Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The online world can learn a lot from Cambodia....

No matter how evolved we think the Internet has become, if we're really honest with one another, we know there are only a handful of times when an online process is truly and utterly simple.

I was fortunate enough to experience one of these precious moments of simplicity last week when applying for a tourist visa to Cambodia, which I'm visiting next month.

A week later, I am still dumbfounded by the fact that you actually can apply for a visa online.

While I know this should be the case (after all, if we can file our taxes online, then why not a tourist visa application?), I've never come across an online visa application process before--well, not one that works anyway.

I don't know about you, but, sadly, it's my experience that most embassy and foreign consulate websites offer nothing more than an address and phone number, if you're lucky!

So imagine my (pleasant) surprise when I landed on what is, by far, one of the best websites I've ever come across--both within and outside the travel industry.

The website of the Royal Embassy of Cambodia is everything a website ought to be: informative, well-designed, easily navigated, and attractive.

But best of all, I was able to apply for my visa with just a few keystrokes and received my visa via email in under an hour.


What's more, the site provides detailed instructions on how to attach a photo to your visa application. (Unusually, the instructions are not, apparently, translated by someone whose first language is not English.) There is even a link provided for those who need to download photo software.

Even better, the Cambodians don't seem to mind if you take a photo with your mobile (which I did), and provide instructions on how to upload the photo to your desktop.

The website says it encourages tourists to apply for a visa online in the name of helping to protect the environment (even though you need to print your visa, at least you don't have to waste environmentally toxic petrol commuting to the embassy).

I suppose that kind of helps to offset all those carbon emissions I'll be pumping into the atmosphere as a result of flying to Cambodia from London in the first place.

Oh well, you know what they say...every little helps.

Tricia Holly Davis, chief writer, Travolution

1 comment:

Rob said...

Another advantage (and possibly the real reason for this new process, although they would never be able to admit to it...) is that you will no longer have to face the infamously corrupt immigration officials charging arbitrary amounts at the land border crossings.