Mark and I felt uneasy when we heard news of the missing AirAsia flight that was later found crashed in the sea last December. We were in Thailand at the time and just two weeks prior we had flown with AirAsia from Nepal. In fact, we were planning on using that airline for the next few months to get around the rest of Southeast Asia.

When the unfortunate incident happened we quickly changed our minds about flying, at least for the time being. Our only other option was to bus it all the way from Thailand to Cambodia to Vietnam. This decision put our minds at ease and saved us a lot of money while at it. Here was our border crossing experiences in and out of Cambodia:

Border crossing in Poipet

THAILAND TO CAMBODIA

Bus Route: Bangkok to Siem Reap

Border Crossing: Poipet

Bus Ticket: $6

Travel Time: 11 hours

Visas At Border: U.S. citizens can receive a Cambodia visa at this border crossing. The cost was 1,200 baht or $30 + 100 baht fee. This was the price the day we were there, we’ve heard the amount can change depending on who is working that day.

Be Prepared With Enough Cash: If you need money to pay for your visa, be sure to use the ATMs on the Thailand side that are located to the right of the road before you start entering the border crossing process. We saw no ATMs once we were in the “no man’s land” where we had to pay for our visa. A fellow traveler in our group only had $30 cash with him so we kindly gave him the extra 100 baht he needed so he wouldn’t be stuck there!

Be Aware Of Scams: This border crossing has an infamous reputation of lies and scams. Two that we experienced were inflated visa prices by fake visa offices and lying on currency conversions.

Fake Visa Offices: Be aware that before you get to the actual border crossing the bus will take you to an office just outside of it and try to convince you need to purchase your visa there. Here, the visa fee was obviously inflated. When we declined to use their services they started using scare tactics saying things like “We are not responsible for what happens to you at the border.” and “The bus leaves at 3 p.m. We will leave you if you’re not there.” Don’t buy your visa here, just kindly decline and they’ll take you to the border crossing where you’ll find the real visa office after getting your exit stamp from Cambodia. The line to get the visa was not long for us, it took 10-15 minutes to fill out our application, wait in line, and process our visa.

Currency Conversion Scam: Once we had our entry stamp from Cambodia we met a bus worker who was waiting for us and the rest of our group to show up. He asked me if I had money I needed to exchange while waiting. I had 1,000 Thai Baht to exchange so he took me to an office where the woman behind the counter gave me a fat stack of Cambodian Riel. I explained I wanted to convert it to $30 U.S. Dollars. The man started to get angry with me and said that they don’t use U.S. Dollars in Cambodia. I argued that yes they do. He continued to refuse to give me U.S. Dollars so I asked for my Thai Baht back saying I would exchange it elsewhere. He then glumly nodded to the woman behind the counter and she gave me $30 U.S. Dollars, which, YES THEY DO USE IN CAMBODIA! Be sure when converting money to choose U.S. Dollars. We had friends who converted to Cambodian Riel and were ripped off not realizing they didn’t receive the full payment. It’s too difficult to count through a large stack of Cambodian Riel to make sure you’re paid the correct amount. It’s much easier to count three bills of $10s to know you got your money back.

Border Control from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh

CAMBODIA TO VIETNAM

Bus Route: Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh

Border Crossing: Moc Bai

Bus Ticket: $10 with Khai Nam Bus

Travel Time: 7 hours

NO Visas at Border: U.S. citizens CANNOT receive a Vietnam visa at the border so get a visa in advance. Our hotel, Channsoda Hotel, in Phnom Penh helped us receive a single-entry, one month visa for $70 and only took a day to return our passports with the visa.

Expect Mass Collection of Passports: Unlike the border crossing from Thailand to Cambodia, the Vietnam border was free of any scams, which made it a more pleasant journey. The only strange thing was when we boarded the bus, we had to give up our passports to a bus worker who kept them until we arrived at the border. Instead of the usual waiting in line with our passport and directly receiving our exit stamp, the worker instead gave the whole stack to border patrol. This meant we had to wait for our name to be called to get our passport back and pass through to the Vietnam side. It was an extremely inefficient process as there were dozens of us waiting packed together. When names were called people had to push their way through the crowd to make it to the front to get their passport. Several times they held up passports open to the photo page and would ask people if it was theirs because they kind of looked like the picture. It seemed like a sure way to accidentally give a passport to the wrong person. Luckily, we all made it through just fine with the correct passport in hand.

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