Breaksian Travel Blog Career break traveling in Asia

Getting into Siem Reap

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit Siem Reap and its amazing Angkor Wat complex in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I have plenty of good memories and pictures of every corner of this massive place, but before I start to talk about what was the actual visit to the monument I want to write about the process of getting in.

In my last post I described the interesting visit to Macau, the small chinese Special Administrative Region with a very rich Portuguese history. The next step on my itinerary was Siem Reap and I found a good flight connecting in the Don Muang airport.

Before I traveled to Cambodia I read it was possible to get the visa on arrival and the process appeared to be relatively straightforward: Fill out an application form, including a recent photograph and handover the form and the passport plus 30 USD to get the Visa stamped on it.

Just before we arrived to the country, the flight attendants distributed the visa on arrival form and a customs blue paper. I filled them out both and I thought I was ready to go. Nevertheless once we landed in Siam Reap the fun really started. Let me describe it step by step so I make sure I don't forget anything:

  1. Landing and getting to the terminal: Once they opened the doors of the plane, we descended and walked toward the door entrance.
  2. Fill quarantine form and get yellow paper: Before we were allowed to get in the building a guard stop the passengers in front of us and ask them to fill out a new "quarantine" form stating they haven't been in an African country and they were not experience any Ebola related symptoms. Ironically, the mosquitoes were having a feast while everyone was filing those forms outside.Quite a few clueless passengers were angrily stopped when they tried to flank the door without having this form completed and a yellow paper on their hands.
  3. Go to visa on arrival area:Once we finally moved to the main lobby some people try to go to the main immigration queue and were turned back. I saw some other people queuing somewhere else and paying money so I assume that was the visa on arrival desk.
  4. Get visa on arrival:I handed over there the completed form, a picture, my passport and 30 USD. I moved to another area where some tourists were waiting for their name to be called.
  5. Realise there is still another form and look for the guy distributing them: Around 15 minutes later I got the passport back with the visa issued on an empty pages of my passport and I started to queue in one of the immigration desks, but I noticed the people in front of me had an additional "Arrival / Departure Card" on their papers. I asked them "Where did you get that one?". They told me there was a short man walking around giving them away if you asked him nicely. so I started to scan around and spotted the guy on the other corner of the room.
  6. Beg for an arrival / departure form: I dashed to that area where the short officer was yelling at some tourists "Don speak ingliss! Don speek ingliss! Don speek ingliss!". I asked him nicely twice and finally he handed me over a card.
  7. Fill out arrival / departure card and mind your stuffI ran to another table to fill out this missing form and somewhere in the process I lost my passport cover (fortunately it wasn't the actual passport). I started to queue again in the immigration lines.
  8. Hand over your passport again: I handed over my passport on the immigration area, got a picture taken and got the passport stamped. I proceed to the customs area.
  9. Cross the customs area: I was expecting here another hassle, but actually there was no one checking. There was just a old wooden box where everybody was putting the customs form and moving on.

I'm wondering if this is the "normal" process to get into Siem Reap or if it were unlucky because ours was the last flight of the day. In any case it would nice to provide the arrival / departure cards on the plane before landing and to give general instructions about what are the steps to get into the country.

This was definitively the most chaotic arrivals area I have ever experienced, particularly because no one knew what to do :).

Once I left the arrivals area there was a transport from the hotel waiting for me. I boarded the TukTuk and 20 minutes later I was in Sok San Road, checking into the hotel. The owners kindly provided a map of the area so I started to get familiar with the layout of the city and the temple complex.

I finished the day getting a refreshing Anchor beer.