This post is part of my “Surviving Scambodia” series, to help you get through Cambodia a little easier than I did. Other posts are to do with not handing your passport to strange people at a fake border and outsmarting the smartie-pants scammers you will run into.
In Cambodia, there are a few good ways to get around. If you’re really into health, and exercise and all those other things I can never be interested in for more than five minutes, there’s bike rentals everywhere. And this post is probably not for you.
BUT if you’re like my family and I, and you enjoy being moved by something other than the power of the pedal, there are tuk tuks and buses. And of course, the people who drive them, who would love to get a lot more money out of you than they should.
Let’s start with buses. You’re probably not going to get on a bus unless you’re travelling from one of the main cities to the next, so luckily for you, you (hopefully) won’t have to deal with them too often. Because they are seriously un-fun.
Now, I come from a family with good genetics, especially when it comes to height. I’m something around 5′ 11″ (or so the Internet length converters tell me) and this does not make it easy for me to squish up into small space.
Brittney, why would you squish up into a small space? You’re on a sixty-seat bus!
Well, invisible audience member who always asks the right questions, it turns out that in Cambodia, they don’t leave a whole lot of room for your legs. If I was a 4’5″ Cambodian person or a Western child tourist, then sure, I’d have heaps of space. But sadly, I am not, and I did not.
Like it’s not bad enough that nearly ever bus you board will be completely different from the pictures shown to you in the office (this is a whole south-east Asia thing, so get ready for it) but they’re very uncomfortable and a lot of them will come without even a toilet. Just learn to do a big sigh (on the inside) and mush up into your seat for the long journey ahead.
Now for the tuk tuks. They are one of the best ways to get around Cambodia, because they’re quick, they’ll pick you up from your hostel and take you pretty much anywhere. And if you bargain right, they’ll be cheap too.
In the three big cities of Cambodia (Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Sihnoukville) there are heaps of tuks tuks, and if you’re staying somewhere a little out of the city and don’t see them driving by all the time, your hotel will probably have the number of a few people they can call for you. But you need to be prepared to bargain the price of the tuk tuk.
Some drivers will give you a price you’re happy with right away. Some won’t, and you just need to be tough and bargain until you get the price you want. And if they won’t go down to the price you want, just walk away. They either let you go to someone else, or they’ll call you back and agree with you.
NOW I have to mention that if you try to bargain three different drivers down to what you think is an “appropriate price” and they all say no, you’re bargaining at a crazy level. I’m all about saving cash, but you can’t rob these guys. Loosen up.
I can’t remember the actual price we paid for some of the tuk tuk rides we took around the cities in Cambodia, but I do remember one very very important piece of information from Siem Reap.
He’s a tuk tuk driver that lives/works in Siem Reap, and my mum was told about him by her friend Nate, who proclaimed “Sovaan is the best tuk tuk driver in all of Cambodia, CALL HIM!” Well Nate, you were right.
He drove us to the temples in Siem Reap all day and all night, and kept ice cold bottled water in his tuk tuk for us, and he even let me sleep in the driver’s hammocks. And he only charged us $12. FOR THE WHOLE DAY.
I’m not kidding, if you’re headed to Siem Reap, then you should really give him a call and let him take care of you. If you call him beforehand and arrange for him to pick you up from the bus, he’ll even find you the cheapest accommodation and take you wherever you want to go.
Recap on Scambodia Transport:
Buses will most likely be uncomfortable. And different from the picture. And come without a toilet. Suck it (and curl) up.
Tuk tuk drivers give you a price that is meant to be bartered. You can agree to it straight away if you want (and you have the cash) but for those on a budget, you can always argue the price down to something you’re happy with.
Sovaan is THE best tuk tuk driver in all of Siem Reap. CALL HIM! Your hotel/hostel will let you use their phone, I’m sure.
Stick around for the next installment of Surviving Scambodia, where I’ll talk about some of the attractions in Cambodia and give you my own personal rating. Seriously, I’ve got the knowledge to do that kind of stuff.