Most nationalities receive a one-month visa on arrival at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports, and at land borders. One passport-sized photo is required and you’ll be ‘fined’ US$1 if you don’t have one. It is also possible to arrange a visa through Cambodian embassies overseas or an online e-visa (US$25) through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.mfaic.gov.kh). Arranging a visa ahead of time can help prevent potential overcharging at some land crossings.
You can apply for an e-visa, also when arriving overland: https://www.visaconnect.com/acatalog/tourist_visa_cambodia.html No need to send in passport, issued generally within 3 business days, visa is emailed to you (some websites do say it might be refused at border crossings). Can only apply 3 months in advance. Cost $60
Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/cambodia/practical-information/visas#ixzz25OwrM8Vy
All types of Visas for entry into the Kingdom of Cambodia can be applied by mail or in person
Each applicant must complete the visa application form and submit to the Embassy together with:
* Two passport-sized photographs
* Passport (original) with minimum 6 (six) months validity
(Bank/company cheque or money order should be made payable to the Royal Embassy of Cambodia)
VISAS BY MAIL
The applicant must use Express POST/Registered Post for the sending of the passport and application form to the Embassy.
The applicant must also provide one pre-stamped, self-addressed envelope of Express POST/Registered Post for the return of the passport.
The Embassy does not take responsibility for the loss of documents in transit and for the service transit time, which includes weekends and holidays
VALIDITY OF VISAS
A single entry visa is valid for a maximum stay of one month only, starting from the date of entry. And, it is valid if presented within three months from the date of issuance. However, if we let them know on the application form what the latest day is for our entry into Cambodia we can extend that period up to 4-5 months. For double entries you can tell them when you will enter Cambodia and they can supply the double entry before leaving. Cost will be 2 x $45
The validity of tourist and business visas can be extended at the Immigration Department, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
A Tourist Visa can be extended only once for up to one month
We end up buying our visa at the border crossing which is a lot cheaper, only USD20 and a photo needed. There was no queue at the counter for visas on arrival when we got there so it was a few minutes later we walked out with our new visas. It might take a little longer if it’s busy. You buy them after you leave Thailand, but before you get to the actual immigration booth where they stamp you in (basically you are in no-mans land when you buy it. The building is obvious, it says ‘visa on arrival’ on it. You can’t miss it.)
This is the loop we drove in Cambodia. If you are interested, you can click on this image below and it will take you to the actual Google Map online. You can then zoom in (or out) to have a more detailed look.
We might show our campsite locations on here too at some point if we have time to get that organised.
Thai – Cambodia border crossing
Reading about this border crossing at Poipet on many blogs, we were fearing the worst. It seemed all people are meant to be scammers and you can’t believe anybody.
Our experience was a complete opposite. It was a very easy, very straightforward process and people were very helpful. Not one person tried to ‘help’ us for a fee.
We arrived in the morning and drove to the first Thai checkpoint where they told us to park just past it and come back to them to sort out the paperwork. All they wanted was the Thai temporary import paper we were given at the Malay-Thai border. Jon had to sign the paper and fill the details of our car into her book.
At the next stop they wanted to see another bit of paper which we didn’t have. It didn’t seem to be a big problem after we told them where we had entered Thailand. They might not give that to people crossing there? We were told to collect a copy of the temporary Thai import papers from the first checkpoint, so Jon went off, walking back to collect the copy. They already knew we were coming to pick up a copy as they were already busy getting one made.
With this copy and after making a copy of both our passports, we were good to go to immigration ourselves and exit Thailand. Everybody else seemed to pay a small fee at this second Thai checkpoint, but they didn’t ask for any money from us.
We walked through the normal foot passenger terminal to exit Thailand and picked up the car to drive into no-man’s land, swapping sides (Cambodia drives on the right hand side of the road!) as we left the second Thai checkpoint.
Our next stop was the big building on the right with the sign ‘Visa on Arrival’. They charged us USD20 each plus 100 Bhat and one passport photo and we had to fill in a small form. Within 3 minutes we had a new shiny visa in our passports, so we jumped into the car again to drive past all the casinos (tax free heaven here in no-man’s land!) to the Cambodian immigration post.
After filling in our arrivals / departure card we were very lucky as there was no queue at the counters. But as we were doing our digital finger printing we looked back to see about 50 people had formed 2 queues behind us, they were in for a bit of a wait. Maybe we beat the early morning rush? The border opens at 8 and we got there not much after 8. We’ll never know, but we certainly weren’t complaining!
We had to walk back to collect our car (50m) and then we could drive into Cambodia, nearly knocking the sun umbrella from the guy’s checkpoint.
Our last stop was the customs office for the car. You basically drive into Cambodia and we parked on the far side of the roundabout. The customs office is just past the roundabout on the left hand side, next to the office of (I think) the police or something.
The guy there took a copy of our Australian registration paper and a copy of Jon’s passport (the car is in his name), placed some formal looking stamps on it and gave us one copy back (as well as the original of course). He kept the other copy and told us to come back to his office when we leave Cambodia to export it.
There was no mention of taking a right hand drive vehicle into Cambodia, nor did we have to pay anything for the whole process (apart from paying for our personal visas). And at 9.30 we were on our way to Angkor Watt (well, first the Land Rover garage in Siem Reap as our air con has died and with 35 degrees in the shade we do want the occasional cool burst of air coming out of the vents…), the whole process taking only 1.5hrs.
There is no option to buy 3rd part insurance here, so we didn’t ask for it.
We also didn’t bother with taking out Cambodian Reals as everybody seems to charge and pay in USD, including the locals, so for now we just take out some extra USD. Easy as we can always use those.
Cambodia – Thailand border crossing
When leaving Cambodia, the first thing you have to do is hand in your copy of the registration paper you were given when entering Cambodia. The office is just before the roundabout on the right hand side. We asked him to make a copy we could keep as prove, also stamped with the exit date.
Next step is to exit Cambodia. Easiest way we find is just to continue driving until some official tells you to stop and point where you can park the car. It seemed to be a pretty fail-proof method. Also this time we were told to park somewhere and then pointed towards the building where we could get our exit stamps. We queued at the wrong counter first and were pointed to the right one. With nobody waiting it took only a minute or so to check our passports and fingerprints before we were given our exit stamps and were on our merry way again.
Driving across no-mans land where you some how swap back to the left hand side of the road again, we arrived at the Thai border post. The crossing over is not very organised and it just seems to happen.
Again we just drove until we got to the little booth in the middle of the road and we parked right in front of it. First we had to get our passports stamped. You get your arrival / departure card from the guy outside, fill it in and then join the queues inside the building. Luck was with us again as there were massive queues at all the customs officers, apart from one where it said ‘visa on arrival’, so we joined there and hoped for the best.
A few minutes later we were given our free 15 day Thai visa. Getting back to the car goes against all normal routes, but when you tell them you are trying to get back to your car they all wave you through with a smile.
At the same booth where we parked the car we had to show them the registration paper, passport, drivers licence and insurance. We still have valid insurance, but we need to renew ours in a few days. Not sure if you have to show the insurance papers, but we just gave them as we have them. We don’t know if you can buy it on the Cambodian side of the border, but you can’t on the Thai side. They recommended going into town and find an insurance place there to renew ours.
They ask for copies of your registration paper, passport, etc but if you say you don’t have them they will send somebody away with all the originals and he makes copies of everything for you (for free). We had to fill in 2 identical sheets of paper with car make, model, chassis number and a few more admin details. One of them you keep, the other they keep. This time we had to pay 25baht (just under 1AUD), we were given a receipt for it.
A little further we reached customs where they gave us their customs form, the same as we were given when we entered Thailand the first time. They print it and you sign it. But, this time we were also given back the other papers with the copies of Jon’s passport, driver’s licence, registration paper and insurance. Hopefully that means we don’t have the same issue when we leave Thailand next in a few weeks…
Again the whole process only took us 1 hour, even though the border was a lot busier than the previous time when we got there just after it opened.
We bought a local Cambodian Metfone simcard for USD3 which includes 300Mb of data and about $4 worth of calls. Cambodia seems to have a lot of wifi (including free ones) and 3G. We are told there will be no 3G in the rural areas, but anywhere in a village or town we should be able to get 3G. To get the sim card chopped to fit my iphone I am driven to another tiny phone shop on the back of a scooter. They pay for this and don’t even charge for it when we pay for the sim card. Our phone number is: 097 412 5086 (country code +855).
And yes, 3G virtually everywhere and lots of free wifi, although they were generally quite slow.
Food and shopping
What we write about food is of course utterly subjective, but we just want to give you our impression of Cambodian food and shopping. We’ll try to do this for every country we go to. As Jude is a vegetarian who does eat fish we’ll try to comment on the availability of vegetarian options or fishy dishes in restaurants too.
Cambodia was a country where we ate out nearly every night as the food is incredibly tasty and cheap. With the Mekong running through the country and the ocean on the south side there is never a problem to eat a fishy meal.
Most accounts of Cambodia food we read are quite negative. It’s bland and unimaginative is what we read. We found Cambodian food exactly the opposite: it’s very flavoursome and they make fantastic dishes. And unlike their big neighbour Thailand where they just smother everything in chilies, the Cambodian food uses spices that you can actually taste! Cumin, coriander, kurkuma and lots of other spices can be tasted in the food, Fish Amok being our favourite dish. Beautiful! But also grolan, bought by the local stalls in bamboo sticks is great. It’s sticky rice with black beans and some coconut, roasted over a fire inside a bamboo stick.
Shopping for western food in Cambodia is easy in Siem Reap (the town at Angkor Wat) and Phnom Penh, outside these cities it is possible
If you make it to Kampot and you’re a bit of a foodie, make sure you stock up on some kampot pepper. The best pepper in the world!
We also enjoyed the ‘friendship’ restaurants in Cambodia. These restaurants are set up to provide opportunities for street kids to get a job in hospitality. They learn on the job as they rotate through kitchen, waiting tables and reservations. They are slightly more expensive to eat at, but the restaurants serves fantastic local dishes and you really help out the kids as they can practice their English with the foreign guests.
The main roads are usually good, but beware of potholes (bad ones) at any time. As soon as you’re off the main roads, they can either be great or horrendous, usually the latter though. Some bridges were definitely dangerous and we also had a few bridges with height restrictions! At one bridge we had to remove the ladder from the tent (we keep it on top) AND get about 5 local guys to help stand on the car to get it underneath the exit of the bridge (with a queue of cars behind us). We are around 2.30m high…
Books to read
A good book to read to get a bit of an understanding about the Khmer Rouge period is ‘The Killing Fields’ by Christopher Hudson.
Another book we have been recommended, but haven’t read yet is ‘Cambodia’s Curse’.
By chance we found a Kampot Pepper Farm. If you are in the area of Kampot you should definitely visit. Kampot pepper is world famous and used in the Michelin star restaurants.
Anna runs the place and will have accommodation soon too in lovely Cambodian style bungalows and a restaurant from May 2013. The setting is beautiful and she is a great host. And of course the pepper tastes great too! You can even buy a pepper infused vodka.
Turn off the main road at:
N 10 36 26.5
E 104 13 51.0
Turn right at the first road (dirt), about 50m after turning off the main road. You’ll pass secret lake on your left, it is a bit of a drive in, but the actual farm gate is at:
N 10 35 39.0
E 104 19 35.7
Unfortunately we haven’t got a photo of the fish cat and the massive black scorpion we saw, but we did get some photos of other animals: