Cambodia: Border Crossing and Documentation

This post is about the government documentation we needed and obtained to bring our car and ourselves into Cambodia.

Cambodia in General

There is not a lot on the Cambodian customs website on the process to temporarily import a vehicle into Cambodia. But there was some useful information on “Jon and Jude | Lost + Found Adventures” website which outlined the process well. As we are finding out, the process is often different to others anyway, as was the case for us. The process was very easy for us, as we had Carnet De Passages which was accepted by the officials.

Before the Border

A recent photograph is required for the Visa on Arrival and is the only paperwork required before the border. There is no mandatory third party car insurance requirement in Cambodia, as far as we can tell. So, no need to buy any insurance and we did not see anyone selling insurance anyhow.

Border Crossing Import Process

We crossed into Cambodia at the Poi Pet Checkpoint which is located on the western side of the country, sharing a border with Thailand. Thailand National Highway 33 at Aranyaphrathet joins Cambodia National Highway 5 at Poi Pet. This is apparently the busiest crossing point with Thailand and we saw long lines of trucks queueing at the border crossing along lots of hand drawn carts, cars and motorcycles crossing over. We also saw officials stamping stacks and stacks of paperwork which were being brought in oversized shopping bags.

There is a three-step process to cross the border in a private car. First, you park your car and get a Visa on Arrival. Once issued with a crispy minted Visa we passed through immigration. The final step was Customs for the Vehicle and then we could drive across the border into Cambodia. The whole process took about 45 minutes and everyone was very friendly.

  • Step 1: The very first thing we had to do after leaving Thailand was to cross over to the other side of the road, the right hand side. Right after crossing the bridge we were directed to pull over to the side of the road and park while we got our Visa on Arrival. We completed a simplified form, handed in our passports, a $20USD visa fee each and a recent passport photo. Apparently we also had to pay 100 Baht per person for something, and it was not entirely clear what this something was. We suspect it was a psuedo-official bribe. We ended up paying $5USD total for both of us as we had no Baht left. The visa took about 5 minutes to issue and we had shiny new stickers in our passports.
  • Step 2. There was no line at immigration and within a few minutes we had filled in our arrival/departure card, handed this with our passport to the immigration officer who took our photo and electronically finger printed all our fingers and thumbs. Shortly after we had an entry stamp in our passport for 30 days.
  • Step 3. Back in the car we drove to the Police checkpoint where we were asked to pull over and out of the way of others. We then walked about 200 meters to the Customs House which was near a large white building on the left hand side of the road, after the round-about. An official helped us find the right office, which was completely unmarked. The officer in charge wanted our Carnet, which was a little surprising, as we did not know that Cambodia accepted the Carnet. So I headed back to the car to get the Carnet. Once we had the Carnet, it took less than a minute to get the right stamps. Then we walked back to the checkpoint where we showed our stamped Carnet and we proceeded across the barrier into Cambodia.
After the Border

About 5 kms after the border we saw a sign advertising Car Insurance. We drove on. We probably will not get car insurance.

Leaving Cambodia

We departed Cambodia at the border crossing into Laos, located about 60 kms north of Stung Treng. On the Laos side this border is called Veun Kham. Leaving was a breeze and took less than 5 minutes. The border post was pretty empty, we did see a bus full of western tourists but we think that they were crossing in the other direction. We did not see any other cars crossing and we did not have to get in line behind others.

  • Step 1. There was a massive and empty administrative building on the left side of the road probably built to handle hundreds of people crossing an hour with multiple lanes and checkpoint booths. As expected, it was pretty much deserted. As such, we drove right by a small customs booth to the immigration border and were promptly sent back. We handed over our carnet, a few quizzical looks and then out came the stamps and we were quickly on our way. No stamping fee. Once the paperwork was complete, we got a nice smile and “Good luck on yourvtrip” from the customs guy.
  • Step 2. We drove another 100 meters or so to the immigration check-point and stopped our car to hand over our passports at a small booth. We were quickly asked to pay a USD$2 “stamping fee” per person (aka bribe) and moments later we were on our way. The barrier was lifted and we drove on through.

There was no inspection of the vehicle. There were no scammers trying to “help us”. All of the officials were quick and efficient and did not bother us with questions.