How to make a visa run: Crossing the border at Cham Yeam International Checkpoint

There may come a day when you need to make a quick visa run to Thailand. And while Poipet is a nightmare few expats want to relive, crossing the border at Cham Yeam is a much more relaxed experience. Prepare to deal with a bit of hassle and to be dramatically overcharged for your visa, but don’t fear the wild scams traditionally found up in Poipet.

Cambodia Thailand border Koh Kong

Crossing the Cambodia-Thailand border at Koh Kong doesn’t have to be a hassle.

As of 2017, here is what you can expect if you plan to be crossing the border at Cham Yeam International Checkpoint outside of Koh Kong, Cambodia to Hat Lek, Thailand.

Getting to the border from Koh Kong

For a quick one-day visa run to Thailand and back to Cambodia, you have a wealth of transport options: choose from renting your own moto and driving, or paying a motodop or tuk tuk to wait for you.

The easiest and most hassle-free way to get from Koh Kong to Cham Yeam is by hiring your own moto for the day. Motos can be had from Rithy’s Guesthouse on the waterfront in Koh Kong for only $5 per day. Drive out to the checkpoint by crossing the bridge then following the signs. You’ll find parking at the border and can do the rest by foot.

If that doesn’t sound appealing, you can easily hire a motodop or tuk-tuk to take you to the border and back. Motodops should cost about $2 one way, and a tuk-tuk will probably ask for $5 one way. If hiring for round trip, the price could be double that, or less, depending on your bargaining skills.

cham yeam border crossing

The Cambodia side of the Cham Yeam border crossing.

Crossing the border at Cham Yeam International Checkpoint

As with all land borders between Cambodia and Thailand, be prepared to cross on foot. There is parking for motos if needed.

At the time of writing, neither the Thai nor the Cambodians cared about bicycles. You are free to ride a bike to the border and to cross with the bike.

Getting stamps on both the Cambodian and the Thai side are pretty straight forward. A young man waited on the Thai side to check my arrival card and make sure I filled it out correctly. Same on the way back.

Purchasing my new Cambodian visa was another story, and the only scam really encountered on this crossing.

cham yeam Cambodia border crossing

The Thai side of the Cham Yeam border crossing.

Scams to look out for when crossing the border at Cham Yeam

First step, relax. You made the right choice coming down to Cham Yeam. This isn’t Poipet and there is none of the hassle and fraud that expats have come to fear from that particular border crossing.

Down here, things are much more laid back. Though you might get approached by some Cambodians with dollar signs in their eyes, the savvy expat won’t get scammed at this crossing.

Expect to start getting approached as soon as you walk up to the Cambodian checkpoint. Men will start to ask you where you are going almost immediately. Ask them politely to wait. You don’t need a guide to get through this crossing.

As you walk through the no-man’s land between the two countries, you’ll continue to be approached. Again, you don’t need a guide for this.

The hustle vanishes on the Thai side. There are no taxi drivers or tuk-tuks waiting on the other side. If you’re looking to get to Trat, vans line the road beyond the border. Walk 10 minutes from the border to find the vans on the right hand side. The cost is 120 Baht and they leave every hour.

If you’re crossing back into Cambodia, you can enter and leave Thailand within minutes with no questions asked. When entering Cambodia, ignore the men offering you transport services.

If you need to buy a new visa, walk up to the visa services window, not the arrivals window. Tell them which visa you’d like to buy then fill out the paperwork. Expect extortion. I paid $45 for an “ordinary” or business visa that should cost $35, and they completely ignored my attempts to bargain it down. Apparently $50 is not unusual on this border for a business visa.

After you get your visa, get a new stamp at the arrivals window and you’re done. Head back to Koh Kong or choose another option for traveling further.

Koh Kong to Trat

From the border, you can travel onward to Trat, or head back to Cambodia with your new visa.

Getting out: Traveling onwards from Cham Yeam International Checkpoint

There are limited options if you want to travel to other cities in Cambodia from this border.

On the Thai side, vans to Trat leave every hour and cost 120 baht. The bus to Bangkok is $20 and leaves at 1 p.m. Talk to the Rith Mony Transit guys on the Cambodian side to double-check.

On the Cambodian side of the border, the cheapest option is going to be the Rith Mony Transit bus, located just outside the border crossing, next to the parking. They offer services to cities around Cambodia. A ticket to Sihanoukville is $6, Phnom Penh for $8.

A word of caution, however: you get what you pay for with Rith Mony Transit. They are the cheapest and slowest bus company around. Take them if desperate, otherwise head back to Koh Kong to find a more reputable company.

There are also men running around who say they are part of an “agency” and can get you a bus ticket. Expect to pay around $10 to Phnom Penh or $15 to Sihanoukville. It was unclear whether you’re paying for a van or a bus, nor which company you are paying for. If you don’t like the idea of dealing with these guys, you can book a bus from Koh Kong online in advance for $12.

You can also find private taxis on the Cambodian side, although it is best if you book them in advance. Try calling Mr. Ben, he speaks English and is very helpful. He charges $60 from Koh Kong to Sihanoukville $60 or $70 to Phnom Penh. Or, for the same price, you can book a larger, more comfortable SUV taxi online in advance using a credit card.

Most of all, relax and take it easy. This border crossing is located right on the beach and comes with the relaxed vibe of an oceanside border crossing. Be ready to pay extra for your Cambodian visa, ignore the men who try to hassle you, take your time to get your bearings, and you won’t fall prey to any obvious scams.

Rithy’s Retreat Guesthouse
Central Riverfront in town, Koh Kong
T: 012 707 719

Mr. Ben Taxi
T: 015 3333 84
T: 031 8880908

14 Responses to How to make a visa run: Crossing the border at Cham Yeam International Checkpoint

    S says:

    Thanks for all the helpful info.
    I would suggest a slight update to this post in regards to being able to “enter and leave Thailand within minutes with no questions asked”, as it does not seem to be “no questions asked” now.
    Recently (early Feb 2020) I went through this border (Cambodia to Thailand) not planning to stay overnight in Thailand, but to return to Koh Kong the same day.
    The Thai side seems much stricter now, as their line of questioning while entering implied I should not return to Cambodia until the next day.
    When exiting the Thai side ~ an hour later, the officer graciously allowed for same day in/out, even though his line of questioning also implied making sure I was returning to Cambodia for some time. Then when applying for a new visa on the Cambodian side, the officers were surprised that I was granted entering/exiting the Thai side on the same day.
    The Khmer officers confirmed that In/out on the same day on the Khmer side was not the issue, it was an issue on the Thai processing side, even though on this day they did process me through, but with questioning concern.

      Thanks for this report. I have never heard of this happening before. There is a rule that you can only do a Thailand land crossing without a visa twice a year, so maybe that was the reason?

        S says:

        It was my first land crossing ever, so unlikely to be the reason.
        On a positive note, I was expecting to be overcharged for the visa on the Khmer side, but I wasn’t! Maybe cause I was chatting to them in Khmer.

          It’s very strange because I have never heard of any scammy at this border on the Thai side (or any legitimate reason to have to stay overnight). I also asked Travelfish (they are Thailand experts, I am not) and he hadn’t heard of this either. On the Cambodia side is another story.

            BaSt says:

            It’s not a scam, it’s just Thai customs who do not want anybody (from Thai to Kow or from Kow to Thai) doing any visa run. They get bored with these boring people not able to get a proper visa.

            Inform yourself more and you will know that it happens since months.

            Some people managed to pay 2000 Baht to go back the same day, but many had to spend a night.

            S says:

            Yes, I was surprised as well, as it went against all typical reports online and through friends who also told me it was fine to go in/out the Thai side on the same day. Maybe a one off then.
            Thankfully in the end it was ok!

              Let’s see if we get any more comments from others who this happened to and see if it’s a trend or not.

                Jason says:

                Hi, I can confirm that it was not possible to re-enter Cambodia on the same day at this crossing, when I tried in March this year.

                It was my first ever border crossing, so no issue there. The Thai officers simply said it was necessary to spend at least one night in Thailand. I had a guy waiting for me on the Cambo side to take me back to Koh kong, and I couldn’t get a signal to tell him I wasn’t coming. It was pretty inconvenient for us both.

                I have to say the actual crossing the following morning was pretty unpleasant on the Cambo side. Unofficial leeches attempt to order you around as soon as you arrive at the waiting area. Absolutely obnoxious. Nor was it possible to avoid giving them money, since the visa officer simply handed $5 of my visa fee (Yes, I was also charged $45 rather than the standard $35 for an ordinary visa) back through the window and over my shoulder to one of the leeches who had suddenly appeared behind me for what was clearly the usual routine. I hasten to add that the leech did absolutely nothing to merit this payment. I didn’t even speak to the guy. He appeared only for his $5 and then melted away again just as quickly.

                All in all, not an experience I would like to repeat. Both the officials and the scammers were aggressive, ordering people around, and raising their voices without any call. They begin by informing you that you will have to wait three hours (it was more like 30 minutes). While you wait patiently, they wander around in grimy vests, unshaven, occasionally ordering you to sit somewhere else, or the leeches advise you that you probably won’t be able to cross because of COVID-19, etc. Oh, and if you politely query the $45 price of your visa, then expect to be shouted at. On the whole there seemed to be a genuine hostilty to foreigners, which I found surprising.

                In summary, I was heartily glad that my first entry to Cambodia was not by land. If this had been my first experience of Cambodian people, then I daresay I would have got my entry stamp and then turned right around and gone back to Thailand.

                Fortunately, I have visited Cambodia many times, and know that the vast majority of Cambodian people are absolutely nothing like the kind of human dross you will encounter at this border crossing on the Cambodian side. I felt sorry for the backpackers though, some of whom seemed quite intimidated, and hoped it wasn’t their first experience of Cambodia.

    P says:

    Lovely article, thanks Megan. I need to do a VISA run to get a new VISA but I would rather my passport does the run and I wait for it to come back. Are there any agents who claim to be able to do this? Risky I know but one I would like to explore.

    Paul says:

    At the moment If it’s your first visit to Cambodia you can extend an ordinary/business visa (not tourist visa) by 1 month / 3 months / 6 months – but only for your first visa. But the government here is always moving the goal posts. So don’t take my word for it, research the most up to date posts and articles – and go to the governments site.

    Paul says:

    From early this month there are new rules regarding extending your business/ordinary visa – the rules have changed. And I have heard the government my start clamping down on visa runs. Please research the new rules that’s are starting to be enforced as from October 2017

    CannabisTourist says:

    Yes, this border is great, or maybe was, until hordes of backpackers read your post and flood there :-)
    Sorry, can you tell me why you got an ordinary visa ? It allows you to stay 1 year ? Thank you.

      Megan says:

      I purchased the ordinary visa because it can be extended easily from inside Cambodia. At the border they give you a 1 month ordinary/business visa. Then, from any main city, you can extend for 3, 6, or 12 months.

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