After we booked flight from San Francisco to Phnom Penh, the next thing to think about was how to get to Siem Reap, where Angkor Wat is located.
While buses and boats are available between Phnom Penh (PP) to Siem Reap (SR), we opted for flying to save time. Since we only have six nights in Cambodia altogether, we prefer to get to our destinations as quickly as possible.
Siem Reap is located about 320km north of Phnom Penh, so the flight is short and takes only about 45 minutes.
As of writing, three airlines provide service between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap: Cambodia Angkor Air, Bassaka Air and Cambodia Bayon Airlines.
This post will provide a quick overview of the three airlines, what we ended up booking, and a few useful tips for your next trip.
Cambodia Angkor Air
Cambodia Angkor Air has been around since 2009 and is the longest standing airline offering domestic flights in Cambodia. Operated by Vietnam Airlines, Cambodia Angkor Air appears to have the best reputation (though that can be relative), thanks to the endorsement and partial ownership by the Cambodia government. As shown above, the national flag is imprinted toward the front of the aircraft.
Cambodia Angkor Air also flies to various places in China, Hong Kong, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Flight frequency: 4 to 6 flights through the day
Flight schedule: Depending on the day, first flight out is usually around 9am and last flight out is around 9pm
All-in, one-way price: Around $100 – $130, but can go as low as $30 – $60.
Aircraft: ATR72 turboprop planes (French-Italian planes)
Bassaka Air commenced operation at the end of 2014. The airline is a joint vendor between the Chinese government and a Cambodian casino company. As a very small and new airline, Bassaka’s fleet only has 2 planes. Interestingly, Bassaka Air also operates a chartered flight between Phnom Penh and Macau to deliver gamblers to the casino in Phnom Penh.
Flight frequency: 1 flight (occasionally 2 flights) per day
Flight schedule: Phnom Penh departure at 9:15am; Siem Reap departure at 10:50am
All-in, one-way price: Around $50 – $100, but can go as low as $19.
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200 (168 seat)
Cambodian Bayon Air
Cambodian Bayon Air is owned by Joy Air, which is a joint venture between China Eastern Airlines and a Chinese corporation representing a consortium aircraft manufacturers. This airline also flies to various places in China.
Flight frequency: 1 flight per day
Flight schedule: Phnom Penh departure at 12:00pm; Siem Reap departure at 8:40pm (20:40)
All-in, one-way price: Around $50 – $100
Aircraft: Xian MA60 propeller plane (Chinese plane)
While some folks on TripAdvisor had flown with Bayon Air and reported an okay experience, I personally have some serious reservation.
Bayon Air’s Xian MA60 Chinese propeller planes are not certified in the US and EU, and are also banned in a number of other countries. Since Bayon Air is co-owned by the Chinese aircraft manufactures, it is not surprising for them to fly these MA60 when probably no one else is buying.
The website is also very buggy. Every time I try to change to my search parameters, an error message pops up, which forces me to go back to home page and select my “country and language” again. Many of the destinations showing up on the site as an option are not really available when you click on them (I tried Hong Kong), which is annoying.
Finally, it is interesting that the default search is for one-way, rather than round trip (what are they implying?). I’m probably picking on them here, but the whole thing just doesn’t inspire much confidence.
What we ended up booking
As I was figuring out how much time to split between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, I was also keeping an eye on the price on Cambodia Angkor Air for a couple of weeks.
Cambodia Angkor Air runs various promotions throughout the year. As of writing, for instance, a sale is going on for $49 (excluding tax and fees) between November and March. The lowest one-way ticket I have seen is $9 plus taxes/fees, but it was a rather limited promotion.
The flight I wanted was running at $100 all-in toward the end of October. I decided to keep watching as the promotion site was not updated beyond November, so I had a feeling that the new promotion might take effect soon
About 10 days later, I was fortunately rewarded with a $55 option, so I hit “buy” right away.
Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
Airline: Cambodia Angkor Air
Price: $55 per person
Flight time: depart at 7:20pm / arrive at 8:00pm
Why: Cambodia Angkor is my first choice, and is the only airline that offers a flight to Siem Reap a couple hours right after we fly into Phnom Penh in the evening
Siem Reap to Phnom Penh
Airline: Bassaka Air
Price: $39 per person
Flight time: depart at 10:50am / arrive at 11:30am
Why: We prefer to take a morning flight out on a certain day, and Cambodia Angkor Air’s earliest option does not depart until noon. Bassaka is also $50 cheaper.
- Cambodia Angkor Air appears to be the most reliable and offers the most flights.
- I would not buy flights more than 4 months out, as things can change and, who knows, the airline may go out of business.
- Check Cambodia Angkor Air’s promotion page first.
- If you see a one-way flight on Cambodia Angkor Air for less than $60 all-in per person, go ahead and book. It is a good price and it may not last.
- If flights are selling above $80 – $100, I would wait and check back in a few days. Prices don’t get more expensive than this anyway (even if you buy on the same week of departure).
- If prices are still above $80 – $100 and you are flying in 2 weeks, I would go ahead and book, as prices are unlikely to come down and you probably want peace of mind at this point.
- Consider Bassaka Air only if you want to fly out at 10:30am (that’s the only flight they have) and there are no good options on Cambodia Angkor Air.
- I wouldn’t book Cambodian Bayon Air, for various reasons discussed above.
If you are planning to fly between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, Cambodia Angkor Air is likely to be the best option that will get you there in 45 minutes. Prices fluctuate quite a bit between $30 – $100. If you are lucky and/or patient, you may be able to find fairly good deals during certain parts of the year.
We will report back in a few weeks on our experience, so stay tuned!
Does anyone have any experience with these domestic flights in Cambodia?