Getting A Visa On Arrival At Phnom Penh Airport (Australians and Russians)
If you’re travelling through South East Asia, then chances are you’re going to spend some time in Cambodia. It’s a fascinating country with a rich, if somewhat violent, history and the people are some of the friendliest we have ever met. It’s also one of the easiest places to stay for ex-pats with readily available visa extensions and payable ‘overstays’. However, there are a few things you can do to prepare for your Cambodian experience so that the process is as smooth as possible.
Who Needs A Visa To Enter Cambodia?
If you are an Australian or Russian citizen (or a citizen of any country excluding Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, Myanmar) heading to Cambodia, then you will need a visa to enter the country.
If you are a citizen of Afghanistan, Algeria, Arab Saudi, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Nigeria, you will need to obtain a visa prior to arriving in Cambodia. This can be done at the local Cambodian Embassy in your respective country. For a list of embassies and addresses, see HERE.
Visa On Arrival
Citizens from countries not listed above are eligible for visas on arrival at airports in Phnom Penh and Sime Reap. If you are arriving via land, check that your particular border crossing provides visas on arrival:
• Bavet International Check Point (Svay Rieng Province)
• Kha Orm Sam Nor International Check Point (Kandal Province)
• Koh Rohka International Check Point (Prey Veng Province)
• Banteay Chakrey International Check Point (Preyveng Province)
• Tropeang Sre International Check Point (Kratie Province)
• Prek Chak International Check Point (Kampot Province)
• Phnom Den International Check Point (Takeo Province)
• Oyadav International Check Point (Rattankiri Province)
• Tropieng Phlong International Check Point (Kampong Cham Province)
• Cham Yeam International Check Point (Koh Kong Province)
• Poi Pet International Check Point (Banteay Meanchey Province)
• Osmach International Check Point (Odor Meanchey Province)
• Sihanoukville International Check Point (Sihanoukville Province)
• Choam Sanguam International Check Point (Banteay Meanchey Province)
• Prum International Check Point (Pailin Province)
• Doung International Check Point (Battambang Province)
• Preah Vihear International Check Point (Preah Vihear Province)
• Dong Krolar International Check Point (Steung Treng Province)
• Tropieng Kreal International Check Point (Stung Treng Province)
Tourist visas are generally granted for 30 days and cost $30. If you do not have a passport photo to attach to your visa application, there will be an extra $2 fee.
Our Experience In Phnom Penh Airport
We were planning to stay for 31 days but figured we would either extend our Cambodian visa in-country or just exit the country a bit earlier than planned. And we thought nothing more of it.
Visa Service In Phnom Penh Airport
We arrived in Phnom Penh by plane from Bangkok on a Tuesday afternoon. The airport itself is quite small so we quickly reached immigration which is a row of 4 or 5 windows with several tables to the left where you can fill in your visa application form.
The visa application form literally asks you how many days you are going to stay in Cambodia rather than just asking you to select the type of visa that you want. This is confusing because we wanted to stay 31 days but knew the tourist visa was only for 30 days.
Luckily, we noticed that there was a Cambodian official who was helping tourists fill in their application forms. How considerate! I approached him, showed him the question I was struggling with and asked him what the maximum number of days I could write was, given that I was applying for a tourist visa. This small man’s face curled into a hateful grimace, he waved his hand dismissively and said “You write what you want” and walked away in a huff.
A little perplexed by what had just happened, I returned to desk to continue filling in my form. I really didn’t understand what to put. If I write 31, I am not eligible for a tourist visa and I’ll probably have to fill in a new form. But then again, the angry official told me to write whatever I like, so I should probably write 31.
By this time, I had also noticed that the officials who were processing visas behind the windows were also yelling both at each other and at the people applying for visas. The whole situation was very tense.
By this time, we had both finished filling in our forms except for the section where we were required to write Number of Days. A bit lost, we stood, discussing our next move. The angry official noticed this and ordered us over to the processing windows, “OK, finished, you go”.
We told him that we were not finished but he wasn’t convinced. He angrily told us to go to the window and then walked away. We decided that we didn’t really want to ask for 31 days, given that all sources had told us we were only entitled to 30, and risk being yelled at by another official. We both wrote “30 days” and proceeded to the processing window.
One of us didn’t have a passport photo and was required to pay $2. They then took our passports and told us to queue behind another window. It was at this very moment that I realised there were television screens plastered all around this part of the airport and they were all, quite literally, advertising the different kinds of visas you could get and how much they each cost. There were tourist visas for 1 month, 3 months, 6 months and business visas for even longer. It’s a wonder they weren’t offering citizenship for $500!
It then dawned on me what the angry official had been trying to say. “We actually don’t care how long you stay in the county, just write the number of days, we’ll tell you the price and everyone is happy.”
In a matter of minutes, another angry official was holding up my passport behind his desk and screaming out my name in some kind of semi-comprehensible English. All of the men behind the desks were either stone-faced or heatedly discussing something while looking at the various passports on their desk. Tourists were standing around, exchanging frightened stares. This wasn’t what the guide book told us to expect!
Immigration In Phnom Penh Airport
We collected our passports with their beautiful green Cambodian visas, for 30 days, and proceeded through immigration – super simple and quick. We collected our bags and were out in the Phnom Penh afternoon heat in no time.
Luckily for us, the following month showed us that these officials are extremely far removed from the average Cambodian in their behavior towards tourists and we were overwhelmed with humility and kindness during our stay in the country.
Overstaying Your Cambodian Visa
As we travelled around Cambodia, we spoke to quite a few expats who themselves had overstayed Cambodian visas. They assured us that if you overstay your visa for less than one week, you will have to pay a fine of $10 per overstayed day and nothing more. It’s totally normal and the airport officials won’t even bat an eyelid. This was also confirmed when we approached a Cambodian travel agent to enquire about visa extensions.
Yes, we wanted to extend our visa for 1 day (with a cost of about $30) to avoid an overstay on our record. He giggled at us and said that any overstay of less than a week was no big issue. He advised us to overstay our visa rather than extending it as extensions take about 10 working days and during this time you can’t travel from the city where your passport is being kept. Extensions also cost $45 which is no small fee for your budget traveler.
How We Solved Our Problem
In the end we just opted to leave Cambodia after 30 days and not risk an overstay. We got a Vietnam visa for one month (subscribe to our newsletter so you don’t miss out our next post with more info) in Siem Reap and travelled by bus from Kep, in the south of Cambodia, to Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam (read about that adventure HERE). This way we could guarantee our sparkling clean visa records and not have to pay a fortune for a 1-day visa extension.
If you are interested in more Cambodian adventures, then check out OTHER POSTS.
What To Take Away:
1) Write the actual number of days you want to stay in Cambodia – you’ll just have to pay for more but it’s less time-consuming and less bothersome than doing a visa extension later.
2) Always have a spare 2 or 3 passport-sized photos with you when applying for a visa.
3) You can overstay your Cambodian visa for a couple of days with the only penalty being a fine of $10 per day overstayed. It is stated in a few sources that the overstays are not recorded anywhere in ‘the system’ but if you’re planning on entering a country with tough migration rules for passport holders from your country in the future, it’s probably not worth the risk of potentially tarnishing your record with an overstay.
4) Most problems in Cambodia can be solved with money.