Nov 14 2011

Getting from Phnom Penh to Burma

Published by at 10:39 pm under Transport

As of this month, there’s a direct flight to Burma from Phnom Penh with the option for VOA (visa on arrival). This is noteworthy because currently only flights on Myanmar Airways International from Cambodia and Guangzhou offer the possibility of VOA — if you’re travelling overland you’ll need to get a visa the old fashioned way.

Sick of Cambodian pagodas? Check out some Burmese ones, instead.

But if you want to fly, Myanmar Airways International has a new Cambodia to Burma route — it’s a triangle that flies Phnom Penh to Rangoon to Siem Reap. This means that the flight from Phnom Penh to Rangoon is direct, but on the way back there’s an hour-long stop in Siem Reap.

I was lucky enough to be on the inaugural flight from Phnom Penh. The gate was mobbed with reporters and camera crews, flowers were being handed out to passengers and the flight left a celebratory 30 minutes late.

Flights run on Wednesdays and Saturdays with a 13:50 departure from Phnom Penh. The return trips leave Rangoon on the same days at 08:50. Tickets cost $285 and can be booked through any local travel agent. MAI has also recently added functionality to buy tickets online, but they are slightly more expensive (and charged in Thai baht).

As of right now, tickets do not seem to need to be booked too far in advance, but that may change once the route becomes more popular. When I booked my ticket, I was initially told the flight was fully booked and asked if I wanted to be waitlisted. The next day, I was allowed to purchase a ticket. So it’s worth trying the waitlist if you want to travel on a specific date, although this might have just been an issue on their first flight.

Your ticket to a VOA is flying MAI from PNH.

Most passengers chose to go with the visa on arrival option. VOA costs $30 in USD. If you work for an NGO, as a journalist or in any other similarly sensitive profession, it’s still best to get a visa in advance. The Phnom Penh Myanmar Embassy is one of the slowest embassies to grant visasbe prepared to wait a full 14 days from the time you drop off your passport and application — and even subtle attempts at bribery will not speed the process along.

The silver lining is that visas issued in Phnom Penh only cost $20. If you are travelling through Thailand, you can get your visa in Bangkok in two days, although it costs slightly more. Bring a letter showing proof of employment to speed the process along — and make sure it doesn’t say you’re an aid worker or writer.

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8 responses so far

8 Responses to “Getting from Phnom Penh to Burma”

  1. anonon 15 Nov 2011 at 9:49 am

    Nice write-up. I travelled there with two NGO workers on the *second* flight with MAI (oooo), and they got in fine with the VOA. We were actually told that they would have a harder time getting the advanced visa than getting one on arrival. Go figure.

    It might also be worth noting that Myanmar Airways International is NOT the same company as Myanmar Airways, which has a terrible safety record and reputation.

    And also, Cho Cho at Irrawaddy Restaurant on St. 334 can arrange the flights and answer any questions you might have about a trip, and while you’re there you can try out some Burmese cuisine. De-lish.

  2. Linaon 15 Nov 2011 at 10:57 am

    My understanding is that at the current time, they don’t have a process in place to really vet people too thoroughly for VOA. (I am guessing they are doing some sort of checks before the flight even takes off, but they might not being). This lack of a vetting process is why they eliminated the VOA program that they had last year. It is likely that they will put this in at some point soon, and then NGO workers who don’t take pains to cover it up will be blacklisted like in the old days.

    Did you have to be waitlisted before getting a ticket as well?

  3. anonon 17 Nov 2011 at 9:16 am

    Yes, we were waitlisted. Not sure I understand how that works…

  4. Linaon 17 Nov 2011 at 12:04 pm

    I was waitlisted and then the flight only had about 20 passengers. I wondered if they were doing some pre-screening for VOAs before approving the ticket purchases.

  5. anonon 17 Nov 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Huh. Interesting. Clearly they’re not too picky about NGO workers then…unless maybe it’s only the human rights NGOs they’re worried out?

  6. anonon 17 Nov 2011 at 3:04 pm


  7. Linaon 17 Nov 2011 at 3:12 pm

    I’m only speculating about the pre-screening, because I can’t imagine that they’d be letting people in with no screening whatsoever. They seemed to have really loosened up in the last few months, so maybe they aren’t so worried about non-HRWs.

  8. Jacquion 24 Nov 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Thank you so much for this info – getting real info about Myanmar visas is turning out to be a huge hassle. Even my travel agent told me to look into it myself as she couldn’t help. Cheers!