Cambodia – Laos Border Crossing Without Paying Bribes and Saving Up to $33

Although most travelers in South East Asia enter Laos from Thailand and Vietnam some, like me, cross Cambodia-Laos border (Voeung Kam – Dom Kralor). It’s not overly hard to do so, but may be stressful or even frustrating for some.

Here’s an overview of my journey from Siem Reap (Cambodia) to 4000 Islands (Laos) and few tips on how to do it cheaper. This article was written in 2013 but the ways to save money have been updated in 2019 and are still valid!

Waterfalls, 4000 Islands, Laos,
Beautiful waterfalls in 4000 Islands

Bus tickets from Cambodia to Laos

Firstly, you need to somehow get transported from one country to another. Cycling is obviously the cheapest option and mostly recommended by me. However, most travelers won’t have enough time or will power to push themselves through few hundred kilometers in scorching sun.

On this occasion I have also chosen to travel quickly by bus. It doesn’t matter where you are traveling from in Cambodia – the cost will be relatively low. Bus fare from Siem Reap to Don Det (4000 Islands) is $25 and the journey takes around 14 hours.

After speaking to some travel agencies and other people I found that the same journey costed some people $50 (sold by not too honest agents) and if I were to split the journey into 2 parts it would cost me around $50 too.

Conclusion: don’t travel near the border and then take another bus. Look around for the right price, best to do it online.

On the bus

Ticket price is not the only revenue source for some bus operators. They will stop quite often in significantly more expensive shops/ restaurants where they get paid for us – foreigners – naively spending our money. It’s a common practice, probably used by all operators in Cambodia.

Another way for them to earn extra cash is by applying for visas on tourists’ behalf. I was quoted $36 for visa + 2 stamps, which means that they get $2 for their fatigue. When I did it myself (me and one girl decided to do it ourselves, out of 50 people on the bus), I paid a total of $32. (2019 update: not sure if this part is still true, so please ask around before fighting for the extra $4 – if you had a recent experience on the border, please leave a comment to update us all here)

Vans in Laos

Visa to Laos

Visa to Laos prices vary from country to country. Citizens of Switzerland don’t need one, I paid $30 because I’m from Poland, but Canadian girl I sat with had to pay $35. When she challenged them about the price, saying she checked online before departure and read it was $30, they have shown her a list of countries with an amount next to each entry.

Conclusion: expect the worst and hope for the best, because prices can change without prior notice. Do not forget to have a passport sized photo with you. Otherwise you will be charged extra $1-$2 for the “exception”.

Cambodia Exit / Laos entry stamp

It is commonly known that border officials are somewhat corrupt both in Cambodia and Laos. There’s one border crossing between these countries, Voeung Kam – Dom Kralor, and by nature is one that can freely ask for bribes (when not presented – no crossing will be possible).

Both sides ask for “exit or entry stamp fees”, which are unofficial. Although commonly it is $1 for each side, sometimes they ask for $2. This was the case when I crossed in 2013. Having known that it’s likely they will ask for a stamp fee, which really is a bribe, I found a way to waive this, which was 50% successful.

Once I reached the hut where border official stationed (yes, it’s really small crossing), I said that I have no problem with paying as long as they can issue a receipt for my employer. Cambodian officials waived the fee (possibly because I was leaving Cambodia and they can’t really stop me), while Laotian officials said “$2 or go back”. I paid it…

Cambodia - Laos Border Crossing
Cambodia – Laos Border Crossing

On my way back from Laos to Cambodia, I was hitchhiking and walking whenever I couldn’t get a ride. Therefore, when I arrived at the border, I said that I simply don’t have any money before I access an ATM in Cambodia. The nearest city with an ATM is 60 km away (according to border crossing officials). I had Cambodian visa already in my passport, so didn’t have to pay for this. Therefore, both Laotian and Cambodian border crossing officials let me go through without paying bribes.

One of my rides to the border
One of my rides to the border

Arrival in 4000 Islands (Don Det)

As usual we were dropped off 3 km away from the river crossing. This time however there were no tuk tuks but private “free” shuttle bus. You probably realise that nothing is free in life… “Very nice” driver dropped us by “the only place” where we could buy boat tickets and exchange currency. We were assured that there’s no alternative and even if there was something else this is the best place anyway. Then he urged us that everyone (around 20 people) should buy tickets for only 35,000 Rip and exchange money at 7.700 Rip to a dollar.

4000 Islands
The “only” place where boat tickets could be bought

I had to exchange money, so changed $10 and received 7000 Rip. Wait, is it right? No, they “forgot” to give me 70,000 Rip… When I challenged them, they gave me money back with a cheeky smile (it was saying “well, worth a try”).

The boat ticket costed 35,000 Rip. Somewhat high price for a short boat journey. I decided that it’s not worth it and was more than willing to take the risk and stay on this side of the river until I could find a cheaper boat. There were two more people who shared my view. Everyone else bought the tickets there and were squeezed onto long motor boat.

Long motor boat in Laos

The three of us, who parted from the group, found a ride for 20,000 Rip per person just 50 metres away. We had the same boat just to ourselves and were much quicker on the other side than the rest. 

Overall, I spent less than any other person on the bus by:

  • up to $27 on the bus ticket
  • $2 on the commission for the visa application to the bus operator
  • $2 on the exit stamp
  • $2 on the boat

If you crossed the border from Cambodia to Laos, what was your experience?

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Cez Krol
Cez Krol
I’m always positive and never bored – there’s just so much more to see and experience! I began my journey around the world in 2011 with just $400 and one-way ticket to Asia. Still going and blogging today. You can typically spot me working on a laptop or rock climbing.
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61 thoughts on “Cambodia – Laos Border Crossing Without Paying Bribes and Saving Up to $33”

  1. officialtravelnews

    How ridiculous it is to think that you are going to change anything in this world by refusing few $$$ to an officer who gets $100 a month…

    You should better waster your time helping kids, but first it seems that you need to learn how to make money, because you are not going to help anyone if few $$$ are important for you (and don’t repeat the usual BS that it’s not for the money, you are just cheap backpackers and that’s all !).

    1. Corruption is wrong and when working a job for an agreed-upon amount, a person should be satisfied with that. When a person in a governmental position (eg. police, border police) takes advantage of their position to essentially steal from others, even if it is two dollars, it is theft and an abuse of their authority. This demeans the officer, their government, their country, and encourages more of this. It reflects on everybody in Cambodia/Laos, making them look like thieves. If they are not paid enough, the government could increase their wage or charge an officially sanctioned fee to assist with this. This feel-sorry for one’s self and one’s self’s situation is not helpful nor correct.
      With all that said, Laos does charge one dollar overtime fee for times that are outside of their normal operating hours (weekends, and weekdays after 4pm, and holidays). This is an official fee and is not corruption.
      Beware of the people on the bus taking everyone’s passport… don’t do it, instead deal directly with the border officials. If charged more than you think you should, take a picture of the officer and make a complaint.
      Don’t pay bribes if you can help it.. It doesn’t help anyone, including the immigration officer nor his kids, not anymore than if he steals from a store.

      1. Oh, come on. Nearly everything you buy in Southeast is negotiable or should be haggled over. Moreover, state officials (i.e. police, immigration officers, etc) are notoriously underpaid and it is accepted and normal that you “pay-per-service”, in much the same way you are expected to tip restaurant-staff in the USA.

        Is this really that hard to understand?

        There is something a little uglier than corruption, and that is a wealthy teen or young adult, who can afford to spend months of time and money to holiday in Southeast Asia, arguing over a few dollars here and there with someone twice their age who is unlikely to ever own more than the clothes on their back. Have you ever considered how hypocritical this looks to the person you are arguing with?

        I’ve been working and travelling in Laos/Thailand/Cambodia since the late 1990s and its always horrified me the arrogance of my fellow travellers when they fight over what is, to them, small change.

    2. No, corruption is wrong, is theft, and an abuse of authority. This damages the reputation of the border police, and their country. It does not help children anymore than stealing from a store does. People should be satisfied with their agreed-upon wages and not steal from others, even if they have more money than you.

      Laos has an official overtime fee of 1$, when crossing before 8am, after 4pm, or on weekends or holidays. This is not corruption.

      1. OfficialTravelNews

        How can you all be so stupid to think in Asia as you must think at your shit homecountries ?

        I got millionnaire in $ thanks to corruption and I am not ready to stop supporting it !!!

  2. Chedric Angeles

    Hi great blog post here! I’ll be traveling the Indochina countries next week and I would just like to confirm if I got right that the fare from Voeung Kam/Dom Kralor border is 35,000LAK and you found a cheaper one which is 20,000LAK? Or does that amount correspond to the boat ride to 4000 islands? Thank you for your response!

  3. Having made the Laos / Cambodia crossing today, I can confirm that there are still various scams in place:
    – extra fees charged by bus companies to manage the visa process
    – $2 exit stamp fee on Laos side
    – $1 health check form on entry to Cambodia

    The bus handling is also completely non-transparent and chaotic at both the cambodian side of the border, and also at Steung Treng. Was given incorrect information about the process by the bus agent.

    I’ve written my experience up at:

  4. I had a chat with Cambodian customs about how stupid are foreigners you make problems to give $5 more at the border when they spend thousands traveling around the world.
    It was so funny when they told me that they always enjoy seeing the ridiculous foreigners waiting hours in front of the desk to save $5.
    How stupid can you be not to understand that developing countries governments clearly allow some bribery because it keeps salary low ?
    Anyway, thanks to all, the custom officers stories really made me laugh !

  5. We are doing to Cambodia to Laos crossing in two days!! Thanks for all the advice! Love that the comments here still make it uptodate even though the post is older!!

  6. Can someone here please confirm that if is possible to get a VISA ON ARRIVAL at the Cambodian Boarder upon entering into Laos & heading towards the 4000 island. NOT the other direction.

    There have been very mixed reports of if we are able to get a visa on arrival at this boarder going in direction of Laos.

    I am well aware that it is possible to get the visa on arrival going in the opposite direction from Laos into Cambodia without any issues. It has always been possible in that direction.

    However it was not possible in the other direction, I really near a clear answer of this as I won’t have time to get to the Laos Embassy in Phnom Penh & organise a Laos Visa beforehand…….so I am really hoping this to be the case.

    Please anyone with some answers, let me know!!!!! Thank you! :)

  7. Lifetime Travelmates

    Thanks you for this useful post and info. And also thanks for the comments.
    We are a few days away to cross border from Cambodia to Laos and it always helps to see different experiences and to know what to expect!
    Cheers and happy travels!

    1. Funny thing, Agness (one of the Etramping duo) will go to Laos next month too, so she will finally get to use these tips from my trip a few years ago. Enjoy Laos guys!

  8. Nothing changed at the end of 2019.
    Cambodia side allowed me to pass without bribe, but Lao side officer shouted -Go back to Cambodia if no pay!!
    2$ is small money, but this is corruption and we support it with our own money.
    I don’t need visa, just stamp FREE. But officer does not care about law….
    “Welcome to Lao”

    1$ per passport normal day.
    2$ per passport holiday

    1. Thanks a lot for the update, Tatiana! It’s a pity it didn’t change but I hope there will be an official investigation into this one day.

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