As EU citizens, we needed a Visa for entering Cambodia. There is a supposedly convenient visa-on-arrival (VOA) process at most border crossings and all international airports. We opted for that and it should become our first act of proper bribery on this journey.
This post won’t have any pictures. It was strictly forbidden to take pictures in the immigration area
The Visa on Arrival Process: Theory
The process for obtaining a VOA for tourism should be straight forward. A little bit of paperwork, 30 US$ per person and some minutes of waiting are the necessary ingredients.
We obtained 60 US$ in Kuala Lumpur. Pages like wikivoyage had some mild warnings about corrupt border officials. Apparently, they sometimes ask for a bit more than 30 US$. However, they don’t insist on it when you just pay the official 30 US$.
I thought it was a good idea to have exactly the right amount of money. I can’t pay more than I have, right? In hindsight, it would have been smarter to bring some extra US$.
The Visa on Arrival Process: Practice
We arrived at the airport and had no trouble finding the immigration offices. There was some necessary paperwork, nothing unusual. We filled out all the forms. Finally, we needed to attach a passport photo to the paperwork. Of course we are travelling with a few spare photos for such occasions.
However, due to some communication issues (and probably also as a result of our fever ridden departure from Kuala Lumpur), we realised that all our photos were in our checked baggage – completely out of reach for us and probably still in the belly of the airplane.
A moment of panic caught me but Katja calmed me down – Let’s just hand in the form. What are they gonna do, not let us in?
So we approached the immigration desk with our 100% picture-free forms, passports and each 30 US$ in hand.
The Act of Bribery
The official was just in the process of cleaning his finger nails with some office scissors and finished that duty before paying any attention to us.
Then he offered us free entry into the country if we allow him to cut my beard (He made that offer pointing to my face with the aforementioned pair of scissors). We politely declined, opting for the usual 30 US$ fee.
He collected our 30 US$ each, putting them in some kind of cash register. Then he asked for 4 US$ to compensate for the missing pictures. I have to admit, my planning could have been better. We had neither pictures nor any more US$.
After communicating our lack of further US$, the official asked What else do you have? An interesting question. I quickly rummaged through my bag and found some left over Indonesian money (We didn’t manage to get rid of all cash in Indonesia and it was not enough to make a visit to an exchange office worth it.)
I presented a 20.000 IDR note on the table. The official didn’t look too pleased. Mumbling I have another one of these, I placed a second 20.000 IDR on the table. This seemed to do the trick. The two bills quickly disappeared in his (private?) suitcase, he waved us to the waiting area and 3 min later we had a visa in our passports and could pass immigration without further ado.
I have no idea if the immigration officer was aware of how much 40.000 IDR are worth. But for us, this was pretty much the perfect outcome. 40.000 IDR are nearly 3 US$ – of money we don’t have any use for anymore. And on top of that, we still have all our passport photos, which might come in handy for other countries VOA.