Crossing the border from Cambodia into Laos was as frustrating as expected. I will spare the details, but here are a few tips to remember. These tips do not necessary reflect all border crossings; however, my advice is a good start.
–Expect to waste an entire day of your life. It will take a long time and if you prepare for the worst, anything better makes you happy.
–Always check the price of visas and appropriate fees online before arriving to a border. From the bus driver to the clerk taking care of your paperwork, fees get slipped in and tacked on along the way, so read up what is legit or not.
–If someone repeatedly asks you for a bogus fee, stay firm and do not pay. A couple I met refused to pay an “immigration fee” that twelve other people (including myself) paid because they knew it was bogus. The attendant asked twice and after the second “No”, the couple was waived through.
–The bus driver or a random guy that says he works for the bus company will offer to take care of your passport. Do it yourself. It is nerve-racking to have your passport in someone else’s hands, so save yourself the stress. You will be with several other travelers, making the process more comfortable and less intimidating.
–It is recommended to have a visa photo, but if you do not, just play nice and you should not have a problem. Once again, not all border crossings are the same. In one country it may cost you a small fine, but in another you may be denied entry.
–Have exact change. Any excuse to charge tourists extra will arise, so try to avoid it altogether. Plus, it may be difficult to change large bills anyways.
–If a tuk tuk, taxi, or boat ride is included with your bus ticket after crossing the border, have it written on the ticket. To sum up a long story, I determined the man I bought my bus ticket from in Cambodia had probably never (in his entire life) spoken to the boat company that brought me to Don Det Island in Laos.
–Whenever a stranger tells you that he/she can offer you a better exchange rate prior to crossing the border, it is most likely not true.
–Any sort of medical tents or facilities badgering you should just be ignored. I was told when entering Cambodia they will try to take your temperature, resulting in an unnecessary fee. Research prior to crossing to determine what is legit or not.
–Be cautious that the person collecting fees may be a con artist
–This is minor, but handy. Bring a pen. Just makes life easier.
Expect to pay an extra buck or two here, there, and somewhere else as well, but do not be blatantly ripped off left and right. The value of a dollar in Southeast Asia means so much more to the natives than it ever could to any Westerner traveling through without a doubt; however, one can be taken advantage of very easily. At home or across the world; take care of yourself. Respect everyone and all will end well.