Cambodia and Thailand have not always been the best of neighbours. In fact, they’ve often bad-mouthed each other to the rest of the local community, had arguments over quite where each of their gardens finish, and sometimes even had dust-ups in the street. Despite, or perhaps because of, much shared cultural history, feelings run deep. But recent developments have seen the two countries working together on bus routes and joint visas. What does this mean for travellers?
In the past decade, the spats over Preah Vihear temple and badly drawn boundary lines, and the ongoing ill-tempered debate on whether Muay Thai is just a repackaged version of Kun Khmer, have been demonstrations of the general undertone of suspicion that crosses the border both ways. However, the new spirit of cooperation can only be beneficial for travellers who want to spend time in each country.
The governors of Phnom Penh and Bangkok signed an agreement in January 2013 to become sister cities, working together on areas including culture, tourism and transport. More significantly, the two countries have agreed a joint visa initiative, allowing visitors from 35 countries to spend up to 60 days each in Thailand and Cambodia. The visas can be applied for at the embassies of either country but visa fees for both countries will still need to be paid. The visas are single-entry only, so don’t allow for hopping between Cambodia and Thailand.
Do you qualify? The 35 countries whose nationals are eligible for the joint visa are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bahrain, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, India, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Portugal, Qatar, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.
All this neighbourly friendliness means it should also be easier to travel between the two, with the launch of direct bus services between Bangkok and Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. The Bangkok-Siem Reap will run twice a day, a 424 kilometre journey that should take seven hours at a cost of US$25. Phnom Penh-Bangkok will be once a day, taking 11 hours to cover the 719 kilometres for US$30. Unfortunately, despite the press releases and staged photos of buses, the service is apparently not quite up and running. We’re still sniffing out information on buying tickets and actually travelling across the border and arriving at your destination on the same bus you started on — update soon!
The Bangkok Post reports on how Phnom Penh is welcomed into the Bangkok family.
By Abigail Gilbert
Last updated on 13th January, 2013.