So, one of the easier ways to renew your visa in Cambodia is doing what is called “a border run”
Which involves going to the nearest border and crossing into the neighbouring country then re-entering Cambodia again.
Thus starting your new visa (which in the case of UK citizens is 30 days)
Being in Kampot is great for this as the nearest border is Vietnam and Ha Tien is a little town that sits about 1 1/2 hour drive from Kampot.
My first trip was filled with skepticism and trepidation as I had heard many stories of border runs from my time in Thailand.
Like how the immigration officers can refuse entry or make it hard to pass, or even require a “bribe” to make the passing smoother.
So when I was told that the process is relatively simple I figured it wouldn’t be🙄
So taking the bus from Kampot to Ha Tien city (approx $16) return.
I sat in the back of the minivan and looked at the scenery as I passed through the beauty that is Kep and onto to the border.
After the bus driver offered to do the passports for us all for $1 dollar each.
We all got off the bus, I paid along with the rest only to find, because I wanted to come back I still had to go with him through to the departure area.
A quick check of my visa and a $1 dollar bill (for processing 🙂 allowed me to pass out of Cambodia)
And along the no mans land area between the two countries and take the walk to Vietnam.
Upon entering we queued to fill in a yellow medical form (and pay $1) before being zapped with a temp gauge to record your temperature
( they do not look at the form unless you have a fever)
Once you cleared the baggage x-ray machine you await your turn to hand over your passport to the Vietnamese Check-in booth
Handing over your passport (UK citizens are giving the 15 days free entry on arrival)
They look at you (maybe weighing up what best is the approach before asking for $1 to process your visa)
Now, many people have said many things about this, whether you have to pay, whether you can argue your case and stand your ground.
But I figured as we are staying in a developing country and the cost of this “bribe” is just a small price to pay.
Let’s face it, they just assume you have it as many locals do not get to travel hardly ever, let alone to the other side of the world for a holiday.
So whatever your feelings towards this just try and understand their motives.
And unless it really sticks in your throat as a corrupt attempt to extort money from tourists then I would say pay it with a smile and your process of entry is a lot smoother 🙂
TIP OF THE POST
“Take plenty of 1$ dollar bills with you as it just makes things run smoothly”
Also on the note of the Bribe, we take for granted that developing countries will be corrupt and therefore we do sometimes look down upon them for this reason, but the question I pose to you is….
Do not think for one minute that the rich developed nations don’t have corruption.
The difference is that we don’t see it as it is at a much higher level in Business and Government !
Whereas, here in Asia it is just a natural thing that happens at all levels..
So which is worse?
At least they don’t try and hide it!
Once I had been given my passport back and welcomed to Vietnam I left and headed to the bus which would take me to Hatien city.
I assumed I would just catch the next bus back and repeat the process in reverse.
Upon reaching my bus or rather a group of buses that did not resemble the one I had arrived in, I was asked the question that seems the most obvious to all Cambodians but can sometimes come across as a rude attempt to be nosy
(at least this is what many English tourists think)
“Where you going?”
To which I replied, I have booked to go Ha Tien city but I want to come back to cross back over to Cambodia.
The women looked at me for a moment before pointing to Cambodia and saying “go back”
Confused I looked at her finger and then back at her before asking if I could just cross straight back over?
Now I have heard many reports about this and the census is that when leaving a country you seem to wait around for a while before going back.
Some say 1 hour, some say several and even I have heard of 24 hours.
What I realised about this is that it depends on how much you pay when leaving a place you have just arrived!
The longer you take to go back through the immigration you have just left means you pay less.
I walked back to the Vietnam border and presented my passport this time to the “check out booth” which incidentally was the seat next to the “check-in” I had just used.
Now this is where it gets funny
The guy that welcomed me to Vietnam was now sitting in the leaving Vietnam seat :))
He motioned me forward and asked if I wanted to leave Vietnam
I presented my passport and when he looked at the stamp (literally made 3 minutes ago, by him) he looked at me with a smile and said
“you want to check out?
Yes I replied
You just check in? “I pose it as a question here, but I think he was making a statement”
I nodded my head
$5 dollar he said
This now made sense as the local guide told me to go have a coffee or travel to Ha Tien and then return a few hours later( that way they don’t recognise you)
So I paid my dollars and left Vietnam
Crossing back to Cambodia proved to be easy.
I filled in my visa form, handed over a passport photo and my money for the 30-day visa and was welcomed to Cambodia
( taken all of 15 mins, maybe slightly longer) and had cost $9 dollars for the privilege.
I quickly found my bus and hopped on and returned to Kampot in time for a cool beer during happy hour
(which incidentally is most of the day)
So my return visit a month later
Using the same transport as last time(minivan) I do recommend Sokha & Seyha travel
(Sokha is the Cambodian owner-driver and Seyha is the women I spoke to on the Vietnam side during my first visit)
Now I know there are 2 buses it makes life a lot easier
This time I left on the day my visa ran out, confident having done this once already I was now an expert and would save a bit of time and be back to Kampot even quicker 🙂
So arriving again at the border of Prek Chek I hopped off the bus and walked confidently to present my passport ahead of everyone else and to the confusion of the bus driver, who no doubt was wondering where his $1 was going……
The immigration officer looked at me and asked you go Vietnam?
They are starting to catch on, I thought with a smile
Yes I am but then I return to renew my visa I said confidently
He looked again at me and then my passport
A long pause ( okay at this point I stopped feeling confident and started to worry, I had no bag with me as I was not worried about being stranded)
Last time I had taken a small bag with spare clothes, a phone charger, credit cards and a camera in case I had to spend a night in Vietnam
He waited for a second and then said something that confused me
You want me to go Vietnam for you?
I looked puzzled
$10 dollar I go get stamp he said with a smile
I thought for a minute and thinking back to the last time and the $9 I paid in bribes just to walk in the hot heat there and back, assuming the cost today wasn’t any more than before.
Ok I said $10 dollar
He smiled again, arose from his chair and taking my passport exited his booth and turned the sign to closed.
At this point, a look behind me and found many confused and startled faces from the bus I had arrived in.
Confused because they obviously didn’t understand why he had stopped working and left the booth
Startled because I guess a few thought with him taking my passport I was probably wanted for something
I walked passed everyone and quietly seated myself on a spare seat, where the family next to me innocently moved their bag to the other side and smiled at me.
What happened next was quite funny, he walked to the glass door and got on his scooter and shot off.
Everyone else just stood in the queue I had left and talked amongst themselves, nervously glancing at me from time to time
10 minutes later he walked back into the centre, gave me back my passport and pointed to the arrival desk.
Smiling he returned to his booth and processed the rest of the departures.
So I had left Cambodia, visited Vietnam again and returned to Cambodia with a 30-day visa renewal without actually leaving Cambodia.
How cool is that!🖕