Wow, time flies. Been over a year already in Cambodia. I read that Laos is cheaper to live in than Cambodia, as well as easier to extend your visa. I am currently on a work visa that is valid for one year, and expires in a month.
Cambodia immigration law allow you to be on a work or business visa for the first year without having a work permit as you are essentially looking for work. However, to extend my work visa, I will have to get a work permit. The permit itself is $100 a year, but you have to pay back fees for your previous years. That coupled with that I do not work for a company, means I will need to pay additional fees to “brokers”. Basically people that set up a front company and then say you work for them. Or I can form my own company, at some cost, in addition to the work permit fees and other “admin” fees. But then I would need to pay tax.
Considering that I am already paying 30% tax to the USA government and I do not even live there, I am not keen on the tax thing.
So, if Laos is cheaper or the same price as Cambodia, I may move there as their visa is easy. $2 a day and that is it. Cambodia has also upped their visa fees. It used to be $20 a month for a tourist visa, but is now $30, however, they add processing fees of $7 on top of that, plus if you renew you have to pay additional admin fees, that comes to $48 a month. They did leave the year business visa for now at $285 a year, but with the added work permit fees and hassle of setting up a company or paying someone to give me a work letter, it works out closely the same if i do a business visa for the year, or go with a month to month tourist visa. I am also not keen on committing another year in Cambodia.
With a tourist visa, i will have to do border runs every 3 months, but it is not so bad. I decided to bite the bullet and head to Vientiane (capital of Laos) to check it out. Last time I spoke to the travel agent and asked if he has buses to Vientiane, he said “Laos no problem, bus $22.” So I recon for $100 or so, I can be in and out in a few days and see if it is feasible to live in Laos, before i pack up and go there. Unfortunately, I forgot the golden rule in South East Asia, and that is that you are in South East Asia.
So with my mind made up, and my spirit high, I head to the travel agent I have used a few times before. I sit down and with a smile say, “a ticket to Vientiane.” His response is glistening eyes as he starts writing the bus ticket, then he stops and asks, “mini van or large bus?”
“What’s the difference in price?” “Only $2, worth it,” he goes. Shrugging my shoulder I agree. Might as well travel in a smaller van. Less people to persuade when you want the driver to stop for a restroom break (tree alongside the road).
$48 he goes, holding the ticket out to me. “It’s return right?” I ask as I take the ticket. “No, one way Vientiane,” he laughs. I am taken back a bit as this adds about $50 to the trip i did not recon in. “But you said around $22 a few days ago when I asked you.” “Yes yes, Laos $22,” he goes.
So if you say you want to go to Vientiane and they respond with a price and say Laos the country and not the town you want to go to, they mean they can get you into the country for that price. “Where does the bus go for $22?” “Oh, 4000 islands.” He smiles. I drop my shoulders, 4000 islands is just across the Laos border, about 900km from Vientiane. Biting my lip, I pay the $48 for my “though bus” to Vientiane, having no idea what adventure would await me. Before i leave, i ask. “How long is the bus ride.” “24 hours” he goes. That was technically sort of correct i would later find out.
I go home and pack light as normal, my bus is to leave at 6:30 am, so i will be picked up at 6, thus i have to get up at 4:30 to get ready and walk to the pickup point. Had i stayed in a hotel they would have come to pick me up, lucky me.
Note: The first day of actual travel is a long day and post, so i split this section into its own post.