What you need to know about buying property in Cambodia

If you’ve wondered what the deal is with buying property in Cambodia, you aren’t alone. Today with talk to Leah Valencia, one of the co-founders of Elevated Realty, a Phnom Penh real estate company and Move to Cambodia advertiser that specializes in finding the perfect homes and apartments for expats. Elevated Realty combines the best of expat-style service with local knowledge. Leah filled us in on what’s required for a foreigner to buy property in Cambodia and explains the difference between a hard and soft title.

Small house on Koh Rong

Considering buying a house in Cambodia? Here’s what you need to know.

Can a foreigner own property in Cambodia?

“Yes, foreigners can own property in Cambodia but there are restrictions. Foreigners can only own properties on the first floor or higher (not the ground floor), up to 70% of any one building, however this only applies to buildings with a strata title. A strata title is a type of hard title that allows an owner to divide a building into multiple individually saleable properties, this is also known as the “condominium law”, it is generally only granted to new condo buildings that are being built for this specific purpose.

Alternatively, foreigners can own 49% of private property, with or without a structure, if they are partnered in a Cambodian legal entity. A Cambodian legal entity is defined as any legal entity that has 51% or more of its shares held by Cambodian citizens. So as long as you own the property in conjunction with a Cambodian national, you can own any type of property you desire.

Currently, this law is not being regularly enforced, this is why you will hear stories of people who hold titles to properties around the city. There is a level of risk assumed with acquiring property in this way as it is subject to enforcement at anytime.”

What are the requirements for a foreigner to own property in Cambodia?

“To purchase property in Cambodia all you need is a current passport and visa. However, I would strongly recommend that you have someone advise you through the process, such as a real estate agent or a lawyer. It is important to conduct a title search before purchasing property. The title search will confirm who holds the title to the property and reveal registered mortgages or other encumbrances. Bear in mind that there can be other impediments to transferring which are not visible through a title search, e.g., a claim by a senior politician to the property. The buyer will not be given the actual title to conduct the search, because this is the sellers’ only evidence of ownership. The buyer will instead get a copy of the title, and it is important to confirm that it is a recent copy.”

Phnom Penh apartments

If it’s not the ground floor, you’re good to go.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of long-term leases over buying?

“Long-term leases, lasting between 15 and 50 years, are an alternative way for foreigners to invest in Cambodian property. Prior to December 2011, leases could be granted for up to 99 years in accordance with the Land Law (2001). However with the entry into force of the new Civil Code, the maximum term of a lease has been reduced to 50 years. Leases granted prior to December 2011 will still be respected, up to a maximum of 99 years.

A clause can be inserted into the lease requiring the owner to get the lessee’s permission to sell, and/or entitling the lessee to convert to full ownership with the lessor’s cooperation. In addition, a ‘block sale notice’ can be registered with the Land Office, instructing the office not to sell the property without the lessee’s permission. Also it is often possible to put a renewable clause in the agreement.

Long term leases can now be registered at the national Cadastral Office and noted on the property title deed. In addition, a separate certificate may be issued to the title deed noting the lessee’s interests in the property. This Certificate of Perpetual Lease of Private Unit can be used as security to obtain financing. Additionally long term leases are assignable, sellable and bequeathable. This makes them similar to a freehold property but only for a limited time, which has both an advantage and disadvantage.”

What is the process if a foreigner wants to buy a ground-floor apartment or land in Cambodia?

“During the Democratic Kampuchea regime (1975-79), the Khmer Rouge abolished ownership of property and destroyed all existing official property records in Cambodia. At that time, all property belonged to the State and there were no private owners. After the Khmer Rouge fell, and for the next ten years, the right to own property was still not recognized and all property was owned by the government. In 1989 a Land Law was issued which established a framework for the recognition of property and property rights throughout Cambodia. In 2001 the Land Law was updated in an attempt to further clarify property ownership.

Under the Land Law property can be registered in two ways, systematic registration and sporadic registration. In the systematic system, the government targets plots of land to measure, register and title, this will continue until the whole country is complete. In the sporadic system, the owner initiates the title registration through the central Cadastral Office. There are currently two types of titles legally recognized in Cambodia, soft titles and hard titles.

A newly built house in Cambodia

Or, you can buy land (or 49% of it) and build your own.

The majority of property in Cambodia is legally held under a soft title. Property held under a soft title is registered at the local sangkat (council) or district level but not at the national level. soft title documentation can take a variety of forms, such as a letter of transfer from the previous possessor stamped by the sangkat or district office, a possession status certificate from the local sangkat or district office, or a building application. Buyers wanting to purchase a soft title property should conduct their own due diligence, at the sangkat or district office to confirm whom holds the soft title to the property. Similar enquiries should be made with the property’s neighbours. The property boundaries should also be carefully checked, as borders are often not properly demarcated and overlaps can exist. Often a soft title is prefered due to the taxes, fees and the processes involved in obtaining a hard title. However, the option to convert from soft title into a hard title is a right, either when systematic registration occurs or via sporadic registration.

A hard title is an ownership certificate which is issued by the Cadastral Office and recognized at the national ministerial level as well as at the sangkat and district level. A hard title is the most secure form of ownership, its registration should be the only evidence required of an indefeasible title.

There are pros and cons to both hard and soft titles. The most recent numbers accounting for title types in Phnom Penh found that currently only 10% of properties have hard titles, whilst 82% have soft titles, and 8% have no title at all. That being said, it is obviously much easier to find properties with a soft title, processing is faster, goverment fees are excluded, and it can later be converted to a hard title. hard titles on the other hand, though they include fees and take longer, offer you indisputable ownership, the history of the property, and leverage for bank financing.”

If a property only has a soft title available, is it still worth considering?

A soft title is definitely still worth considering, depending on what you intend to do with the property. Current trends in Cambodia include “flipping” property – buying, renovating, and reselling at a higher value. Also very popular, is buying and reselling to locals for development. In both of these scenarios the intention is not to hold the property, but rather resell it in a relatively short time period. In this case, regardless of the title type, with conditions as they currently are you should have no problems selling your property in the current market. However, If you plan to live on the property or invest a great deal of money in hopes of value appreciation, then a hard title would be the better choice, as it is more secure and will stand the test of time through varying market conditions. soft titles are currently the norm, and are being bought and sold without any problems. However, they do not hold the same security that a hard title does. ”

Elevated Realty specializes in tailor-made home searches in Phnom Penh that are a hassle-free way to find the perfect space. View their properties on their site, Elevated Realty, or give them a call at +855 (0)23 220 609.

Street 136 dumpling crawl

There are a lot of things that Street 136 in Phnom Penh are known for, but dumplings aren’t necessarily the first that most people would think of. The block between Monivong and Central Market is a veritable hotbed of home-made dumplings, though, with several small, drab Chinese restaurants in a row, each with its own grumpy Chinese lady (or sometimes two) sitting in a corner, folding dumpling after dumpling.

Herk Fung Chinese Restaurant Phnom Penh

Round one. Dumplings and Chinese “pizza” at Herk Fung.

Recently, when at a loss for where to go for a weekend brunch, a group of us decided to go on a dumpling crawl of Street 136. Below are our notes from the crawl. They get more and more unintelligible with each successive restaurant, possibly due to the serious carb overload that we experienced, or to the fact that there was also a fair amount of Tsingtao required to wash all of the dumplings. Whatever our notes might indicate, a dumpling crawl on Street 136 is a fantastic way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Herk Fung

Herk Fung was magnificent. We ordered $2 dumplings, $2 large Angkors, and $1 Chinese “pizza.” The communication was difficult, but the dumplings were spectacular. The Chinese pizza–this is for want of a better name, we have no idea what it was called–was stuffed with something vegetal and seaweed and was wonderful. A naked baby watched us eat.

Herk Fung Chinese Restaurant Phnom Penh

Herk Fung. Not particularly impressive from the outside, but the dumplings are fantastic.

“That’s probably the freshest dumpling I’ve ever eaten.”
“Would eat again.”
“That sets the bar really high.”

Pei Jing

The most exciting thing about Pei Jing was the $2.50 bottles of Tsingtao beer, which we had a few of, along with plates of dumplings for $2 that were served with chopped chili and garlic. The menu was in French and English, so it would have been completely possible to order things other than dumplings. We tried both steamed and fried dumplings and while they were pretty good, they weren’t great, and all agreed that the Tsingtao was the best thing about the restaurant.

Pei Jing Chinese Restaurant Phnom Penh

blah

“6/10″
“6/10″
“5.5/10″
“Middle of the road.”
“Come for the Carlsberg of China; the dumplings are really average.”

Shandong Restaurant

Shandong was the nicest looking of the restaurants we visited, with a large table and a smooth lazy Susan. This might not seem like something special, but it makes the sharing of dumplings with large groups better, and they even have tables that can seat 10. They had a photo menu in color, so also the best menu of the day.

Shangdong Restaurant Phnom Penh

So hard not to eat, so hard not to hate yourself while doing it.

We tried steamed and $2 fried dumplings and $2 pizza-pancake-thing. The fried dumplings were excellent, crisp on the outside, steamed pork and chives on the inside. The pizza was good, although very thin almost like a crispy chive crepe. It was hard to not eat more, even while thinking it was sort of disgusting. The steamed dumplings were weak, though. That said, they sold Tsingtao for $2 for a large bottle and kept bringing us new ones, so we really had nothing to complain about.

“The toilets are immaculate!”

Sichuan Restaurant

We ordered $2 fried dumplings, $1.50 pizza and a map dofu. The pizza was more like a deep-fried pancake. It was awful and so, so, so delicious, the perfect beer food. The mapo dofu was revolting and gloopy and the dumplings were watery inside. On the plus side, the owner was nice, and they served kimchi as a condiment.

Sichuan Restaurant Phnom Penh

The largest dumplings of the crawl.

“Smallest bowls, biggest dumplings.”
“I’m glad we came this way and didn’t walk backwards.”
“Everything is heavier and oilier than the rest which is good, because we’re drunk.”
“This place disappoints me the most because it promises so much but delivers so little.”

Yue Xiang Cai Guan

We started out at lunch time, and by the time we got to Yue Xiang Cai Guan there many quizzical looking Chinese couples eating dinner and wondering what we were up to. We had already eaten dumplings at four restaurants and brought a small dog into all four without complaint. We figured this, our fifth, would be the last. None of us were hungry at this point, and we mistook a bottle of $2 Chinese SNOW beer for MONS beer (read it upside-down).

Yue Xiang Cia Guan Phnom Penh

Oh no!

Yue Xiang Cai Guan had excellent steamed dumplings ($2) but the pancakes/pizza that we ordered–just for the sake of comparison, not out of any actual hunger–turned out to be brought in from Sichuan Restaurant where we had just eaten. This place had a nice interior and was probably really good, but we were all too full to be able to appreciate it.

“These are my favorite steamed dumplings.”
“I feel sick.”

Herk Fung

Street 136, Phnom Penh
T: 012 185 5589

Pei Jing Restaurant

93 Street 136, Phnom Penh
T: 012 723 981

Shandong Restaurant

103 Street 136, Phnom Penh

Sichuan Restaurant

111 Street 136, Phnom Penh

Yue Xiang Cai Guan

97 Street 136, Phnom Penh
T: 097 894 8896; 097 367 5998

Crossing the Poipet/Aranyaprathet border overland

If you’re going from Siem Reap to Bangkok (or vice versa) overland, you may be nervous about the infamous Poipet/Aranyaprathet land border crossing. Before I crossed for the first time, I was extremely anxious after hearing so many horror stories about the border. Now that I do the trip regularly I know that if you go prepared you won’t have any problems.

If you’re going from Cambodia to Thailand (here are all the ways to get from Siem Reap to Bangkok) you’ll be crossing from Poipet to Aranyaprathet. Here are some tips for crossing in this direction, and at the end I’ve given specific tips if you’re going the other way, from Aranyaprathet to Poipet.

Poipet-Aranyaprathet border overland

Get the skinny on crossing the Poipet-Aranyaprathet border overland.

It’s going to take all day

It will pretty much take you all day to go Siem Reap to Bangkok overland, but leaving early will shave a few hours off the trip (filed under ‘had to learn the hard way’). Siem Reap to Poipet is about a two-hour trip, and then an hour or four at the border, then another four to six hours from Aranyaprathet to Bangkok. The land border gets very busy and lines get very long after about 12:00 p.m., so the earlier you start your journey, the better.

You’re crossing on foot

Whether you take a direct bus, mini-bus or taxi, you’ll still have to walk across the border from Poipet to Aranyaprathet on the Thailand side. Coming from Siem Reap, you’ll get dropped off at a roundabout near the border in Poipet. Walk straight ahead and you’ll see Cambodia immigration on your right side. Get in line there and get stamped out of Cambodia.

If you’re hungry or want to use the toilet, stop in at one of the casinos in the no-man’s land between Poipet and Aranyaprathet. I like Grand Diamond Casino’s Chillax Restaurant because they have free WiFi and a great name.

Poipet Aranyaprathet border

After you leave Cambodia but before you enter Thailand, you’ll be treated to this.

Once you’re refreshed, keep walking straight until you get to Thai immigration and go upstairs. If you’re from most countries, you’ll get a visa on arrival (and if you’re not, you should have one already). We’ve got a full blog post on getting a Thai visa in Cambodia if you need to do this in advance.

Once you are at the border 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).

Once you’re through, go straight if you’re heading to get a mini-bus or taxi or make your first right towards Rong Kleu Market if you’re catching a casino bus. This road is not paved and you’ll think you’re in some sort of post-apocalyptic fantasy novel, but in a moment you’ll see a 7-11 and realize that you’re actually in Thailand. From 7-11, you can turn right to head to the casino buses in the car park area.

7-11 near Rong Kleu market Aranyaprathet border

7-11 near Rong Kleu Market Aranyaprathet border.

Don’t get scammed

Do not change money at the border. If you want Thai baht ahead of time, you can change money at Siem Reap’s Old Market before heading out, or hit the ATM at the 7-11 immediately after crossing the border. Don’t believe anything anyone says about facilitation fees. All transport prices quoted here are current, so negotiate until you get pretty close. Don’t get on any buses to the “bus terminal” it’s just a place where they force you to buy overpriced food and overpriced bus tickets. You can get cheap food and cheap bus tickets at Rong Kleu Market and don’t need to bother with the scammy bus terminal.

Carrying baggage across the border

If you’ve got considerable baggage coming through, you can hire a porter for $2 to $10. They will take your bags through and wait for you to get through immigration. Unlike everyone else in Poipet, the porters will not rip you off. Get your porter’s phone number before you head to immigration if you are nervous, but chances are he won’t speak English anyway. It’s polite to tip your porter.

Relax

The border crossing can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be. Budget a full day to get through and take your time. Accept that no one will speak English, but that’s not going to matter. Buy a Thai SIM card in 7-11 for a couple of bucks if you want. You’ll be in Bangkok soon and the Poipet/Aranyaprathet land border crossing will be a distant memory.

If you’re coming from Thailand to Cambodia

If you’re heading from Thailand to Cambodia, this is the particularly scammy direction of the trip. Bring US dollars with you for your visa; do not change money at the border because you will get ripped off. Do not believe anyone that tells you that you need Cambodian riel, you do not, and they will rip you off. You can’t even pay for a Cambodia visa with Cambodian riel!

poipet border checkpoint

This is the official building that you get your Cambodia visa in.

After you get stamped out of Thailand, you’ll need to enter Cambodia. If you already have an ordinary/business 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 $20 (the price will go up to $30 on October 1, 2014). They will ask you for 800 baht ($25) or if you insist on paying in dollars, which you should, they will ask for $20 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 back to you in their promised three-day turnaround time. The cost is $27 (going up to $37 on October 1st). It saves you hassle but not money. If you’re particularly nervous about the border crossing, this might help make things easier.

Once you walk get your Cambodia visa, you can walk through and catch a mini-bus or taxi from near the roundabout. Be aware that on the Cambodia side the police shake down all of the taxi drivers for at least $10 of each trip. The fare should be around $35, but often is as much as $55. Walk as far as you can stand and don’t deal with middlemen if you want a lower price.

How to get from Siem Reap to Bangkok (and vice versa)

There are lots of ways to get from Siem Reap to Bangkok, and it all depends on how much time, money, and patience you have. In this post, I’ll cover the best ways to get from Siem Reap to Bangkok whether you travel by plane, direct bus, mini-bus, taxi, or my favorite: mini-bus and casino bus combination. If you’re going to use an overland option, check out our blog post about crossing the Poipet/Aranyaprathet border.

Plane

Cambodia Angkor Air

Cambodia Angkor Air: Cambodia’s national flag carrier.

Bangkok Airways used to have the only flights between Siem Reap and Bangkok, and the outrageously high price of tickets made a good argument for why competition is necessary in the world of airlines. For a one-way ticket, prices are between $200 and $300 for a one-hour flight, making this one of the more expensive routes around. Return fares are significantly less, starting at $291.

More recently, though, Malaysia-based LCC Air Asia has started offering daily flights between Siem Reap and Bangkok. You can find one-way flights on this route for as little as $60 if you book in advance, but usually tickets are more often in the $140 range. Flights arrive at Bangkok’s DMK airport and you’ll pay extra for baggage.

Local airline Cambodia Angkor Air also flies the Siem Reap to Bangkok route and generally offer the lowest prices for flights that aren’t booked months in advance. In many ways their offering is superior, because tickets include 20 kgs of luggage per passenger and they fly into Suvarnabhumi Airport. One-way flight start at $136 and roundtrip flights start at $190. If you’re flying return, CAA almost always works out as the lowest-price option. Read our full review of Cambodia Angkor Air.

Direct bus

Nattakan Transport Co bus Bangkok to Siem Reap

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

There are Nattakan/Transport Co. Ltd direct buses that go from Siem Reap to Bangkok for $28 and from Bangkok to Siem Reap for for 750 baht ($23). You can purchase tickets in Siem Reap at any guesthouse or travel agent, or directly at the Nattakan Transport office on Sivatha Blvd. The bus leaves at either 8:00 a.m. or 9:00 a.m. every day and take between eight and ten hours to arrive. The direct bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok is definitely the easiest option, although perhaps not the fastest and certainly not the cheapest. The best part about the direct bus is that you keep your luggage on the bus while you walk through the border. Read our full review with photos of the direct bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok.

Taxi

Taxi is the most expensive overland option, and doesn’t save much hassle over going by bus, as you still have to use two taxis and walk through the border on foot because cars aren’t allowed through the border. You can book a taxi at any guesthouse or local travel agent in Siem Reap, but you may get a cheaper rate by asking a tuk tuk driver to get one of his friends to do it. Prices from Siem Reap to Poipet are around $30 and take two hours.

Once you’ve crossed the border, there are taxis waiting that will take you anywhere in Bangkok for 1900 baht ($60). The trip takes from Aranyaprathet to Bangkok takes three or four hours.

As per usual, taxis in Cambodia (and Thailand) are usually Toyota Camrys that can comfortably seat three passengers and can uncomfortably seat four. They usually have a tank in their trunk and cannot fit a lot of baggage.

Mini-bus

Mini-bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok

The mini-buses from Siem Reap to Bangkok are cheap and cheerful.

There are mini-bus services that go “direct,” meaning the same company will drop you off on the Cambodia side of the border and then meet you on the Thailand side of the border. You still need to haul your luggage through the border on foot, and often end up waiting for others on your bus who takes hours to go through immigration. These services offer you no direction or hand-holding in getting through the border, so there’s really no reason to take them through. It’s better to buy a ticket from Siem Reap only to Poipet and then either take another mini-bus or a casino bus from Aranyaprathet to Bangkok.

From Siem Reap, there are mini-buses that leave for Poipet every morning. I can’t recommend any specific company because they are all disappointing in their own way. But at $5 a ticket, it’s hard to complain because they do manage to get you from A to B without much hassle. Book a night in advance. You can book tickets to Poipet at any local travel agent but be sure to haggle, as they’ll often try to charge $10 for a $5 ticket.

Once you are through the border in Aranyaprathet, you can grab another minibus that goes to Victory Monument in Bangkok for 230 baht ($7.20). You’ll need to wait for enough passengers to show up and fill the bus, but it doesn’t usually take long. The trip from Aranyaprathet to Bangkok takes between four and six hours, depending on what time you leave.

Mini-bus and casino bus combo

Casino buses Aranyaprathet border

You’ll know the casino buses by the stunning artwork that graces the exterior.

Of all of the options, this is my preferred overland means of travel from Siem Reap to Bangkok, costing a total of $11.25. I hop a $5 mini-bus in Siem Reap to the Poipet/Aranyaprathet border, walk through, then head to the car park next to the 7-11 and catch a casino bus. You’ll recognize the casino buses because they are massive and brightly painted with kooky designs.

The casino buses are meant for Thai gamblers who leave at 5:30 a.m. to come to Poipet to gamble all day, then head back to Bangkok in the afternoon. They are VIP luxury buses and are very comfortable. They go from Rong Kleu Market in Aranyaprathet to Mo Chit, Lumphini Park, and Bang Na in Bangkok and cost 200 thb ($6.25). The trip takes five to six hours (they usually get stuck in traffic) but stop halfway at a nice little rest stop with a couple of dozen street food vendors and all of the gamblers make a mad dash for bowls of soup and then pile back onto the bus and eat it. This method provides the best cultural experience. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what time the buses leave or stop running because I don’t speak Thai, but they seem to be around noon to 4 p.m. from Aranyaprathet.

Bangkok Airways

bangkokair.com

Air Asia

airasia.com

Cambodia Angkor Air

cambodiaangkorair.com

Direct bus – Nattakan Transport

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

Review: Giant Ibis night bus, Phnom Penh-Siem Reap

After several more Giant Ibis night bus journeys, I thought it was time to update this blog post. I’ll admit that I was very hesitant to go on my first night bus journey. In fact, it wasn’t so long ago that I vowed I would never take a night bus in Cambodia. But after meeting with Giant Ibis and discussing my concerns, I was persuaded to give it a try on their Phnom Penh to Siem Reap night bus. Since my first trip, I’ve become a Giant Ibis night bus regular.

Giant Ibis night bus Siem Reap Phnom Penh

All aboard! Loading baggage onto the Giant Ibis to Siem Reap.

The reason that Giant Ibis is my favorite bus company in Cambodia is because they drive slooooowwww. With their night buses they drive even more slowly than usual, with a maximum speed of 60km (37 miles) per hour. They enforce this by transmitting the speed via GPS to the Giant Ibis office so that management knows if a driver breaks the rules and go faster. Particularly on the night bus, passengers would prefer to go slower because a 7.5-hour sleep is definitely better than a 5-hour sleep. Giant Ibis also has two drivers on each bus, and they switch half-way through the journey. If one driver feels fatigued he can switch off and take a nap.

Giant Ibis night bus seating chart

The Giant Ibis night buses have 32 beds, with 15 on the bottom bunk and 17 on the top. They are arranged with one row of two beds next to each other, and a row of single bunks with an aisle in the middle. If you are traveling alone, try to get one of the single beds because although the row of two has two separate beds, they are right next to each other so it would be a bit like being in bed with a stranger. Seats 6-E is right next to the toilet, and as such, is probably the least optimal seat on the bus. That said, the toilet was remarkably sanitary on our trip, and wasn’t emitting any overpowering odors.

In Phnom Penh, the bus boards on time at 11:00 p.m. at the Giant Ibis office on Street 106 across from Phnom Penh’s night market. For the daily night bus to Siem Reap they do not offer hotel pick up, but the office is centrally located and walking distance from the riverside.

In Siem Reap, the night bus leaves from the Giant Ibis ticket office near the Old Market. You can find maps for both stations at the end of this post.

When you board the bus they ask you to remove your shoes, and give you a bag to keep them in. Each bed has a cubby at the bottom to keep your shoes (and feet) in. The beds do not fully lie flat, but offer a 45 degree angle that’s pretty decent. A bottle of water, a light blanket and a small pillow are provided.

The night bus buses are not new, but they are fully refurbished. As on all buses, the toilets are not the nicest in the world (if you are a larger person you’ll have a hard time squeezing in) but at least these ones are clean.

Giant Ibis night bus interior

Off to dreamland on the Giant Ibis night bus beds.

The bus has WiFi (password: giantibis) that is provided by 3G. This means the connection works as long as there’s 3G coverage, which is for true for about 60% of the journey. Be aware that they do turn out the lights soon after the journey begins, so if you do want to read you will need to bring your own lighting. The seats don’t have lights, but they do have power outlets (2-pin flat/round, accepts standard American and Euro plugs).

The air-conditioning can be pretty chilly, so if you’re like me and sensitive to A/C, bring a sweater. The top bunks seem to be a bit colder as well, so keep that in mind when booking a seat.

I prepared for the journey by bringing earplugs, an eyemask, and my own pillow, then popped a sleeping pill a few minutes after boarding. My partner brought none of the aforementioned items, and did not enjoy the journey as much as I did. The road between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is bumpy, but the slow night bus pace and sleeping pill made it easier to endure than the daytime journey. I can’t pretend it was the best night’s sleep I’ve ever gotten, but it wasn’t nearly as horrendous as I had feared. I slept for nearly the entire journey, until we arrived in Siem Reap a little bit before 6 a.m.

I used to be terrified of taking a night bus in Cambodia, but the reality of the Giant Ibis night bus is pretty relaxed, and I feel safe. I travel between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap regularly, and the trip can be excruciatingly long, so the Giant Ibis night bus has become a regular trip for me. It’s a good choice if you are looking to save time (here are the other options for this route).

If you’re arriving in Phnom Penh, the bus drops off at the Giant Ibis office on Street 106 in Phnom Penh. In Siem Reap, the bus drops off at the Siem Reap Giant Ibis bus station (not the ticket office near Old Market).

Giant Ibis night buses run every night between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap at 11 p.m. Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased from most hotels and travel agents in Cambodia, or you can pay an extra $1 to book ahead and pick a seat on the Giant Ibis website.

Giant Ibis

T: 023 999 333
giantibis.com

Ticket offices:

Street 106 (across from the Night Market), Phnom Penh [map]
T: 023 987 808

6A Sivatha Road, Siem Reap [map]
T: 063 768 808

What’s going on with work permits in Cambodia?

Update 8/28/2014:

In today’s Cambodia Daily, there’s an article entitled Work Permits Now Required for Foreigners. “The Labor Ministry has begun to enforce a long-neglected law that requires foreigners employed in Cambodia to have work permits, according to ministry officials.
Teams of inspectors have begun scouring the country to ensure that foreign employees and businesspeople have the proper documentation, with employers and workers facing hefty fines in the event that they are not certified.” The article also mentions large retroactive fines and payments for prior years.

Elsewhere, the French Embassy has been advising its citizens that they should get work permits, but pay for 2014 only, ie. no retroactive fines for previous years.

In Francophone Cambodge Mag, Anthony Galliano of Cambodia Investment Management reports back from his recent meeting with the Ministry of Labor. He reports that they have clearly stated that volunteers, retirees, and the unemployed will not need work permits. Anyone drawing an income in Cambodia will need a work permit from a registered business. If you are a shareholder in a licensed, registered business, you do not need a work permit. If you are self-employed or are a shareholder in a non-registered business, it would behoove you to register your business, although it seems unlikely that the self-employed will be one of the first groups targeted. Galliano suggests using this reprieve as a chance to quietly get all necessary paperwork in order.

Update: 8/22/2014 

The Cambodia Daily has published an article saying the Ministries of Labor and Interior “met on Thursday to outline the government’s plan to more strictly enforce measures for employers of foreign nationals to ensure that their staff has proper documentation.” It looks like they will be asking all employers to get work permits for their employees. There is no mention of any other class of visa holder such as volunteers, self-employed, retirees, etc.

8/8/2014

You may have heard that the situation with Cambodia work permits has changed recently. That’s half true. In order to work in Cambodia, one has always needed a work permit. However, it was very rarely enforced and the great majority of people didn’t bother. In the last few weeks, however, there have been several announcements that the work permit requirement is now going to be enforced.

Here’s what you need to know.

First, this announcement has happened every few years for a long, long time. Most of the time, they crack down on a few expats and then the issue is dropped. This time the threats seem more serious, but it is still very much up in the air. There have been a few crackdowns this year, most notably in Kampot, but nothing has changed yet for the great majority of expats in Cambodia.

It appears that if you work for a company in Cambodia you will, at some point in the near future, need to get a work permit. They are going after the largest and most visible companies first.

Expats who have been in Cambodia the longest have the most to worry about. Work permits cost $100 per year, and they are checking passports and counting how many years you have in Cambodia and charging for the previous years. They also add fines into the mix–which are, of course, not listed in the prakas and are subject to the whims and financial solvency of those collecting. This means that those with newer passports will pay less.

Thus far, it seems that Kampot has been the only city to be seriously affected. Even in Kampot, while many people were told to get work permits, many more were ignored. In other cities, there have been reports of police going door to door asking foreigners for a copy of their passport and visa. It’s possible that this is a prelude to a work permit crackdown later in the year, or it’s possible that the sangkats are just getting their records up-to-date, as they are supposed to keep track of where all foreigners live, anyway.

At the present time it is the employer’s responsibility to secure the work permit for their employees, although this may be changing. Any foreign employee of a registered business will need to get a work permit, although there is probably no need to do it until the Ministry of Labor demands it. However, many large employers are finally getting the message and registering their foreign employees, so you may be one of the lucky ones that gets your work permit quickly and without any hassle.

It’s important to note that at the current time, work permits are not tied to visas. So even if you are on a “business” visa, you do not have a work permit. Moreover, it’s an entirely different department that is is issuing work permits than the one that issues visas. This means that even if you do not have a work permit, you will be able to renew your visa, and you won’t be stopped coming in to or leaving Cambodia if you don’t have a work permit.

And then there’s the residency card. According to the prakas, foreigners need a visa, work permit and residency card. Thus far there has been no proof that any residency card has ever been issued to a foreigner, so for the moment, this point can be ignored.

But I’m a volunteer, retiree or unemployed?!

The status of volunteers, retirees, the unemployed is still very much up in the air. Work permits may be required for all holders of long-term visas. However, a recent visitor to the Ministry of Labor says that those not drawing a salary in Cambodia will not be affected.

So what should I do?

Probably nothing. This may, as it has many times before, blow over. If you work for a large organization, your employer will secure a work permit for you. If you work for a small organization, it’s likely that you will not be asked for a work permit for at least a while. It is my personal opinion that marching into ministries and waving cash around trying to solve problems that have yet to be clarified or put on paper is a bad idea. So I wouldn’t advise doing anything until the rules become more clear, unless your employer has already brought it up.

But, but, but…

These rules have been on the books since 1995, and there’s nothing wrong with Cambodia finally deciding to enforce them. Of course it’s not ideal that are choosing to retroactively punish expats for not having work permits when it was often not possible to get work permits in years past. But it’s important to remember that Cambodia, even with an extra $100 a year tacked on for a work permit, still offers one of the easiest and cheapest visa/work permits in the world.

This is all of the information that is available to date. Clear as mud, right? Remain calm and let’s see what happens. We’ll update this blog if anything changes.

Looking for more information? Check out our page about Cambodia visas and our page about Cambodia work permits.

Cambodia visa fees increasing

The Cambodia Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently announced that the price of one-month visas will be going up as of October 1, 2014. The price of the 30-day tourist visa will rise from $20 to $30, and the price of a 30-day “ordinary” visa, also called the business visa, will rise fro $25 to $35.  The price of E-visas (aka tourist visas that are purchased online, as opposed to E-class ordinary/business visas) will rise to $37. Visas will continue to be free for those under 12.

In their statement, they also went back to calling the “ordinary” E-class visa a “business visa”, but in light of the fact that the statement was called a “ress release” we are unsure of the significance of the visa name change, if any.

The price of the tourist visa (not including extensions) has remained the same for more than two decades, so we think this price hike is not worth moaning about.

So far, they have not announced an increase in long term visas (3-month, 6-month, and 12-month) although it seems likely that is coming down the pipeline.

There have also been rumors that the 12-month visa may be eliminated and others saying that Cambodia visas will eventually allow free entry into ASEAN countries. There’s been no confirmation that either of these rumors are true, however.

This is on the back of the recent work permit rumors (link has been updated with today’s news). While it’s true that apart from the price hike of the 30-day visa everything is still idle speculation on the part of Cambodia’s expats, it seems likely that with the creation of the Department of Immigration earlier this year, some things may change.

For the full scoop on Cambodia visas, read our page about Cambodia visas.