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readers' submissions

 

Vietnamese Consulate in Sihanoukville

I was concerned that the VN Consulate would not be open in the afternoon. No problem, it was. They have an air-con waiting room and fees are posted, albeit not on the wall but on a laminated sheet, rather like a restaurant would with a changing menu. US$30 for a 30 day visa, and US$40 for a 90 day visa (neither specified purpose of visit in the description of the visa). A clerk came in and asked for my one photograph. I can't remember if he asked for a copy of my passport - which I was ready with. I expressed concern over wanting optional points of entry as it used to be neccessary to specify which port. He waved my worry off, rather like 'don't be silly.' He pointed to the handy desk calendar asking when I was going to Vietnam and he didn't like my answer that I wanted a reasonable window of opportunity (I didn't use those words of course). After he left to take it into the next room I reconsidered my choice of visa.

'Hmmm, for 25% more money I could get 300% more time in Vietnam. Since I am going there to work a longer visa makes more sense, in convenience and value.

So I went over into the hallway (his senior official seemed a little perturbed that I even looked in his office which was off the hallway). I asked them to 'hoooold everything'. The clerk wasn't happy that I had changed my mind. He said that it would require a three-day delay and contacting Hanoi/HCMC by fax, something like that, a hint of bureacracy that did I really want to get involved in instead of his nice and quick service? But more than that the clerk's tone was something like, 'I *can* do this but I don't want to', more like it was based on his personal mood that afternoon than any policy. I felt it was 'Don't make my life difficult' or possibly 'I make more money per unit of energy expended on these short visas'. Yet all I was doing was responding to the very information they had in their office.

Now I am in HCMC considering going to an agency locally for a six month multiple entry visa (prices vary from $100 to $150). Curiously, Mittapheap Travel in Phnom Penh charges virtually the same. So there is no financial advantage of using their service. However the Sihanoukville Consulate sticks in my craw as what should be the cheapest way. The Sihanoukville Consulate didn't list any six month visa only a three month one which I have no idea whether they require a letter of introduction or some other hoops to jump through. They have no listed email address.

I get the impression that the Sihanoukville office *can* be the best value visa (presuming one wants to go to Cambodia, anyway) but I am not looking forward to that four-hour bus ride from Phnom Penh only to find out that they've changed the rules, or who knows what.

I highly recommend the express boat from Phnom Penh to Chau Doc. It is comfortable, quiet enough, and only hmmmm.. $15. I have never experienced smoother Customs and Immigration between Cambodia and a neighbour than at that two part water crossing. The Cambodian officers lacked the venality of those coming from the Trat direction. The post is almost a park with shady trees and airy cool wooden building. Vietnamese customs and immigration let us relax on the boat while they processed all our passports without us even being present (boat staff collected them and returned them).


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