How to Take Tuk Tuks in Cambodia Like a Pro
Tuk tuks are one of the most popular transportation options for both locals and tourists in Cambodia. They’re best for traveling in and around cities, like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, since there’s a lack of public transportation.
I tend to stay away from tuk tuks in other southeast Asian countries because it’s difficult to know if you’re getting a fair price and the drivers can be aggressive. But I found myself taking tuk tuks all the time in Cambodia and ended up enjoying it. The tuk tuk drivers in Cambodia are laid back and don’t hound you if you’re not interested. And with tuk tuk apps like PassApp and Grab, I didn’t have to negotiate or struggle with communicating.
If you’ve never taken a tuk tuk before or feel anxious about hailing one, here’s everything you need to know to take tuk tuks in Cambodia like a pro.
What is a tuk tuk?
Tuk tuks are three-wheeled motorized rickshaws that are popular in southeast Asian countries, including Cambodia. They can typically seat two to four people.
It’s pretty much impossible to travel throughout Cambodia without taking a tuk tuk. They’re cheap, can be found everywhere, and will take you anywhere you want to go. However, since they’re slower than motorbikes and cars, they’re best for short distance trips. I wouldn’t recommend taking a tuk tuk for anything that’s more than an hour away.
How much is a tuk tuk in Cambodia?
Tuk tuk prices depend on distance, whether you’re a local or tourist, and your haggling skills. For reference, the most I ever paid for a tuk tuk was 14,800 KHR (or about $3.60 USD) to travel about 13.5 km in Phnom Penh.
The best ways to get a fair price are to either ask your accommodation what you should expect to pay or use a tuk tuk app.
Remember, you’ll need cash when paying for a tuk tuk – unless you use the tuk tuk app Grab. It’s best to have a variety of bills so you can pay the exact amount, since some drivers may not have enough change.
How much do you tip a tuk tuk?
Cambodia doesn’t have a tipping culture, so it’s not necessary or expected to tip tuk tuk drivers. However, you can round up the nearest 500 when paying and let the driver keep the change.
For example, if the price is 4,200 KHR, pay the driver 4,500 and let them know you don’t need change.
How to hail a tuk tuk on the street
Flag down a driver on the street for cheaper prices: With so many tuk tuks around, it’s easy to hail one. If you’re coming out of your hotel or a tourist attraction, there will be tuk tuk drivers waiting outside. Approach any of them and tell them where you’d like to go. These drivers typically charge more because they can speak English. So if you’re trying to save money, start walking and flag a driver down on the street. To do so, stand on the side of the road, hold your arm out with the palm of your hand facing down, and move your hand up and down.
Tell drivers the nearest landmark to where you’re going: Tuk tuk drivers aren’t familiar with street addresses, so the best way to tell them your destination is by giving the name of a landmark or attraction. Drivers know tourist attractions. But if you’re going to a restaurant, for example, tell them the name of a temple, market, or park near it.
Always negotiate the price before getting in: When getting a tuk tuk from the street, always agree on a price upfront. This is the most important rule when taking tuk tuks. It’s a common scam for drivers to demand a high price at the end of the ride if you didn’t set a price at the beginning. By negotiating in advance, you’re also able to walk away if you’re not happy with the price.
How to use tuk tuk apps in Cambodia
Using a tuk tuk app is the easiest way to hail a tuk tuk, navigate the language barrier, get a fair price, and ensure you’ll be dropped off at the right place. It was pretty much the only way I hailed tuk tuks when I was traveling around Cambodia for one month.
There are two tuk tuk apps in Cambodia: PassApp (iOS and Android) and Grab (iOS and Android). Once you download the app, you’ll need to make an account. When you’re all set up, ordering a tuk tuk is similar to using other ride hailing apps.
You’ll confirm your pick-up location and enter your destination. Then, you’ll be matched with a tuk tuk driver. You can see your driver’s profile, including their name, photo, and rating. The app also shows you the price and how far away the driver is from your location.
PassApp vs. Grab
Pass is typically cheaper than Grab: Whenever I needed to order a tuk tuk, I would open both Pass and Grab, enter my destination, and compare the prices. Every single time, the price with Pass was cheaper.
Pass requires a Cambodia phone number: If you plan on using Pass, you’ll need a Cambodia phone number. Make sure you have an unlocked phone and buy a SIM card when you arrive. For Grab, you can create an account using your current phone number.
Pass requires cash payment, while Grab supports credit card payment: When using Pass, you’ll always need to pay the driver in cash. I didn’t find this to be a problem though. Since Cambodia is a country that mostly uses cash, I always had cash on me. With Grab, you can pay for your rides via credit card – just add a credit card to your account. You can also toggle between payment methods when you’re ordering a ride.
Pass only operates in Cambodia, while Grab is available in other southeast Asian countries: Grab operates in eight countries: Cambodia, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. If you’re traveling to any of these places on the same trip, you’ll want to keep the Grab app on your phone.
Are tuk tuks safe in Cambodia?
Tuk tuks are a safe mode of transportation in Cambodia. Tuk tuk drivers are experienced with navigating busy roads and weaving in and out of traffic. The biggest danger is bag snatching, which happens more often in large cities like Phnom Penh.
Since tuk tuks are open air vehicles with no windows and usually no doors, anyone can reach in and grab your belongings. Keep bags and backpacks in between your feet, on your shoulders, or hold onto them in your lap. Cellphones are also easy to snatch, so keep a tight grip on yours or put it in a zipped pocket or bag.