Too Legit: The Insanely Easy Process of Getting My One-Year Visa in Cambodia

So, yesterday I got this:

I walked back down to the travel agency, one of the 800 that line the riverside, where I’d dropped my passport off two days earlier. I handed the man the $288 fee, grinning like a jackass. “That was so easy!” I exclaimed.

He gave me a wonky eye.

“I don’t know of any other country where it’s so easy to get a visa.”

“Really?” he smiled that bashful Cambodian smile.

“Totally. Cambodia—very very easy.”

I got my change and left the office still grinning. (I think the man thought I was a little off.)

But it’s true: I’m no expert on immigration, visa and residency laws, but I don’t personally know of another country where you can show up, get a 30-day visa upon arrival and then extend that visa for a year, with no applications or procedures.

It’s one of the reasons I decided to make the move out here. I’d fantasized about living abroad for years. The EU/Schengen Zone was entirely out of the question. And even in relatively easy countries like Argentina and Thailand, you’ve got to make a visa run every 90 days; procuring a work permit is another whole hassle. Cambodia?—as far as everyone I’ve talked to can tell, work permits don’t exist in this country.

“Word’s getting out,” “Lisa,” my go-to lady on all things expat-related, told me. “There’s been a huge influx of expats in the last six months. They do this Thanksgiving dinner every year at this pub. This year, they sold out by 4pm. You should have heard the dudes on Khmer 440!”

“It won’t stay this way of long,” a US Immigration lawyer based here told me. “But for now, yes—it’s one of the easiest countries for foreigners to live and work in.”

It’s tempting to write an article, a how-to-get-a-Cambodian-visa guide. It’d involve very little research, since the process is so fucking easy. But, in my inflated sense of self-importance, I’m not entirely sure I want to help “the word get out.” You know how Seoul just announced that they’re kicking out all foreign English teachers by 2014? Exactly.

So I’ll share what I did: Upon arrival at the Phnom Penh airport, I got an “ordinary” visa. It costs $25, as opposed to the $20 tourist visa. Getting an ordinary visa instead of a tourist visa is literally as easy as checking a box on a form. Both visas are valid for 30 days; a tourist visa can only be extended once, however, for an additional 30-day period, while an ordinary visa can be extended for up to a year. So, a little before my ordinary visa was to expire, I popped into one of the travel agencies on the riverside and gave them my passport, along with a passport photo (they really love those extra passport photos in SE Asia). I came back two days later, paid dude, perhaps made a grinning ass out of myself, and that was that.

Just like that, I’m legit. Dare I say, too legit…

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7 Responses to “Too Legit: The Insanely Easy Process of Getting My One-Year Visa in Cambodia”


  1. 1 Steffi December 11, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    sweet. I’ve been thinking about doing a TEFL course and living in Cambodia for a bit for a while… is your visa valid for multiple entries?

    • 2 laurenquinn December 12, 2011 at 10:19 am

      Yes. I think anything over 6 months is multiple entry.

      For what it’s worth, I’ve heard the TEFL courses offered in Cambodia are shady.

      • 3 Steffi December 12, 2011 at 11:24 am

        Thanks! Oh you haven’t dealt with Japan… nothing seems to be multiple-entry there, it’s always a pain. I’ll visit in late December or early January and have a look around. I look forward to reading about your experiences.

  2. 4 Walter Mason December 13, 2011 at 6:16 am

    Oh, good to know – I am headed over there for three months next year, and I was wondering about the visa situation.
    Terrific blog, btw.

  3. 5 juliecrenn December 13, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Hi Lauren,
    I found your blog and it’s seems really good! (I have so many posts to read šŸ˜‰
    We are back in Phnom Penh but leaving on Thursday to Rattanakiri (youpi). See you!

  4. 6 Kurt W December 13, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Lauren, great post. Cambodia is quickly becoming one of those go-to spots in Asia. I really enjoyed my time there and want to go back. Have you tried the North Korean restaurant in Phnom Penh?


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Lauren Quinn is a writer and traveler currently living in Hanoi. Lonely Girl Travels was a blog of her sola travels and expat living from 2009 to 2012. She resides elsewhere on the internet now.

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