The travel scams we fell for: Cambodia's border bandits

Travelling the world is the stuff of dreams … until it’s not. Maybe it’s because we’re unfamiliar with local customs in other countries and don’t want to cause offence, or perhaps it’s just damned jetlag rendering us incapable of sensing trouble, but travel scams can happen to the best of us. As a nation of travellers, we all have a tale that time we were an unsuspecting tourist.

We asked Stuff journalists and our network of travel writers to tell us their tales of woe, in the hopes that it provides a cautionary story for other travellers out there. In the fourth story in our series, reporter Josh Martin is taken in by a scam at the border between Cambodia and Thailand.


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It’s probably best to stick to the queues when you’re crossing borders.

Land border crosses are seldom hassle-free and they’re a hotbed of scamming activity as I found when crossing into Cambodia in 2014. A well-dressed border patrol worker approached us after we got our departure stamps from Thailand and said she would take us to a separate checkpoint to analyse our New Zealand passports and issue a visa.

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I can blame it on the heat or the lack of sleep, but we eagerly boarded her tuk-tuk to the “satellite office” in the hope of beating the large queue of people emerging from the main checkpoint.

She put on her smog-fighting bandana, motorcycled us for a few minutes to her empty office and barked something at a colleague … (possibly “Hey, how much can we get for a New Zealand passport?”).

Even before removing her bandana, she got straight to the point asking for cash (more than the US$25 going rate) and passport as soon as we stepped off the tuk-tuk.

The border bandit nearly had us, but thankfully my travel buddy’s suspicions grew heavier and we grabbed our bags and trudged back to the growing queue at the border. Lesson: At the border there is safety (as well as frustration) in numbers.

Have you been scammed on your travels? Send us your tales by hitting the big green button or comment below.