There is no pleasant way to cross the border by land into Cambodia. I’ve heard and read so many bad stories of scams, so I figured purchasing slightly more expensive bus tickets from a Western-run business would guarantee a smooth journey. Nope. Here is the letter I wrote below to that company:
A couple of friends and I purchased VIP minivan bus tickets from Adam’s Bar in Don Det to Siem Reap. We were told that the price was a bit higher ($40) because there would be WIFI and only 10 passengers per van, making it a more pleasurable journey. Unfortunately, here is what happened during our journey on Tuesday, June 3rd:
– There were 15 people uncomfortably crammed into a small, beat-up van. Our luggage was stored beneath our feet, so there was no leg room. Everyone was lined shoulder to shoulder and had to shift every now and then due to cramps and numbness.
– Once on the Cambodian side, a surly English-speaking man told us that we had to pay $2 USD each to take a ferry to cross a river. When we told him we paid $40 for transportation all the way to Siem Reap, he told us, “That’s fine. You don’t have to cross the river.”
– After being forced to pay him $2, we got on a ferry and asked locals how much they paid. A nice woman told us about 4,000 riel, which is $1 USD.
– We planned to confront the man after we got off the ferry, but he was nowhere to be found, even though he said he was going to accompany us to the other side. He had disappeared.
– All 15 of us didn’t really know where to go after crossing the ferry, but two men in a really shitty beat-up van waved us down from a distance. They told us we were going to Siem Reap.
– We loaded all our gear into the van. Without any explanation, they made us wait around for 30 minutes. Finally we asked the men when we were leaving. One of the men handed me his cell phone. I took the phone and ended up speaking with the man who took our money at the ferry. He told me we had to wait another 30 minutes because the van did not have any gas. I asked him if he was coming back and he told me yes.
– We finally got gas. The man of course did not show up. We were at the ferry for about 1.5 hours before finally heading to Siem Reap.
– There was no WIFI in the van.
– During the uncomfortable 5 hour ride or so from the ferry to Siem Reap, we all got hungry. We passed numerous food stands, and the driver finally took a break about 45 minutes out of Siem Reap, but in the middle of the woods away from any villages or vendors.
– We were all dropped off several kilometers outside of Siem Reap in a small alley, where a number of scam-hungry tuk tuks were waiting for us. Since it was night, it was pitch dark, and having to deal with the tuk tuk drivers after the unpleasant journey ended up being a game no one wanted to play.
The experience would have been fine if we were not expecting a pleasurable experience at a higher cost. There was definitely not wifi, we were crammed in a van, we were scammed by being forced to pay a ferry fee, we were lied to constantly by the man who “escorted” us to the ferry, and we were not taken directly into Siem Reap. I just wanted to let you know that if you negotiated a deal with a Cambodian tour company for “VIP service” for your customers, you are not being told the truth. I’m writing you to let you know so you can be aware of what you are selling to your customers.
Note: So far, Cambodia has only been the country where we had to hope we were being taken to our destination. Upon our arrival in the dark alley, the tuk tuk drivers all offered free rides. I’m glad we chose not to trust them and declined because I later found out that they only took travelers to the same dodgy guesthouse where they can earn a commission.