Cambodian Visa Run at the Prek Chak Border

Today we went to Vietnam, had a cup of tea, and then left Vietnam.

Why?

To be brief, we wanted to stay in Cambodia for six weeks, but a tourist visa only allows four weeks. Therefore we could either extend our visa allowance inside Cambodia ($45 each) or leave the country and come back in again ($30 for me, and $0 for Caroline because she’s ASEAN). So that’s $90 vs. $30

How?

We hired a motorbike from Kampot for $4, and drove west along highway 33, eventually turning right on to highway 1332. This highway was an absolutely stunning drive – perhaps the best scenery we’ve seen so far in Cambodia – salt and paddy fields with bathing buffalo, flooded plains, and rolling distant mountains mostly shrouded in grey clouds. It was a beautiful, muddy gloom, where simple structures and palm trees dotted the landscape, with mangrove and storage barns in the foreground.

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We followed the highway all the way to Prek Chak, a town that was no more than a single street dotted with ramshackle restaurants, fruit vendors, and the steady, humming bustle of humans and animals. The least dodgy eatery was chosen, and we sat down for noodles. Caroline proceeded to charm the owners with her ever-increasing grasp of Khmer, and our plan to befriend them worked. They let us store our motorcycle while we walked over the border.

The border itself.

The border itself.

Last chance (until the next casino, 50 metres away)

Last chance (until the next casino, 50 metres away)

The start of the immigration area

The start of the immigration area

Checking out of Cambodia was simple, although they held our passports for an uncomfortable length of time. Of course, this is just the game they play; watch the tourists sweat while we pretend that something's wrong. We didn't have to bribe them, which was a relief.

Checking out of Cambodia was simple, although they held our passports for an uncomfortable length of time. Of course, this is just the game they play; watch the tourists sweat while we pretend that something’s wrong. We didn’t even have to bribe anybody.

Entering Vietnam

Entering Vietnam

Customs in Vietnam

A health check to prove we didn't have Ebola. Mandatory. $1 each.

A health check to prove we didn’t have Ebola. Mandatory. $1 each.

“But don’t you have to pay for a visa to get into Vietnam?” you ask.

“No,” we reply.

Caroline is Malaysian, and so she is allowed 30 days for free in most of the participating ASEAN countries. My mum is Scottish, meaning I carry a British passport as well as a NZ one. As of July 1st 2015, British Citizens can enter Vietnam for 15 days without a visa (for free).

So yes, this post only really helps members of ASEAN countries and British passport holders. If you decide to stop reading here, thanks for joining us.

If you've never seen Vietnam before, this is what it looks like.

If you’ve never seen Vietnam before, this is what it looks like.

And this is what it looks like from the other side, with a storm approaching.

And this is what it looks like from the other side.

We walked down the road in Xa Xia, Vietnam, for about half an hour, finally taking refuge in a small tea shop as a storm began. The lady in the tea shop was lovely, but we couldn’t speak a word of Vietnamese. Oral communication was replaced with laughter and flapping arms, and everybody managed to get at least one point across. Thankfully, the tea lady accepted one USD as payment, giving us ten thousand Vietnamese┬áDong as change.

The tea shop

The tea shop

After the rain stopped we walked back to the border, and stamped out of Vietnam. The customs officer looked at us with contempt as we approached, disturbing her from what appeared to be a cross stitch she was thrusting a needle into. Moving on from her we walked back to the Cambodian side, I bought my visa, paid an extra five dollars in bullshit tax, and then we strolled back into the Kingdom.

Crossing both ways was rather fast. We were expecting long queues, but most of the waiting time was due to officers playing Clash of Clans on their Samsung mega-phones, and the ‘fool the tourist’ game that I described above.

Passing by a stall, we brought some dragon fruit as thanks to the cafe that stored our bike. They refused our gift, but we double-refused their refusal, and sped off.

Cost breakdown

Bike hire – $4
Petrol – $3
Ebola check – $2
Visa – $30
Bullshit tax – $5

So the final cost was $44, which is still better than $90.

Which works out to be forty-six free meals for us.

~~~

Just an ordinary train