Why We Hated Our First Day in Cambodia


We hated our first day in Cambodia so much, we almost turned around and headed back to Thailand. Here's why:

You get ripped off from the get-go.

The only way to cross the Laos-Cambodia border is to book a ticket that takes you onward to your destination in Cambodia. We knew this, and we knew we'd have to pay for it. Our ticket from the Four Thousand Islands cost $21 to Ban Lung on the Cambodia side. $21 USD for a journey of about 200 kilometers. (So often we went twice as far for half as much). It sucks, but there's nothing you can do.

TIP: Prepare to overpay if you're going to Cambodia from Don Det or Don Khon

There's no way around it, other than heading backwards to Pakse.

For the price, we expected a decent bus and okay service. What we got instead was a guy on the Laos side insisting that the only way to cross the border was to hand him our passports so he could "make it easy." When I called out his bluff—you should NEVER hand your passport to some random person—he got super aggressive and started threatening me. Rob basically told him to go to hell, and he left us alone. A few other people refused to give their passports, but the rest of the tourists did it, which means this awful man made over $100 in two hours by ripping people off.

TIP: Never believe someone who says they need to "process" your passport at a border crossing—especially when you're 25 kilometers from the border

They just overcharge you for doing what you can do yourself.


Things didn't get any better at the border.

From research beforehand, we expected the border "officials" to overcharge and they did so brilliantly. We had to pay $2 to leave Laos, $1 for a "health check" before Cambodia, and $25 for our Cambodian visas, which should only be $20. Supposedly you can put up a fight and if you bring supporting materials from the Cambodian embassy, the officials back down and charge the correct amount.

TIP: Prepare to be ripped off at the border between Laos and Cambodia

Again, there's nothing you can do unless you're willing to argue for a long time. If so, bring backup.

The worst was still to come.

Our connecting bus didn't arrive for about an hour, which meant we sat outside in the sweltering heat and waited. Once the bus came, we put our bags on and boarded. The bus driver turned the bus around, turned it off, and left. After about another hour, he came back, visibly intoxicated. We knew we only had 50 or so kilometers to go before our transfer so we held our breath that we'd be okay, which we were.

The bus dropped us off on the side of the road a few kilometers past Stung Treng. The bus representative told us it would be an hour before our connection came. Over three hours later, there was still no bus. One of the locals was kind enough to call the number on our ticket, only to be told it was no longer the bus company (a complete lie.) At that point, we had little choice: get stranded on the side of the road or book onward transport. We did the latter, paying another $6 for a shared minivan that stopped in front of us and had extra room.

In total, it cost us close to $30 each and took us about 12 hours to travel about 120 miles. Not the best first day in a country.

TIP: Do NOT book your Laos-Cambodia connection with Paramount Angkor Express

Once we had internet, I looked into this company and there are several reports of them getting into accidents, driving erratically, etc. When you book your bus, ask who the company is. There's another one (with a VIP bus) that looked much better.

More Cambodia

Interested in reading more about budget travel in Cambodia? Check out our Cambodia backpacking pages.

What Do You Think?

Have you ever had a travel day that made you want to go home? Let us know in the comments.