Travel in Cambodia – Border Bus Scam

Travel in Cambodia – Border Bus Scam

Transportation Scams Travel in Cambodia

Travel in Cambodia can be tricky. Travelers can be tricked into paying more money and it’s not Thailand that is causing the problem. The scams have been going on for a long time and the Cambodian government is doing nothing to curtail the problem. Because of this Cambodia has an image problem. Travelers know about scams, but not the details and can still get caught up. The scams are also changed so that travelers think they know whats going on but end up tricked. This border scam is still being used but some of the transportation companies used when going from Thailand to Cambodia. They are in on it in my opinion. Other scams are out there too by scaring people by stranding them or making the person believe they will be significantly delayed.  Read on and find out how they may scam you when you take a bus to cross the Thailand border to Cambodia.

Exiting Thailand, with a long Que in front of Thai Immigration.

Below are two real life stories, the first story happened to me. It happened when I had to leave Thailand to go to Cambodia because my Thailand visa expired.

Thailand Border Bus Scam

This is how the Cambodia Border Bus Scam works. To leave Thailand you buy a bus ticket from a travel agent or direct from bus station (I recommend bus station) that will take you via mini-van or bus to in this case the border town of Poiet Cambodia . (Another way is by train and then bus at Cambodia, but this article is about bus transportation.) I arranged transportation through a travel agent, Amazing World Travel & Tour in Bangkok. If you go to the bus station, you have to find the station but that is easy to get to by taxi. What you save on the travel agent fee will cover your taxi cost as long as you ask the taxi to use their meter. 

Thailand Cambodia Border,
Walking from the Thailand border to Cambodian Visa Office.

People like to do it the easy way, that is why there are so many travel agents in Bangkok. The prices vary between travel agents, and often you find quite a few offices in a tourism area in which you can walk around and compare prices. The travel agents can often answer your questions about transportation or a tourist area, and arrange for your transportation. It’s usually not going to cost you too much more money than doing it yourself, depends on the travel agency. Travel agents often charge a lot more money if they use the word tour.  Then you have to see what they offer for the extra money.  Ask about both, direct transportation to your destination and about tour packages so you can judge for yourself the price differences and what you receive for your money.

Thailand Border Bus Scam – The Border Scam Game

Learn how the Thailand Border Bus Scams are played out from my experience when I traveled to Cambodia, and the experience from another traveler by the name John. You are hearing this first hand from both of us, we each had separate incidences that incurred with bus transportation.

Entering the Cambodian Border after the Border scam

Both John and I were on separate trips, and we both used a different travel agent. There is no way to know if the booking agents were involved or not in these scams, but this is Thailand, anything goes here, watch your back when it comes to business. My travel agent, Amazing World Travel & Tour arranged a mini-van to pick me up close to my hotel for transportation all the way from Bangkok to Siem Reap.  No problems until we got close to the Cambodian border.

Thailand Border Bus Scam

The minivan I was in stopped about a mile or two from the Cambodian border on the Thailand side.  They escort us to an area where you can relax and eat if you would like. This actually helps them carry out the scam because you let your guard down. You feel relaxed until they start separating you from one another, usually by your destination.  They escort you and you’re traveling companion into an office where you meet a man behind a desk.  They ask for your passport to see where you are from. It all seems very official, you really don’t know who these men are. Psychologically, when they separate you, you feel vulnerable. Also, since there is an unknown person behind a desk asking you questions, you naturally feel like that person has all the power.  It’s a natural instinct. Be aware and don’t be intimidated. They play power business tactics like Donald Trump would in the third world.

When they brought me into the office they told me to make the process smoother, I needed to pay them an additional 1900 Baht (the amount varies), and I can go through the border process faster without any hassle. That amount is approximately $60 US dollars which is quite a bit considering it’s more then the original bus fare of about $12 US. They told me if I didn’t pay, I was going to be on the last bus to Siem Reap (my destination) if I was lucky. I told them no, if that was the case then I would be on the last bus.  Like I mentioned, I had read about this before and decided when you travel, there are inconveniences that you have to put up with. They escorted me to a mini van to take me to the border. In the minivan were people just like me that had said no. We all sat there a while and after a while another man poked his head in and gave it another try to see if we had changed our minds.  We did not.

Once we got to the Cambodian border, it was a normal process. It did not matter if you paid them the extra money or not, everyone went through the same process.

After obtaining my visa from the Cambodian immigration people, I waited with the group of people who did not pay extra. Then I started to notice other small groups from our original bus. These were the people who paid for faster service. All of us t left on time together, no one made it out faster or easier! Paying them made no difference, it was all a scheme to take money from innocent travelers. This wasn’t the last bus out either.  I’m not saying this turns out this way all the time, but it did for me and the rest of my non-paying group, who refused to pay the extra money. There are no guarantees, but that is part of the scare tactics they play on you. I was prepared to stay at the bus station, and it could have turned out that way, but it was a scam.

Later when I returned to Bangkok, I went to Amazing World Travel & Tour offices. They acted like no one spoke English. True or not, I got no answer about what had happened.

The information below is from another traveler by the name John who also went by bus to Cambodia.  He wrote to me via my magazine website.

Email Message from David About Thailand Border Scam:

Good afternoon Thomas : My Friend and I booked a taxi and tour bus back to Phom Phen from the hotel Happio travel agent at the lobby !!!!!! The next morning I was asked for 200 more bots for faster smother ride to the bus !!! Getting to bus station we were given 2 new tickets and 1000 bot to get a different bus at the border …. our bus to the border was the taxi bus that stopped all over picking up and dropping off people …..Then at the border they just laughed and took us to a taxi that charged us 2400 bot to get to Phnom Phen::::: I hope you get this soon and can ask the travel agent how he sleeps at night !!!!

Thank you for your time sir !!! Hope to talk soon and was great chatting with you :: Sincerely David

My Analysis:

From David’s perspective he was left high and dry and had to pay both times.  For the transportation to the bus from the hotel, and transportation after crossing the Cambodian border to Pnom Phen. I could’t say one way or another if it was all set up by the travel agent or not. I did interview the travel agent after I received John’s email. The travel agent said it could happen since David did not pay extra for direct transportation. Once you leave the original bus, it’s out of their hands.

Where are the Business Ethics?

It could be the travel agent forgot to tell David about the extra fee he paid to get to the bus, or there was a language barrier.  But I also believe there should be a code of ethics here.  If the travel agent made the arrangement, they should be responsible for the third parties who they use to get their customer to their destination. They seemed concerned, but not concerned enough to tell me they were going to do anything about it. I don’t know if Thailand tourism department really cares.  If they did you would think that they would police this kind of service for the sake of tourism in Thailand. This is a beautiful country and even with this kind of thing going on, people are still going to come here.

Not all Scams Are the Same

These scam artists have ways to changing up the scam, but it’s always about secluding you and creating doubt to a point where you start believing there is only one way to do get out of the situation. Your stuck and you must pay up, or you will be stranded, or delayed for a long time. I believe that’s what happened to David.  Someone made up a story and convinced him into thinking this was the only way to Phnom Penh. It could just so happened that he would have been stranded.  David paid like most of us would if we thought it was true.

Inquiring directly to the Travel Agent

I asked the travel agent directly about what David had gone through and she said after reading David’s email:

“If the customer buys a non-stop bus ticket, there are no problems. The prices are higher for non-transfer transportation. If you transfer to a third-party transportation you pay less. This is according to the travel agent where the problem is.  Sometimes there are problems and sometimes not.” If you pay more you get non-stop service without a problem. They have no control over the other transportation providers.

I am awaiting for an official response from the travel agent owner.  I will post when and if I receive it.

I would like to see an official apology from the travel agent and refund to David. Also that they will look into it and see that it doesn’t happen again.

Beware of these tactics, and ask other travelers and travel agents if you can about this.  If you have any stories, I would love to hear from you and I will post them if I feel they are relevant. Email me at: titled it – BUS SCAM.

Safe Travels Everyone!!

© Travel Food & Health Magazine

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