Getting into Cambodia as a tourist is pain free compared to other countries out there, in fact, the only prerequisite is that you have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months from your entry date and at least one empty page in your passport as the visa will take up an entire page. Citizens of every country qualify for a tourist visa on arrival, it’s available at all land border crossings and at Cambodian international airports. For the purpose of this article, I will assume you are arriving at an airport as Lisa and I did and do not have experience with the land border crossings (more on why we went via air in a later blog entry).
Before even landing, you will be given three pieces of paper (pictures to come later). This includes your application for the visa on arrival, the arrival and departure card, and finally a custom declaration form. Fill these out on the plane as it will save you time upon landing.
Upon landing, you will head towards the visa on arrival desk inside the terminal. For us, it was a quick walk from the jet outside to get to the terminal in Siem Reap as the airport doesn’t have jetways. You will queue up at the visa on arrival desk. When it’s your turn, hand them your passport, a recent passport sized picture of yourself, the visa on arrival application form you filled out on the plane, and $20 USD for the tourist visa itself. If you don’t have a passport sized picture of yourself, like we didn’t, you will be “fined” $1. The exact amount doesn’t need to be paid as they will tender any change owed to you but you must pay in US notes, one if the official currencies of Cambodia. If you do not have the money on you, there is an ATM in the arrival hall near the queue but be warned, it could be out of service so best to bring some American money before hand!
Visa for Cambodia, cost $20 USD as of March 2014, received on arrival in Siem Reap, Cambodia
After handing all that in, you will queue up in the next line to receive your passport back along with your visa stamped into your passport. While you’re queued up, the immigration officials are busy affixing the visa to your passport and filling it out. Listen for your name carefully as they do have problems pronouncing western names, they didn’t even bother with mine, they just waived my passport in our general direction since I have a unique passport cover. Your new visa should be placed in your passport and it may contain errors. My visa didn’t even have my middle name in it and they miss spelled Lisa’s last name but it’s Cambodia, they really don’t care!
Next, queue up at the border control desk where another immigration official will admit you into the country. The official will take your passport, your arrival card, and a photo of you before stamping an entry stamp in your passport and giving it back to you.
Entry Stamp for Cambodia on the Left (received in Siem Reap). Exit Stamp for Cambodia on the Right (received on exit in Phnom Penh).
Collect your bags at the baggage claim and head to the customs desk. When we arrived at the customs desk, it was unmanned and a box was setup to collect our customs declaration forms. If this is the case for you too, just leave the form there whether you have something to declare or not, it’s Cambodia after all! The last remaining form should be your departure card, most likely it will have been stapled to a page in your passport by border control, do not lose it as you will need it when you depart Cambodia.
As you can see, the process is pretty straight forward and is surprisingly well organized even if their customs controls are lax. Obviously the process will be different if you require a multiple entry visa, business visa, or ancestor visa and the costs will be different as well but if you just need a single entry visa for less than 30 days, follow the steps above and you’ll get in pain and stress free!
Do keep in mind that if you need to extend your visa while in Cambodia, you can only do it once with the single entry tourist visa. If you need to extended it again you must leave the country and repeat the visa process again. Think you’ll be in Cambodia for a while (i.e. more than 2 months)? I recommend getting a business visa; it cost a bit more but can be extended indefinitely regardless if your reason for visiting Cambodia is business or not!
As always, never illegally overstay your visa. Although in Cambodia you’ll most likely be subjected to a fine, they can permanently ban you, just do a visa run if you have to. It’s cheap enough in this part of the world to get a bus to another country you might as well not risk it.