A Guide to Cambodia’s Sihanoukville Sandbox


Another week, another reopening programme in Southeast Asia! This time, it is the turn of Cambodia who has announced that they will be launching the Sihanoukville Sandbox. 

Based on a similar model to Thailand’s popular Phuket Sandbox, the scheme aims to give fully vaccinated visitors access to the country’s most popular islands, including backpacker favourite Koh Rong. 

Travellers have long-awaited news of how Cambodia is going to begin to reopen for tourism. However, added bureaucracy and confusing entry requirements have been a barrier for many. 

Sit back while we dive into the Sihanoukville Sandbox, outlining how it will work and what to expect. 

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How will the Sihanoukville Sandbox work?

According to the Khmer Times, Cambodia will launch the Sihanoukville Sandbox on November 30th 2021. Even though the programme was quick to be labelled the Sihanoukville Sandbox in the media, this reopening scheme will actually incorporate visits to backpacker favourite Koh Rong island and huge tourist resort Dara Sakor in Koh Kong as well. 

Much like the Phuket Sandbox and Phu Quoc Sandbox, the scheme will only be open to tourists who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with an approved vaccine. The sandbox programme will allow them to skip hotel quarantine and freely travel within the ‘sandbox’ destination. However, this comes with conditions (detailed in the requirements section below). 

Once you have completed your five days within the initial sandbox destination, you are free to travel elsewhere in the country. 

If the Sihanoukville scheme proves popular and is considered to be successful, Cambodia plans to open their most popular destination Siem Reap at the beginning of January 2022 in a similar programme. This is, of course, home to the world-renowned Angkor Wat complex which attracted an average of 2.6 million tourists per year pre COVID. It is vital to a successful revival in Cambodia’s tourism industry. 

Khmer Nights have reported that there is an ongoing conversation regarding a flight corridor between Cambodia and Thailand. If implemented, this would mean that travellers entering from Thailand would not be required to quarantine. This could be an important first step in restoring some of the backpacker tourism that Southeast Asia and Cambodia have so heavily relied upon in the past. 

Koh-Rong, Cambodia
Koh Rong is a popular spot for backpackers!

Requirements for the Sihanoukville Sandbox

Although we are still waiting on further announcements regarding the Sihanoukville Sandbox, there have been some details released regarding the requirements for the scheme. 

Travellers on the Sihanoukville Sandbox must:

  • Be fully vaccinated against COVID-19* and provide proof 
  • Spend at least 5 days in one of the above destinations
  • Take an RT-PCR test on arrival at Sihanoukville airport and produce a negative result 
  • Visit through a full package tour or be classed as a small group/family of high-end tourists
  • Show proof of return flight
  • Hold valid insurance that covers illness from COVID-19
  • Proof that you have prepaid for your initial hotel accommodation
  • Visitors must fly directly to Sihanoukville and not transfer through Phnom Penh Airport
  • Provide their 14-day travel history before arrival

*Final dose must have been administered at least 14 days before your trip. 

Can you travel to Cambodia right now?

International tourists have been able to travel to Cambodia for some time now, however, the costly and complex protocol in place has led to few overseas visitors. At present, there is a 14-day quarantine for all unvaccinated arrivals into the country and even those who are fully vaccinated have to quarantine for 7 days. 

E-visas are now permitted again, however, many nationalities will still need to apply for a visa in advance. A $2000USD deposit is required to cover COVID services while you are visiting the countries. Anything that has not been spent will be refunded to you once you have completed the quarantine. 

Read more about travel restrictions in Cambodia here. 

Cambodia has one of the highest vaccination rates in the whole of Southeast Asia which has played a large part in the timing of this reopening. According to Pear Anderson, 77% of the population is now vaccinated against COVID-19. This statistic should certainly encourage tourists who are wary about different countries ability to safely welcome tourists again. 

What are Sihanoukville and the surrounding area like?

Sihanoukville is a coastal city on the Gulf of Thailand in southern Cambodia. The area is famous for its beautiful beaches, however, some travellers report that there is a litter problem. Sihanoukville has two seasons: wet and dry. The temperatures are desirable for many travellers, averaging between 24°C-30°C.

Sihanoukville has become a polarising destination in recent years, with many claiming that over-tourism has ruined the area and its beaches. However, this is not an opinion shared by everybody. 

Luckily, the majority of people seem to think much more fondly of Koh Rong. This picturesque island, accessible by boat from Sihanoukville, is popular with many different kinds of travellers but predominantly attracts a large backpacker crowd. 

Dara Sakor is a huge tourist resort which is located in Koh Kong province. It will be served by the Dara Sakor International Airport which is currently in construction. It is estimated to be finished in November 2021. 

We will be updating this article with news on the Sihanoukville Sandbox as and when it is released.

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