A word of warning!
When we recently crossed over the Cambodian border at Hat Lek – the southernmost border crossing, on the road from Trat – we each had our US$30 Tourist Visa fee ready, as well as our two sets of passport photos. This is likely one of the worst border crossings in Southeast Asia, and we have received reports of similar shenanigans occurring on other Cambodian border crossings.
We duly handed over our passports, our visa fees, and our photos. Then, to our surprise, the slothfully-dressed “Visa Immigration Officer” asked, instead, for 1,500 Thai Baht – equalling almost double the price of the official US$30 Tourist Visa fee.
We reiterated, politely, but firmly, that the fee is US$30.
The Wild West officer then demanded, instead, US$35 each from us – meaning we would be overcharged a total of US$10 for our combined Tourist Visas.
It was at this stage in our group dialogue that I felt the call of my ancestors rise up from within, and calmly, I asked why he was asking for US$35 per Tourist visa, when the official fee is in fact US$30.
What happened next was that he very curtly asked us to exit the office – leaving us to wait a full half hour – until eventually, we both received our US$30 Tourist visas.
Our advice, is never cross this border and pay for your Cambodian Tourist Visa with Thai Baht : you will otherwise end up paying a higher price, pocketed by the “Visa Service official”.
Just stand your ground, be polite, but firm, and eventually, you will receive your Tourist Visa stamp for the correct Tourist Visa price.
The Cambodian authorities should really do something about the outright, blatant corruption on this border, as it gives a terrible first impression of a country that is otherwise a pleasure to travel in.
Oh, and the safest for of travel from the Cambodian Hat Lek border to the nearest town of Koh Kong, is by Tuk Tuk, We paid 200 Baht combined for this journey of less than 20 kms, but it is far safer than a motorcycle taxi. We also advice not accepting a ride to Koh Kong in a private car – at least by travling in a tuk tuk, you are clearly seen by other people, and are not at such a high risk of a mugging soon after crossing into Cambodia.
Should you decide to take a private car, make sure you are alone with the driver. There have been reports of another person, or person(s) sharing the ride, and upon arrival to Koh Kong, money and valuables missing from backpacks and clothing pockets.
In the event that you are overcharged at this border, calmly take one of the Customer Service Feedback Forms, take down the number of the official who scammed you, and then lodge a complaint through your Consulate/Embassy in Cambodia.
Actually, I grabbed one of these forms while I was waiting for my passport to be returned, and the officer inside must have seen this, because as soon as he had, my passport was issued immediately.
Also, take a pen with you so as to avoid the people there renting pens, and whatever you do, never become convinced to enter a ‘Red “Cross Health Tent’, on the right of the immigration offices, where they will charge you money simply for entering the tent.
But again, please don’t let the corruption at the border put you off this wonderful country. Almost everyone whom we met during our Cambodia travels, were honest, warm, and hospitable