My Failed Attempt At Extending A Cambodian Ordinary Visa On The Cheap

Encouraged by a post on stackexchange, I decided to give it a try and go the DIY route. Although the most upvoted answer was from a person that extended a tourist visa, there was another answer from somebody reporting having successfully extended an ordinary visa (aka E visa or business visa). According to that post, a six month visa extension was just $100 – almost $60 cheaper than good ole Lucky Motors! So, not only would I get to save a good chunk of money, I would equally enjoy the satisfaction of being able to by-pass the visa agents altogether. Being cheap can be a real joy at times!

So, armed with the knowledge that the office is open from 2pm to 4pm in the afternoon, I decided to set out at about 12:45pm. Since this was to be the thrifty way of getting the visa extension, I of course also decided to take the public bus, just like the adventurous traveler that answered the stackexchange question. So, I jumped on the bus somewhere not too far from Big New Market and around 45 minutes later, arrived at the airport.

The immigration department was really easy to find. It was just behind the bus stop. Once you enter the area, walk straight down, ignoring the sign saying “Visa Service” pointing to the left, and walk all the way down to the end of the building. There, on the left corner, you will see the visa extension office.

So, with huge anticipation, I entered the office, which was void of people, and approached the lonely guy behind the counter at the far side of the room. After letting him know my intention of getting an extension, he asked me to show him my passport, which I immediately procured. He then wanted to know for how many months I wanted the extension. Since I wasn’t sure yet, I asked how much a six-month visa cost. Then came the first surprise: he quoted me $160 – even a few bucks more than good ole Lucky Motors! But the worst wasn’t over yet. After I inquired about the expense for a 3-month visa, he kindly asked me to go to – get this – a visa agent to get the extension! Because, apparently, they only accept people that “run a business in Cambodia” there.

Very disappointed and a bit confused, I turned around and made my way back to the bus stop. So, that’s the truth then. Unless you have a business here, you are actually supposed to go through an agent. Did something change since that stackechange post in 2015? Or did I just not have the air of a business man? I guess I will never know. Lucky Motors it is, then!

Surviving A Ride With Capitol Tours

Capitol Tours might not be everyone’s favorite bus company. But let’s face it, if you’re on a tight budget, it should be your first choice. I have traveled on Capitol Tours between Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang and Bangkok more often than I can remember.

Advantages

  1. The bus stops are usually right smack in the middle of town. At least in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang. Well, in Siem Reap and Battambang, the real stations are out of town, but they have free pick-up service from the ticket offices, which are downtown.
  2. It’s cheap! The price goes up a bit during the high season (October to March, I think). But it still hard to beat.
  3. Compared to what you pay, you actually get a semi-reliable service.
  4. Capitol’s Thai partner for routes to Bangkok actually has free working Wifi. This compares to Mekong with their so-called VIP bus service, where there is still no Wifi on the Thai side and the Wifi on the Cambodian side is usually out of order.

Disadvantages

  1. It can be slow. They stop along the way very often to pick up and drop off passengers. Engine breakdowns also happen every once in a while.
  2. The majority of passengers are from the working classes. This can make for a noisy environment. Also be prepared for the unexpected, such as a mother having her child pee into the aisle.
  3. Don’t expect Wifi or any other amenities on these trips. It’s totally no-frills!
  4. They have routes to Bangkok, but no route from Bangkok back to Cambodia. I have no clue why.

Survival tips & tricks

All in all, it’s really not just such a bad experience. But there are some things that can make the journey with Capitol Tours a little bit more pleasant.

First, I would like to suggest that you stay relaxed and prepare yourself for a really long trip. Just accept that the bus probably won’t be on time anyways, so why get upset about some delays along the way?

Also, pack some food to snack on during the trip. The bus always stops at least twice at a restaurant, but the prices at those places are always on the higher side, I think. There are also many reports of these restaurants charging foreigners extra, but the one time I bought something, I made first sure to see how much a local paid and lo and behold, I was charged exactly the same price. I guess your mileage may vary!

Finally, Capitol Tours will usually allow you to choose your seat. I found it better to take a seat in the back section. It seems locals aren’t too picky and ticket clerks automatically assign seats starting from the front. So, if the bus isn’t full, you are more likely to have a lot of space for yourself in the back.