There may come a day when you need to make a quick visa run to Thailand. And while Poipet is a nightmare few expats want to relive, crossing the border at Cham Yeam is a much more relaxed experience. Prepare to deal with a bit of hassle and to be dramatically overcharged for your visa, but don’t fear the wild scams traditionally found up in Poipet.
As of 2017, here is what you can expect if you plan to be crossing the border at Cham Yeam International Checkpoint outside of Koh Kong, Cambodia to Hat Lek, Thailand.
Getting to the border from Koh Kong
For a quick one-day visa run to Thailand and back to Cambodia, you have a wealth of transport options: choose from renting your own moto and driving, or paying a motodop or tuk tuk to wait for you.
The easiest and most hassle-free way to get from Koh Kong to Cham Yeam is by hiring your own moto for the day. Motos can be had from Rithy’s Guesthouse on the waterfront in Koh Kong for only $5 per day. Drive out to the checkpoint by crossing the bridge then following the signs. You’ll find parking at the border and can do the rest by foot.
If that doesn’t sound appealing, you can easily hire a motodop or tuk-tuk to take you to the border and back. Motodops should cost about $2 one way, and a tuk-tuk will probably ask for $5 one way. If hiring for round trip, the price could be double that, or less, depending on your bargaining skills.
Crossing the border at Cham Yeam International Checkpoint
As with all land borders between Cambodia and Thailand, be prepared to cross on foot. There is parking for motos if needed.
At the time of writing, neither the Thai nor the Cambodians cared about bicycles. You are free to ride a bike to the border and to cross with the bike.
Getting stamps on both the Cambodian and the Thai side are pretty straight forward. A young man waited on the Thai side to check my arrival card and make sure I filled it out correctly. Same on the way back.
Purchasing my new Cambodian visa was another story, and the only scam really encountered on this crossing.
Scams to look out for when crossing the border at Cham Yeam
First step, relax. You made the right choice coming down to Cham Yeam. This isn’t Poipet and there is none of the hassle and fraud that expats have come to fear from that particular border crossing.
Down here, things are much more laid back. Though you might get approached by some Cambodians with dollar signs in their eyes, the savvy expat won’t get scammed at this crossing.
Expect to start getting approached as soon as you walk up to the Cambodian checkpoint. Men will start to ask you where you are going almost immediately. Ask them politely to wait. You don’t need a guide to get through this crossing.
As you walk through the no-man’s land between the two countries, you’ll continue to be approached. Again, you don’t need a guide for this.
The hustle vanishes on the Thai side. There are no taxi drivers or tuk-tuks waiting on the other side. If you’re looking to get to Trat, vans line the road beyond the border. Walk 10 minutes from the border to find the vans on the right hand side. The cost is 120 Baht and they leave every hour.
If you’re crossing back into Cambodia, you can enter and leave Thailand within minutes with no questions asked. When entering Cambodia, ignore the men offering you transport services.
If you need to buy a new visa, walk up to the visa services window, not the arrivals window. Tell them which visa you’d like to buy then fill out the paperwork. Expect extortion. I paid $45 for an “ordinary” or business visa that should cost $35, and they completely ignored my attempts to bargain it down. Apparently $50 is not unusual on this border for a business visa.
After you get your visa, get a new stamp at the arrivals window and you’re done. Head back to Koh Kong or choose another option for traveling further.
Getting out: Traveling onwards from Cham Yeam International Checkpoint
There are limited options if you want to travel to other cities in Cambodia from this border.
On the Thai side, vans to Trat leave every hour and cost 120 baht. The bus to Bangkok is $20 and leaves at 1 p.m. Talk to the Rith Mony Transit guys on the Cambodian side to double-check.
On the Cambodian side of the border, the cheapest option is going to be the Rith Mony Transit bus, located just outside the border crossing, next to the parking. They offer services to cities around Cambodia. A ticket to Sihanoukville is $6, Phnom Penh for $8.
A word of caution, however: you get what you pay for with Rith Mony Transit. They are the cheapest and slowest bus company around. Take them if desperate, otherwise head back to Koh Kong to find a more reputable company.
There are also men running around who say they are part of an “agency” and can get you a bus ticket. Expect to pay around $10 to Phnom Penh or $15 to Sihanoukville. It was unclear whether you’re paying for a van or a bus, nor which company you are paying for. If you don’t like the idea of dealing with these guys, you can book a bus from Koh Kong online in advance for $12.
You can also find private taxis on the Cambodian side, although it is best if you book them in advance. Try calling Mr. Ben, he speaks English and is very helpful. He charges $60 from Koh Kong to Sihanoukville $60 or $70 to Phnom Penh. Or, for the same price, you can book a larger, more comfortable SUV taxi online in advance using a credit card.
Most of all, relax and take it easy. This border crossing is located right on the beach and comes with the relaxed vibe of an oceanside border crossing. Be ready to pay extra for your Cambodian visa, ignore the men who try to hassle you, take your time to get your bearings, and you won’t fall prey to any obvious scams.
Rithy’s Retreat Guesthouse
Central Riverfront in town, Koh Kong
T: 012 707 719
Mr. Ben Taxi
T: 015 3333 84
T: 031 8880908