Tourists traveling between the two countries often make a short stop in Poipet. The town is well known to outsiders as a gambling hub. Boasting more than 10 casinos, Poipet is considered Cambodia’s number two casino destination after Sihanoukville.
Poipet has an area of 262 km2. The municipality is divided into three communes: Poipet, Phsar Kandal, and Nimeth. It has a population of more than 140,000.
Khmer Rouge stronghold
Poipet was one of the last strongholds of the notorious Khmer Rouge. For much of the 1980s until early 1990s, the town saw much fighting between the Khmer Rouge and forces loyal to the government and their Vietnamese allies.
It was only after the Cambodian Civil War ended in 1997 that the town experienced an economic renaissance of sorts.
Sear Chailin, CEO of CL Realty, noted that cross-border trade is thriving, thanks to the lifting of tariffs as part of the Asean Integration initiative.
“This is bringing economic prosperity to Poipet,” he told the local media.
The recent opening of a Chinese-funded highway connecting Poipet to other parts of Banteay Meanchey province is also a boon for Poipet’s development.
Today, Poipet is considered one of the fastest developing towns in the country, with the potential of becoming a centre for manufacturing, tourism, and real estate development. This is helped by the fact that it hosts three special economic zones (SEZs):
- Poipet O'Neang Special Economic Zone (POSEZ) hosts around five factories across 467 hectares.
- Sanco Poipet Special Economic Zone spans 83 hectares.
- Poipet PPSEZ sits on 68 hectares.
Factories in the SEZs produce electronics, footwear, clothing, jewelry, and many other products. Two additional SEZs are also in the works in the Poipet area. For more info on SEZs in the Kingdom, browse through our Investment Guide 2019.
Poipet will also have its first condominium complex once the construction of Sokha Residences Group is completed. The complex will include 543 condo and borey units, a superstore, commercial and office space, sports club, swimming pool, sky bar, and penthouses.
Poipet is also host to 19 Borey projects and 50 firms engaged in the subdivision of residential plots for resale.
Property prices still low, but rapidly increasing
Lately, property developers and investors have set their sights on Poipet. The town’s appeal to these people is enhanced by the presence of huge swaths of land selling or leasing at a bargain:
- The latest information pegs the price of commercial land in the centre of town at between $1,500 and $2,000 per sqm.
- Residential land in the same area fetches from $200 to $300 per sqm.
- Land in the suburban areas is cheapest at between $30 and $100 per sqm.
- Land along National Road 5 and the Poipet Roundabout currently fetches between $800 and $1,000 per sqm.
- In areas near the Thai border where casinos are located, land costs from $1,300 to $1,500 per sqm.
Land prices in Poipet have increased by as much as 50% in the last two years. For instance, land near the casino area that used to go for around $400 per sqm is now worth $1,400 per sqm.
Economic development, Chinese interest, new and better roads, and the presence of casinos have are often cited as the main reasons for the rapid increase in land prices in the town.
The same thing is happening with property rentals. Typical shophouses along Poipet’s main roads could be rented for as low as $150 a month in past years. Now, the same places can be as much as $800 per month. Apartments also used to go for around $150 per month. Average rents are now hovering around $350 to $400 per month.
'Little Las Vegas'
Casinos have become such an important part of life in Poipet that some people have started calling the town “Little Las Vegas”, in reference to the gambling capital in the United States.
The most well-known gaming venues in Poipet are:
- Grand Diamond City Hotel & Casino
- Tropicana Resort & Casino
- Star Vegas Casino
- Crown Casino.
The casinos have contributed immensely to the local economy in terms of tax revenues and tourism. Every day, hundreds of Thai cross the border to play and gamble in the casinos. Chinese gamblers have also started coming.
While the casinos have mostly been welcomed by residents, there are some who blame them for the social ills plaguing the town and nearby localities.
To read more about the gambling sector in Cambodia, read our guide to casinos in the Kingdom.
On the road to Poipet
Poipet has good road connections to Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Battambang.
Poipet is 408 kilometres from Phnom Penh, and a bus trip usually takes eight hours. Tickets usually cost $15 or $20. Minivans and taxis also make the trip, but fares cost more.
Regular passenger train service from Phnom Penh to Poipet will resume soon after a 45-year hiatus. A renovation was recently undertaken on the 385-km northern line.
Passenger air service to Poipet is also on the way after the government recently approved plans to build a new airport in the town.
Tourism still limited
Many tourists pass through Poipet on their way to Thailand or Cambodia, but few stay more than a day. Except for casinos, there are few attractions.
However, plans are afoot to convert 500 hectares of land into a tourist attraction complete with a golf course, a giant garden, artificial river, and even a floating market. Government officials are banking on this plan to bring Poipet on the tourism map.
Most food and beverage offerings in Poipet are inside the casinos. They mainly serve Chinese or Thai food. Other reputable restaurants include Destiny Café, Palm Coffee, Border Restaurant HARU, and Hangout Restaurant/Café. These restaurants serve a mix of Cambodian, Asian, and Western cuisine.
Most other restaurants or food stalls in town cater to travellers stopping for a meal on their way to or from Thailand.
Accommodations in Poipet
There are no major Western brands like Sofitel or Marriott in Poipet. Many of the casinos offer luxury accommodations, however.
Grand Diamond City Hotel & Casino, Poipet Resort Casino, Holiday Poipet, Holiday Palace, Lee Hotel & Spa, Omeas Hotel, and Tournesol Boutique Hotel all offer rooms for between $25 and $75 per night.
Near the border crossing, there are also budget hotels and guest houses such as Phnom Pich Guesthouse, Chao Phaya Guesthouse, and Huy Kea Hotel. These places offer stays for $6 to $20 per night.
Poipet is relatively small. Many visitors can walk between hotels and casinos easily. There are also moto-taxis and tuk-tuks.
What lies ahead?