Cambodia is not a very easy place to reach, more so if you are budget traveler and looking to save money. It is not as well-connected by flights and the tickets are normally quite expensive. So, for my own budget trip, I had to put in numerous hours of research on the net and speak with loads of people and travel agents to decipher the best and cheapest way to reach Siem Reap. Since I had put in so much of an effort, I decided to write a detailed post on the best ways to reach Siem Reap from Bangkok for my other fellow travelers who too are struggling as I was.
Since the post is very long I have split it into 3 parts –
- Part 1 – Bangkok to Aranyaprathet (Aran) Border (Thai border) by train, bus, mini-vans or taxi. – Already done and available at http://wp.me/p29z7S-iT
- Part 2 – Visa requirements, Visa on arrival Vs e-visa in Cambodia, the Border Crossing and the various scams near the border.
- Part 3 – Transport from Poipet Border (Cambodia border) to Seam Reap by bus or taxi.
This post is part 2 of this 3 post series and in this I shall cover the visa requirements for visiting Cambodia, the actual border crossing experience, tips for the border crossing between Thailand to Cambodia and finally the various scams prevalent around the land borders.
Tourists entering Cambodia require a visa (except for nationals of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore). The tourist visas are available on arrival at the airports and a few border crossings. In case you want to get a visa in advance, you can also apply for an e-visa.
For visa on arrival you will need the following documents –
- A Passport Photocopy (passport should be valid for at least 6 months)
- 1 photos (3 x 4 cm)
- US$ 20 Cash for tourist visa fee (paid directly to the Immigration)
For an e-visa visit http://www.mfaic.gov.kh/evisa/ContactInformation.aspx and you will need the following –
- A passport valid for at least 6 months
- A recent passport size photo (JPEG/PNG format)
- A valid credit card (Visa/Mastercard).
- The fee for this is US $25 (Visa fee of US$20 and a processing fee US$ 5)
Post applying, you receive the e-visa in your email box within 3 business days.
Please note –
- All tourist visas are single entry and valid for 30 days only.
- Nationals of Afghanistan, Algeria, Arab Saudi, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Nigeria cannot apply for an e-visa.
- If you plan to enter Cambodia via a land border with an e-visa, then be sure to check the acceptance of this e-visa at that specific border. You can check the same at – http://www.mfaic.gov.kh/evisa/Default.aspx
- Take 2 – 3 printed copies of the e-visa as the immigration office takes one copy at each border for their records.
- At the airports, they take your fingerprints but they don’t take them at the land borders.
Visa on Arrival Vs e-visa – Obtaining a visa by either of these channels is pretty easy and convenient. If you are coming by air then you can go for a visa on arrival. But if you plan to travel by road or train, then I suggest that you go for an e-visa as the queues on the land borders are pretty unpredictable and at times can take hours. Additionally, if you are planning to travel to Cambodia on weekends or holidays, then you should seriously consider applying for an e-visa as it will help avoid the long lines and save quite a bit of time.
At the Aran – Poipet border, visas are available on arrival and they also accept e-visas.
Border Crossing –
Once the tuk-tuk drops you, you will notice the immigration office on your left. Once you turn left there is a gate on your right to proceed for the stamping and there are ample signages everywhere to guide you in the correct direction. Once you enter the immigration office, there are 4 -5 desks and you will need to stand in your relevant queue. The officers will then take the completed departure forms and stamp your passport for exit and you exit from the gate on your right.
Once you exit the building just walk straight in the forward direction and in doubt follow the crowd going ahead. You just need to keep walking straight and then you will see the gate for entry saying “Kingdom of Cambodia” in Poipet.
In front of this gate (before entry) there is a health check station, which you can just pass by but if they notice you then they will ask you stop and fill a “SARS” form. This form is very standard and asks you questions on cold, flu and other similar symptoms. We got caught so had to fill one.
Once you enter the gate for Cambodia, you will notice large hotels and casinos on both sides. Tourists / gamblers can remain here for a day without crossing the Cambodian Immigration or taking a visa.
Post this, you just need to keep walking straight towards the Cambodia side and after crossing the casinos / hotels, you will see a small building with the words “ARRIVAL” written on it on your right. This is the Immigration office and you need to enter this building for the visa. Once inside, they will give you an immigration form that you need to complete and then stand in a queue for the processing. We had an e-visa, so the whole thing was very quick for us.
Please note –
1. Once you are closer to the border on the Thai side, there is a military checkpoint where Thai Army Officer stop everyone to check the passports. This is to just grab illegal Cambodians and hence tourists don’t need to worry.
2. The border opens at 7:00 a.m. and closes at 8:00 p.m. However it is not advisable to cross this border after dark.
3. The paperwork is very simple regardless of what anyone may say to you and you don’t need any assistance.
4. All along this area expect touts to try to talk to you, confuse you and steer you in various directions. Simply ignore them and walk straight. Sometimes these touts also climb onto the public buses and say that you need to pay them. So just remember this – don’t pay anyone for a visa.
5. Be careful and mindful of your things (wallets, luggage, bags, purses etc) in this area.
Scams prevalent in this area –
There are quite a few typical scams that run in this area that you need to beware of. Luckily these are very typical and you can manage to outwit them if you keep your wits about you. Just remember one rule for this place – no matter what, never let your guard down. Luckily for us, we didn’t encounter anything but the major scams that I came across through various other traveler experiences and websites are as follows –
1. Visa Scam – This is the most common scam in this area. Any tout standing on the road or any tuk-tuk driver will first tell you that you need to go to the Cambodian Consulate first for a visa. The visas here are overpriced so do not fall for this trap. No matter what happens take a visa from the Immigration counter present after the casinos in Poipet. And if you are delivered to the “Cambodian consulate” keep in mind you are under no obligation to show anyone your passport nor reveal whether or not you have or need a visa to Cambodia no matter how “official” looking someone appears. You are still in Thailand, not Cambodia, and therefore inspection of your passport or knowledge of your visa status are of no concern, legal or otherwise, to anyone Cambodian government official or not.
2. Arrive on the border well in time. If you arrive by late afternoon the corrupt officials know that a delay could result in missing onward transport, which makes the bribe seem more attractive. Additionally you do not need to pay anything apart from the visa fees of US$ 20. A few past scams have included having to pay for a SARS form or for non-production of a vaccination certificate.
3. Any demand made for payment to receive a form, a stamp, or anything else for that matter is a scam. Cambodian immigration often makes many Cambodians, Thais, and some other Asians hand over 100 baht tea money just to get stamped in or out of Cambodia (Laotians on visa runs from Thailand automatically pay 200 THB).
4. The Official Transport Monopoly Scam – After clearing the Immigration, you head towards the Transport Monopoly Tout Zone. The scam here is the dressing of overpriced transport as official policy. There are government buses or minibuses here that are free and take tourists to the transportation depot – the Poipet Tourist Passenger International Terminal. This depot is about a 20-30 minute drive from the immigration office and these buses cease running after 6pm. Overpriced food is available here while you wait for an overpriced bus or shared taxi.The police and touts here pester tourists emerging from arrivals put them onto the “over-priced” busses for a trip to Siem Reap. Some tourists have reported being taken to a private travel agency instead of the proper depot, under the pretense that the station “is under construction”. Some tourists’ have also been sold tickets of the free government bus.
5. Change money scam – This is a more recent scam and you may be told that you must change as much as $100 US (or Thai Baht, Euro, etc) into Cambodian riel. There is no such regulation in Cambodia and the US dollar is the currency in use in Cambodia. In this scam they take you for a ride on the currency conversion.
6. While returning from Seam Reap, after crossing the Thai border, there are many touts who offer you a bus service to Khao San Road in Bangkok, but again don’t fall in their trap. Just ignore them and take a tuk-tuk to Aranyaprathet Bus Stand and from there, catch a government bus to Bangkok or you can catch the train too.