Crossing the border from Laos into Cambodia was not the easiest, or the most pleasant, of experiences. In fact, it was a downright nightmare. For your convenience, we have decided to share our secrets of misery. Behold the list of surefire ways to ruin your own border crossing. Pay close attention.
1. Believe everything you read on the internet regarding transport of vehicles, especially motorbikes, across borders. It is very important to get as much information as you can pertaining to this particular situation. Check out Lonely Planet and various southeast Asia biking websites. They will promise that you can take your bikes across the border, and you will believe them. Soon enough, you will find out you cannot, no matter how much bribing you do, because when you actually need border officials to be corrupt, they won’t be.
2. Return to town to sell your bikes. This will ruin your plans for nearly the rest of your trip, or at least the next few months, but really, what choice do you have? As a bonus, hordes of townspeople will gather to paw at the bikes, twisting knobs, scratching at paint, smelling the exhaust pipe, with no intention of purchasing them. You then have to deal with false hope for a few hours. If for some reason your conscience is doing ok at the moment, try promising the bike to someone, and while he is away to get the money, sell the bike—for less money—to someone else. After all, you need to catch that tuk-tuk back to the border now.
3. Make sure to do all of the above in the blistering heat of midday, without any lunch.
4. When you arrive at the border for the second time, do ensure that the man at the counter is the one you had a shouting match with earlier in the day when he promised to buy both bikes, made you wait for him to eat lunch, and then told you never mind. He will be ever so glad to see you, especially after that comment about his mother.
5. When said man stamps your passport and demands an illegal $2 stamp fee, go ahead and pay it. You don’t want any trouble, and didn’t need a bottle of water anyway.
6. When you reach the Cambodian side of the border, don’t forget to pay yet another illegal fee of $5 straight to the pocket of the finally-corrupt official. He’ll give you a nice grimace for it. Oh, and on your way out and you have to pee and don’t know where the bathroom is, ensure that the only person you can find to ask is the official who told you to go away after standing and begging at his table, waiting and waiting for him to change his mind and tell you that yes, you can bring your bikes to the border. But he won’t. Instead, he will see your face and roll his eyes as he attempts to ignore you. But you will persist and demand his attention. Because you really have to go.
7. Finally, once stamped and into Cambodia, you will be lucky enough to find that your only option to get into town is a $40 minibus. After told this price you will be ever so grateful that you refused the driver earlier who said that he would take you for $10, because that was obviously a rip-off.
There you have it folks, the 7 steps to ruining your perfectly planned border crossing. If all goes according to these steps, you won’t have any surprises, and will be able to handle whatever comes up. As for us, we’ll probably skip the steps next time.