Shortly after boarding the bus that was to take us from Ho Chi Minh (in Vietnam) across the border and into Phnom Penh (in Cambodia), we were told that we should give our passports to the guide on the bus.
This was to ensure that everyone on the bus could get their visa sorted out at the same time and that we could all cross the border together.
The fee for a 1 month tourist visa to get into Cambodia was, according to the UK government website, $30 US. Most of the passengers were expecting to pay this amount too so we were a bit surprised when the guide on the bus was asking for $35 per person.
We heard a passenger near the front of the bus questioning this and he was told that the fee increased 2 months ago – as we’d checked the web just the day before, we were a bit surprised by this answer.
Another passenger questioned this to be told that the $5 fee was so that the guide on the bus could complete the paperwork for us.
When the guide came to us, we asked why there was a change in the fee and showed the information from the website to show that the fee was $30 – we were told that it was $30 if you fly into Cambodia but it’s $35 if you cross the border by bus.
So, after hearing 3 different reasons, we decided that the guy and the bus crew must be making a bit of a profit from each bus load of passengers.
We asked if we can complete our own paperwork and were told no, that wasn’t an option as it would take longer to get over the border. We were also told that if we didn’t pay for new and increased fee, we would be left at the border.
So, feeling annoyed at the extra fee, we reluctantly paid. Of course, this made the guy on the bus all sorts of low life thiefs. He was a scumbag, he was a disgrace, he was giving Vietnamese and Cambodian tour companies a bad name etc.
After crossing the border, we were informed of a short stop so that we could buy lunch if we wanted to do so. We decided that the staff on the bus were probably taking us to a friends cafe so that they could earn a commission based on the amount of profit that was made from each bus load of tourists.
A few hours later, still annoyed, we arrived in Phnom Penh and got a cheery and smiling tuk tuk driver who was asking to take us to our accommodation.
At this point, he didn’t know where the accommodation was and neither did we – we hadn’t been able to get wifi on the bus as there was none despite an advert telling us that there was.
So, with a friendly driver following us, we went into a nearby petrol station to use their wifi and get the address of where we were staying. He knew the address, even if he didn’t, i’m certain that he’d find out.
We were taken to our accommodation and checked in. A few days later, after reading info on a Cambodian website, we found out that the fee was $35 and not $30 for a tourist visa.
This is despite the signs at the border that state $30 and the UK government website stating $30 but it looks like the guide may not have been such a bad guy after all.
In our defence, the different reasons that he was giving to different passengers made us suspicious at the time.