Scam at the border of Cambodia.
In a few days time I will be leaving Bangkok for Cambodia! So today I am going to write about how to dodge the visa scammers that you will meet at Aranyprathet (Thai border) into Poipet(Cambodian border) I can speak about this border as a total experts as its the one I always use for my visa renewal. Having done this border crossing so many timesI am utterly amazed that they still haven't put out the red carpet for me when I arrive.Many people know all about the visa scams but that doesn't include the people who don't! And it's for those poor innocent souls who haven't got a clue what lies in wait for them at Aranyprathet/Poipet border that I am writing this!
Firstly, let me start by telling you how I get from Bangkok to the Cambodian border. As I am based in Thong Lo Sukhumvit, and the Eastern BusTerminal (better known as Ekamai due to its close proximity to the Ekamai BTS station) is literally five minutes walk, naturally I leave from there.The bus takes 4 hours, please note: that it can take longer! Hey just in case you have forgotten.. we are in Thailand! So be prepared..The cost is approximately 200 baht per person. There are 5 buses a day at : 06:15, 08:30, 10:30, 12:30 and 16:30 (January 2012) The buses have air-con and are within the realms of Asian buses,pretty comfortable. Oh and you even get a free bottle of water! how about that for service?
On arrival at Aranyprathet bus station this is when the fun begins! When I say there are hoards of Tuk Tuk drivers and motor bike drivers waiting to pounce on you.. I am so NOT exaggerating! Ha ha.. all you hear is "Visa Mam" "Visa Mam" and of course "Visa Mam" Actually what they really mean is VISA SCAM MAM.. VISA SCAM MAM.. If you are a new kid on the block and don't know the form.. Oh poor little unsuspecting you! Another lamb to the slaughter! The TT (Tuk Tuk) driver or MB (Motor Bike) driver will whisk you away to what in all intents and purposes appears to be a very legitimate office that even has a authoritative sticker on the window saying " Visa service" The strange thing is that they don't actually take you inside the office (they can't because it's completely empty) there are a couple of men sitting outside the phony visa centre dressed in rather formal attire!! And as always conforming to rule of Thai culture - Big big smiles as they start by telling you that the visa will cost you $70 or even more, plus photo etc..Fortunately, when on the one and only occasion that they took me to this fake office, I had previously entered Cambodia by plane, so thankfully I did know a little about the prices and procedures! Consequently I was ready for those shady little rogues so I said to them "hold on a minute guys, the last time I came to Cambodia I only paid $20" Now wait for this one..it's a classic!!! they replied "Mam today is Sunday so more expensive" Ye ye ye tell me more! Obviously I had a dirty great big sign on my forehead that said.. "Anothel stupid mollon tulist" They soon discovered that I was not such an idiot from far away lands when I told them what to do with their visas and marched off in the direction of the Thai border. Naturally it goes without saying that I was hounded all the way to the frontier with touts trying to sell me a Cambodian visa, really unbelievable but folks it's true!
My advise to anyone: Don your blinders or blinkers (Do you know what I mean? Those leather or plastic contraptions they put on the poor horses eyes to keep them from being distracted or spooked) If you wear hearing aids this is a good time to switch them off! and if you aren't deaf then use some UpToDate earplugs. Ignore all and sundry and surge ahead till you get to the official Thai passport control.. Oh and once there please don't forget to take off the blinkers and remove silicone plugs, otherwise the Thais might think you are a bit strange if you can't see them or hear them!!! Once safely through then re don you anti tout gear and head straight for the big arch, which is a vague attempt to copy one of the wonders in Angkor Wat.. You will see the words "Kingdom of Cambodia"
To the right of the Cambodian gate is "The International Border Check Point of Poipet Cambodia"| There are uniformed officials plus a large blue sign on the wall, informing you that the cost of the visa is $35.. This is the price, so don't pay more whatever anybody tell you. You will need one passport-sized photo, should you not have one they will charge you 100 Thai baht to scan the one on your passport.. and if you do already have a photograph, they will most probably charge you 100 Thai baht anyway! What for?? God knows! Most probably to put in their pockets! Whatever! Just pay them as it's no big deal and the last thing you want is problems with these guys..
Once you finally have the famous Cambodian visa taking up an enormous full page of your passport you now have to go through Cambodia passport control.. Depending on the time of day there can be a never ending queue so arm yourself with patience, a few munchies plus a drink if you don't want to dehydrate,then while the time away with all the other poor blighters standing in the line with you!!!
On reaching one of the five desks.. ooops or is it four? Some miserable looking officer will scrutinise your passport, followed by your photograph and finger print being taken. For heavens sake .. it must be easier to enter the Pentagon
"Hallelujah" At long last you have made it into the Kingdom of Cambodia with a thirty day visa. Now you can either travel on into this awesome, intriguing and at the same time heartbreaking country or you can turn around pass through the Cambodian passport entry control to return to Thailand with another fifteen days extension on your visa.
In my opinion, after all that hassle there is only one way to go.....FORWARD..