Technology
Open daily 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
66 Street 63 at Street 154, Phsar Thmei, Phnom Penh
T: 023 222 213
ptc-computer.com.kh

Chhay Hook Computer Trading
Open daily 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
85 Street 136, Phnom Penh
T: 023 213 046
chhayhok.com

PSC Computer Center
Open daily 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
220B 184 Street 184, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
T: 023 999 992
psccomputer.com.kh

Nojima
Open daily 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Aeon Mall, 132 Sothearos Blvd, Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
T: 023 966 221
facebook.com/Nojima-Cambodia

Chantra Computer Shop
Open daily 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
18Eo Street 468, Toul Tom Pong, Phnom Penh
T: 012 646 581
chantracomputer.com

How to eat vegan and vegetarian in Cambodia

Any vegetarian or vegan knows that finding meat- and dairy-free options can take a bit more planning while traveling. Luckily, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are very vegetarian-friendly cities. With a few tips, you can easily enjoy the wide array of meatless and dairy-free delights that Cambodia has has to offer. We also have cards in Khmer you can print out and take to restaurants.

Eating vegetarian in Cambodia

Learning about ingredients in Cambodia will help you maintain a vegan or vegetarian diet.

What to know: ingredients

The main enemies of any vegan and vegetarian in Cambodia will be fish sauce, oyster sauce, chicken powder, and prawns. Fish sauce, oyster sauce, and chicken powder are frequently used for flavoring, even in many vegetable dishes. If the restaurant menu has descriptions in English, it will often (but not always!) indicate when oyster sauce or prawns are used. However, fish sauce and chicken powder can be trickier to figure out, so it’s always good to confirm with the server (see below for helpful Khmer phrases). Many restaurants aimed at tourists have English-speaking staff, and I have had a lot of success with simply asking for vegetable dishes without oyster sauce or fish sauce.

Prawns also sneak into foods you may not expect. They appear in many packaged snacks, such as rice crackers. So when you’re stocking up on road trip snacks, be sure to check the list of allergens (if there is one) as well as the ingredients list. Occasionally a product won’t list prawns as an ingredient, but will list it in the allergens section. It could be that in these instances, the crackers are simply made in a facility where there may be trace amounts of prawn. Similarly, many restaurants will prepare vegetarian or vegan dishes in the same pans and with the same utensils as meat dishes.

Many vegans I’ve met in Cambodia take an “out of sight, out of mind” perspective on this. But if you want vegan food that is prepared completely separate from meat dishes, your best bet might be specialist vegetarian restaurants. There are some strictly vegetarian restaurants in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap that don’t have any meat on the menu (though nearly all of them have some dishes with dairy or egg on the menu).

One last word of caution on avoiding dairy: be sure to read the ingredients on non-dairy milks before purchasing. The Lactasoy milk brand, which is popular in Cambodia, has multiple varieties of soy milk, most of which contain milk or milk powder. The vegetarian soy milk will be labeled “vegetarian” and usually comes in a pink carton. It is possible to find rice milk, coconut milk, and other non-dairy milk but you’ll have to do a bit more searching. Grocery stores that cater to Westerners are your best bet. Le Marché near Russian Market and La Vie Claire on Street 13 both have a large selection of non-dairy milks, as does Angkor Market in Siem Reap. There are also ice cream shops selling ice cream made with coconut cream, but some of these still contain dairy, so best to revert to the vegan rule of thumb: it never hurts to double check.

eating vegan in Cambodia

This fully vegan meal in Cambodia uses a meat substitute.

Some good vegan standbys:

Vegetable fried rice: You can order this practically anywhere, even when it’s not on the menu. If you are vegan, just ask for no egg.

Vegetable stir-fry or vegetable noodles: Two more vegetable dishes that can frequently be found at Khmer or Western restaurants. Just specify no fish or oyster sauce.

Vegetable amok: When I first arrived, I thought I wouldn’t be able to try one of the signature Cambodian dishes, amok. It’s a curry-like dish with coconut milk that is traditionally made with fish. However, some restaurants make versions of amok with vegetables and mushroom or tofu and it’s delicious! The Corn in Phnom Penh and Chamkar in Siem Reap both serve up a great vegan amok.

Chive cakes: If you’re thinking you can’t be adventurous and sample Cambodian street food, think again! You’ll often see chive cakes for sale on the side of the street. They usually consist of rice flour, coconut milk, and chives, sometimes with kale or other greens mixed in too. The ingredients are combined into a batter and fried in hot oil. If you’re hesitant to jump straight into street food, Mr. Mab, a new restaurant near Russian Market, serves up different traditional street foods in a restaurant setting, including chive cakes.

Fresh fruit, baguettes, homemade jams: If you’re staying at a guest house or hotel, but don’t see any vegan breakfast options on the menu (eggs appear frequently in breakfast dishes in Cambodia), you’ll usually be able to get bread, fruit, and jam. Many guest house restaurants even make their own tropical fruit jam. Between that, baguettes, and fresh fruit, you can end up with a simple but delicious breakfast to start your day!

Cambodia vegetarian

Yes, it’s vegetarian.

Useful Khmer words and phrases:

These Khmer phrases will help you communicate with staff at marts or restaurants about vegetarian and vegan food.

I don’t eat… = “Khnyom aut nyam…”
No meat = “Aht chak”
Egg (chicken/duck) = “Pong moan/thear”
Milk = “tduk dah ko”
Oyster sauce = “preng chong”
Fish sauce = “tduk try”
Chicken powder = “sop knah”
Vegetable = “bong lie”
Fried rice = “bai chaa”
Thank you very much = “ahkun chran”

Vegan and vegetarian information cards in Khmer:

We’ve put together a guide in Khmer for vegetarians and vegans to take to restaurants. When you print them, they will be small enough to fit in your wallet — just fold them in half and they are business card size. You can save them and have them printed and laminated at any print shop in Cambodia for $1 or $2, and can show them to the server or chef at a restaurant just to make sure they understand your request.

vegetarian food guide Cambodia
vegan food guide Cambodia

Additional vegan and vegetarian resources in Cambodia:

HappyCow has a great list of vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurants in Cambodia.

On Facebook, there’s a Veg in Phnom Penh group and a Vegan Cambodia group to share information with fellow herbivores.

Vegan Food Quest is a site by a couple of Siem Reap expats who have a blog about the vegan lifestyle. They also have a guide to eating vegan street food, eating vegan in Siem Reap and one for Battambang.

Review: Mexicano, Phnom Penh

Despite an abundance of Mexican restaurants, Phnom Penh has never truly delivered in the taco department…until now. Housed in an unassuming shophouse on Street 288, Mexicano, a new BKK1 restaurant, is taking Phnom Penh Mexican food to the next level. Headed by Mario Galan Ibarra, a chef who originally hails from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, the restaurant serves refreshingly authentic Mexican fare, prepared by Ibarra himself.

Chef Mario Iberra Mexicano

Chef Mario Ibarra wants to feed you the best tacos in Phnom Penh.

If you’ve followed my Twitter rants and blog tirades about the sad state of tacos in Phnom Penh, you’ll know that this is a topic close to my heart. Growing up in California, I’ve eaten a lot of tacos, and by comparison, the average Phnom Penh Mexican restaurant always fails to impress — tacos drowned in lettuce and cheese are not, in my book, tacos. Or at least, not tacos worth eating. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing a taco needs on it is onion and cilantro, with a side of salsa, and a large majority of the 122 million people living in Mexico agree with me.

But in a city brimming with Mexican restaurants, an authentic taco has proved elusive. So when I was tipped off that a Mexican chef had recently opened a restaurant where he was making his own tortillas, I jumped on the first plane to Phnom Penh.

Mexicano restaurant Phnom Penh

A little bit of Mexico in BKK1.

Chef Mario Ibarra, who has cheffed all over Mexico and more recently, in Singapore, has put care into crafting the menu and appearance of Mexicano. He expressed dissatisfaction with the interior — he said doesn’t have enough time to decorate it properly — but it looked good to me: walls sponge-painted in several vivid colors, a display of wooden Mexican folk carvings, a collection of framed Mexican wrestling masks, and, of course, the requisite Mexican flag and sombrero. There’s outside seating that’s a popular spot to enjoy a frozen margarita in the evenings.

But who cares about the decor, right? Let’s get to the tacos, starting with the tortillas. When it comes to tacos, homemade tortillas are essential. Have I complained, at great length, about the reliance on frozen, cardboard-tasting corn tortillas in Cambodia before? Not at Mexicano — they make their own.

Mexicano Phnom Penh

Delicious, delicious carnitas tacos at Mexicano.

Next is the filling. We tried carnitas and al pastor. The carnitas is sensational: slow-cooked fatty pork, finished by crisping the edges so it has the traditional soft yet slightly crunchy texture. I’ve spent a lot of time perfecting my own carnitas recipe, and it doesn’t come close to the carnitas offered by Ibarra, who cooks his carnitas for 18 hours. Meanwhile, my dining companion was nearly in tears over the al pastor, so delicious was the pork marinated with dried chili, spices, achiote, and pineapple juice.

The tacos were served with chopped raw onion, cilantro, and salsa on the side, and the al pastor tacos had a slice of grilled pineapple on top. That’s it. Real tacos are simple.

We also tried the guacamole and azteca chicken soup. Both were solid, but didn’t hold a candle to the tacos. Mexicano is the best thing to happen to Mexican food in Phnom Penh. So go, go and eat tacos. I’ll be back to try more of the menu soon, and I’ll update this post when I do.

Mexicano

29 Street 288 (between streets 57 and 63), BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 096 861 2353
mexicanocambodia.com

The uncertain future of Otres Beach

A short ride from the bustling coastal hub of Sihanoukville, there is a three-kilometer long stretch of white sand, rustic bamboo bars and quirky guesthouses that hundreds of locals and expats call home. If you ask any one of the thousands of travelers and tourists who flock to this beachside haven about their favorite places in Cambodia, Otres Beach is sure to be near the top of the list. There is something special about the laid back, laissez-faire attitude, the buzzing social scene, the beautiful beach, and the unique fusion of Western and Khmer that makes it feel like a home away from home. It used to be that you could blink and a month had flown by, but these days it feels like Otres is living on borrowed time.

Otres Beach Sihanoukville

Are the good times on Sihanoukville’s Otres Beach coming to an end?

Cambodia’s coast remained largely undeveloped for tourism until the early 2000s, when adventurous travelers started to flock to the unspoiled beaches. It wasn’t long before holidaymakers and backpackers returned to set up businesses and, one bamboo bar at a time, the beaches around Sihanoukville evolved into a bohemian paradise. Back in 2008, when Otres was a simple backpacker paradise with beach shacks stretching from one of the beach to the other, the community were issued their first eviction notice, with the government threatening to clear a one and one-half kilometer strip in the middle in order to build a public park. In 2010, after several years of bribes and negotiations broke down, the military arrived with bulldozers and AK-47s, cleared the beach and divided Otres Beach into two.

In the years since, Otres has developed into so much more than the sleepy paradise it once was. Safe from harm’s way, guesthouses, eco-resorts and luxury hotels have sprung up on the streets behind the beach, and the hippy haven of Otres Village has evolved into an eclectic blend of shops, riverside cafes and bars. And yet, despite the whispered threats of another demolition, many business owners chose to remain on the waterfront, rebuilding their bamboo bars and bungalows on the shifting sands and gambling their futures on tourist dollars.

Otres Market Sihanoukville

Tourists flock to Otres Market in Otres Village, for its bazaar (bizarre?) atmosphere.
with live music, food and local handicraft stalls and late night DJs

But now, six years later, the future of Otres hangs in the balance yet again, and one can’t help but feel that the success of the beach may have also been its downfall. With tourism to the region more than doubling, and Sihanoukville becoming the country’s top tourist attraction after Angkor Wat, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the government wants back in on the action.

In February of this year, the government issued another eviction decree to all guest houses, bars and restaurants within 50 meters of the shoreline on Otres  and Ochheuteal beaches, threatening to bulldoze all remaining homes and businesses in March. After a month of campaigning, protesting and petitioning the Prime Minister, Hun Sen, Otres was granted a temporary reprieve, but the far strip of Ochheuteal was not so fortunate. Just before Khmer New Year, the military moved in and bulldozed the beach, citing environmental concerns as their main motive for demolition. But, for the locals and expats who have made Otres Beach their home, the fear is of the development of big hotels and soulless casinos, and the community is rife with rumors of multi-million dollar deals.

Otres Beach view Sihanoukville

Otres Beach, as seen from the rocks at Queen Hill Resort.

In fact, government officials have been working on an action plan for coastal development ever since the Kingdom’s admission to the ‘World’s Most Beautiful Beach Club‘ back in 2012. Since then, the blueprints have been on display in the local planning office, showcasing the states intent to create a ‘coastal right of way’ and earmarking specific beaches to spearhead the beautification of the area.

The tourist hotspot of Otres, famed for it’s stunning sunsets and laid back charm, was singled out to be among the first for redevelopment, with digital plans demonstrating a wide empty beach with a coastal path and landscaped trees, much like the strip that was cleared in 2010. Despite the government’s previous claims that they would work with local businesses to find a long term resolution for a more attractive and sustainable beach, with concerns ranging from legal complications regarding property ownership to erosion and pollution, the state appears to have chosen a more top-down approach to problem solving.

Between Otres 1 and Otres 2, Sihanoukville

Long Beach, the empty strip between Otres 1 and 2 which was cleared in 2010.

Although the government may feel that razing the beach is the answer to all of its problems, one just needs to look at the previously cleared strip on Otres to see the shortcomings with this plan. Whilst it may be considered more naturally beautiful, with a lack of public facilities such as toilets and refuse collection, the beach is dirty, and picnicking groups and bus-loads of tourists leave their litter strewn across the sand. Opening up the beach has also led to increased safety concerns for foreign visitors, with thefts, public indecency and even violent attacks having been reported, especially at night.

Currently the business owners on Otres 1 and 2 organize beach clean ups, advise tourists not to leave their belongings unattended or bikes unchained and recommend people do not walk along the beach alone after dark. Locals and expats fear that clearing the rest of Otres will only lead to an increase in crime and pollution, which would also have negative consequences on tourism to the region. Residents can only hope that by raising awareness of these issues government officials will be forced to put together a more all encompassing plan for redevelopment and their beach-front paradise will be safe from the bulldozers, at least for the time being.

Otres bus tour tourists Sihanoukville

A bus load of tourists shows up to Long Beach, between Otres 1 and 2.

Although there have been no official announcements since April, when Otres Beach was given a brief reprieve until after Khmer New Year, the Land Management Minister Chea Sophara recently posted on Facebook that work was soon to begin on Sihanoukville’s coastline, sharing artist mock ups of the planned improvements for Otres, Ochheuteal, Independence and Royal beaches.

The National Committee for Beach Management and Development have also revealed early stage plans for Sihanoukville’s makeover, including the construction of 16 special sea gates designed to help fight erosion and beautify the area. Ong Sothearith, Cambodia’s Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction’s head of finance and administration, says that each gate will have Khmer designs that showcase the Kingdom’s rich heritage and complement the natural beauty of the beaches, in an attempt to encourage more visitors and promote greater cultural links between the country’s top two tourist destinations.

Otres 1 beach Sihanoukville

Tourists play in the ocean on Otres 1.

Despite all the rumors and whispers of future plans, more than three months have passed since the scheduled demolition day, and Otres is still standing strong. On the beach business owners are gearing up for another high season, fighting the government’s wavering plans with their own blueprints for environmentally friendly redevelopment.

But, with all eyes on the Kingdom as Southeast Asia’s next beach holiday hot spot, and the future of Otres in the hands of the state, only time will tell if the beach will live to see another rainy season. For now, Otres  Beach is the same laid back paradise that it has always been, and although the beach itself may not be there forever, one can always take solace in knowing that no matter what happens, the quirky, bohemian spirit of Otres will live on in the the Village and the back streets for years to come.

Choosing an international school for your child in Cambodia

Today Lindy Leonhardt the head of admissions at ISPP (a Move to Cambodia advertiser) helps guide new expats through what they should consider when researching and choosing an international school in Cambodia.

When researching education options for expatriate children in Cambodia, a newly arrived family might be forgiven for being overwhelmed by the choice of schools available. Even for longer-term residents, the recent increase in international school offerings has changed the education landscape. However, scratch the surface a little and it becomes clearer and the seemingly vast array of options can be reduced to a solid shortlist.

International schools in Phnom Penh

Looking for an international school in Phnom Penh? Here are some things to consider.

So, what should be considered when you are trying to make sense of it all and decide what is best for your child?

It goes without saying that you should put the quality and standard of a school’s education and curriculum first and consider the best you can afford. If your child requires language support or has any additional learning needs, ensure that your chosen school is well-equipped to provide support. Private support and therapy services are extremely limited in Cambodia so it is very important that you can have your child’s needs met at school.

To help guide in making a final decision, you could consider the following questions:

Where are you from and where are you going?

Perhaps your stay in Cambodia will be relatively brief — a couple of years, before returning home. If this is your plan, you may consider prioritizing your national curriculum when making your choice. There may be schools that offer the same or similar as your home country, making it easier for your child to transfer in and out again with little disruption.

If you expect to move on to another international location or are looking for something different to home, you may wish to consider a more global choice, such as the International Baccalaureate, which is offered in thousands of schools around the world, including several schools in Cambodia.

For secondary students, parents may also want to inquire about university options — how is the curriculum regarded by different institutions? Which universities have accepted a school’s recent graduates?

Whichever curriculum you choose, be sure to confirm that the school is accredited to provide it and its teaching staff are appropriately qualified.

What learning choices are important to your family?

Languages, arts, science, mathematics, sports — most schools will have all the usual subject choices on offer but some may have a focus on an area that aligns with your child’s educational preferences. You may also wish to consider what extra-curricular learning is available — creative or sporting activities or additional academic support, and how the school’s facilities support these.

international schools Cambodia

Knowing what your education priorities and child’s interests are will help you choose the right school.

What does an international education mean in Cambodia?

Public schooling in Cambodia is not available for expatriate students and many Cambodian families will also seek to educate their children in an international school, if affordable. This means the curriculum will be international or a non-Cambodian national curriculum, typically taught in English or the language of the curriculum’s nation.

For some international schools, maintaining cultural diversity is key to their educational philosophy. These schools will apply nationality limits to their enrolment, to ensure that any single nationality does not dominate. If a multi-cultural environment is important to you, find out what the policy is at the schools you are considering.

Global citizenship education is increasingly included as a key program in the curriculum of many schools worldwide, and this is often an important consideration for expatriate families in Cambodia.

How much are the fees?

Tuition fees for international schools in Cambodia will vary quite widely and it’s not unfair to generalise that higher fees can mean a better quality of education, and higher salaries will attract better teachers. You may also consider what you get for your money — are the school days short and will you need additional after school care? Are there text book costs? Are some lessons or activities included in the curriculum or will they be extra? Do the fees go back into the school?

What qualifications and background do the teachers have?

As in any industry, competitive salaries and benefits will attract a higher calibre of employee — in this case, experienced and highly qualified educators from the international teaching world. This is particularly relevant in Cambodia, where some schools offer an international curriculum but do not prioritise investment in their faculty.

A good school will seek experienced teachers that have robust qualifications in education and any specialist fields. Professional development, including opportunities to keep pace with curriculum improvements, is an important part of supporting and retaining a school’s best asset — your child’s teachers.

Finally, all schools should carry out rigorous background checks of their faculty and other staff as part of their child protection measures. Parents should include asking schools about their screening process in their core list of questions.

There are many other things that your family may include in their criteria for finding the right school — sense of community, parent participation, class size, campus security or the success of the football team. Ultimately, it is a personal decision but if you keep some of these questions in mind, you should arrive at a place where your child will feel happy, safe and eager to learn more.

Looking for more info? Check out our directory of international schools in Phnom Penh, Kampot and Kep, Sihanoukville, and Battambang.

International School of Phnom Penh (ISPP) is a not-for-profit school that offers internationally accredited education programs for children ages 3 through 12th grade. For more information, visit their website or contact admissions.

Review: Direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap

Before you start reading, are you looking for our full review of how to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap? If not, carry on.

If you’re heading from Thailand to Cambodia, the Bangkok to Siem Reap direct bus is the easiest way to do the trip overland. Why might you want to go overland, one might ask? For one, it’s a lot less expensive, with the direct bus costing $23 (or $28 in the other direction). For another, if you’re looking to transport large or bulky household goods, the direct bus is an easier option, particularly because they don’t make you change buses at the border.

Nattakan Transport Co bus Bangkok to Siem Reap

The direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap (and vice versa)

Buying tickets online

Tickets in either direction can finally be bought online! You can use a credit card to buy tickets between Bangkok and Siem Reap (plus Bangkok and Phnom Penh) on BookMeBus. Tickets cost $28 in either direction, plus a $1 booking fee. The procedure is simple and you’ll receive an e-ticket that you can either print out or present on your phone when you arrive at the bus station. In high season the buses are often full, so it’s more than worth the $1 booking fee to be able to reserve a seat in advance.

Buying tickets in person

The direct bus tickets are handled by Transport Co., Ltd. on the Thailand side, and Nattakan on the Cambodia side (apparently it’s the same company). From Bangkok tickets cost 750 baht ($23). They can be purchased at the Northern bus terminal in Bangkok, sometimes called Mo Chit 2 bus terminal, sometimes called Chatuchak bus terminal. Taxi fare to the bus station is around 150 baht from Sukhumvit.

Transport Co Ltd Bangkok

The Transport Co. Ltd station inside the Northern/Mo Chit 2 bus terminal, Bangkok

On the ground floor a booth labeled The Transport Co, Ltd. sells the Bangkok to Siem Reap tickets. If you are in Bangkok, you can also call them and book your tickets over the phone and then pay for them at any 7-11, although you may need someone who speaks Thai to help.

From Siem Reap, tickets cost $28 and can be purchased at the Nattakan office on Sivatha Blvd in Siem Reap or through many guesthouses and travel agents.

They claim there are two buses that run each day, at 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. in either direction, however they often only have one bus each day as the other is sometimes reserved for private groups.

The bus journey

The direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap takes between 8 and 11 hours, depending on how crowded it is at the border. Passengers are allowed two bags each with a maximum weight of 20 kg, although the weight limit was not enforced when I hauled two suitcases of Ikea merchandise to Cambodia. There is limited storage space above the seats in the bus, so if you want to stow something inside, board early. The Bangkok-Siem Reap direct buses are Korean, and seats are comfortable and lean back more than they probably should–watch out for the knees of the person behind you!

Nattakan Transport Co bus Bangkok to Siem Reap

It’s not the worst place to spend eight hours…

On my recent trip, the 9:00 a.m. bus from Bangkok left on time. We were given a bottle of water and a snack, which was a limp-looking Asian pastry. There was a toilet break at 11:00 a.m. at a rest stop with a giant 7-11 and some fast food and local food options. At 1:10 p.m. we stopped at the Transport Co., Ltd. office in Aranyaprathet and were each given a ready-made hot lunch from 7-11, in my case it was shrimp and basil stir-fry. I’m ashamed to admit, but I thought it was pretty good if a bit on the small side. Vegetarians be warned, you’ll need to bring your own lunch. Later, we were given the choice of an orange juice or an iced coffee. You won’t starve if you don’t, but it’s definitely worth bringing some food of your own on the trip.

By 1:40 p.m. we were at the border, and everyone had finished their visa process and we were on the road at 3:15 p.m. We arrived in Siem Reap at 5:30 p.m., for a total of 8.5 hours.

The border

When you approach the Poipet/Aranyaprathet border, the bus will stop and let off all passengers. You can leave your bags on the bus (that’s why they call it a direct bus, there are no bus changes). You’ll then be expected to walk yourself through the various border checkpoints. There’s not a lot of instruction from the crew and the process can be confusing for those who have not done it before, but it’s actually quite simple. Just remember that you need to be stamped out of the country you came from and get a visa for the country you are entering (so two stops).

If you are heading from Bangkok to Siem Reap, after you go through both offices, turn back around and the bus will be waiting for you in front of the Grand Diamond Casino. They wait there for every passenger to complete their visa process, which takes an hour or two in total, so don’t be afraid to go into the casino and have a drink or a meal in the Chillax Cafe. It sounds awful, but the food isn’t too bad.

Visas

Most nationalities do not need to get visas in advance (check out our page about Cambodia visas if you want to know more). On the Cambodia side, a tourist visa costs $30. The bus company will request an additional $5 to have your visa batch processed with everyone else on the bus, and it is much quicker. Some days the bus company will require you to do this, other times you can secure your visa on your own.

If you choose to do it on your own, the visa officials will ask you for 1100 or 1200 baht (~$35) or if you insist on paying in dollars, which you should, they will ask for $30 and a 200 baht processing fee. There is no processing fee, it’s just a bribe. Arrive early and refuse to pay and eventually they will stamp you through. Telling other passengers the real price loudly will usually get you serviced more quickly, as they will be eager to get you out of there.  The other option is to secure an e-visa in advance. The price these days is $40, so you won’t save any money doing it that way, although it may help minimize border-induced rage that is not uncommon in Poipet. For more about crossing the Poipet border, check out our post on Crossing the Poipet/Aranyaprathet border overland.

poipet border checkpoint

This is the official building that you get your Cambodia visa in. If you stop somewhere before the border, don’t bother wasting your money.

We’ve gotten reports that the bus will stop before you get to the border and try and get you to use an agent to process your visa for 900 baht by calling it a VIP service. They did not do this on my recent trip, so hopefully this is no longer an issue. However, if they do stop and try and get you to let them process your visa, just say no. There is no such thing as VIP service, they will just charge you extra so they can take a cut. However, it is faster and less stressful to just pay the extra money, so it’s up to you whether or not you think it’s a battle worth fighting.

On the Thai side, you will get stamped through and do not need to pay anything.

Overall, this is a much easier way to travel overland than the other methods I have tried, which always involve haggling at the border for taxis and buses. The Bangkok-Siem Reap direct bus is not as cheap as the mini-bus/casino bus combination (which is usually around $11 or $12) but the peace of mind is worth it. If you’re looking for more info on going the other way, check out our post on getting from Siem Reap to Bangkok.

Transport Co., Ltd.

Mo Chit 2 Bus Terminal (หมอชิต 2 (อาคารผู้โดยสาร), Bangkok [map]
+66 2 936 0657; +66 89 281 1396
home.transport.co.th
Buy tickets: BookMeBus.com

Nattakan Transport

22 Sivatha Blvd, Svay Dangkom District, Siem Reap [map]
T: 063 96 48 96; 078 975 333
facebook.com/Nattakan-Cambodia-CoLtd
Buy tickets: BookMeBus.com

Bus tickets purchased through links in this post to BookMeBus generate affiliate sales for us. This does not affect our reviews for specific bus companies or routes! For more about how we deal with advertising, affiliate sales, and stuff like that, you can read more here.

How to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap

If you’re coming from Bangkok to Siem Reap it’s worth doing your homework. There are several ways to travel from Bangkok to Siem Reap, and most fall into one of two categories: “fast and expensive” or “cheap and annoying.” Flying is fast and expensive and going overland is cheap and time-consuming (but offers considerable fodder for amusement). In this post, I’ll cover the best ways to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap as well as what you need to know about visas and the border.

AirAsia Bangkok to Siem Reap

AirAsia usually have the cheapest flights from Bangkok to Siem Reap, but there are strings attached.

Flying from Bangkok to Siem Reap

Gone is the longstanding Bangkok Airways monopoly, and today there are four airlines that fly from Bangkok to Siem Reap: AirAsia, Thai Smile, Cambodia Angkor Air, and Bangkok Airways. We have a more detailed rundown of all of the Bangkok to Siem Reap flights in another blog post, but here are the highlights:

Cambodia Angkor Air currently have four flights a week from Bangkok to Siem Reap (and there will be more during high season) starting around $58 one-way. They fly from the main BKK airport and offer 20 kgs of baggage. They are semi-reliable, although flights are sometimes delayed or rescheduled. Cambodia Angkor Air flights do not show up on flight aggregators like Kayak or Google Flights, so head to their website to check prices.

Bangkok Airways flights start at around $88. They fly from the main Bangkok airport to Siem Reap in smaller propeller planes. They offer a 20 kg baggage allowance, but if you sign up with their frequent flyer club they will automatically give you an extra 10kg. All Bangkok Airways passengers get access to their private lounge with free WiFi, snacks, and non-alcoholic drinks.

AirAsia usually has the cheapest tickets from Bangkok to Siem Reap, starting at $48 one-way. However, baggage is not included and costs an extra 515 THB ($14.50 USD). Flights are regularly delayed by 30-90 minutes, and they fly from Don Muang Airport rather than the main Bangkok Airport.

Thai Smile is an LCC owned by Thai Airways. They fly from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport and tickets include 20 kg of luggage. Ticket prices start at $64 for a one-way flight from Bangkok to Siem Reap. Tickets on Thai Smile are much cheaper on their website than on flight aggregators, so buy tickets directly from their site. Thai Smile tickets are also sold by Thai Airways at inflated prices.

Nattakan Transport Co bus Bangkok to Siem Reap

Your chariot: The direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap.

Traveling by bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap

The best options for overland travel are the direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap, mini-buses, or by taxi.

If you’re on a budget and don’t want to take a taxi, the direct bus is the easiest option. The bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap costs $26 and tickets can be purchased online. There are many companies who claim to have a direct bus, but the only one that actually does is Transport Co./Nattakan, which is run by the Thai government and has permission to use the same bus for the entire trip from Thailand to Vietnam, which means you don’t have to haul your baggage over the border. (The other companies make you switch buses at the border.) They use a full-size bus with comfy seats and significantly more legroom than you’ll get in a mini-bus. The trip takes around 8 or 9 hours. For more info, read my full review of the Bangkok to Siem Reap direct bus.

The cheapest way to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap is by mini-bus, but it’s more hassle than the direct bus. Mini-buses leave from Victory Monument in Bangkok and depart every 30 to 45 minutes from early in the morning until it gets dark. Be aware that the Cambodia border closes at 10 p.m. Mini-buses take about four hours to get to the border and are usually quite crowded. The price to the border is around 200 baht ($6 USD). You’ll then need to cross the border and catch another mini-bus to Siem Reap. Head straight through to the roundabout on the Cambodia side and look for a bus that already has passengers. The cost from the Poipet border to Siem Reap is $8-10 and can involve some waiting around until the bus fills up.

Traveling by taxi

If you’d like to travel by taxi, you’ll usually need to take two taxis one from Bangkok to the Cambodia border, then another from the border to Siem Reap. A taxi from Bangkok to the border will cost between 2,100 and 2,500 Thai baht ($60-70 USD) and takes around 3.5 hours. You’ll need to cross the border on foot, and then catch another taxi to Siem Reap.The cost of a taxi from Poipet to Siem Reap is around $35, but can cost as much as $55.

On the Cambodia side the police shake down all of the taxi drivers for at least $10 of each fare, and because of this the price can be higher. The fare should be around $35, but often is as much as $55. Walk as far from the border as you can stand to, and don’t deal with middlemen if you want a lower price. Negotiate the fare before you get in the taxi, and do not pay the fare until you arrive at your final destination, no matter what the driver says.

Cambodia visa

Getting a Cambodia visa is simple as pie.

Getting your Cambodia visa

If you are flying from Bangkok to Siem Reap, you can get a visa on arrival at the airport if you qualify. Find out more details about Cambodia visas here.

If you are traveling overland, once you get to the Aranyaprathat side of the border, you will need to get stamped out of Thailand. This is a quick and painless process. You’ll also go through Thai customs, which is a formality as they never seem to check anything.

After you get stamped out of Thailand, you’ll need to enter Cambodia. If you already have an ordinary/business Cambodia visa, they will stamp you and you will be on your way. Tourists will need to get a visa in advance or on arrival check out our page about Cambodia visas if you want to know more). A tourist visa costs $30. They will ask you for 1100 or 1200 baht (~$35) or, if you insist on paying in dollars (which you should) they will ask for $30 and a 200 baht processing fee. There is no processing fee, it’s just a bribe. Arrive early and refuse to pay and eventually they will stamp you through. They’ll make you wait around for a while, but it’s just a game of chicken. Since you’ve budgeted all day to do this, might as well not pay their lame shake-down and catch up on your Kindle.

The other option is to get a Cambodia e-visa in advance, but to be on the safe side you need to order it online a week in advance, because they often don’t get it processed in their promised three-day turnaround time. The cost is $40. It saves you hassle but not money. If you’re particularly nervous about the border crossing, this might help make things easier.

Crossing the border

The Aranyaprathat/Poipet border is known for scams, delays, and confusion. I’ve got a whole blog post with what you need to know about crossing the border, but here are some important things to know.

You do not need to change money into Cambodian riel. This is a scam. You will need US dollars for your visa (although they accept Thai Baht at a rip-off rate) and they accept US dollars everywhere in Cambodia.

You do not need to pay any border crossing fees. Do not accept help from anyone who says they can help you get a visa or cross a border.

Do not get a visa before you enter the official Thai visa office. Anyone who says they will get your visa in advance is trying to scam you.

And that’s it — welcome to Siem Reap!

Going the other direction? Read our post on how to get from Siem Reap to Bangkok.

Bus tickets purchased through links in this post to BookMeBus generate affiliate sales for us. This does not affect our reviews for specific bus companies or routes! For more about how we deal with advertising, affiliate sales, and stuff like that, you can read more here.