The best way to travel around town in Cambodia is by tuk tuk. These tips will help you negotiate the price, stay safe, and get to your destination.
The tuk tuk has got to be one of the most pleasant forms of intraurban transit in Cambodia. The official name for them is the French word “remorque”, but everyone still calls them tuk tuks. These two-wheeled carriages pulled behind a moto are a breezy way to travel and are marginally safer than going by moto–mostly because they go at about half the speed.
Tuk tuks are also more expensive than motos, but worth the expense. Here are a few tips for taking tuk tuks:
Learn the pagodas and markets
Most tuk tuk drivers seem to have only a loose grasp of the geography of the area they work in and are not familiar with the sort of landmarks that Westerners generally use. For example, telling a tuk tuk driver a street name and cross street will often result in a blank stare. But tuk tuk drivers will almost always know the names of the local markets and pagodas (wats), so it’s good to know which one you live closest to and give directions from there.
Negotiate the price in advance
When tuk tuk drivers see foreigners, they often see dollar signs floating over our heads. Therefore, it’s better to negotiate a price in advance rather than risk having an argument about $2 in front of your house or the restaurant where you’re having a business dinner. Negotiating a price in advance gives you the leverage to walk away if you don’t think you’re being offered a fair deal (and walking away usually drops the price substantially). Once you have a relationship with a regular driver, you can do as the locals do, and just pay what you think is fair at the end of the trip.
Prices (for Phnom Penh)
Everyone pays different rates (some people seem to be able to negotiate lower rates and others seem to always pay more) but here are some tips to get you started. Prices never go below $1. A trip that’s up to 5 minutes is usually about 4,000-6,000 riel ($1 – $1.50). Across town is usually $3 and anything in between a short trip and an across town trip is $1.50 to $2. From almost anywhere in Phnom Penh to the airport should be $6, but it can be gotten for $5 if there’s not a lot of traffic.
If you make your driver wait for you or he helps you carry your groceries upstairs, pay a bit extra (depending on how high up you live!) Also expect to pay slightly more at night and you will always pay more the more people you have. A trip that will cost $1.50 for 1 person will be $2 for 2-3 people and even more if you have 4. It’s important to remember that prices have gone up recently (as of 2014) because Cambodia has experienced inflation and rising gas prices. Do not expect to pay the same rates you paid five years ago.