The Visa Run – Thailand to Cambodia .
The atmosphere was getting a little tense in the Cambodian border office. I’d put my foot down and had refused to pay the corrupt border guards the five extra dollars that I knew would go into their pockets. Tourists edged out of the door as the guards began to shout at me. Having been stung for a 25 dollar visa and a nonexistent ‘health’ tax once before when visiting Cambodia, I subsequently obtained my visas in Bangkok thus ensuring I paid the correct amount of money – which was at the time 20 American dollars. However, I’d been sick on Koh Chang in Thailand and my Thai visa was due to expire – I needed to do a border run.
“You pay 25 dollars” the border guard shouted at me
“Why?” I asked “last time I pay 20 and the time before I pay 20”
“It gone up” the guard replied
“So why these people” – I indicated at the two backpackers in front of me “pay 20 for their visas in Bangkok recently? ”
“You pay 25” the guard said stubbornly
“I come to your county three times this year and I pay 20 for visa not 25”. I flicked through my passport and showed him the evidence.
Another guard jumped into the fray and looked at my passport.
“You only come for border run – you not stay in Cambodia, you not tourist, you pay 25 dollar” He shouted “What wrong with our country?”
“I stay in Sianoukkville, New Year, I come back and go to Angor Wat in March, I like your country and I pay 20 dollars” I said trying not to show that I was intimidated.
By now I was on my own as my travelling companians had disappeared, three guards were standing over me in threatening stances and the shouting had attracted the guards’ superior from the back office.
“What problem?” he asked
“Visa only 20 dollars, I always pay 20 dollars, not 25” I replied. The boss gave his subordinates a severe look. There was a lot of accusatory shouting and pointing of fingers in my direction by the guards and the boss’s frown deepened. About this time I remembered that Pol Pot supporters were alive and kicking, in the army and as unpleasant as ever. These guys looked as if they wanted to throttle me so I decided to back down and pay the extra. The boss had other ideas.
“OK you pay 20 dollars” he said grandly, as if he was handing me the crown jewels. “But you pay tourist ‘health’ tax which is 7 dollars”.
I didn’t argue