Advice on Cambodian Visas
If you’re considering crossing the border from Thailand to Cambodia through Poipet, we advise you to get an E-visa beforehand at: www.evisa.gov.kh. It cost 35USD (5USD more than the visa on arrival) but you’ll save yourself all the unnecessary stress and the fake “processing fees”. Better yet do it by plane. There are no scams in Cambodian airport borders.
Any day we need to change countries is a stimulating day.
What happened crossing the border to Cambodia, made the day quite stressful.
We woke up after a really bad sleep in Bangkok, to catch the 5:50 am train to the border town of Aranyaprathet for a 7 hour trip through the central plains of Thailand. It’s a really pleasant trip that costs 48THB.
We started we a plan
Maybe it’s important to say that every plan or decision we make comes from what we’ve learned on travel books, blogs and the experiences of other travelers. Plus, a little dash of intuition of our own.
Nevertheless, we do our homework pretty well. We study and prepare ourselves with as much knowledge as we can: a good itinerary and a plan for almost everything. We’re control freaks.
The plan for the day was to get off the train in Aranyaprathet and get a tuk tuk to the Thai border for 80THB in 10 minutes, get a stamp from Thailand and get a stamp from Cambodia to get in. Simple.
The tuk tuk took 10 minutes, but it cost us 200THB. Fortunately, we ended up sharing the tuk tuk with two American backpackers: Ryan and Winslow, that we had the pleasure to get to know along that ride.
As soon as we got to the Thai border, we started walking to the building along with many other tourists and backpackers. There was a local market around, lots of tuk tuk drivers and other random men.
We immediately followed Winslow – the seasoned traveler from New York, coming to Cambodia for the second time.
The Thai Border
Easy peasy. We got into the building and to the foreigners queue with other backpackers, filled the departure card given to us when we arrived to Bangkok, handed over our passports, got a photo taken and our passports stamped. Next!
Down the stair we got to no man’s land, or a bridge over stagnated water in this case. The smell was intense.
At the end of the bridge were some men in hats allegedly selling illegal visas. None of them approached us, except for a guy in a light blue shirt directing us to the right end of the bridge, to the Cambodian border offices.
Thank you Sir!
The welcoming party at the Cambodian Border
As soon as we got in, a government official gave us a form to fill. Just a sheet of paper but no pens. We managed.
Form, photo and passport in one hand, 30USD on the other. Just as it said in every textbook we read, every travel site we visited and in the big sign above the office counter. As we gave them to the officials, they all refused to take them, pointing to the hand written sheet of paper that said 30USD + 100THB.
Funny, just exactly as Winslow, every textbook and website warned us: border corrupt government officials, trying to extort some extra money from tourist crossing the border. How nice.
Frightened we said: “No. No processing fees.”
Us and all the irritated backpackers in the queue. Which only made the officials point harder at the extra “100THB” and speak louder in Khmer.
Hmm, no. Y’all can take the 30USD and get on with it, thanks.
The waiting game
Seeing that we weren’t going to give in, they took us aside to a table and some plastic chairs and made us wait, ignoring us for a while.
By now we were all annoyed, anxious and already tired from the long train ride.
After what felt like forever, a very cranky officer came and took our passports and forms.
20 minutes later he came back, yelling our names and handing out our passports and visas. We got out of there as fast as we could.
There we were, in the middle of a road, surprised with what had happened, but relieved it was over, when another officer took us to one more long queue. This was the queue to get our visas stamped. Now, unfortunately there was a power outage and no power means no processing tourist visas. So we had to wait. Under a boiling metal roof.
After other 20 minutes, the power finally came on. Once again, we gave our passports to the officer, he took a webcam photo, moaned something, stamped the passports and we got in.
Siem Reap off!
After the whole border mess, we just wanted to get the next bus to Siem Reap.
From what we’ve read, the bus station was nearby and the bus would prevent us to get ripped off by taxi drivers that wait for tourist at the Poipet border roundabout.
Ryan, the backpacker we met at Aranyaprathet asked Winslow, Nuno and I to share a taxi. Our minds were still fuzzy from the heat and the whole border situation, so we said YES!
We just wanted to calm down, and get a rest as soon as possible.
The taxi ride was 2h30 and cost us 48USD.
Quite expensive considering it was not a taxi at all. Just a dude in a car, moving people from here to there on his spare time.
At least he had air-con and promised to leave us at our hostels.
Arriving at Seam Reap, the driver turned in a random street, pulled over and told us to get out. We had no idea where we were, but outside a group of Cambodian man were already taking our backpacks from the trunk. Something wasn’t right.
That was the second time that day we felt like shitting our pants.
Being a new yorker, Winslow was the first to get out of the car and started yelling at the driver. Things got pretty heated up as the Cambodian men started surrounding Winslow and us.
Basically it was all a scam:
The fake taxi driver overcharges tourist at the border and dumps them in that corner of Siem Reap where other tuk tuk drivers await. The tuk tuk drivers will then take the tourists to their hotels – for more money obviously – and ideally get booked to show them the Angkor temples for the next days.
Winslow refused to pay the taxy driver and refused to go on any tuk tuk, screaming and threatening to call the police. By now the tuk tuk drivers were also yelling, laughing and making fun of him, which only made everything worst.
What the f*ck have we got ourselves into?
Shit was about to go down when the taxi driver, probably with a heavy conscience backed down from the argument and said he’d take us to our hostels. As soon as we saw the famous Pub Street, we got off the car and figured the rest out.
Not a good first impression of Cambodia.
It was quite a rough day but hey, it’s all gravy!