Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple complex remains off-limits for tourists

Cambodia isn’t opening up its ancient temples to most international visitors until sometime next year.

Cambodian premier and strongman Hun Sen has announced that he wants the country to reopen for international tourism.  However, it is likely to be a gradual process with initial preference given to tour or charter groups from the traditional Asian markets such as China and Vietnam.  The chances are you won’t be seeing the historical wonder of Angkor Wat anytime soon.

According to tourism minister Thong Khon, tourist visas to the province of Ko Kong (which shares a border with Thailand) will be available from November 30 for fully-vaccinated tourists in organized tour groups who also test negative for the virus.  There will be no quarantine, but visitors will be restricted to one specific area.  The same facility, with the same tight restrictions will be extended to Siem Reap, which houses the famous Angkor Wat complex, in January 2022.

But individual vacationers to Cambodia will be heavily restricted for the foreseeable future.  The Cambodian embassy in London confirms on its website that tourist visas remain banned until further notice.  Anyone wishing to fly to Cambodia must apply to the local embassy for a “general” 30 days visa designed for family members and business people rather than for leisure visitors.  Medical insurance and Covid tests are mandatory, whilst monitored hotel quarantine is still enforced for up to a week depending on the reason for the visit and the status of the traveller.

In other words, western tourists – singly or in a family group – will not find it easy to vacation in Cambodia for some months yet.  To obtain the “general” visa they will need to list a reason other than tourism, although the embassy rule book is said to be flexible.  Visitors who want to remain longer than 30 days in Cambodia must apply for a specific long-stay permit (work, family, student) and be registered on a computer app which details resident foreigners and their Cambodian addresses.

The Cambodian premier has also called for a no-quarantine agreement between Cambodia and Thailand in a mutual travel bubble.  However, the idea is only in principle at this stage.  Land border crossings between the two countries remain closed for all purposes except for the movement of goods and the return of local nationals to their homeland.  Like Thailand, Cambodia is putting one toe in the water when it comes to liberalization of immigration rules.  The expression “back to normal” is still a very remote prospect indeed.