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Hustlers employed by the Cambodian government

Crossing the border from Laos to Cambodia.

Yesterday, I was able to witness something that was quite the bummer for a fellow traveler. As a backpacker, you hate to see people getting hustled. Cambodia’s border guards are notorious for being grade A assholes, but even with forewarning, nobody likes to get screwed.

As a group of friends and I crossed from southern Laos to Cambodia, we decided to pay the five extra dollars to have a local get us through the border. It is supposed to cost $25 for a visa, but most people some how end up paying upwards to $40. Our guide promised us no extra charges, and actually made it so we could just walk over the border and sit in a café, while he did all the dirty work.

As we sipped ice coffee and avoided the heat, our guide came into the café and announced our American friend needed to go with him to “fill out extra paper work.” The reason was that she only had three pages left in her passport, and the guards decided these pages were, “no good.” Two stated not to place a visa on them, but the other one was fine. The paperwork was a wavier that allowed the guards to cover up an old stamp. Though this is legal, the guards saw it as an opportunity to profit.

To be able to enter the country, the guards charged my friend an extra $15. Our local guide had no control over the situation, and the guards said they wouldn’t allow her in the country if she didn’t pay. She did her best to defend herself, asking for a receipt and the guard's name, but this only translated to $5 less of a bribe. Unfortunately, this is the negative side of travel many short-term travelers don’t see.