Updated: Aug 13
I have been researching for quite a while on the requirements of self-driving my Malaysian-registered car into Cambodia from Thailand, and I couldn't seem to get the clarity I needed. So I flew into Phnom Penh, and this is what I found out.
I started a while back with a very helpful reference by Rider Chris (thanks a million Chris!) and as he said, "border-crossing rules changes from time to time." If you're planning to ride/drive into Cambodia from Thailand, what Chris has written and shared is essential reading.
He recommended a few border crossings, and added this:
"For other borders, the customs usually require you to get a permit from Phnom Penh. Usually, when you arrive at the border, they will ask you to park your vehicle at the border and take a bus to the Phnom Penh customs office and apply for a permit. Once you’ve obtained it, you can then bring your vehicle into Cambodia."
I was planning to enter via Poi Pet, which was not listed as one of his recommended border crossings. Later Chris added:
"UPDATE: Most Cambodian borders have now relaxed their rules. Please ensure you have prepared both original and photocopies for the following documents which need to be presented to the Cambodian Customs.
National Registration Identity Card (IC)
Frontpage of your passport
Vehicle registration card (Geran/VOC/Greenbook etc)
Road Tax (If any)
However, uncertainty remained for me because of a few things:
Chris rode a bike - I'm driving a Malaysian-registered car
I needed to find out about crossing via Aranyaprathet/Poi Pet, and
In June 2022, right-hand-drive cars were banned in Cambodia, and I wasn't sure whether this only applied to Cambodian-owned cars and cars smuggled into Cambodia, or foreign-owned cars too.
Additionally, from my personal experience and what other people have shared with me, there exists the possibility that even if the rules are relaxed and I don't need to get prior approval from Phnom Penh (and I can drive a right-hand-drive car into Cambodia), the personnel at the border may not be fully aware or briefed, I could be stuck, and I would need to turn back. (This happened to me when I tried to enter Laos through the Ban Huak Crossing)
So I decided to reach out to others on Facebook groups, and Malaysians and Cambodians living in Cambodia.
Some of the helpful suggestions and information shared included: "Last time friend from Penang had to leave car at Thai border as Koh Kong customs would not allow right-hand drive cars into Cambodia"
"Maybe your friend can rent a condo for two weeks in Pattaya or arrange for hotel parking to leave his car there rather than drive into Cambodia." "Right hand drive not allow to enter Cambodia now. You can temporary import but it seem complicated and permission valid only 30 days. We need to ask permission from customs head office in PP first, then process customs clearance at Poipet, and the car is belonging you under your name registered" Some newer updates suggested that there seem to be no problems with left-hand-drive cars driving into Cambodia, but I was still uncertain about right-hand-drive cars because of the ban. There was also advice on driving into Cambodia via Koh Kong and Osmach instead of Poi Pet, because Poi Pet is the strictest and most difficult crossing.
I wanted to find out for sure and I decided to leave my car in Bangkok, fly into Phnom Penh, visit some friends and see what I could do. I planned to visit the Customs Office in Phnom Penh, where hopefully I can get some answers and the necessary approvals. (in Thailand I went to the Thai Customs Department to get an extension on my car's Temporary Import Permit (TIP), and both the Cambodian embassies in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur told me "you need to check with the Cambodian Customs at the border, because we have no jurisdiction and we don't know").
Then my friend David* posted to a forum and asked the same on my behalf and shared that "Apparently, Cambodia govt has implemented and enforced a ban on importation of RHD vehicles. But since you're a tourist and not importing the vehicle into Cambodia, the best approach is to visit these 2 ministries for approval letters... Ministry of Transportation and also Ministry of Tourism."
So I had three Ministries to visit in Phnom Penh, and I wasn't guaranteed any answers or approvals, and even if I was given approval, I didn't know how long the approval process would take and how much it would cost.
I told myself let's try the Ministry of Tourism first, and then visit the next two.
So on Monday morning, 8th of August 2022 I made my way to the Ministry of Tourism in Phnom Penh.
I walked in, I asked the first gentleman I saw about approvals for driving a Malaysian car into Cambodia, he was friendly and helpful, and he shared a phone number with me. He told me "you can ask Mr. Hor Sarun - he can help you." He mentioned who Mr Hor was, but I couldn't quite make out what he was saying. I thanked him and I called the number, and a man answered. The line was terrible, I quickly shared that I needed advice on how I can get approvals to drive my Malaysian-registered car into Cambodia, and before I could ask whether my right-hand-drive car is banned in Cambodia the line cut off - I ran out of credits on my prepaid phone.
What happened next made my entire day. I left and crossed the main road to top up my prepaid card, and I was advised by the girl at the Wings counter (again, she was friendly and helpful) to get a new SIM Card instead - so I went to the nearest Cellcard shop to do so. Just as I was about to pay for a new SIM Card Mr Hor Sarun called me back on my phone, and I realised who he was - it was His Excellency Hor Sarun, the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Tourism for the Kingdom of Cambodia.
He told me that the rules have changed since before COVID, approvals from Phnom Penh are no longer required, and as long as it is my own car and I bring the relevant documents with me I just need to fill in a form with the Customs at the border, and that's it.
He was friendly, patient, helpful, and kind, and he asked whether I was on Telegram so he can send me a guide. This is one of the most senior officials in the Cambodian Government, and he was personally helping out a stranger from Malaysia who walked into his ministry without a prior appointment. I went woah....what??
If this is not exemplary leadership, I don't know what is. This is simply unheard of in most other countries.
This is what he sent to me - the summary of the prakas, the Official Proclamation by the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia:
The Implementation of Safety Rules and Regulations to Facilitate Self-Driving Tours
Minister of Tourism and Chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Commission
This Prakas aims to implement the safety measures for self-driving tours by land travel in order to support authorities and reduce the difficulties for tourists when passing through checkpoints at the border gates of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
This Prakas aims to determine the safety measures and rules to facilitate self-driving tours into the Kingdom of Cambodia.
This Prakas applies to all self-driving tours in the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Tourists visiting the Kingdom of Cambodia who wish to bring in temporary entry-exit vehicles must meet the following conditions:
A. Conditions for temporary entry-exit vehicles
B. Conditions for entry and exit in the Kingdom of Cambodia
C. Conditions for implementing health measures
Conditions for bringing in temporary entry-exit vehicles require tourists to complete a summary declaration form (entry) and then sign and hand it over to the customs officer in charge at the border gate. This summary declaration form can be pre-filled online at www.customs.gov.kh => "Temporary Vehicle".
A copy of documents to be attached to the summary declaration are as follows:
1. Passport, driver's license or similar document and ID card
2. Vehicle identification card, ATA Carnet or similar identification card
3. Driver's license
4. Legal insurance card of the Kingdom of Cambodia (currently, requirement for insurance card is temporarily exempt)
5. Documents issued by the competent authority of the last departing country
In order to obtain entry, exit and stay permit from the Kingdom of Cambodia's tourist immigration authority, the following conditions must be met:
Have a valid passport or other travel documents that must be valid for at least 6 (six) months;
Have a valid visa issued by a diplomatic mission or consulate general or honorary consulate abroad or by applying online at www.evisa.gov.kh or by applying for a visa on arrival or by other means, except for tourists holding passports, or travel documents of equal value, of countries that have signed a visa waiver agreement with the Kingdom of Cambodia;
In case the tourist intends to stay beyond the above period, he/she must apply for an extension of stay from the General Department of Immigration. Requests for extension of stay are allowed for an additional one (1) month, except for tourists holding T1, T2, T3 visas, which may be allowed for an additional three (3) months as stipulated in Sub-Decree No. 123 ANKr.BK, dated 10 June 2016 on Procedures for Allowing Non-Immigrant Foreigners to Enter, Leave and Reside in the Kingdom of Cambodia;
Tourists who stay longer than the specified duration shall be subject to the transitional penalty as prescribed in Sub-Decree No. 123 ANKr.BK, dated 10 June 2016 on the Procedures for Allowing Non-Immigrant Foreigners to Enter, Leave and Stay in the Kingdom of Cambodia.
The conditions for the implementation of health measures require tourists to fulfill the following obligations:
Must have a COVID-19 vaccination certificate or certificate confirming full COVID-19 vaccination
Tourists are encouraged to take COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test on their own
Self-driving tourists who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and are entering Cambodia are required to quarantine for a period of 07 days at the locations designated by the Ministry of Health or the competent authority. UPDATE: 13 August 2022 from H.E. Hor Sarun :😎
This is the article where he announced the new guidelines back in October 2019 - https://www.tourismbattambang.org/?p=1599&lang=en
In summary, yes!!!! I can and will be driving into Cambodia with my Malaysian-registered car! Woohoo! #winliaolor
I hope this will be of help to anyone who is planning to drive into Cambodia too, especially from Thailand in Malaysian-registered cars.
UPDATE: Additional tip from Richard Reitman from the Thailand - New regulation affecting overland travellers on foreign vehicle Facebook Group:
Hey; I have entered Cambodia many many times with thai plated car. suggest you do not use Poi Pet, but use (Cham Yeam) Koh Kong down south ( from Trat) or Pong Nam Ron- north of Chantaburi ( Cambodia: Phsar Prum in Sala Krau district in Pailin) Or use Osmach up north (South from Surin) poi pet is the largest and most official crossing, hence most trouble. FYI: the regulation concerning right-hand drive ONLY applies to importing those cars and tagging them in Cambodia, otherwise no Thai could drive into Cambodia, good luck, driving in Cambodia is a headache.
Thank you Your Excellency Mr Hor Sarun, for being so helpful and kind, and for setting such a high bar of kindness, commitment and humility not just for your country, but for the rest of us.
* Thanks David, for all your help and please write that guide for foreigners who want to do business in Cambodia. What you have learned, know, and have personally experienced can help so many!
Thanks to the members of the Thailand - New regulation affecting overland travellers on foreign vehicle Facebook Group too, for sharing your tips and experiences and helping out fellow explorers like me! :)
9th August 2022
NESAT by the Russian Market,
Phnom Penh, Cambodia.