From Bangkok we took a bus towards the Cambodian border at the notorious crossing of Poipet. We had read a lot about various scams before we took the trip and the journey did not disappoint! The day of potential scams started in Bangkok where a taxi driver tried to drive us a very long way round to the bus station. Luckily we knew where we were going so made him turn around quickly and only paid him the appropriate fare for the right route. Once we were safely on the “official government bus,” the bus staff recommended that we buy our Cambodian visas from their agency in Thailand, at a considerably higher price than we knew it would cost at the border. We politely declined, whilst a number of others on the bus chose to take up their offer. Once we were successfully stamped out of Thailand, we walked across ‘No Man’s Land’ to the Cambodian border.
The reason we had decided to take the specific bus we did, was because our bus went all the way through to Siem Reap. We’d read lots of horror stories about people booking tickets for separate buses either side of the border and the second bus either not existing, or the company demanding more money at the border. We met up with a Norwegian couple who had been badly scammed. They had taken transport from Bangkok and when they were a few miles away from the border their driver demanded an extra £60 each to take them across the border, or else they would throw them out! They got out and then had to pay an extortionate amount to get local transport to the border; and we expect that they would have suffered the same fate getting away from the border on the Cambodian side too.
We arrived at the visa office and queued up with our passports. The officials showed us an almost laughable sign handwritten in biro on a piece of A4 lined paper, which had the cost of the visa in US Dollars, plus the bribe they wanted us to pay! We pointed to the official sign on the wall instead and refused to pay the bribe. The official looked annoyed and dismissively ushered us to wait at the side. We waited for about 5 minutes and decided to rejoin the queue. We handed our passports (again without a bribe) to the same official, who said “Where’s the money?” We pointed to the US Dollars and this time he took our passports. Hearts beating faster than normal, we waited for 5 very long minutes before we were successfully presented with our visas!
Whilst the bribe they were asking for isn’t much in UK pounds, we didn’t want to pay on principle. We only know of one other person on our bus who didn’t pay the bribe, so the border officials must do very well for themselves! An American on our bus, who was travelling alone, paid his US Dollars, but when his passport was returned, the officials insisted that he hadn’t paid and that he needed to pay the cost of the visa (again!) and pay a bribe of 3x the amount they had demanded from everyone else in the first place! It took him about 2 hours to get through the border, so our whole bus had to wait for him before we could leave. But, we finally made it across the border into Cambodia and continued on to our destination of Siem Reap…