Border crossing from Laos to Cambodia

Sunset from Don Det island in Laos
Sunset from Don Det island in Laos

A lot of travelers in Laos leave Si Phan Don (also known as 4,000 islands) for the last stop before crossing overland to Cambodia through the Trapaing Kreal border point. There are a lot of warnings online regarding scams by corrupt police officers working together on both sides of the border and to a lesser degree bus companies.

I have met travelers who chose to take a bus back north to Pakse and fly from there to Phnom Penh to avoid all the hassle. While chilling by the river in Don Det island and listening to some border stories, I knew I would have to see it with my own eyes. Continue reading to know how much are the transportation, the visa on arrival, and the police scams at the border.

Albeit full of scams, the whole process of crossing the Laos-Cambodia border is very straightforward, safe and rather comfortable.

All guesthouses and travel agencies in Don Det, Don Kohn and the rest of the islands offer similar packages at similar rates. First they pick you up at your guesthouse, then take you to Ban Nakasang across the river, and there you join other tourists in a minivan to the border.

After crossing the border, a bus will take you to either your final destination or to Stung Treng. Most tour packages take you first to Stung Treng, and then have another bus or minivan ready to take you to your final destination in Cambodia.

Transportation prices

Prices are shown in the table below. Some guesthouses might charge +/- 2,000 LAK with respect to these. If you can bargain a cheap boat to cross the river, you can save a meal worth of money.

There might be people who offer to take your passport and do everything on your behalf, either at the bus station in Nakasang or right by the border. They might charge you between 20 and 40 USD. While you might actually get a cheaper deal through such guides, giving your passport away is something strongly advised against. I would personally say it is not worth the risk.

You are given a receipt that must be exchanged at the bus station in Nakasang for the actual ticket to your destination.

Destination From Nakasang From Don Det
Border 65,000 LAK 90,000 LAK
Stung Treng 105,000 LAK 130,000 LAK
Ban Lung 155,000 LAK 180,000 LAK
Kratie 155,000 LAK 180,000 LAK
Khampongcham 185,000 LAK 210,000 LAK
Phnom Penh 205,000 LAK 230,000 LAK
Siem Reap 185,000 LAK 210,000 LAK
Sihanoukville 285,000 LAK 310,000 LAK

Crossing the border

There are four parts to this: getting the exit stamp, going through the medical check, getting the visa (unless you already have one) and getting the entry stamp.

The first payment that takes happy go lucky tourists by surprise is a 2 USD charge to paid at the Laos office. That is, the police guard who stamps your passport to exit Laos. As in other parts of this process, you may be able to avoid this if you are travelling alone and are the last one of the group or the day. Otherwise, they will reject your passport for as long as you refuse to pay.

When physically exiting Laos down the road, another police officer will check your passport to make sure you have the exit stamp.

Next comes the famous medical check. As you enter Cambodia, the guide, police and whoever else is around will lead you into a small booth where an officer gives you a yellow paper for 1 USD. As you see, there is no medical check whatsoever. You are only given a paper with health guidelines and emergency telephone numbers. This scam can be avoided if you have your international certificate of vaccinations, which is also yellow. If you do, you can skip this and save one dollar.

Next comes the visa on arrival, necessary for most nationalities (see list here). You only to fill a form and provide an ID size picture to get it. Do not worry about the exact size of the picture, as they accept any size within the range of typical ID pictures. Instead of the official 30 USD, the police officer wants 35 USD. Some travelers manage to pay less (in exchange for waiting more time). If you have a visa or eVisa with you already, you can skip this step.

Once you have the visa, the last step is the entrance stamp. Travelers mentioned they paid 2 USD here as well on online forums, but neither me nor my travel partners paid anything. A final guard will check that you have a stamped visa before finally letting you into the beautiful country of Cambodia, and then you’ll be stuck in a terrace restaurant for a few minutes or a few hours before a bus comes and takes you to your destination.

Roads in southern Laos
Roads in southern Laos

Summary

  • Visa on arrival: 30 USD
  • Fee for visa on arrival at land border: 0-5 USD
  • Laos exit stamp: 2 USD
  • Optional medical checkup: 0-1 USD
  • Cambodia entrance stamp: 0-2 USD
  • TOTAL: 30-40 USD (for most travellers 38 USD)

If you take a flight and apply for a visa on arrival at an airport in Cambodia, you will only pay 30 USD and avoid all the extra fees.

If you apply for an eVisa, the official government website charges 36 USD. Adding the exit stamp and medical checkup, most travelers would then pay 39 USD in total. Note that an eVisa might take up to 3 days to arrive, and needs to be printed.

My advice is to prepare 40 USD beforehand (at least 10 USD of those in notes of 1 USD). Note that Cambodia’s currency is the American dollar (and the Cambodian riel), so don’t worry about extra dollars in your pocket.

There are ATMs and money exchange offices in Pakse and Nakasang. There is also a place near the bus station where you can have ID photos taken.

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