Entering Cambodia at the Hat Lek - Koh Kong Border
Koh Kong, Cambodia
Entering Cambodia at the Hat Lek - Koh Kong Border Reviews
Jun 23, 2007
Welcome to corruption-plagued Cambodia. After exiting Thailand with no problems whatsoever, and walking the 50 meters to the entry point into Cambodia (accompanied by a host of would-be taxi and moto drivers), I'm ushered into the 'visa office' (but only after the guy in front of me has left, which strikes me as mildly strange) and instructed to sit down in front of a panel of at least 3 uniformed immigration officers and one guy in civilian clothes.
I've done my research, at least as much as possible: everything I've read, both in guide books and on the internet, has confirmed that the border crossing is simple -- USD 20 and two passport photos, and you're on your merry way. So I plunk down my passport, the form, a crisp $20 bill, and the fun begins: the guy in civilian clothes picks up the twenty, pushes it back toward me across the desk to the side, and informs me that the visa fee is 1,200 baht. But I'm prepared for this: 1,000 baht is more than $20, and is the preferred fee at the border because the difference goes straight into the pocket of the immigration officers. I respond that I've been informed $20 is the standard charge, and there should be no problem with paying in USD, which is accepted anywhere in Cambodia. Here the head uniformed officer breaks in, and testily states that this is the border crossing with Thailand, and he only accepts payment in baht. We go back and forth for a good 5 minutes, and I try everything from 'I don't have any baht, only dollars' to 'I spoke to your embassy in Bangkok, and they told me the visa would cost $20', but to no avail. I'm even given a story about how the immigration officer had applied at 'my embassy' in Phnom Penh for a US visa, was denied after an interview, and therefore lost his $100 application fee. Finally, I'm given the small concession that the visa fee is a flat 1000 baht, and there is an 'optional' 200 baht 'service fee' charged by the border crossing which I can pay or not pay. Exasperated and not particularly anxious to learn the consequences of opting to not pay the service fee, I disgustedly toss 1100 baht on the table. It's picked up with a smile, and less than a minute later I've got my visa and am on my way.
Bottom line: if the head honcho at the border wants his piece of the pie, you're not getting across with dollars, so make sure you've got at least 1000 baht (and a little more if you don't want to find out what happens if you elect not to pay the 'service fee'). Oh, and you only need one passport photo.
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