Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Crossing the Thai/Cambodian Border

Crossing the Thai/Cambodian border is an ordeal. After staying up all night to wait for a 5:55 am train from Bangkok's Hualampong train station to Aranyaprathet, sleeping restlessly for a few hours on the rattling train, then arriving at the border town to be accosted by tuk tuk drivers, we groggily packed our backpacks into tuk tuks and were driven to the border patrol to get our on-arrival Cambodian visas.

Once there, the border officials informed us that they no longer accepted $20 USD for the visas and the cost was now 1200 baht, about double the price for the Cambodian tourist visa. Feeling a scam coming on, but really, what can you do when you've had almost no sleep and these are "border officials" telling you the "new" policy? The four of us reluctantly paid the 1200 baht each for the Cambodian visa and continued to Poipet, Cambodia, a little too exhausted to be disgruntled and put up a fight.

What lesson did we learn? Even though guidebooks say that it's easy and fast to get a Cambodian visa upon arrival overland, it's probably best to get the visa from the Cambodian embassy in advance if possible in order to avoid being overcharged and scammed at the border. And to take the name and even the picture of the scamming officials in order to file an official complaint with the embassy.

Thankfully, the beauty of Cambodia more than makes up for the hardship of traveling overland.

© Connie Hum 2010


  1. the question also is: would I rather risk paying $20 extra or go on an extra way to the embassy to get a visa in advance? as annoying and sad as it is, I think you cannot avoid these things to happen in poorer countries. I experienced that at the border to lebanon... that's what happens when a state cannot pay an appropriate salary to the border officials. Somehow their behavior is even understandable to a certain point; they know that some dollars less don't hurt a western tourist but to them charging extra sometimes probably easily doubles their monthly income (which then still is little). but, having said all that, I understand your anger, I was angry too back then.

  2. I think "anger" is a bit strong, I don't feel angry that is happened. It is true that factoring in the time spent at the Embassy may not be worth the additional $20, but if you're going to wait at the border crossing anyway and since $20 for a backpacker can go a long way in terms of travel, I think it's worth letting people know about. It is unfortunate that pay in poorer countries do not necessarily afford people to live comfortably, but I don't think that should allow corruption and scamming to be tolerated.

  3. It is interesting that you posted this today, because something similar happened to Kfir and I when we were getting visa's to cross the border to Jordan. We were part of a tour group that was going to Petra, and the tour "guides" (really people who work with the company) basically charged us double for a visa, saying that we would get them in advance and not wait at the border. But alas, we payed the extra and still waited at the border for at least an extra hour before getting the visa's. It was kind of an unnecessary ordeal, and I agree that no matter how poor a country is or how disadvantaged the people are it does not give them a right to scam people for no reason. In general I think what we paid for the time in Jordan was probably double what it should be, but it would of been fairly tricky to do it alone on such short notice. Thanks for the info Connie!

  4. I agree that scamming and corruption should not be tolerated...but in underdeveloped countries, it's inevitable (as I'm sure you've experience). It's really sad, because all they want is money. Money is the driving force for corruption. In the Philippines, you can kill someone and get a way with it if you pay the police. It's outrageous. Anyway, at least Cambodia is gorgeous!! I'm glad to hear you're enjoying it!


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