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Cambodia Blows Hole in Tourism Industry with $3,000+ in Coronavirus Fees, Deposits

Phnom Penh International Airport (PNH) Immigration VIP Fast-Track Service and Visa On Arrival
Tourists wait at Phnom Penh International Airport's Immigration and Visa On Arrival Desk.

With its neighbors closing borders or imposing long quarantines and high insurance prerequisites to enter, Cambodia had put itself in ripe position to cash in on Southeast Asian tourism – until someone got greedy.

The nation, which has gamed its numbers to report only 128 coronavirus infections and zero deaths, had been operating as “old normal” with borders and bars open and even free coronavirus tests. No longer.

Anyone planning to enter now must pay a US$3,000 “deposit” plus hundreds of dollars more in fees for coronavirus tests, transport and possibly quarantine.

It’s unclear if the rules apply to only airline passengers or if Thailand border visa-runners would be subject to the same conditions.

Cambodian Finance Minister Aun Pornmoinroth said the move came on the request of the health ministry, which said the days of free tests is over now that the country’s Covid-19 crisis has passed.

Before this, you could arrive with an e-visa stampled in your passport or stand in line at the airport, pay about $40 for a visa and be on your way. Now, however, visitors will be bused to a testing center and book themselves into a government hotel for a day while tests are processed.

The process will cost you $5 for transport, $30 for the hotel, $30 for three meals and $100 for the actual test. Most daunting, foreigners must pay $3,000 in cash or via credit card to cover any medical expenses.

Skeptical of getting paid post-test, the government is deucting the various fees from the deposit, regardless whether you eat their food or not.

If you should test positive, congratulations, you get a 14-day quarantine holiday in a Cambodian hospital for $22 a day. If you’re virus-free but unlucky enough to have been on the same flight as someone who does have Covid-19, you will be quarantined and charged $84 a day for the hotel.

At those rates, it’s cheaper to get the virus.

But the charges don’t stop even after death. If you expire of Covid-19, your credit card is going to be charged another $1,500 for cremation.

So, to make the math easy, here’s the totals:

  • Not infected = $165 + $3,000 deposit
  • Not infected, but on flight with someone who is = $1,341 + $3,000 deposit
  • Infected = $473 + $3,000 deposit
  • Infected and die = Up to $1,973 + $3,000 deposit.

A health official for the area covering Sihanoukville – where no one goes anymore now that the casinos closed – said Cambodia was generous with testing and treatment at first. But now the country needs cash to prevent a second wave.

With those financial barriers to entry, the kingdom likely doesn’t have to worry about a second wave coming through the airport.