Quarantine of Motorbike by Cambodian Customs

Discussion in 'Cambodia - General Discussion Forum' started by paulhen, Feb 14, 2014.

  1. paulhen

    paulhen Member

    I am on an extended layover in Phnom Penh, Cambodia while on a motorbike trip solo from Chiang Mai, Thailand that has taken me here via Poipet on my owned Honda CBR250R for which I carry the original ownership papers called the Green Book in Thailand. Some of what I experienced proved some of the forum postings I had read on this forum were erroneous and/or incomplete or out of date.

    In Phetchabun, Thailand , somebody stole my license plate complete with my Chiang Mai tax certificate and a special holder for it. They were unable to remove the retainer bolts with whatever they tried to use, so bent the whole holder to and fro until it broke away. I went twice (the second time with a Thai that sure he could get them to issue a new plate) to the Transport office in Phetchabun to see what they could do for me - nothing. I asked a traffic cop who told me never mind, no worries!* But I did worry about the entry & exit of my bike to and from Cambodia. Big headache for me!! I called my visa agent in Chiang Mai who helped me with obtaining an International Drivers License as was required by my Cambodian bike insurer, Asia Insurance Cambodia, who insisted that my permanent Thai Drivers Licenses (I have 5 year permanent for both bike & car) were not legal in Cambodia by the Transport Department laws. He suggested I go to the Police Department to report the theft again (I had gone once on my own and police headquarters sent me off on my way) and insist on a police report which I did and returned for a third time to the Transport Office armed with it and the insistence of a kindly sergeant major in the traffic department that they could in fact, issue me a new plate. They were steadfast in their refusal saying I would have to return to Chiang Mai for a new plate.* Since I was half way to the border with no fixed route or schedule, I carried on to Poipet taking my chances.

    I had a lengthy delay at the Thai side of the border where I was told by several officers I could not take my bike out of Thailand without a plate on it, despite my presenting the ownership in my name several times. They also insisted I leave my heavily packed bike to go into the Thai customs building to process my departure. Finally, I wore them out saying that they were keeping an old man (I am 62 years old) in the heat for long time. The officer in charge at the crossing finally relented and had his officers do the exit papers for my bike of which I got a copy and my depature card.

    Big problems at Cambodia side of border about my motorbike.* Again, I was told to leave my motorbike unattended so as to enter the building to get my evisa stamped but again, persistence prevailed. I got past everything including border customs who issued an entry permit for my after initially refusing because of the missing plate but I argued that with the police report, the ownership papers and the Thai Customs exit permit that they should have no concerns about my motorbike. Finally, they relent and I am free to go and enter city looking for customs office so I can get letter saying my bike has no license number plate so it OK to take it back out of Cambodia when trip finished. I enter the secure parking lot and go into the customs building to find the officer responsible for such things. They say they will not let me remove my bike from the compound to take it into Cambodia.* They say there is a "New rule" you need a letter from Tourism Department in Phnom Penh granting permission for the entry of a personal vehicle which then has to come to the Poipet office to be stamped. I was told it would take one week or more and I would have to wait. I am to return to their office the next day to find out more in the morning. I want to call my Asia Insurance lady in Phnom Penh from their office but my mobile phone stopped working once I entered Cambodia (I had a Smart SIMM card another story). The very kind customs officer called her on his personal mobile for me several times that afternoon while I sat in the office for hours. She made tremendous efforts to get information/resolution for me. Finally, it was agreed that based on my promise not to leave the city, they would let me take my motorbike with me. They assigned someone to escort me to a hotel and seee to it that I was OK. Not a very good day, but a big adventure from it too. The next two days passed with my appearance at the office. I was shown the fax directive from Phnom Penh and the officer translated the jist of it to me as it was in Khmer. I noted and pointed out that the "new policy" was actually dated December, 2012. In the end, after much discussion between my Insurance Rep, the officer and the Tourism Department it was resolved that the intent of the policy was to address convoys of vehicles not single, personally owned vehicles. So I was free to go with my bike but without my requested letter about my license plate and with a warning that should I have any problem with police or customs thereafter, they were not responsible.

    I want to make it very clear that throughout all of this on either side of the border, I was treated with the utmost of courtesy and respect. I made no payment of any kind to anybody and there was no request for any such thing. I do not post this story to complain in any way, except perhaps as to the effectiveness of internal communication of some agencies but no worse than my home country where I would have been treated with far less respect, but want to alert those that may follow in the future to potential difficulties. I was on no schedule or itinerary so was able to take the delays in stride, where others may not have the latitude.

    I will post again when the time comes that I leave Cambodia should I encounter any issues. But for now my suggestions:
    1) make sure you have your visa in hand before hitting the border and if there is a possibility of reentry or staying more than 60 days, it is IMPORTANT that you get a business visa (e for economic visa) as they can be extended from inside Cambodia
    2) make sure you are equipped with high quality dust masks and tight fitting sunglasses/visor because you will not believe the fine mortar like dust on the hundreds of kilometres of roads under endless construction
    3) have electronic copies of all documents, photos of your vehicle and baggage on a USB stick organizes for easy retrieval with a printed copy in your baggage
    4) quality locks to lock up your vehicle
    Homebrew likes this.
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  3. phuketrichard

    phuketrichard Ol'Timer

    "They say there is a "New rule" you need a letter from Tourism Department in Phnom Penh granting permission for the entry of a personal vehicle which then has to come to the Poipet office to be stamped."

    this is not a new rule but an old rule that they seem to be enforcing lately
    This has been in place for years to LEGALLY bring ur bike in. I'd say u were really lucky to get in an i for one cant imagine, why with out the plate, u would try.

    Hence another reason if u wish to enter Cambodia head to Surin and enter at Osmach. Never any problems.
    even suggest u exit there rather than Poi pet ( yes its a few extra kms but.....
  4. paulhen

    paulhen Member

    Thanks for your input Phuketrichard. I proceeded without a plate as I was half way to the Cambodian border when it was stolen and to return to Chiang Mai would have meant about 1200 km or more return plus several days to get a replacement.

    Yes, a dusty rule brought back onto the front burner. But based on everything that was communicated, one that seems was not written clearly enough to avoid misapplication as in my case. Apparently the Officer at the Tourism Department commented that they had no possibility of issuing such letters for every foreign registered personal vehicle entering Cambodia, which is obvious. They would need a lot more staff. And I should think another fee to be paid!

    As far as exiting Cambodia, thank you for the advice, but I intend to exit at Poipet because the officers on both sides that processed me in can easily be found and consulted should I have problems.
  5. monsterman

    monsterman Ol'Timer

    It can take up to . several months for a new plate to be printed and issued thats another problem
  6. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Ol'Timer

    What I don't understand: every time i've ridden in and out of Thailand, nobody on either side of the border actually looks at the bike, so unless you actually point out to them that your plate is missing, it really shouldn't cause a problem.

    i carry the plate for my KLX, but it's not visible. Never been a problem.

    its true that it can take weeks or even months to have a new plate issued by the LTD, but there are shops in every major town that can crank out a copy plate in a day, which, is very hard to tell from the genuine article. I suppose having a fake plate could open up another can of worms, but as long as it correctly matches your registration number in the green book I'd think it wouldn't cause any big drama.
  7. paulhen

    paulhen Member

    Thanks for your replies guys. I would point out that at least in my case, the paperwork done at Thai customs for the exit of the bike AND the paperwork for the entry of the bike into Cambodia caused the officers in both cases to look for the plate number as they filled out the vehicle form.

    Yes, some risk to being plate less but the least of the risks I worry about riding around Cambodia solo. And as I said, anticipating possible problems as I reenter Thailand with my bike that I will be strongly inclined to do so via Poipet so I have access to the same officers potentially.

    I might point out that it was through reading online info that, as I believe I saw in this forum, there was a strong suggestion to enter via Poipet as you could exit Cambodia via any border point, otherwise one had to exit via the same point as entered at?
  8. phuketrichard

    phuketrichard Ol'Timer

    i have entered at Koh Kong an Osmach and exited at Pailin, Poi Pet an Osmach, never have entered and exited from the same border on the same trip.
    never any trouble, once was in Camboida for over 8 months an when i left he asked me why so long( really only supposed to export for 30 days) an i told him was having fun.
  9. paulhen

    paulhen Member

    Greetings Richard,
    I wonder if I could ask your further advice on two things:
    1) I have checked a map for Osmach which you suggest I exit by and it looks like it might be beautiful area for biking. I think to leave Phnom Penh May 4th. Can you identify your preferred route and a stopover of one night enroute and one for my first night after exiting? Perhaps a good, clean newer guesthouse at both for no more than $20?
    2) before I leave, I would like to make a trip to Koh Kong as it is said to be beautiful there. Balance of question same as above!

    Thanks in advance for your trouble!!
  10. phuketrichard

    phuketrichard Ol'Timer

    have done two routes from Osmach to Siem Rep

    Osmach heading south at Samrong hang a right and head towards Banteay Chhmer, a lovely old Temple complex and worth the trip as good chance u will be the only person there. than south to Sispohon where u pick up the main road east-west road ( route 5/6) from Poi Pet to SR. In 2012 it was about 120 kms of hard packed dirt, from Samrong to Sispohon.

    Heading south from Osmach straight down on hwy 68 to route 5/6, tamarack an easy traveling.

    3rd route ( which i will take this July will be)
    Osmach and at the small village of Phang head towards Anlong Veng ( resting place of Pol Pot) then down route 67 passing Kabal Spien and Banteay Srei to Sr.

    Its only a 2-3 hour trip form SR to Osmach on route 68 so u can stay in Surin, If you go via BC plan on 5-6 ours. Sispohon has a few small gh's along the main road. A great hotel near the night market,. Maneerote hotel Only 450 baht/night.

    There are some great old Khmer riuns nearby , Phanom Rung worth exploring.

    Been thru Koh Kong (back in 2011), was not that impressed but have hear the islands off shore are nice. I stayed at a new hotel on the river an it was like 500 baht. Have heard it has grown. they replaced all the ferries with Bridges but have heard the road ( as all of them in Cambodia) is slowly deteriorating.
    The road from PP-SR when i drove it first time in 2009 was new an excellent and an easy 5 hours. Last time in 2013 it took me 7 and now i have heard its worse
  11. paulhen

    paulhen Member


    Thank you ever so much for sharing your insights for my benefit. I like adventure for sure, but sometimes here it can be a little more rugged than it has to be. When I rode from SR to PP, most signage was down because of the construction which will be still years before it is anything but mortar like dust. But apparently as I headed to PP, the road forks at the "alligator" farm with the right fork taking you on a civilized road and the left taking you further along the same mess. Yep, I unwittingly took the left fork and recall it well because I wondered at some of the traffic veering off to the right!

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