If you want to have a grand adventure while exploring the rich land of Cambodia—whether as a tourist, worker or student— the very first step is to get into the country. It isn’t hard, but it’s not quite as easy as just waltzing across the border either. There are details to arrange and bureaucratic hoops to jump through.
If you’ve done much travelling, you may know from first-hand experience that even when you think you’ve crossed all the T’s, there are often curve balls thrown in at the last minute. There is nothing more nerve wracking than feeling suddenly unprepared at a border, when the reality of being turned around and sent home looms large. Even the stress of a tiny complication can be exacerbated in a government environment where you are suddenly face to face with an authority which wields an intimidating amount of control over your life and future.
To make matters worse, it can be a real pain surfing the web, looking for accurate information about what to expect at the border—even the Cambodian government website is not comprehensive.
Well, no worries: We’ve compiled EVERYTHING you need to know about getting through the border of Cambodia with an eVisa or an on-arrival tourist or business visa.
Keep in mind that rules and laws are always changing, and every border—and agent—can be a bit different. As such, it’s impossible to completely eliminate that uncomfortable experience mentioned above. We can at least provide you with a strong sense of what to expect and how to prepare— along with some tips about what you should definitely NOT to do at the border!
What are the Visa Options?
There are a bunch of visa options based on what you are trying to do in Cambodia. We will cover the tourist visa and the business visa here.
Tourist Visa (T)
The tourist visa, also known as the T-class visa, is perfect if you want to stay two months or less. It is also the only option available for many longer term expats and digital nomads who do not qualify for the business visa (see below).
The tourist visa will give you 30 days, which can be extended another 30 days once in country. If you want to stay longer, after two months you need only to do a border crossing to obtain another 30 day tourist visa—which can then be extended to 60 days. And so on.
There are 3 ways to obtain the tourism visa: through a Cambodian embassy, upon arrival and online via an eVisa. Scroll down to learn more about these methods.
Business Visa (E)
The other option if you want to stay longer-term and do not want to deal with border runs every two months, is to obtain the Business Visa—also known as the E-class visa.
The business visa can be extended up to a year with multiple entries. However, this visa is only available to those who have work in Cambodia, students and retirees with sufficient funds in their bank accounts. You can also opt for this option if you are looking for work—but only for up to 6 months.
The business visa is only available upon arrival or in person at the embassy.
How Do I Obtain a Visa?
Once you’ve determined which visa is right for you, you’ll need to decide how you’ll go about obtaining your visa: on the internet, upon arrival or through an embassy.
We’ll take these one by one and explain each, along with the process for Visa extension.
The eVisa is the preferred method of visa obtainment for more and more people visiting Cambodia. It typically processes within minutes after submitting the paperwork and makes movement through border patrol much faster upon arrival.
eVisas are valid at all major ports of entry, such as the Phnom Pen and Siem Reap International Airports. However, some of the smaller land crossings from Vietnam, Thailand and Laos do not accept the eVisa. You can check the list here https://www.evisa.gov.kh/information/port_entry/3.
The eVisa is only good for single entry, which means if you wish to leave Cambodia and return, you’ll need to get a brand new visa for re-entry. Here are the steps involved:
- Fill Out the Online application
To obtain the Cambodian eVisa, you will need to apply online. There are various websites that offer to assist with the application process, but they charge extra and are really unnecessary. Instead, just go to the Cambodian government website (www.evisa.gov.kh ) and follow their instructions.
You will need to enter your passport information as well as your port of entry and date of entry.
Please note that your Visa will be valid for 3 months after the entry date specified on your application. In other words, you are free to enter the country (thus activating your 30 day visa) at any point within 90 days after the date you specify. However, you cannot enter before the date specified and you will need to apply for a new visa if you fail to activate it after 90 days.
- Upload Documents
As Part of the application process, you will need to upload two documents:
- A passport size photo
- A picture of your passport
You can either scan these documents, or just take a picture with your phone and upload it to your computer.
You will pay $36 ($30 for the Visa and $6 for the processing fee).
Only USD is accepted (if you operate with another currency, it will automatically convert). You can pay with debit, credit card, PayPal or wire transfer.
- Submit Application
You should get an immediate email after submitting your eVisa, letting you know it is processing. If there is any issue, such as a problem processing your payment, you will similarly receive an email within minutes.
- Receive Approval Letter (and Visa)
You’ll get your approval letter (which includes a PDF attachment of your actual Visa) within 3 days. However, it usually processes within minutes, and arrives shortly after the confirmation email.
- Print Visa
Print two copies of your eVisa—one to give the immigration officer upon entry of the country, and one to give the immigration officer upon exit of the country.
Black and white print outs are acceptable. You can staple it into your passport if you so desire, but this is unnecessary.
It IS possible to get through immigration without a printout of your visa, but it’s not recommended as it can possibly annoy your immigration officer and complicate your entrance. It is totally a matter of chance. At the very least, you will want to have the visa pulled up on your phone.
- Get stamped by the Immigration Officer
You have 90 days from the arrival date specified on your visa to get yourself to Cambodia. Once you land at the airport, you’ll get in the eVisa line and hand over hand over your passport (which MUST be valid for 6 months from the date of arrival!), an arrival/landing card (which you can obtain at the airport) and your eVisa. The immigration officer will take a photo of you and stamp your passport.
- Enjoy 30 Days in Cambodia!!
Congratulations! You made it through! You can stay for 30 days: Enjoy itJ
(If you want to stay longer, scroll down to read about the next phase of your process: Visa Extensions).
The On-Arrival Visa
The on-arrival Visa is another way to gain entry to Camodia. This is the way to go if you want to apply for a business visa ($35USD). However, you can also obtain the tourist visa this way. It’s great if you just can’t get your act together (or simply can’t be bothered) to apply ahead of time. Also, some border crossings do not accept eVisas, so you may have no other choice (you’ll want to check ahead of time if you are arriving by land).
The drawback of the on-arrival visa is that you’ll have to fill out the paperwork and wait in line at the airport before you can go through immigration. You also may need proof of onward travel which can be a nuisance if you prefer to play things by ear. Also, sometimes people are overcharged for their visa at the border, though by a negligible amount.
Here’s a list of what you’ll need:
- Passport (valid for 6 months from the date of entry)
- Passport size photo (If you don’t have one, they will “fine” you $2 to take a photo of you there)
- Landing/Arrival Card (obtained upon arriving)
- Application (also obtained upon arrival)
- $30USD for the Tourist Visa and $35USD for the Business Visa. In CASH! This is important: be sure to have cash in hand—No other form of payment will be accepted and there is no currency exchange available. While there IS an ATM on arrival, it is frequently broken or out of cash.
Ok, so now that you have all your documents tidily organized, here is a step by step process for what to do upon arrival:
- Go to the area marked “On Arrival Visa.”
- Fill out the application.
- Wait in line to hand over the documents mentioned above. They may ask you some questions and you may need to show proof of onward travel.
- The immigration officer will take your documents and you’ll find a seat to wait: usually about 20 minutes.
- Wait until your name is called (or you see someone waving your passport around) and go up to claim your Passport (which now contains your visa!)
- Continue on through Immigration (scroll down to see what NOT to do at immigration!)
At the Consulate
The third way you can obtain a visa is through the consulate, which you can do through the mail or in person. You will need to provide them with a completed application, a passport size photo and your passport. If you apply through the mail, you will also need to supply an envelope with a return address. It generally takes 5 days to process.
The Visa Extension
Congratulations! You’ve made it into Cambodia, and you have 30 days on your visa to soak up the country to your heart’s content! But what if you want to stay longer?
At this point you will either apply for a visa extension or go on a visa run.
Tourist and Business visas can both be extended either through a travel agency or directly through the immigration department in Phnom Penh (located across from the airport).
The tourist visa can be extended once, for one month, for $40USD. This means you can stay in Cambodia a total of 60 days before you need to go on a Visa run.
A Business visa, on the other hand, can be extended for 1, 3, 6 or 12 months, with single and multiple entry options. The prices go up based on which extension you opt for (a year is $285).
If you are seeking work in Cambodia, the best option would be to apply for the business visa upon arrival. Then, after you obtain work, you can apply for a visa extension (you’ll need to provide proof of employment). Students and retirees can also take advantage of the business visa extensions.
And if for whatever reason you can’t obtain the extension, you can always fall back on the visa run option.
What is a Visa Run?
A visa run simply means you leave the country, and then you return, thus extending your stay in a giant—government supported—loophole. You can leave for a week, a day, or an hour—you just need to step foot outside the Cambodian border. And of course, on your way back into the country, you will need to buy a new visa (or get another eVisa).
Now that you know how to get through Cambodia’s Border Patrol, we’ll leave you with a bonus check list:
5 Things NOT to do at Cambodian Immigration
- Don’t show up at the border without a printed copy of your eVisa! In all likelihood, you’ll still get in, even if you don’t print it out. But, if your agent is having a bad day, they may decide to give you a hard time.
- Don’t accidentally say “thank you” to the immigration officer in Thai (or any other language). Learn some basic Khmer so you don’t offend the border guard. Hello and Thank You will make a great impression!
- Don’t show up without any US currency in your wallet—especially if you need to purchase an On Arrival Visa! Have USD cash on hand. Since it is one of the official currencies of Cambodia, it can help to get you out of a scrape and will at the very least pay for a cab to your accommodation.
- Don’t show up without TWO printed copies of your eVisa! We’ve said it before, but it bares repeating: YOU NEED TO HAVE A COPY OF YOUR VISA TO LEAVE THE COUNTRY TOO!! Of course, there is major lack of consistency, so many people leave Cambodia without ever needing to show anyone their visa. But then there are the horror stories of the unlucky few who are barred from exiting the country until they provide a printed copy—and wind up missing their planes or buses in a wild sprint to find a printer.
- Don’t try to enter Cambodia with a passport that has less than 6 months validity!! Really. You’ll be turned around. And that will suck. Double check your passport and have it renewed if need be before you get to Cambodia!