It’s been long since we started reading and hearing about visa or immigration scams in Cambodia. These scams were run by Cambodian government officials with or without the help of some private parties like road transport operators (including Mekong Express) or others whereby tourists entering or leaving Cambodia through land borders were conned into or even forced to shell out extra sums of money for a visa or even an immigration stamp. Not much seems to have changed since then because I personally experienced something similar in recent years when I was leaving Cambodia via a land border. A friend of mine from India who visited Cambodia also reported some bad experiences due to the misconduct of Cambodian visa/immigration officials. During one of my visits to Cambodia, an immigration official at Phnom Penh International Airport asked me to pay him a “tip”. I said no and was able to leave that counter but it sure was a tense moment.
Types of Visa/Immigration Scams In Cambodia
Tourists visiting or planning to visit Cambodia may fall prey to many types of scams. More of these scams happen when tourists are entering or leaving Cambodia via land border checkpoints. However, scams can happen at Cambodian airports too. Another recent addition to the Cambodian scams is the e-Visa scam. Let us read about these scams in detail:
1. Cambodia e-Visa Scam
Cambodia offers e-Visa as an alternative to visa on arrival. There is only one official Cambodia e-Visa website (https://www.evisa.gov.kh/). The official fee for a 30-day stay e-Visa is 36 USD (visa fee 30 USD + Processing charge 6 USD). However, there are a few scam websites that will promise Cambodia e-Visa and charge you a lot more than the official fee of 36 USD. Even after that, you may not get the e-Visa. (Read more on Cambodia e-Visa here)
2. Airport Immigration Scam
The visa on arrival counters at both the Siem Reap and Phnom Penh airports are well supervised. You will always find some senior officials standing around to make sure that the tourists are not harassed. The problem starts after you get the visa and proceed to the immigration counter. The immigration officials there sometimes ask useless questions and keep you at the counter longer than necessary. Their idea is to make you nervous. And if you do get nervous, they will expect some money from you. Do not get nervous. If you are a genuine tourist, they can’t stop you from entering or leaving Cambodia. Yes, you may still face a friendly demand for a “tip” as I did, but saying a polite “No” should suffice.
3. Visa on Arrival Scam at Land Borders
The transport company on whose bus you are traveling is usually a part of this scam. Sometimes, they stop the bus at some unauthorized spot before arriving border where the actual visa/immigration offices are located. The bus conductor will ask for your passport and demand a fee of 5 to 10 USD more than the official fee of 30 USD. God knows if they actually process a visa there because later you still have to pass through the actual immigration office at the border. Sometimes, the additional fee is collected after arriving at the border.
The tourists already having e-Visa should not have to pay any extra fee at the border, but if the staff on the bus have an arrangement with the officials, even e-Visa holders may be asked to pay a “convenience fee” of 5 USD. You can look at the extra 5 USD as a fee to expedite your visa at the border. The bus company is surely interested in passing through the border quickly and will collect and pay the 5 USD per person bribe to speed things up. Or you can look at this “extra” as a robbery and make yourself angry. You will have to pay in any case. Refusing to pay may result in some additional questions by the officials who may keep you there longer or even may deny the visa if they can find something wrong with your answers or with your documents.
Read more on Cambodia Visa on Arrival here.
4. Departure Immigration Scam
As I have already reported in my article on my road trip from Siem Reap to Bangkok, at the departure immigration office in Poipet Cambodia, the immigration guy asked me about my Thailand visa. I told him that I would be taking visa on arrival after crossing onto the Thai side of the border. But to my surprise, that guy told me to cross over into Thailand first, get a Thai Visa on Arrival and then come back for the Cambodia departure immigration stamp. That was utter nonsense. At that time I first thought that the immigration guy was just dumb but then could he have been that dumb? Actually, this is a common scam at Cambodian land border checkpoints. The officials want to see if the tourist will agree to the absurd suggestion of leaving Cambodia without a departure immigration stamp. They may or may not make any money in this process, but the sick-minded Cambodian immigration officials do get some pleasure from harassing the tourists.
Do You Really Need To Visit Cambodia?
If you must visit Cambodia, at least avoid entering or leaving Cambodia via land borders. Stick to the airports and prepare a sweet answer for the immigration guy there who asks for a “tip”. I would say, “No, but thank you”.