Is it only me or is crossing borders by land just so much more adventurous than arriving at an airport? Without the hassle of boarding planes and checking in luggage you suddenly find yourself in a completely different country within minutes. Now, I never though there was much of a difference really.
You see, coming from Europe crossing borders is pretty lame because you barely even notice you have entered a new country. Where I used to live in Germany there was a train that would take you into France within an hour and when I was living next to the Dutch border I was crossing borders two/three times a day. Since I was living in Germany but studying in the Netherlands I spent my days in both countries without even really noticing anymore. No big deal.
Even though by that time I had already travelled to a lot of different countries I had never crossed a border by land where I had to go through the process of handing in my passport and getting a new stamp. Or walking through that little part of two countries where I got stamped out of one and not yet entered another, still wondering if they would even let me in.
And all those questions running through your mind. Is immigration going to ask for my proof of onward travel? Is my luggage going to be checked through again? And is there an exit fee and where do I pay it? Or what is the first thing I am going to eat once I arrive at my destination? (most important question)
Since there weren’t that many borders that I had crossed while writing this post I have decided to share my experiences when crossing borders by land. So maybe you can get an idea of what to expect if you are heading to any of these countries.
Now this will only include countries were you actually notice that you will be going into a new country because what’s the point in telling you how I got into a bus in Germany once, fell asleep, and then woke up in Belgium. Great border crossing story.
1. From France to England (March, 2016)
Now technically these are both in the EU, at least at the time I was crossing as well as writing this. But since there was a large amount of water between both countries I thought it was still fairly interesting. Not sure why we decided to take the night bus from Amsterdam to London, since flights to London are usually pretty cheap (at least from Europe). There was no real immigration process but we did had to get out of the bus and queue to get our ID checked before getting on the ferry.
This was interesting because for some reasons I thought they would check identification when arriving in England instead of in France. Overall, this was an interesting border crossing by land (rather by water). The only annoying thing was that I had just fallen asleep in the bus and then we had to get out and sit on the two-hour ferry at four in the morning.
2. From Panama to Costa Rica (July, 2017)
I feel like this was my first real border crossing experience and I expected a lot of waiting. It was pretty empty though apart from hundred of trucks queueing in line to get checked. It all went smoothly and really quickly. First we got stamped out of Panama, then went to fill out the entry card for Costa Rica and paid the exit fee of a couple of dollar for Panama.
After that, there was a bridge connecting both countries, no waiting at all and then the only other thing to get was the new entry stamp, which was in an office that I probably would have walked past if the other people from my cab wouldn’t have gone in. Anyway, super easy border crossing and I thought they would check my luggage but nothing at all. And then suddenly I was in Costa Rica.
3. From Costa Rica to Nicaragua (July, 2017)
I don’t know what I expected but this border crossing went pretty smoothly as well. It was a little bit more busy at this border then at the Panama/ Costa Rica border but I also crossed in the middle of the day around noon. So that was no surprise.
I had also booked a shuttle to get from San José to San Juan del Sur so there was a guide included who would show us where to go at the border. I know, I could have done the border by public transport as well but since it was such a long distance coming from San José I was pretty scared that I would miss the last bus and then be stuck at the Nicaragua border by dark.
That was the main reason I guess why I decided to go for the shuttle instead. I had to pay an extra $ for a piece of paper, not sure if that was legit since that was separately paid with the entry fee.
4. From Nicaragua to Costa Rica (August, 2017)
Since I had already crossed this border the other way around I was expecting a similar experience than before. But for some reason crossing from Nicaragua into Costa Rica was a lot more effort. This time I got actually asked for proof of onward travel (I had a flight from Costa Rica back to Panama so that was alright).
And also my luggage got scanned again even though they didn’t check it when I went the other way. It also felt like crossing the border this way took a lot more time but it still went pretty fast compared to other borders.
5. From Malaysia to Thailand (December, 2018)
This was by far the most time-consuming border crossing. First I had to queue forever to get an exit stamp of Malaysia and then everyone had to take a number until they could queue at immigration which was another two hours of waiting. The immigration process itself was super fast only the waiting was a little annoying.
But nevertheless, super easy process of crossing the border. I don’t remember where but I once read to not cross Malaysia to Thailand by land. I had no issues at all.
6. From Thailand to Cambodia (January, 2018)
You might wonder why this was the worst border crossing and there are several reasons for that. For once, there was a lot of pointless waiting involved. At least at the previous border I was waiting for my range of numbers to be called out so I knew what I was waiting for but at the Thailand/Cambodia border that was not the case.
We got dropped off a few kilometres before the border and waited forever. Then I got overcharged for the visa. I gave them a passport photo but I had to pay extra once again so they would take another photo even though there was not a single picture on the visa.
Then I got ripped off a little with the currency, because they were telling us that it’s best to get out all money in Thai Baht and then exchange it at the border into Cambodian Riels. That turned out not to be true. Lastly, after an entire day trip from Bangkok to Siem Reap they dropped us of in the middle of nowhere so it was a huge struggle to even find my hostel when there was no wi-fi around to even check where I was.
All in all, the border crossing wasn’t great but that was mostly because of the travel company and not really because of the border itself. The immigration process was super easy when you had your visa done before, it was just a little busy but that was about it.
7. From Cambodia to Vietnam (January, 2018)
Probably the fastest border crossing so far. I had booked a bus that got to the border late in the afternoon so it was super empty and went really quickly. I also didn’t need to get a visa beforehand, because I was staying less than 15 days so there was no problem with that this time. Also the bus was super comfortable and they legit dropped us off half a minute from where my hostel was located when I got to Ho Chi Minh City.
Maybe the other way around this border would have taken more effort due to the visa requirement in Cambodia, but I can’t speak for that really.
And these are all the borders I have crossed by land (so far). Have you had any experiences with any of these borders? Also what was you best and worst experience when crossing borders by land?
Let me know in the comments
Have a great day x