Getting in Koh Kong
Koh Kong has an airport but it’s not currently used for commercial passenger flights. Its runway is in a less than desirable shape (May ’08) and air travel will not commence commercially for a while. It is one of Cambodia’s greenest and most eco-friendly provinces, with its town being very little, but surrounded by Asia’s biggest tropical mangroves, beautiful islands, and mountains. Koh Kong Island is open to the public now for day trips and will offer the possibility to stay there starting in November 2012.
Koh Kong is linked to Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville by highway 48, which branches off National Highway 4 at Sre Ambel. The road is paved and complete with 5 bridges. It’s a good scenic drive through some of Cambodia’s least developed and unspoiled regions – the Cardamom Mountains. Minibusses and tourist air-con buses to and from Koh Kong leave mainly in the mornings. Afternoon departures depend on demand. Tickets to Phnom Penh or Sihanoukville should cost around 25000 riels (US$6.25). Sihanoukville travel agencies often ask for US$8-10.
There is no longer a boat from Koh Kong to Sihanoukville. It stopped in 2009 although some travel agents in Thailand still sell travel tickets for the (non-existent) boat.
There is a daily bus leaving to Koh Kong from Kep via Kampot (US$16). It leaves at 7:30 AM.
The border is at Cham Yeam, about 10 km by road northwest of the town. It faces Hat Lek in Thailand. Motos (US$3.00), shared taxis, and taxis (US$9 to $10 for the entire car) run between the town and the border. Drivers will ask for more (asking for 400 baht is common) – don’t let them. Negotiate in dollars rather than baht, baht prices always work out more expensive.
If you take a tuk-tuk from the border, you will have to pay 6-7 dollars for the trip, depending on your negotiation skills. You can share the costs if you travel with someone. If you take a Taxi, the driver will ask you to pay 100 bath or 3 dollars each and he will wait till he has 4 people on board.
The current exchange rate is 1 USD = 4000 Riel Your driver will likely offer to exchange money to riel at overall poor rates – just politely refuse, there is no legal requirement to change any foreign money into Riels and the US Dollar is the de-facto consumer currency of Cambodia. There is of course a legal tender in Cambodia. In Koh Kong, and other border provinces, Thai baht is also accepted, but you’ll get better rates if you exchange baht rather than shop with them.
If you’re continuing further into Cambodia, beware of overpriced bus tickets: US$15-30 or more – do not agree to this. Agencies may tell you that the normal price is US$25 or 30, and, as such, USD15 is a big bargain – this is not true. The proper price to Phnom Penh is 25000 riel (US$6) if you get a ticket for US$8 you are doing well.
While problematic officials are becoming less common, there are some old tricks that may be worth being aware of.
After you get your passport stamped with the Thai exit stamp, walk down the road, and the arrivals office is on the left side of the street. Ignore the fake quarantine station. If you allow the touts to direct you there, they will take your temperature, give you a bogus form and ask for 20-400Baht. You do not need this form and you will not be asked for it when you apply for your Visa or entry stamp.
The fee for a tourist visa is US$30. You may be asked for 1500 baht (about $45 USD) or for $30 with an additional 100-300 baht fee. If you pay, you’ll likely have your visa very quickly. Insisting on paying only $30 may lead to being made to wait, though the visa will come. Arriving early can help, as in the late afternoon, a corrupt official knows that a delay could result in missing onward transport, which makes the bribe seem more attractive. Whenever you arrive, be polite, say hello (sue-saw-day) and thank-you (awkunh) in Khmer and you should find no problems. Just be aware that $30 (+100 baht for no photo) is all you need to pay and you will eventually be let through. Past scams have included having to pay for a SARS form or for the non-production of a vaccination certificate.}}
Cambodian visas are available on arrival. Tourist visas cost $30 and permit one stay of up to 30 days.
- The paperwork is very simple. It requires no assistance, regardless of what touts may say.
- Forms are available at the counter to the left of the visa window, although a “helpful” tout will likely offer you one as soon as you approach the office. Take the form and otherwise ignore the tout.
- A passport photo is required for the visa. A 100 baht fee applies if you don’t have a photo.
- You can also pay in Thai Bath, but the visa fee of US$30 will translate to 1000 Bath. Better stock up in US$ before the border or change money outside the building, where you’ll get slightly better rates.
Alternatively, you can obtain an e-Visa for US$37, which is the same visa as the one for $30 but obtained online in advance. Having an e-Visa saves time at the border and a page on your passport.
$30 tourist visas (T class) are extendable for one month only; anyone wanting longer stays and multiple entries in Cambodia will need a $35 business visa (E class, valid for 30 days and extendable once in Cambodia). Confusingly, E class visas are unrelated to the online visas. They cost $35 and require no extra documents or fees. Make sure the officials know that you know this.
Once you have your visa, brush off the touts and go to the arrival window to get your entry stamp into Cambodia.
The first few motorcycle taxi drivers will speak English well and ask for 400Baht or more. The standard fare to Kokong town in a taxi is 100 baht or 300 baht for the whole taxi. (including the bridge toll of 11B). Moto taxis cost about 3 to 4 dollars. It takes around 10 minutes to reach the center of town.