Siem Reap’s New Airport Far Out Of Town

The hustle and bustle of Siem Reap has long been entwined with the awe of the ancient Angkor Wat temple. For many, the city serves as a gateway to this UNESCO World Heritage site. In a significant move, the Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport commenced commercial operations on October 16th, promising new potentials but also raising transportation concerns for frequent visitors.

While the old international airport was conveniently positioned at a mere 9km from the heart of Siem Reap, the new Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport has shifted significantly farther, approximately 50km from the downtown area. To draw a parallel, Long Thanh International Airport for Saigon, Vietnam, (currently under construction) will be around 40km outside the city.

Cambodia’s infrastructure development has seen a significant boost from China, with billions poured into several projects, the new airport being one of them. Under the Belt and Road Initiative – China’s ambitious overseas infrastructure-building project – this new airport was realized. The decision to relocate was driven by multiple factors. The previous airport’s close proximity to Angkor Wat posed logistical challenges and raised alarms about its potential impact on the heritage temples. Furthermore, its closeness to residential areas ruled out any prospects of expansion, making relocation an imperative.

But while the new airport might have addressed heritage concerns, another problem emerges: transportation to and from the airport for passengers. Currently, airport transfers to Siem Reap’s city center include an airport shuttle, private shuttle services, and taxis. Fares begin at $8 US for the bus and range from $25-35 US for taxis accommodating 1 to 3 passengers. Traveling from the airport to Siem Reap now takes about 60-90 minutes via the new expressway. However, what’s startling is the shuttle bus service’s limited schedule, with merely four departures daily and the last one being at 4.30pm. This can prove to be rather inconvenient for many passengers.

The price point also demands scrutiny. While a direct taxi from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh is available for around $70, flights into Siem Reap tend to be pricier than Phnom Penh. The $35 taxi fare seems steep, especially for frequent visitors. Though Tuk Tuks might be an alternative, the hassle of securing one outside the airport and then negotiating prices can be a deterrent. Given the airport’s distance, it’s also uncertain how many Tuk Tuk drivers will be available. Another option might be the PassApp taxi booking service.

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