Well we managed the short journey to the border in a small transit carrier, full of holiday makers and other backpackers. Before we arrived at the Cambodian side, the driver asked for all our passports and also gave us an exit form to fill in. As we filled in the form, the driver asked everyone for the 1$ exit fee for the immigration service. Scam ! I just asked Michelle in a loud voice if she was willing to pay this unofficial exit fee. Everyone else in the minibus paid the dollar, but the driver just ignored the two of us, so he must have heard me and realised there may be some trouble ahead if he was going to persist.
While he was away with the passports, and the dollars to have all the passports stamped, a few travellers asked me if I had paid the fee. I explained that I hadn’t and I that I did not intend to pay anything on the Vietnam side either. This was just a scam, with so much for the driver, and so much for the greedy fat sweaty immigration officials. I would rather see the money spent on the local kids.
On the Vietnam side, we filled in the forms in front of another fat uniformed sweaty bloke, and on handing back the form duly completed, the anticipated demand came for the dollar “administration fee”. I straight away said “No Dollar!” and shook my head. The guard just about blew a gasket, pointing threateningly at me and shouting in broken English “Send you back to Cambodia, no let you go through”. I absolutely bricked it, and was shaking like a leaf, all eyes were on me. I just repeated “No Dollar” again, shaking my head and then slowly backed away from the counter. Michelle came close to me, and we both kept cool waiting to see what would happen next. As we waited patiently and nervously, a few travellers seemed to show a bit of support and also backed off without paying. Other’s seemed to think it was not worth the stress for such a small sum. It’s the principle though, and it was quite galling seeing a large laptop bag sitting on the counter stuffed full and overspilling with illegally acquired dollar bills.
Thankfully, our passports were returned. We were the last in the group to receive them, and handed back from the official with no eye contact.
I refrained from allowing myself a smug smile, let’s not aggravate the situation. We were on our way across the border to Ha Tien – with an extra $4 in our pockets 😉 For budget travellers, every cent is a prisoner.