Cheap bus tickets scam

This scam is most common on the route from Cambodia to Thailand (also read our Bangkok Overnight Bus Scam). Fierce competition between the bus companies has forced them to lower their advertized fares in order to attract travelers. But they make sure to make their money in other ways. For example by upselling “VIP bus” tickets to tourists for a higher price once they’re at the booking office. Then when the bus arrives, it happens to be the same regular bus, as the VIP bus coincidentally was broken. The bus driver can’t give you a refund and you can’t go back to the booking office because the bus is about to leave.

Phnom_Penh-cheap-bus-tickets-scamThen on the way to the Thai border, the driver deliberately slacks so the bus arrives too late at the border crossing, when the customs have already closed or the ferries have stopped their service for the day. The travelers then need to spend the night at a guest house, from which the bus company receives a commission.

Before the border, some bus companies will stop at a visa office, which they claim is necessary to cross the border. However, all these offices do is fill out the paperwork for a visa request, which you can easily do by yourself at the customs. They are nothing more than a scam, offer no extra value to the traveler, and half of the money they get paid goes straight back into the pockets of the bus driver.

The bus also stops at restaurants along the way, which have made a deal with the bus company to artificially increase the meal prices to pay off the bus company.

At the destination, some of these companies don’t stop in the city center, but drop their customers off at a transit station outside the city. The travelers then have to take a minivan or taxi into town, for which they have to pay again. Of course, the bus company receives a bribe from the taxi drivers for every passenger they take.

If you travel with one of the private bus companies, keep your valuables with you at all times, and don’t stow them in the luggage compartment. Several travelers have reported items stolen during an overnight bus ride, some even out of their carry-on bags. The bus company staff is suspected of robbing their customers while they’re asleep.

There’s not much you can do about some of these scams, but be aware of them before you travel. The bus ride may not be as cheap and carefree as you may expect, so take this into consideration when weighing off a bus ticket against an airplane ticket or train ticket.

Find experiences from real victims or post your own story in our Phnom Penh and Cambodia Tourist Scams Forum.

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