How To Get Into A Country And Live To Tell About It

Without getting political, let me simply say, one does not walk into a country without going through a process which includes paying money, and being scrutinized.

Take my visit to Cambodia for example:

First, I needed a passport. I can’t remember how much mine cost, but it was not cheap. Without a passport I would be stuck in the fifty-nifty United States. Passports need to be renewed every ten years. Nowadays a passport is even needed to get into Mexico.

Second, in order to get into Cambodia I had to apply for a visa. Eight years ago it cost only about $20. This time I paid double that. The visa is what approves me getting into Cambodia. I applied online and it took about 3 days to receive it. Mine is a (T) or tourist visa which means it’s only good for 30 days.

Next, is the Arrival/Departure Card. It’s free and I fill it out on the plane before entering (Note to self: Always carry a pen otherwise you have to try and bum one off your neighbor. He doesn’t have one either). This form asks questions like “Length of stay”, “Purpose of visit”, “Address in Cambodia”, etc. The Khmer government wants to know what countries I came from before arriving and when I depart, what country is my final destination

Finally, there is a General Department of Customs and Excise form. That form wants to know if I am bringing any goods or large sums of money into the country.

Four steps/forms needed along with some money to get in. Oh, and I can’t forget one more thing; Standing in front of the unfriendly Khmer customs agent as he snaps my photo, takes fingerprints, and scrutinizes the paperwork, never once making eye contact, until finally he endorses my passport with an arrival visa stamp and I walk happily through the gate.

Getting into a country should be a process. That is what makes a country a country. It also makes me appreciate being in that country as a visitor because I realize it’s a privilege not a right.

Process, money, scrutiny. That’s how it’s done throughout the world. It’s been that way for many millennia.

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