Cambodia scams: Poipet border scams (and how to avoid them)

The Thailand-Cambodia border is known for scams, and the border crossing between Bangkok and Siem Reap (at Aranyaprathet on the Thai side and Poipet on the Cambodia side) is especially bad! If you know what to expect before you go, it’s entirely possible to avoid the scams and have a painless border crossing. Here are the most common Cambodia border scams:

avoid Poipet border scams

The Poipet border is known for scams, but they are easy to avoid!

Visa assistance scam

Before you arrive at the border, your bus company may stop in Aranyaprathet and suggest that you allow them to handle your visa application for an added fee of between $5 and $20. They may make it seem like you must hand over your passport and let them process it for you. This is not true. They will also tell you that it will save time. This is also not true. They will usually tell you the charge in Thai baht, or half in baht, half in US dollars, to make the charges more confusing.

You may also be taken to the Cambodian Embassy in Aranyaprathet to get a visa before you cross the border. The cost in baht will be 1,400 to 1,800, which is far more than the cost at the border of $30 (around 980 baht). Know that these are optional and completely unnecessary services. Get your Cambodia visa yourself at the border, not in Thailand.

Visa processing fees or exit fee scams

The cost for a tourist visa to Cambodia is $30. When you go to get your visa, you may be told there’s a 100 baht (about $3) processing fee. There is no processing fee; this is just a bribe, or “tea money,” and you do not need to pay it. Politely insist that you only have $30 on you. (It’s best to come with exact change in the correct currency, as this strengthens your hand considerably.) You may be taken out of line and made to wait 5 or 10 minutes, but rejoin the line and ask again, and eventually they will process your visa for no additional fees.

If you arrive without a passport photo for your visa, you will be told that you need to pay an additional $5 to cover the cost of them scanning your passport. The “official unofficial” cost for this service is $2. Again, have exact change and offer $2.

If you are told you must additionally pay an “exit fee,” this is a scam. There is no exit fee for Cambodia or Thailand.

Poipet Cambodia border crossing scams

Just keep walking and avoid anyone at the Poipet border who suggests you change money, offers visa assistance, or says they can help.

Express stamping service scam

After you get your Cambodia visa you will need to get stamped in to Cambodia. You may be offered an express stamping service for 200 Thai baht to save you the hassle of waiting in line. The line is rarely more than 20 minutes, even if they tell you it will be an hour or more. Express stamping is not an official service and is just another bribe. Don’t pay it.

Currency exchange scam

Do not change money with random people who approach you, even if they are wearing a uniform. The exchange rate you will get is extortionate. You do not need to change your Thai baht while at the border; you can get very good rates once you arrive in Siem Reap. And you do not need to buy Cambodian riel before you enter the country. The US dollar is the de facto currency in Cambodia, and in fact you cannot even pay for your Cambodia visa with Cambodian riel!

Before you go, it’s also a good idea to know what the exchange rate is between Thai baht, Cambodian riel, and your home currency. This will help you avoid accidentally agreeing to pay $8 for a mango, for example.

Poipet scams

Despite the name, the Poipet international bus terminal is not where you want to go to find a bus.

The international tourist bus terminal scam

One you arrive in Poipet, you’ll be immediately persuaded to get onto a free shuttle that will take you to the ‘Poipet Tourist Passenger International Terminal,’ a bus terminal 9 kilometers outside of town that exists for the sole purpose of ripping tourists off. Those who end up at the terminal will have limited options of overpriced buses and shared taxis, and will usually end up waiting for a very long time for a bus or taxi to fill up with other unsuspecting passengers before they are allowed to leave.

If you are offered a free shuttle to the bus terminal, politely decline and walk towards the Poipet New Market, which is about 15 minutes from the border (you can also take a moto for less than $1). Go straight down National Road 5, and turn left after the Canadia Bank. Buses leave from the market, but you may not even make it that far because many bus company offices are along the way. You can book a ticket in advance, if you’re worried, or even better do the entire trip from Thailand on a direct bus.

Taxi fees

The Poipet police shake the taxi drivers down for $10 every time they leave Poipet. Middlemen also add fees on top of the actual fare. What sometimes happens is you’ll agree on a price, pay the full amount up front, and then five minutes later be asked for another $10 to cover the police shakedown. The further you walk from the border to catch a taxi, the less likely this is to happen. Don’t pay in advance and refuse to pay anything extra above what has been agreed upon. You can also book an SUV taxi in advance, in which case you won’t need to pay anything extra.

Scammy bus stops

This is not a scam, per se, but be aware that your bus driver will encourage you to buy things at various stops along the way because he gets a cut. Know that you are allowed to use the toilet at any of the stops (bring your own paper!) and are not obligated to purchase anything.

32 Responses to Cambodia scams: Poipet border scams (and how to avoid them)

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    Adam L says:

    Anyone who has a lonely planet guide and does a minimal amount of research will know what the safe ways to transit the border are. You just have to do a minimal amount of planning ahead. We got our Cambodia visas in Bangkok ahead of time so it wasn’t an issue at all for us.

    Heidi says:

    I agree we vere naive. We have bought plenty tours and transfer ticket in Thailand with no problems.
    The common scams we knew, but the blackmail with dropping us off in the middle of nowhere we didnt see coming.

    Heidi says:

    We did the intire trip from Thailand, and still got scammed big time. We were set of 10 km from the bus station and transferred to tuc tuc. We were told we could arrange transport to hotel and pay or get free shuttle to bus station.
    Since we could not agree to a price we asked to the free shuttle.
    In the middle of nowhere the driver stopped and said now where in the town middle, se there are people so this i mid town (we were nowhere midtown Siem reap). We vere travelling with two small children. We asked again to get to bus station and he started screaming at us, wanted pay and even got fysical.
    Small kids crying in the middle of nowhere. Dont feel Safe just because you bought at trip all the way. I would say, with small kids, dont do this trip, it is not the danger and nightmare worth it. Get at plaine.

      The issue is really that people don’t research this trip until after they have been scammed. If you use one of the recommended bus companies the trip is not an issue at all; I have done it dozens of times myself with no problems.

        Heidi says:

        I agree we vere naive. We have bought plenty tours and transfer ticket in Thailand with no problems.
        The common scams we knew, but the blackmail with dropping us off in the middle of nowhere we didnt see coming.

    Ross says:

    arrived in Poipet by train and apart from being pestered by touts all the way through, no problem.
    Agreed on a $48 taxi fare with one of them and forewarned made sure it was the only money we were going to be charged, it was for the two of use and full fare to the hotel. Yep, yep and yep.
    We didn’t get shaken down by the cops for an extra $10 so that was good but they did stop in Siem Reap at a carpark and try to transfer us to a tuk tuk.
    Driver suddenly couldn’t speak english and the tuk tuk driver said that taxis were’t allowed in town. I said he was a liar and we weren’t getting out of the car until we were at our hotel. Eventually the driver reluctantly took us to our hotel.
    When he got there he didn’t have any USD change, strangely enough, so I made him give me 8000 riel. He would have got the change happily as a tip but as he tried to rip us off, notwithstanding the inflated taxi fare in the first place, he got nothing.
    Didn’t put us off Cambodia though, there’s scammers pretty much everywhere in SEA

    DB says:

    I recently travelled on the Nattakan bus that leaves from BKK Morchit at 9:00am and goes right through to Siem Reap.

    At Aranyaprathet a group of Thai men came on the bus, handing out passes, a cheap meal, and visa forms, telling us that the price was 1700 baht ($55). They did not, of course, tell us we had the choice of applying ourselves for $30.

    People were confused, and felt rushed into paying the $55. When I objected to the price I was told (very quietly and unpleasantly) that I could apply myself. I was also given information about visas that I simply didn’t believe. Ultimately, I got off the bus and made another plan. It seems like most, if not all the foreign passengers paid the $55.

    Nattakan have acknowledged that this has happened in the past, and that they take it seriously blah blah blah but it’s clearly still going on. Judging from reviews it doesn’t seem to be happening every day, but this was a slick operation and I’d be surprised if it isn’t happening on a regular basis. I would strongly recommend against booking this service.

      Lina says:

      Yes, this is very common on most bus services that cross this border, unfortunately, which is why I’ve listed it first! This is a border that it pays to have done some research before crossing. I would suggest complaining to whomever you bought the ticket through…companies like BookMeBus do relay those complaints to the company.

        DB says:


        I did complain to BookMeBus and detailed exactly what happened, and when. Deafening silence at their end!

        Hopefully it did get passed on, though given their lack of communication on the matter, I’m not too hopeful.

        Great, though, that this issue is well highlighted here, as the service is talked up in other places and the reviews on BookMeBus currently average four stars.

    Waseem says:

    After reading of all this shits….why don’t we all decides not to go to Cambodia for one month and then give them a chance to think for their habits and corrupt attitude…You will see a magic…they will be on out feet and would be begging for our visit…their airlines will be crashed….just be united and teach them a lesson….they must be punished….

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