Shady Travel agencies are everywhere in South East Asia, and experienced travelers can spot them a mile away, but for those of you that are still a little green here are a few points that will help you spot these dubious establishments.
First some background on our specific situation. We are in Pakse in Southen Laos, wanting to fly to Siem Reap in Cambodia to visit the Temples of Angkor.
- First the price we were quoted was about 25 dollars more than the the Internet said it should cost (he did not have an exact price for us, just an approximation… STRIKE 1/2), and the Internet is never wrong. STRIKE 1
- Also the agent said the flight was on Thai Airways, but a quick check of their website says that they do not fly from Pakse to Siem Reap, The airline that does fly this rout is Lao Airlines. STRIKE 2
- The dead giveaway that this place was crooked was that the travel agency would not give us tickets right away, but rather a voucher, and a promise that the voucher would be exchanged for a ticket at a later date. STRIKE 3! You’re outta there!!!
These are the tell tell signs that the place you are dealing with is not entirely on the up and up. There are times when you have no choice and you have buy a bus ticket from a place like this (it may be the only place that sells the tickets), but bus tickets are cheap, plane tickets are not, and no one should ever risk getting scammed into buying fake plane tickets, or even worse a useless voucher.
As for us the next day we went to a reputable (and recommended by fellow travelers) agency and bought two tickets (not vouchers) on Lao Airlines for Friday.