A tuk-tuk is a motorcycle, or sometimes a bike, that has a carriage attached to the back of it so that passengers can be carried inside of it. It is the only practical way to get around in Cambodia, because for some reason, they think that sidewalks are not for walking, rather they are for putting food stalls, or parking their car/tuk-tuk/motorcycle. This forces you to walk in traffic, which is not very safe, considering in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, people consider traffic lights and signs more like suggestions and not the law. The tuk-tuk is cheap and can weave in and out of traffic better than a car can, so if you are a tourist, get used to riding in a tuk-tuk.
Here are the ingredients for having a successful tuk-tuk ride:
1. Look like you are not from Cambodia. If you are not from Cambodia, then you have already got this covered. Believe me, no matter what type of Asian you are, you do not look Cambodian, and will be approached. You will be approached on the street very politely by the driver yelling “Tuk-Tuk” at you and motioning you to their vehicle. As long as you are standing and are outside you will be asked. It doesn’t matter if you are shopping, tying your shoe, or walking one block down the road; if you are standing up and are outdoors then YOU NEED A TUK-TUK.
2. US$2.Two American dollars will get you to about anywhere within the city. They use a mixture of US dollars and their own currency, the Cambodian Riel, for change. There are no US coins, so for example, if you buy something that cost $3.50 and give $5 to pay for it, you will receive one $1 bill and 2000 Cambodian Riel (is paper money) as your change. The good thing is that you won’t end up with a lot of coins. The bad thing is, you cant exchange the Cambodian Riel back into US dollars, or any other currency, except for in Cambodia. So If you leave the country with it, its useless. So just leave it as tips. Let them keep that mess.
3. A pair of glasses and something to cover your nose. Well, only if you plan on seeing and breathing! There is so much dirt and pollution in Phnom Penh, and I have no idea where the dirt/sand/dust comes from. It’s not near the beach or desert, yet there are dirt piles on every block and everything is kinda orange. While driving in the open air tuk-tuk you will get particles of this in your eyes and you will feel it in your throat. Many of the locals wear surgical face masks while driving on motorcycles and walking. So that is why you need the glasses and face cover. At first I used my cardigan, but then I upgraded to a scarf, so that it can double as a sweat rag. It is hot as hell and not many places have air conditioning, so you will sweat like a roasting pig, while the locals walk around wearing long sleeves and jeans, for some unknown reason. If anyone knows why, please leave it in the comments. I heard that it was because they did not want the sun to tan their skin because they think that being lighter is better, but this doesn’t explain why there were many people wearing thick ass hoodies and velvet blazers.
So, there you have it. The tuk-tuk drivers are usually pretty cool people, so don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with them! Most of them speak English!