Cambodia and Laos border scams

11 thoughts on “Cambodia and Laos border scams”

  1. Your advice for the Vietnam-Cambodia border crossing saved me $5. Everyone in Saigon told me it was 35 including the bus driver but when i insisted it should only b 30 he knew i knew it was bullshit and said i could get the visa myself at the border which i did no prob.

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  2. I did the Thai boarder run by crossing over at O Smach, Cambodia. I heard it was 1000 baht but I came a little unprepared. Actually it is $30 usd for Cambodia visa but they asked for 1500 baht which I paid. Then when I left they said I needed to pay 300 baht extra as I was ‘leaving within 24 hours’. I paid that too. So, foolishly I paid 1,800 baht for what is currently about 1,100 baht.

    I emailed to the Cambodian tourism board and told them what happened. I told them that this cannot help tourism numbers if this is happening quite often, though I’m not shore that they care. They suggested that I get an e-visa so that I would not pay too much. Trouble is one cannot use an e-visa at this particular boarder. Surely they would have know this if working in the tourism board and so I may well have purchased an e-visa (which is invalid) had I not looked a bit deeper, and then had to pay cash as well – double fee!

    Honestly, I don’t reckon they could lie straight in bed!

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  3. Thanks for sharing the story. Here’s an update from oct 2015 on the situation on the lao-cambodia botder scam. we managed to avoid most of the ‘unconventionnal free’ (ie corruption money), save for a posted ‘1$’ administration fee.

    On our transfer from Kratie to Don det, we  ran into the classic 4 steps scam of over-border crossing.

    Stage 1  the ‘ restaurant’ stop
    First they stop you in a restaurant for a bus transfer. There is a van there. But it leaves  and  they tell you to wait….  (so that you have lunch there and spend money… we didn’t !
    After waiting  one hour, they said 1h more.
    We said ” no, we want to go now. We don’t buy anything”
    Our spanish friend raised his voice and 5 minutes later, the bus was there (same bus and driver as the one that was there on arrival).

    Stage 2 border preamble
    200m from border, they stop us in a bar where a dodgy guy wants to ‘ help and explain’ with the border crossing. We politely decline (we had read about him), and request to be taken to the border right away. They don’t. We start walking. They give in and take us there.

    Stage 3 Leaving Cambodia
    Now to the border crossing : the cambodian guy at the gate asks 2$ to stamp the passeport out of the country. We politely decline, pretending to be stupid, and wait while he checks our passports in detail.
    He finally gives in and stamps and returns the passports.
    There was a ‘malaria quarantine testing facility’ in front of the gate but nobody was there.

    Stage 4 : entering Laos
    Now to the Laos border. The tricky part. We pay the visa fee + and a 1$ ‘administrative fee’. Ok it’s officially announced – see picture on my blog)…
    But then the guy in uniform refuses to return our passport unless we give him 2 $ each.
    We had read the trick that if you wait, you get into their ‘afterhours’ and it becomes even more expensive plus you miss the bus…
    So we said we had no money.
    They said ‘go back to Cambodia’. Victoria says that would be a ‘visa run’ and it’s illegal (and sometimes enforced since the bomb attack in thailand earlier this year)… Maybe the reference to ‘legality’ triggered something, so we scrape our pockets for 2000 riels and 17 baths (less than 1$ alltogether) and show them.
    We ask ‘is there an atm ?’ (we knew there wasn’t)
    in the end, after patience and staying polite, with the smile of Victoria and some diplomacy, we managed to get our passport back… for free !

    Stage 5 (same as stage 1)
    On the other side of the border, there is… another restaurant. They tell us to wait… 1 hour… we know the trick, sit outside the restaurant and start playing music and eating our pic nic. It seems they don’t like harmonica around here and that we woke up some people having a nap, because 5 minutes later, 2 side car are there to take us to the harbour. Then everything went smooth,  as a boat dropped us on the sleeping island of don det.

    Conclusion : patience, calm, non confrontational approach with uniformed officials will get you far for free.

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  4. What a hassle you people endure for such a lousy few dollars! Scrootch could learn a thing or two from all you experiienced world travellers. Best wishes and keep your hands on your purses 😜

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  5. Hi, we came from Don Det to Siem Reap yesterday. Same kind of scams – off the islands to a cafe where they gave us new tickets and Cambodian visa papers to complete and we waited for half an hour or so – some people were told to hand their passports over here – we didn’t. Then we were told to walk up to the bus station, another half an hour wait. Then the bus arrived “quick, we are late”, as if it’s our fault!

    On the bus the guy says he needs all our passports and $40 each. We refuse and say a Cambodian visa is $30. He, quite openly, says that this border is “corrupt” and it’s $35 here, plus $2 for Laos departure stamp plus money for “quarantine”. We refuse to hand over our passports and he says we’re going to delay the whole bus – divide and rule?! There were 5 of us who refused.

    At the border we 5 got off the bus and the others stayed on it – how do the Laotians know who’s leaving their country when they don’t even see them – a security joke! We had to pay $2 for our departure stamp – scam 1 and no alternative. A French couple refused to pay and tried to get into Cambodia without the stamp but they’re obviously in cahoots as the Cambodians checked for their departure stamp and wouldn’t give them a visa without it.

    Scam 2 – the quarantine desk – we filled in the forms but said, from the start, we had no money. We had our ‘temperature’ scanned and left without paying. The French couple just said they had all their vaccinations and walked on!

    Scam 3 – and this seems to be new – the Cambodian visa was $30 for the visa and $5 for the stamp. I argued at length and even showed them my visa from Siem Reap airport in January which clearly says $30 and they just kept repeating $30 for the visa and $5 for the stamp. We only had $60 so ended up paying the stamp fee in kip – they wanted 100,000 (well over $10) but accepted 85,000 which was all we had. It went straight into their top drawer. Then got the “stamp” but the visa doesn’t say how much we paid for it!! The French couple managed to get away with only paying $3 each for the stamp by simply saying they had no more money.

    We then joined our fellow bus passengers in another cafe by the road – again, the Cambodians hadn’t verified any of them against their passports – security, what security? We got in our bus and waited and were then told that everyone going to Siem Reap should get in another bus – clearly some kind of deal was being done by the drivers.

    We were then taken to Stung Treng and another “cafe” behind someone’s house – definitely not an official bus station. Again, we were told it would be about an hour and many people bought food – they even had the nerve to charge for the toilets! After about an hour our tickets were changed again and we were all piled into 2 mini vans which had been sitting there all along.

    Both minivans were overloaded and they picked up more locals off the roadside, which we all kicked off about. Our van broke a suspension pin with a hell of a bang, which they fixed on the roadside and carried on- absolutely terrifying. We were dropped in some back street area in Siem Reap.

    We think these scams are careful co-ordinated and planned from Laos to Cambodia. We were all told we would be on big buses in Cambodia and we think they’re taking the money for the big buses and then putting us in their unlicensed and, most probably, uninsured minivans. The border officials and the bus drivers etc are all in cahoots and obviously sharing the loot. I saw paper folded over and stapled to make an envelope and full of dollars on the desk of the “stamp” desk, clearly someone’s share. We all need to contact the Cambodian and Laos authorities in our home countries as well as locally to bring this to their attention before a minivan of travellers crashes and they are killed. This will happen.

    The problem is that once you’re a piece of cargo in their scam it’s impossible to get out unless you’re happy to be left at the roadside and pay twice – and they know this.

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  6. I don’t think its right that drivers or european group leaders / CE0( I have come across the second in other countries.) can decide that they are going to collect someone’s passport and hand it in. Don’t get me wrong, we all have to have valid documentation to enter another country and we must comply with it. But your passport is your passport. No one else’s name on it. It ‘s your right to hand in your own property. And a driver or group leader or tour guide or ceo are not official personnel and there is no law saying you have to give it to them and it’s private. I have no problem handing it to a policeman, soldier, embassy or government official but no one else. What if they lost it?
    Please let me know what you think.

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  7. When I crossed into Laos at Dom Kralor in 2009, they called the 2$ “overtime fee” because the border closed at 4 pm — the only bus of the day never arrived before 5 😉

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