Passport Troubles in Phnom Penh

The evening we arrived to Phnom Penh was a stressful one. Cambodia is a visa on arrival country for travelers. I’m not sure if and which countries are excluded from this so check this out for more details. As told via Google searches, I had  prepared a passport picture and cash (in American dollars) to get the visa.

My friend Lisa and I quickly filled out the forms and got in line. They way it works is that you turn it into an employee at one counter and  then go wait in another line to get your passport with the visa in it and pay. Not too much later my friend had gotten hers back. I figured since we handed them in at the same time I should get mine soon. Then 10 minutes passed, and I still didn’t have mine. People who had been behind me started getting their passports back. I was worried at this point, but by the time 30 minutes had passed I was really freakin’ stressed out  trying to figure out what was going on with mine.

Finally someone called me up and explained that I didn’t have any more visa pages left in my passport. I told them I had two blank pages, but as it turns out the last two pages in the passport don’t say “visas” which I failed to notice. You can only put stamps there, not visas. I’ll be honest and admit my eyes started to tear up a little as I was panicking and thinking that I wouldn’t be let into Cambodia even though I had already booked some hostels and my flight from Siem Reap back to Shanghai. But, even more than that , I was so upset by the thought of not getting to explore the place I was most looking forward to going on this two week trip.

It seemed like they really didn’t want to deal with my situation, but luckily enough someone did. I don’t want to go into details but it was resolved, and they let me into the country. I was SO relieved!

After that we were too hungry to wait until we got to our hostel so we ended up eating at Burger King (or some fast food place), and then we got a taxi to our hostel.

The driver was a really nice guy who told us some about his life and the travelers he met as a taxi driver. He also gave us some tips about traveling and safety in Cambodia. He was engaged and would be getting married soon. And he told us about his future plans to open a hostel on the beach in Cambodia. He seemed like a cool guy, and I’ll be honest, if he was being extra personable or sharing about his life to get a good tip, it worked on me. Plus, after my troubles at the airport, I was so happy to be in Cambodia that I was feeling extra generous.

By the time we arrived to the hostel it was dark so we checked in and took it easy for the rest of the night. We saved our first exploration of the city for the next day.

I hope this blog can serve as a reminder to double check stuff about your passport. I thought I was good to go just because I had two completely blank pages, but it is important to make sure those blank pages say visa if you need to get one. At least travel mishaps always make for good stories later!

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