Sunday, July 31, 2011

Phnom Penh International Airport Part 1

Cambodia has two international airports, both relatively small compared to the airport of some of its Asian neighbors. That's not to say that the service they render is inferior. In fact, these airports are among my favorites. They operate much like KL's LCCT - a "no-frills" operation that allows a very relaxed atmosphere. Here's an airport that doesn't meander on the premise that, at anytime, a terrorist will bomb the place. Nevertheless, security maneuvers in these airports are strict (their x-ray machines and security posts are rather explicit with their instruction - you have to really remove your watch and belts before you're allowed to get through). This atmosphere is probably attributable to the comparably less busy traffic. But that may not be the case in the next several years.

I like Siem Reap's airport because getting inside it feels like traipsing into a hotel lobby more than the frenetic, paranoid goings on of other airports. This is my 3rd visit at the Phnom Penh International Airport (PPIA), but my first at the Departure Hall, allowing me to see more of its structure, services and premises. Like Siem Reap, PPIA (previously called Pochentong International) exudes a laidback atmosphere.

The airport has a separate vehicle entrance for those with cars (those who will fetch arriving passengers) shown above. If you're leaving PP, drop-in tourists on tuktuks are to enter at the left entrance of the grounds. Enter through the corner to get inside the check-in hall, which has 21 counters. A limited number of seats are to be found just opposite these counters which open 2-3 hours prior to a scheduled flight.

Some airlines like Air Asia already includes the airport's hefty Passenger Service Charge - $25! - upon purchase of your ticket. This explains why plane fares to and from Cambodia are rather pricey. If your plane doesn't include this airport service charge during purchase, then you would have to pay at the Passenger Service Charge Counter located at the far end of the hallway, just beside Check-in Counter no. 1 (before reaching the WC).

These charges are as follows (depending on whether it's a local or an international departure) :

International Departure

Foreigner, adult - $25
Foreigner, children (under 12 years old) - $13

Cambodian, adult - $18
Cambodian, children (under 12) - $10
All infants (under 2 years old) - free

Domestic Departure

All Foreigners - $10
All Cambodians - $5
Infants under 2 - free

It was actually Seng, proprietor of Europe Guest House, who reminded me this since many backpackers seem to have encountered this problem before, i.e. forgetting that there indeed is an airport fee. The good news is, they accept credit cards just in case you're low on your dollars. When do you pay this? After checking-in, proceed to the counter, hand in your boarding pass, then pay your $25.

From here, head to the escalator nearby for your pre-departure, immigration formalities and boarding.

A lawn just across the entrance of the departure hall.

The facade of the Departure Hall.

The Khmer government signed a 20-year concession with a French-Malaysian company, Société Concessionaire d’Aéroport or SCA, to build-and-operate PPIA through a $110 million improvement program that includes construction of a new runway, terminal and cargo buildings, hangars, installation of a Cat III level Instrument Landing System (ILS) and associated approach lighting. A new $22 million terminal building is also in the works to accommodate growing tourist traffic. This covers 18,000-square-metre (190,000 sq ft).


Visitors to the Kingdom’s two international airports have increased 13 percent in the first six months compared to the same period last year. More and more backpackers are coming in by plane instead of the harrowing overland border crossing from the treacherous Thai border. Ministry of Tourism Director of Statistics and Tourism Information Department Kong Sophearak welcomes this development. He said in an interview with Phnom Penh Post, "Cambodia has an open sky policy where we welcome visitors from every country.”

We further quote PP Post: The statistics show Phnom Penh International Airports received 445,225 arrivals from January to June this year, a 9.9 percent increase on the same period in 2010.

Siem Reap International Airport recorded a 15.6 percent increase in the period to 444,602 visitors during the six-month period, the statistics show.

Some 30,726 and 36,987 people arrived on domestic flights in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh respectively in the first half of 2011, with the rest international arrivals.

The Tourism Ministry has previously forecasted 2.73 million visitors for 2011, and expects revenue from the sector to total $1.91 billion.

There's no doubt that in the coming years, visitor arrivals would further escalate. Who could resist the allure of the Angkor Temples? In my book, the Angkor Temples are the best ancient conglomeration of proofs of civilization in Southeast Asia. I have seen the temples of Bagan, Ayutthaya and Sukhothai in Thailand, and Borobodur and Prambanan in Indonesia. Nothing beats the grandeur, scale and beauty of the Angkor temples. These 11th century temples top my list of 50 places to visit visit you die.

Do not die before a visit. I kid you not.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

The airport is located 7 kilometers south west from Phnom Penh's city center. Taxis may charge $7-15, tuktuks $6-7 to anywhere within the center.

Up next: Some shops at the Phnom Penh International Airport's Departure Hall!

Laidback atmosphere. WC is at the extreme end and to the right, after the Passenger Service Charge counter. To its left is the escalator leading towards the Immigration counters and Boarding area.

Check-in counters 1-10 (above) and 11-21 (below).

Passenger Service Charge Counter: hand in your boarding pass and pay your $25 airport fee.

The escalator for your immigration formalities and boarding.

The waiting area just across the check-in counters: Very few seats!

Foreign exchange counter in the Departure Hall just beside the escalator.

Some of the counters located outside and to the right of the Departure Hall - Air Asia counter and a Post Office.

More counters, and some ATM machines line this hallway outside. If you walk further on, its the Arrival Hall.

A little history, and the Arrival Hall and Immigration Counter of PPIA -

For more information on Cambodian airports - visit

Entry into Phnom Penh International Airport's parking area, opposite the arrival hall.


Ola said...

It doesn't look crowded like aiports usually look, or am I wrong?

eye in the sky said...

You're right. There were very few people there. Majority of visitors choose to fly directly to Siem Reap or arrive by land/ overland border crossing from Vietnam or Thailand.