Saturday, 18 July 2009

How to avoid the scams crossing the border from Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia

Welcome to the Kingdom of Cambodia (Got lottsa money?)

How to avoid the scams crossing the border from Bangkok, Thailand to Siam Reap, Cambodia

What are the scams?

Most involve overcharging for transport, visas, accomodation.

Who is in on the scams?

Basically everybody including the travel agent who sells you the bus ticket, the bus driver who takes the long way so you arrive tired and late, the guest house where the driver drops you that overcharges, the tuk tuk drivers that detour to an unofficial visa issuer, the official immigration guards who try to tag on extra bogus fees, the Cambodian ministry for tourism who provide a 'free' shuttle to the connecting bus which "just left" so you have to take a taxi from the border to Siam Reap, the taxi driver who drops you at a tuk tuk stand outside town where you are pushed to use their tuk tuk to explore Ankor Wat and so on.

What you should and shouldn't do.

Do not involve a third party e.g. travel agent to make any of the arrangements. Go to the northern bus station in Bangkok and buy your ticket (u$d 5) to Aranypathet on the Thai border. Take a tuk tuk (u$d 2) for a short hop to Poipet where you cross the border. If the driver does a detour (and he will) or if a tout tries to jump in your tuk tuk just say no and insist he take you directly to the border as this is a scam to overcharge you for the visa.
When you get to the border you'll likely gain a shadow. Some annoying tout trying to sell you onward travel so ignore him but accept he won't go away. First you clear Thai immigration then you have to clear Cambodian health screening and then you need to get your visa.

Despite the fact there is a big sign saying 'u$d 20 - tourist visa' the immigration official will try and charge you extra. First they wanted us to pay using Thai baht as this would bump us to the top of the queue. If we didn't have Thai Baht we could exchange u$d25 for the required amount. When we refused they weren't happy and left us waiting. Next they agreed to let us pay in u$d but in our case he said u$d 5 extra because it was a visa on arrival. When we refused we were left waiting again but now the surcharge had dropped to u$d 2. Again we refused and finally after some cold dirty looks we finally got our visa for u$d20. We met some peeps in queue who paid u$d35. It's not a lot of money but it's the principal. I don't like to be fucked over.

After clearing immigration on the Cambodian side we still had to get 200kms to Siam Reap. Our tout shadow was still lingering and had multiplied into 4 people who told us a free shuttle would take us to the nearby bus station. Sure enough a bus with 'Cambodian Ministry of Tourism' took us to the bus station where none too surprisingly we were told we had just missed the last bus and would have to get a taxi for u$d52 which was posted on a large sign. After some haggling and threatening to hail a taxi on the street this was reduced to u$d40 and since we teamed up with another couple it was just u$d10 each i.e the same price as a non AC sweaty bus. 3 hours later we were drinking beers in Siam Reap content in the knowledge we had beaten the scam-bags!

Note: the infamously bumpy nightmare dirt road between Poipet and Siam Reap is now a smooth sealed road finished in May 2009.
Tags: How to avoid the scams crossing the border from Bangkok, Thailand to Siam Reap..

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nick July 18, 2009 4:00 am  

Jeez, that's quite a hassle to go through just to visit another country. What a bunch of parasites. Are they really that desperate for money or are they just greedy bastards trying to exploit naive travellers?

Baino July 18, 2009 6:12 am  

Quicky, I admire your adventurous spirit. Not knowing the language and out scamming the scammers . . .indeed a cunning stunt! I still want to know where your bottomless wallet is coming from!

TCL July 18, 2009 9:58 am  

It's like overland border crossing in some parts of Latin America. Well done lad. Watch out for the beer girls in Cambodia!

Stevo July 18, 2009 10:10 am  

Great tips, but the best way to avoid scams: Cross into Cambodia from Vietnam. There's none of that shite there.

Quickroute July 19, 2009 11:44 am  

@ Nick: Poverty has a habit of developing some crafty greedy minds

@ Baino: Live for today and borrow from my bloggy friends is my new motto

@ Stevo: Good advice - where were you when I needed you !!!! ;-)

Quickroute July 19, 2009 11:45 am  

@ TCL: oops almost missed you there laddie - I saw Heineken girls and thought I was back in HK for minute

Anil July 20, 2009 6:50 pm  

Good advice - a lot of times people expect organization in places like border crossings but if you're not prepared it's easy to get ripped off.

Quickroute July 23, 2009 8:10 pm  

@ Anil: Thanks and welcome - true - being prepared is key

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