Published: April 29th 2011April 20th 2011
This is how it works. You buy a ticket to go by private bus from somewhere in Thailand to Cambodia. In my case it was from Koh Chang to Siem Reap, and mainly due to the fact that the public transport connection was complicated.
Because you need a VISA to get into Cambodia, the travel agency/hotel where you booked the ticket tells you that they will help out with getting it. Sounds good, why not? Good Minivan with 12 pax on it. Some of them have paid a full trip (including hotels and guides) for good money. Good service is supposed to be guaranteed. They do indeed help you out with the VISA. You hand in your passport and 20min afterwards, just before crossing the border by foot, you get it back with the famous Khmer sticker in it. So far everything works out well. But here is when the lies start:
"You may not know it, but in Cambodia it is not permitted for foreign people to pay with credit card anywhere, withdraw money from ATMs nor to exchange money in any banks". Surprise in everybody's faces. "Our recommendation is that you withdraw money here, in the Thai
One of the controls
attention to the tree inside the office!
border before you get into Cambodia. If you want to withdraw money form an ATM in Cambodia, you will only receive US$, but Cambodian people do not accept them and you will not be able to exchange them for Riel (Khmer currency) anywhere."
You start wondering 'But didn't he just say that you cannot withdraw money? Why is he saying now that we can?' You think it's strange, because you have loads of friends and family who have been in Cambodia and nobody has ever told you anything of is. Nor do the guide books.
"Sorry, but this sounds too strange. Why have we never heard anything of this? And second, Cambodia lives out of tourism. Why would they make it so complicated for tourists to obtain local money?" you say. "Times have changed. Thailand and Cambodia are in battle." And although it still does not seem to be a reasonable argument, people nick and start withdrawing money from the only cash machine at the border.
We pass the three different border controls (in which the Thai police officers have TVs hanging just over the cues that line in front of them with Thai love song video
clips playing), jump into a bus that takes us to the "International Bus Station" where, surprise surprise, the only exchange office in WHOLE Cambodia is established. "Hurry up, the other bus is waiting for you!!" they say. Everybody changes all their money for the next three weeks for an exchange rate of 102 Khmer Riel for 1 Thai Baht. You step into the following bus and notice that with the hurry you have not said good bye to the 'instructor' and have forgotten to take the ticket of the exchange office with you.
When you arrive three hours later to Siem Reap you see exchange offices and ATMs everywhere and you realise that in fact the instructor had 'run away' and that you could not have forgotten the ticket because never received it. The real exchange rate at the moment was 135 Khmer Rier for 1 Thai Baht.
And by the way, Cambodia works with both currencies, Khmer Riel and US$. The general and everywhere applied exchange rate between these currencies is 4000 Riel equal 1 US$. You may even pay and receive notes (no coins) from both currencies at the same time.
Btw, I only exchanged 40Euros, just in case I was wrong...Don't get scammed!