Choose who to bribe! – crossing the border from Laos to Cambodia

Choose who to bribe! – crossing the border from Laos to Cambodia

I’ve seen a lot in Southeast Asia, and in the beginning I got easily upset when things were not as they supposed to be. But this time I just did not get involved, laid back and enjoyed the show.

I left Don Det so much in time, that I had more than an hour before the bus left to Siem Reap, Cambodia. I didn’t request e-visa on time, though that is the easiest way to have a visa, and since the end of last year they also accept it at the land crossing between Laos and Cambodia. The tiny little obstacle I had was that I didn’t know when exactly I’ll cross the border, or if I come to Cambodia at all as there were not much plans, and the e- visa needs 3 days to be processed, and you need to submit the day and port of entry.

While we were waiting for the bus, a guy from the travel agency came and explained the options – exaggerating a bit, and this is how it happened in reality – without the exaggeration. Long story short, you will support corruption anyway, if you want to cross the border, but at least you can decide who you bribe.

State corruption

This is the DIY option, when you just get off the bus with your luggage at the lao immigration office and queue up for the exit stamp. But first the immigration officer makes you pay 2 dollars. Why? Why not! Only after paying you get your exit stamp in your passport and are you allowed to proceed to the Cambodian immigration office. You pay 30 dollars for the visa, and they ask five more. Just because. You don’t want to pay, because you know the visa is only 30, and there is no additional fee officially? No problem. Only that you don’t get your visa. So you pay. Then with the visa in your pocket and minus 37 dollars in your purse you walk to the khmer bufe a couple of hundreds of meters away to catch the bus waiting for you.

Indirect corruption via the travel agency – an endless business opportunity

This option is for those who play it comfortable. No need to walk or carry your luggage, or to queue up if there is a queue at all. But you have to take some risks. You pay 40 dollars to the guy from the agency and hand over a passport photo, the filled in visa application and your passport. Than you cross the border without anyone having a look at you, spend about two hours in Cambodia fully illegal – having lunch, playing cards, drinking beer or using the last bytes of your lao data – and if you are lucky you get back your passport with the exit stamp and the visa in it. If you are not lucky, meaning they need to raise the revenue of the day a bit, you may have to pay a little ransom to get back your passport. The latter is just a speculation, never met anyone who actually experienced this at this border crossing.

Which option is better? Hard to tell. The Hungarian Consular Services advised all travellers to never hand over their passport to anyone. That is anyway hard to do if you ever attempt to rent a motorbike in the region. Well choose the option fitting your preferences the best. Well, this situation created some tension on the buses heading to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, so around 100 people were frustrated, and kept repeating: why, this can’t be, this is not the official process, this is corruption… I just laid back and enjoyed the show, that concluded with everyone getting the cambodian visa and everyone becoming part of the corrupt system one way or the other.

Welcome to Cambodia. Sous-dey!



Official page to request e-visa:


  • Don Det – Siem Reap boat + bus package: 29 USD or 235.000 LAK
  • Cambodian turist e-visa: 30 USD + 6 USD processing fee
  • Cambodian turist visa on arrival at the airport: 30 USD
  • Cambodian turist visa on arrival at the Laos-Cambodia border: 35 USD