Cambodia – Scammed at the Border
We’ve really enjoyed Cambodia. As is common with this type of traveling we’ve met some amazing people. We’ve gained huge insight into a culture we knew very little about. We’ve learned about a horrifying recent historical event that we were embarrassingly ignorant of. Overall, we’ve loved most of our month long visit BUT being scammed at the border sucks! Excuse the language but really, finding a gentler substitute just doesn’t quite cover the feelings.
Like all good scams, we had no idea we had even been duped. It wasn’t even a walk away and 10 minutes later realization that you had been taken. It was a 2 weeks later while researching another common scam you realize you’d been taken – big time.
It went something like this….
We arrived at the Phnom Penh International airport after 30 some exhausting hours of travel and presented the four (sixteen if you count doing them for 4 people) completed forms, passport photos and passports at the window. We were thankful for a short line and a seemingly rapid process….ha – little did I know why it was so streamlined. Being quite observant, I did notice the sign stating all the pricing. It did mention that adults were $35 and I did notice that it specifically stated Adult. So, after presenting our stack of passports and documents, Mr. Immigration tells me that children are only charged half that of adults. I recall turning to the children and telling them they were bargains in Cambodia. Rrriiiighttt! Joke’s on me (and frankly every other family with children we’ve come across). As it turns out, I was double crossed less than many. You see, I was charged $15 for each of the kids (hence the “bargain” from my $35 visa fee) while most people get charged the full price for kids. As most counties (every other one we’ve entered to date) charge the same visa charge for adults and children this scam goes unnoticed and glossed over by, I suspect, the majority of us who do enter with kids. Bummer.
While this isn’t the end of the world, it sure does put a damper on the experience of being here. No one wants to be tricked, fooled into parting with money they don’t need to. I do understand that these officials receive very little salary. In fact, the majority of Cambodian families make, on average, $5 USD a week. (Think how much my extra $45 boosted their take home pay that day). Yes, I know, there is extreme poverty here. We’ve seen it 85 percent of the time we’ve been in the country. It’s why we try to travel as responsibly as possible. But somehow that doesn’t make me feel better. We have given to organizations removing the millions of landlines still present in Cambodia or paid additional entrances fees to help with the local schools. We do want to help – but not when it enters the hands of government workers and officials who are knowingly deceiving many of us who are traveling in their country.
Pessimism aside, Cambodia is a country rich in history, cultural traditions and hands down, perhaps the best theatrical acrobatic show around – certainly the best I’ve ever seen. We’ll cherish the memories we have and hope to continue friendships we’ve made. As for the scams…we’ll leave those memories behind and hopefully warn those who come after us so they too aren’t … scammed at the border.