Information about the land border crossing Laos – Cambodia: transport and immigration including common scams. It is based on my own experience in January 2015, and updated many times with the feedback of other travelers. Last update: 2018.
I did not know that it was a hard border. I knew there was a lot of corruption in one of the Thailand-Cambodia borders, but I ignored it was the same in the (only) Laos Cambodia border crossing.
This is some information about the border completed with my experience there in January 2015, and updated with the comments from other travelers who where there in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Thanks to all the travelers who help keeping this information up to date! In encourage you to read their experience in the comments section at the end of the post.
Transport from Laos (4000 islands) to Cambodia
There are no cities nor villages next to the border (like Chiang Khong and Huay Xai in the Thailand-Laos border). So the best plan is to take a combined ferry-bus ticket directly from the islands to a city in Cambodia, either the one where you want to go, either Stung Treng, which is the closest one to the border.
- All buses from the islands stop in Stung Treng. If you go to Siem Reap, Kratie or Phnom Penh you will have to change bus there (combined tickets exist).
- Don Khon to Stung Treng: 17-18$
- In Nakasan there is an exchange money place next to the bus station that has good rates to change lao kips to dollars.
The transport in the area is quite chaotic. I had booked a ticket (through my guesthouse in Don Khon) with a bus company, but I was sent to another company because they had sold more tickets than they had seats. The bus I was sent to was less comfortable than the one I had paid for, and it arrived later in Stung Treng.
At the border
Visa on arrival: Either at the bus station, or on the bus, a man offers to get the visa for you. This is of course more expensive, and not really worth since doing it by yourself is not difficult (there are scams nobody can avoid, but it is not difficult. Additionally, I prefer to keep my passport with myself).
Money: In this border there are no banks nor ATM, so take enough money. In Cambodia dollars are accepted everywhere so no need to change to riels.
Coming out from Laos
In this specific border, you need to pay 2 dollars to get the stamp. I met people who left Laos through other borders and did not need to pay that, so not sure it is an official fee. In any case, no money, no stamp.
Recommendation: try to give the exact money. One guy gave 10 dollars and was told they did not have change (strange, since everybody was paying the exact 2 dollars). His friend gave him 2 dollars, and when he gave them to the policeman, he got 5 dollars back instead of the 10 bill he had given. After a lot of discussion and a bit of shouting, he got his 10 dollars back.
Once you have the stamp in the Lao side, you walk to Cambodia. At the Cambodian side, there are three huts:
- First, on the left: medical check. They give a paper to fill (asking where have you been and if you have symptoms of being sick), and charge you 1 dollar. This is not official, you can skip it (I did it because I did not dare to confront them, but later I saw people refusing to pay or just passing by without stopping there).
- Second, behind the stamp office: visa office. Fill the form, give one passport photograph, pay, and get your visa.
- Third, on the right: stamp office. Fill the entrance-departure form, give it with the passport, get the stamp.
Note: the official price for the visa as for January 2015 is 30$. In this border, they charge 35$. Paying in other currencies is even more expensive.
Some people in my bus refused to pay 35$ and started discussing with the officials. The officials refused to give the visa for 30$. The guys waited. They waited for about two hours and finally gave up and paid 35$. One of them, the last one to give up, managed to pay 30$. Meanwhile, we were waiting (not sure if we waited for them or other people, we were told two people from Pakse should go into our bus). In any case, we were waiting two hours at the border.
Stung Treng is the closest city to the border (about one hour or two). All buses stop in Stung Treng, where people change to the buses to Siem Reap, Kratie or Phnom Penh. You can buy a combined ticket from Laos or buy your onward trip from Stung Treng. If you want to continue the trip the same day, it is easier to buy the combined ticket and probably about the same price.
Update April 2016: Julia wrote a detailed comment telling us about her experience at the border. She explains that the “buses” going from Stung Treng to Siem Reap were in fact overloaded mini vans. You can read the whole experience in the comments below. Thanks Julia!
I left Don Khon at 8:30 and reached Stung Treng at 13:30 or 14:00. There was a lunch break for the people who continued the trip in the afternoon, so I guess they reached Siem Reap or Phnom Penh quite late in the evening. I spent the night in Stung Treng (I do not like to reach my destination in the evening) and continued my trip to Ban Lung the day after.
Have you recently crossed this border? How was your experience?
Would you like to read more? These are the posts I wrote about Cambodia:
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