Crossing the border from Laos to Cambodia should be easy, right? When a travel agent in Laos tell you that you’ll be getting a direct bus from the border, you expect to get a direct bus from the border. Of course, this wasn’t the case and thoroughly rounded up my case that all transport in Laos is a bit rubbish. Here’s the length of time the journey should’ve taken:
As the heading suggests, the journey to Phnom Penh was not one of my favourites. I’d booked a ticket from Don Det, Laos, to Phnom Penh. This whole trip cost around $23. Something which really grinds my gears about travelling in South East Asia, is the waiting around. Waiting, always waiting, yet no one seems to know why. I got the boat from Don Det to Nakasong at 8am. I waited for over an hour to get a bus to the Cambodian border. This was probably the most comfortable vehicle I travelled in all day, even with its limited leg room.
The guy who seemed to be in charge of organising the trip to the border offered to sort our visa out for $40. This is unnecessary – it’s simple enough to do yourself without the extra cost. He did get a little rude with us when we refused.
I paid $2 for an exit stamp from Laos. And yes, I’d already read that this is a scam, and yes, I knew that technically I didn’t have to pay it, but considering you can’t enter Cambodia without a Laos exit stamp, what was I supposed to do?
The Cambodia border was slightly better. Only the ‘quarantine’ scam was open to us (hint: walk straight past them). They’ll tell you that you need the form if you need medical treatment in Cambodia. This is a complete lie – I ended up in the hospital in Cambodia and not one staff member asked for my quarantine form. A visa can be obtained on arrival for $35.
Finally in Cambodia
By this point, it’s heading towards lunch time. The whole group had to wait by the border for around an hour to get transport to our next destination. 16 of us squeezed into a minivan with our luggage, heading for a destination unknown to us. We knew we had to stop somewhere as the group was a mixture of tourists going to either Phnom Penh or Siem Reap.
We stopped at a small restaurant in the middle of nowhere but close to Stung Treng. We were there for perhaps an hour when a minivan came to pick up the group heading towards Phnom Penh. There were empty seats in the minivan, which seemed too good to be true. Of course, it was. About 5 minutes later we were dropped off and told to get on another bus. The bus was full. As in, the driver was sharing his seat full.
It took over half an hour to leave Stung Treng. Once we finally got moving, the driver kept stopping to pour water on the front of the bus which kept overheating.
The bus arrived in Kratie around 5pm and we had to change buses there. We were put in the back of a minivan. By this point, I was one of two westerners left travelling to Phnom Penh. We were in the back with no legroom and squished next to everyone’s luggage. Everyone else on the minivan seemed squashed as there were double the amount of people there should’ve been.
We spent 5 hours crammed in the back of the minivan, music blaring, legs cramping, but we made it to Phnom Penh!
What I Learned
- Transport in Laos is officially the worst in South East Asia (I’m yet to experience Vietnam or Myanmar but I’ll keep you posted!)
- Don’t attempt the journey from Don Det to Phnom Penh in one day. Maybe stop in Kratie or go to Siem Reap.
- Always take extra dollars for land borders.
Want to read more? Check out my posts about my time in Laos!