In traveling to dozens of countries using my passport from the Commonwealth of Dominica, I've discovered that many of them, especially in Asia, use a customs and immigration procedure for visitors called "visa on arrival."
I wrote about this procedure in a previous post, but today, I wanted to share my experience entering and traveling in the Kingdom of Cambodia. This was the only country in the southeast Asia region that I had never visited, so I knew my wife and I would be in for some adventure. Some adventure is what we received!
Flying in from Vietnam, we arrived at Siem Reap, Cambodia's largest airport at dusk and were directed to the visa desk. I was immediately struck by the number of officials milling behind the visa desk compared to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. There must have been 15-20 officials who deal only with visa on arrival! One or two officials is the norm in most other countries.
One of the officials handed me a form. After completing it, I gave it respectfully to a uniformed official along with my Dominica passport. I paid the $20 visa fee and the friendly official to whom I presented the money directed me to another area to collect my passport. A second official smiled and handed my passport back with a visa affixed inside. I received no hostility, no angry glares, or questions that I occasionally encountered when using my U.S. passport years ago before I expatriated.
At the passport control checkpoint, the clerk working with me was also friendly. His name and photo as well as employee number were displayed prominently. On his desk, I saw a myriad of, including a small stamp that said "USED" that he placed on my visa. He then stamped my passport with a second stamp, plus a third listing the date indicating the expiration of my visa (30 day). This represents the time I can legally remain in Cambodia. The passport clerk stamped both my passport and disembarkation card Once he completed the process, the official smiled at me and said in near-perfect English: "Do you have small tip for me?"
I related this story to my colleague Mark Nestmann, who laughed and said, "Well, that tells you a lot about the country!" After collecting my bags and clearing customs, we exited the airport to take a taxi to our hotel. The entire process had taken only about 30 minutes.
Cambodia is a developing country that was torn apart by civil war and a horrific genocide in the 1970s. You would never know it today, as everyone I have encountered here is uniformly friendly, hard-working, and very polite. As is my principle when I travel, I always treat those I meet with the utmost respect. If you smile at people and are friendly and calm, you generally get respect in return, and things seem to go your way.
Given its war-torn history, it comes as little surprise that local Cambodians don't trust their government. They'll never tell you this of course, but the fact that the economy operates almost exclusively on U.S. dollars speaks volumes. While change is given in Cambodian Riel, this is almost completely a cash economy based on the U.S. dollar. I purchased a local SIM card for $8 without being asked for proof of identity, or any other questions, for that matter. Internet cafes and guesthouses with low cost rooms abound. Rides around town on a Tuk-Tuk cost between $1 and $2 dollars.
I see many foreigners here, including European backpackers, Thai, Korean and Japanese tourists traveling in groups, and even a few U.S. tourists. An American working here told me (with a sad smile) that, yes he must still file a tax return annually with the IRS, even though he has lived in Cambodia for many years. I gently taunted him about the fact that since I have given up my U.S. citizenship and passport, I no longer have this obligation. "I wish I could say the same," he lamented.
The Nestmann Group, Ltd. can help you get a second passport and even end your U.S. tax obligations permanently and legally through expatriation. Contact us for a consultation and we will be happy to assist you.
Now, we're off to the Angkor Temples!
Copyright (c) 2012 by The Nestmann Group, Ltd.
P.S. You can meet P.T. Freeman personally at The Nestmann Group Ltd.’s upcoming “Escape from America” seminar Oct. 26-27, in Scottsdale, Arizona. P.T. will be speaking on his experience expatriating from the United States as well as practical strategies to travel on a second passport. Click here for more information and special early-bird pricing.