I ticked an overland border crossing off my travel bucket list pretty soon after the start of my current adventure – it was the one between Ecuador and Peru. To be honest I was pretty nervous of the whole affair given all the stories I’d heard about people being robbed or over charged and warnings backpackers gave me.

So I paid a little extra for my bus ticket (I used Cruz Del Sur) and the whole thing turned out to be pretty safe and easy. (You can read my post on over landing through Ecuador and Peru here)

Since then I’ve done a number of overland border crossings (most of which have been on my overland adventure from Singapore to Bangkok) and I’ve had no issues.

The one crossing I’ve had problems with in the past though was the Thailand – Cambodia border crossing at Poi Pet.

This meant I was pretty on edge (but better prepared) when I did for a second time a few days ago.

 

The Lead Up

The cost of a mini bus ticket from Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia is around 250-300baht (roughly £5-6) which is insanely cheap for a journey that takes near enough 12 hours to complete.

It’s also a very cramped and tiring journey, leaving the Thai capital at 8am. So predictably when you pull up to the final stop at the border (around 1pm) you’re shattered, irritable and just want the whole ordeal to be over!

And this is precisely how the guys involved want you to feel…

 

Scam 1 – The Visa

thailand cambodia border scam backpacker

Oh The Joys Of Overland Adventures!

The final stop before the border is at a little cafe/mini bus terminal, where you are greeted by a Thai dude asked where you are from and then he presents you with the Cambodian arrival/departure card – which is pretty standard for a border crossing.

Next up though he separates everyone pretty quickly into their groups (basically whoever you are traveling with) and takes them to another part of the building to chat about visas.

His first spiel is that the Cambodia visa needs to be done at a consulate because the visa process has now changed – and he kindly says they do this for you, at a cost of 1,200 baht (around £24), it will take around 10mins and this allows you to pass through the border in about 15mins.

However I had heard the line before, showed him my last Cambodian visa (which had only cost me $20, or £13) –  and he promptly left.

During this time I also got chatting to a couple of French backpackers – one of which had his Cambodian visa already and the other who was going to get his on the border too. The guy who had his visa had entered Cambodia on the Poi Pet crossing around 6 times in the last 4 months (he had been doing visa runs from Thailand) and confirmed what I thought – the guy was simply trying to scam us.

Then a new Thai guy came over to us and the tone changed slightly. He was totally rude, blunt and obnoxious – you could tell he was pissed that he wasn’t going to get any extra money out of the 3 of us without visas.

 

Increasing Tensions

He then proceeded to ask how long we wanted the bus to wait at the other side of the border for us. We replied saying we weren’t sure how long the line was so they’d have to wait. His response was very agitated – he said he could guarantee one hour wait and then the bus would leave and we’d have to sort ourselves out and refused point blank to give us directions to the bus station for our onward mini bus.

I know that border crossing takes a while. The Thai stamp out can usually have long lines the Cambodian visa is pretty quick and painless but the Cambodian entry process (including finger print scanning) usually has a pretty long wait.

If he’s been calm and collected I might have even taken the bait – but his sheer agitation and rudeness pretty much confirmed he was trying to scam us.

cambodian visa backpacker asia

$20 Later – Cambodian Visa DONE!

Last time I was in this situation a German girl I was traveling with had been given a heads up on the scam by her buddy, grabbed our entire groups passports off the guys in question, screamed at him and demanded he take us straight to the border and not steal our money….it was priceless!

 

This time he was calling our bluff – so we called him out and demanded he take us to the border.

 

Needless to say he was not a happy chap!

10 mins later I had my Cambodian visa – costing only $20USD (although admittedly the immigration guy also demanded 100baht, I’m guessing that was a backhander, but I’d rather not argue with those guys!) – and was waiting to enter Cambodia…alongside all the people that had paid for their visas at the stop off.

 

Backpackers – 3

Corrupt Thai Scammers – 0

 

Scam 2 – The Taxi

As predicted the whole border crossing ordeal lasted near enough 2 hours. The Thai side was relatively quiet this time, but there was a pretty big line to finish off entry into Cambodia.

Technically according to the Thai guy we would have no transport now.

But rather predictably someone looked at the numbers on our stickers, said he was our guide and he’d wait – happy days.

Now the second part of this story isn’t something I’m entirely sure is a scam, it might just be unfortunate, but given how much they pushed our luck on the Thai side I wouldn’t be surprised if it was – so I’ll pass on the info anyway.

As soon as our group all got through immigration we were told that there was going to be a 2 hour wait for our mini bus.

Yup – despite the fact they do this visa run EVERYDAY there would still be a 2 hour wait.

However – we could all pay an additional 100 baht each (keep in mind the whole ticket had only cost us 250baht) for us to get a private taxi instead, which was ready immediately – how convenient! – and would also allow us to arrive nearly an hour early.

None of us had any particular rush, in fact we were enjoying being able to walk around a bit and get some refreshments, so we declined and sat down.

 

Sweating Us Out

The guy repeated his offer a few more times over the next 15-20mins – we sat we weren’t bothered and carried on chatting amongst ourselves.

cambodia overland

Welcome To Cambodia…FINALLY!

Then – by a magical stroke of luck – our mini bus had arrived…nearly 1.5 hours early!

 

What a surprise!

 

So we all piled in, sat back and took in the green expanses of the Cambodian countryside for the remaining 3 hour trip to Siem Reap to check out Angkor Wat.

All in all the journey took 11 hours and cost me around £6.

If I’d been taken in by both scams I may have arrived in 10 hours – but it would have cost me £15 extra…nearly 3 times the price!

The fact this border crossing has caused me so much hassle the last 2 times I’ve done it and that my return journey last time from Cambodia to Thailand was an absolute nightmare also has lead me to buy a flight from Phnom Pehn to Bangkok.

Sure it cost around £50 including luggage – but it should be pretty pain free and will only take me just over an hour to complete the same journey!

 

Have you ever been scammed on a border crossing or had any nightmare crossing ordeals?

**Please note all visa advice, costing and protocols were correct at the time of me writing and is taken from my own personal experience. Double check with your consulate for the most accurate and up to date visa advice – I won’t be held responsible!**

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36 Responses

  1. [email protected]

    Thanks for the heads up! We are flying into Siem from KUL in December, my parents are coming for Christmas hence why we are flying. And it’s on their dime, so I hope our first time in Cambodia won’t be as tough. But we plan on being in Asia for about a year so I am sure we will do this land crossing!

    They tried scamming us at the Guatemala boarder as we were leaving Guatemala and entering Honduras. They only wanted $2USD but we knew it was a scam and refused to pay. The man took our passports for like 10 mins and checked all the other passengers on our bus in and then stamped our boos right in the MIDDLE of the page…ASS1
    [email protected] recently posted..I Survived Honduras!My Profile

    Reply
    • Chris

      If you’re flying Hannah I can’t see there being much of an issue – this was on a land border.
      Getting back into Thailand from Cambodia wasn’t any hassle…although it took agggggggges!

      Good skills on the Guatemala border win, sometimes they simply want to test your nerve hey?!

      Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Brendon – the cost scam was on the Thai side (as a UK resident I get a free Thai visa on arrival so no money changes hands going back) and the taxi thing was on the Cambodian side, but that’s heaps easier to deal with!

      Enjoy Cambodia – it’s an amazing country…make sure you get to Koh Rong!

      Reply
      • Chris

        Yeah I didn’t have any scam attempts going from Siem Reap back to Bangkok – just a loooooooong wait!

    • Chris

      Glad to hear that border is easy – I think the Poi Pet one has a bit of a rep!

      Reply
    • Chris

      hahaha sometimes they just try it for the hell of it I guess! Hope it didn’t ruin your trip!

      Reply
  2. Jo B

    Another one which has happened a couple of times to us is when you get back on your bus on the Cambodian side (on the later buses) the bus can ‘break down’ near a local guest house. There is no one available to bring any parts and the only option is to stay at the guesthouse for the evening until the bus can be fixed in the morning. The guesthouse is usually absolutely fine and very reasonable, don’t panic! Its just the driver or the powers that be funding a little extra money into a friend or families guest house. It can be annoying if you have other plans booked, but if not just chill and go with the flow. Its not dangerous and actually you can make some pretty cool new friends with the other travellers on your bus! Cambodia is a beautiful country with very friendly people but everyone there is just trying to make a living and support their families. The whole country is in millions $ of debt with the US & Russia following the loans made during the war in the 70’s which sadly the two have not written off. So for the sake on an extra couple of £ dont stress.. and enjoy the slightly backwards ways of SE Asia! You wouldn’t still be coming here if it was like being back in the UK so make the most of it! It all adds to the fun.. right? :)

    Reply
    • Chris

      good to know Jo – cheers for passing that on!
      I guess as long as you aren’t being ripped off or have any major plans that wouldn’t be too bad, and like you say all part of the experience – if slightly off plan!

      Reply
    • Allyssa

      we got stuck waiting for visas on the Cambodian side of the Laos- Cambodia border for about 2 hours in a little restaurant, despite the fact the passports arrived back within 45 minutes. Spent the time blowing the last of our Kip on Cambodian beer and making friends of card games. On the plus side they became our travel companions for Koh Rong.

      Reply
      • Chris

        It sucks how they create a bottle neck like that hey Allyssa…but I had a similar experience travelling with some awesome people I’d met as part of the experience – silver linings hey?!

  3. doug

    Me and my gielfriend traveld from koh pang ang to seim reep for 20 pound each and, almost got done payin for our visas at the cafe stop off, I told a few people on our bus to decline buying our visas there and to wait till the boarderand a few of them payed the extra 500 baht that I didnt pay, they were told they got a quicker bus that takes 2 hours amd mine wojld take 5, when we got to the other end we g9t offered the magicalnone time deal to all get on the samw mini bus for 200 baht each whic everyone did including the guys who payed the extra 500 in the first place, this dis drop as a tuk tuks whic thenngave us a free ride to our hotel. Im guesing to sell us tours to go with them the next day,

    Reply
    • Chris

      Good on you Doug – and stoked you passed on the advice to others too. Border crossings can be a total nightmare, you’ve just got to do your research and stand your ground!

      Reply
  4. Anthony

    What was the name of the mini bus company you did that with? 300 then is cheap as… Please email me with that info. :)

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Anthony – I use the little tour operator booth on Khao San Road at the pop end from Burger King. Really nice dude runs it and I’ve never had any problems.

      Reply
  5. Sarah

    Great post for a Cambodia visa run. Border runs in Thailand are now considered closed and formally after August 12th 2014. Current border runners are getting an I-O in/out stamp in their passport and after this they are turned away at land borders and told to fly in. The once relaxed exit and entry method requires a bit more effort as of this year.

    Reply
    • Chris

      Indeed I’d heard about that! I understand why they’ve done it but it’s going to hit their tourism income hard I think as people will spend more time exploring (and spending) in neighbouring countries like Cambodia and Malaysia

      Reply
  6. c morgan

    Good write up,
    Just did the koh Kong border crossing.. The one you take coming from thailand to sihanoukville.
    I counted about 7 different attempts at a scam, including getting you to pay for have ya own temperature taken.
    Also wanted 1500 bath to enter, I held out 30 $ ( the new correct official rate ) and he refused me entry and slamme window.

    Stood there for 5 mins and he got rowdy, but I held out the 30 and some uniformed cop took it and jobs a good one!
    Moral of the story, hold ya nerve, don’t fall for it. Keep calm and smile !

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Carl,
      hahahaha good work on standing your ground – I like your style! Sucks that there’s so many scams on that border – gives such a wrong first impression of such a beautiful country. Hope you enjoyed your time there?

      Reply
  7. Luuk Reinalda

    So the regular price for a cambodian is $30 right now? I’m crossing the border coming from Thailand and I’ll be aware of scams, guess the moral of the story is to stay calm, patient and friendly? Visa is for 30 days right?

    Reply
    • Chris

      Hey Luuk, it was last time I went through a while back – you can easily find out on the embassy site or visa sites. Indeed staying calm and friendly is the way forward, but also stand your ground! Visa length depends on your nationality so I’d double check that too!

      Reply
  8. Liam

    Thanks for the heads up! Been collecting a list of scams before a southeast Asian tour! Take care and happy travels dude!

    Reply
    • Chris

      hahahaha safe travels bro! Just be sensible and trust your gut instinct!

      Reply
    • Chris

      No worries Natasha – if you don’t want to overland it there’s some super cheap flights from Bangkok to Phnom Pehn or Siem Reap with Air Asia!

      Reply
  9. jeremy

    Hey! Looks like we all had bad experiences at this border crossing! We managed to negotiate a cab for $25 to Siem reap, off course the driver tried scamming us as well. We passed the border this year, we wrote a complete updated walkthrough with photos as we hated seeing all this travellers walking toward the fake offices and being so easily scammed. Don’t hesitate to have a look!

    Jeremy
    jeremy recently posted..Scams at the Thailand-Cambodia border: how to avoid them all! Complete august 2015 updated walkthroughMy Profile

    Reply
    • Chris

      Seems like its common place hey? That’s an awesome resource bro – epic work, I’ll add a link into the article! I’m heading back to Cambodia this month and opted to fly to Siem Reap – £35 with Air Asia and a lot less hassle and time!haha!

      Reply
  10. Sian

    We did this border crossing last week (although I took the train from Bangkok), managed to avoid the scams listed thanks to doing my research! Although I didn’t have a passport photo to go with my visa form, and they charged me an extra $5 (although I never actually had my picture taken) but we sailed through the exit and entry process from start to finish in 30 mins! Great website full of useful info.

    Reply
    • Chris

      Stoked to hear you got through without any issues Sian! I’ve never done the train option though, sounds like a greta alternative…although I flew this time around!

      Reply

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