Nov 17, 2021
IF YOU’VE BEEN CRAVING the warm hospitality Cambodia is famed for, a fish amok fix or a traipse through iconic Angkor Wat, then your wait is finally — abruptly! — over. On Sunday, a snap announcement was made that Cambodia would be opening up its borders to all fully jabbed travelers, with no quarantine and no restrictions. The best bit? It came into effect the next day, November 15, making Cambodia the only country in ASEAN so far to launch a complete reopening for international tourists.
The surprise move comes on the back of an announcement that Cambodia was to implement a scheme similar to Thailand’s Sandbox programs from November 30. Visitors would have needed to spend five days in the coastal resort of Sihanoukville, the island of Koh Rong or the Botum Sakor district of Koh Kong. However, the government scrapped all that and opened up the entire country for vaccinated visitors from anywhere in the world just in time for the festive season.
For all the details on the reopening of Cambodia and how to visit now, see our infographic at the end.
FROM LEFT: By Theerawat Payakyut/Getty Images Pro/Canva; by loeskieboom/Getty Images/Canva
Cambodia boasts one of the most successful vaccination rollouts in the region, with 88 percent of the total population inoculated. A campaign to administer third booster shots is also well underway countywide. The full opening with minimal restrictions also positions Cambodia ahead of its regional rivals, such as Vietnam and Thailand.
Traditionally, most travelers land in the capital of Phnom Penh or ancient capital of Siem Reap, affectionately called Temple Town as it is the gateway to Angkor Wat. While international flights to the latter are expected to resume shortly, currently, the only direct flights are taking off and landing in Phnom Penh.
For now, that means Phnom Penh is a must. FYI return visitors: there’s a new kid on the block. Joining Rosewood and Raffles at the upper end of the market, Hyatt Regency Phnom Penh opened its doors at the start of the pandemic and despite no tourists having set foot inside yet, the capital’s largest luxury hotel at 273 keys has proved immensely popular with the local crowd. Sip sundowners from its decadent FiveFive rooftop bar and restaurant and it’s easy to see why, with sweeping views of the city below.
For most travelers, the once-in-a-lifetime benefit of the Cambodia reopening will be getting in early and having the temples near Siem Reap practically to themselves. Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and Bayon minus the crowds that once plagued them is a truly special experience that we locals certainly have been taking advantage of while borders were sealed.
The city is filled with excellent accommodations, starting with Anantara Angkor, an exclusive resort that’s currently offering Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia readers the chance to win a free stay. For an elevated boutique hideaway in the heart of the city, check-in at Jaya House River Park, which overlooks Siem Reap River, or enjoy the sprawling grounds at chic Templation. Don’t forget to catch award-winning Phare, the Cambodian Circus’ jaw-dropping show of acrobatics, dance, music and folklore.
Cambodia isn’t globally renowned for its beaches yet, but the reopening affords a chance to enjoy tropical-island paradise life on isolated stretches of powder. How about white sands licked by azure waters at Royal Sands Koh Rong? Be sure to check-in at a villa with a private pool overlooking the Gulf of Thailand for the ultimate experience. There are luxe modernist options aplenty in this vein on the nearby private island of Six Senses Krabey.
Further east, a coastal resort town slated to become popular with international travelers seeking seaside solace is Kep. Once a playground for colonial French’s rich and famous, dubbed “Kep-sur-mer,” the sleepy town is famous for its small stretch of beach, delightful rural scenes of sprawling paddies, rolling forest and salt plains. Locals flock from far and wide to its crab market, where you can feast on fresh crab and world-famous Kampot pepper.
A good night’s rest can be found at Knai Bang Chatt, a collection of modernist villas set in insanely Instagrammable surroundings. The neighboring Sailing Club offers a range of sailing and water sports sessions. At dusk it springs to life as guests gather to enjoy sublime sunsets accompanied by cocktails and delicious seafood.
Cambodia is also home to a wealth of wildlife, from cute and cuddly to scaly and scary. The perfect spot to discover your wild side is at the Cardamom Mountains, Southeast Asia’s largest remaining intact rainforest. At Shinta Mani Wild, experience the jungle in true style at this luxury tented camp. After zip-lining into the Bill Bensley-designed eco-resort, you can join resident botanists and naturalists as they forage for indigenous herbs and plants. Alternatively, accompany rangers on their daily patrols as they defend the jungle from illegal wildlife traffickers and loggers.
To download PDF printable version of this Cambodia reopening infographic, click here.
If this isn’t enough to tickle your fancy, then we recommend you meet elephants and Cambodia’s indigenous tribes in Mondulkiri, or head north to visit the country’s second UNESCO-crowned site, the mountain temples at Preah Vihear. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you go as you’ll find the contagious Cambodian charm that makes this country so unique.