In recent years, a local Cambodian start-up company created PassApp. The way it functions is similar to Grab or Uber but instead of getting a private car, you get a tuk tuk-like vehicle. Once you download that App (it’s better for you to get a Cambodian phone number cos the PassApp drivers may call you to find your actual location), you can use it anywhere in Cambodia.
2) you don’t need to link the App to your credit card. When you get off the PassApp vehicle, you pay the driver cash.
3) you don’t need to negotiate the price with the drivers. The price (and approx. waiting time) is written on the App before you click ‘confirm’.
4) each PassApp vehicle has a number and it is shown on the App after you confirm the booking. The description also tells you the colour of the vehicle. They have different colours like white, yellow, blue, etc. Some PassApp drivers will honk the horn to get your attention but make sure the vehicle is the one you confirm on the App by referring to the information the App provides you. The right one sometimes will call your local number to confirm or you can call the driver to confirm.
1) even though the App shows the drivers and the passengers the map and the route, the drivers will still ask you for directions. It can be quite frustrating because as a tourist, you may not know which way you should turn. But if you are only travelling to touristy places, the drivers should know. This happened to me several times in different places in Cambodia including Siem Reap.
I once booked a PassApp to the hostel where I stayed in Siem Reap. The driver had to get off the vehicle to ask the staff in a restaurant for directions. Sometimes, right after I got on the vehicle, the drivers would ask me, ‘turn left or right?’ I rolled my eyes and I usually pointed at their phone which clearly showed the route on the map.
My opinion is that both the drivers and I share the same map and route on the screen on PassApp and they are the local drivers, they should know better than I do. If they don’t know, they need to check. That’s their job. Don’t rely on the foreign travelers anymore.
As a matter of fact, the country has been relying on foreign aids for way too long. So long that the local people should learn to stand on their own feet. It may sound harsh, but think about it, if your parents kept helping you to walk when you were a baby instead of letting you walk by yourself, you’d probably couldn’t walk by yourself now as an adult.
If I have to find excuses for them, then this could be due to the newly constructed roads. My colleague from the college which I later worked in told me she doesn’t know some of the roads in Phnom Penh too even though she lives there because there have been too many newly built roads as the government has been very aggressive in developing the country to move it above the poverty line. But remember, the map of PassApp is very updated. It shows the new roads.
But I think, another reason is because even though they have a smart phone, they don’t know how to use it. After I pointed at their phones, some drivers still didn’t know how to read the map on their own phones. You can tell from their facial expressions. My students in the village don’t know how to use their smart phones too. For them, it’s just a device on which they can go to Youtube to look for their favourite Khmer songs to sing along. I have also mentioned it in my previous blog: https://learnxtravel.com/2019/10/12/legacy/.
I was once waiting on the side of a street for a PassApp. Another PassApp driver came to ask me if I called him. I said ‘no’ a few times. He kept bugging me. He even showed me the phone number of the person who booked his PassApp. I shook my head and said ‘no’ several more times. He then said a few more times, ‘your friends. Your friends. Your friends called me.’ I felt so annoyed. I said ‘NO! They are not my friends!’ I stared at him, I frowned, and I gave him an angry look. He was still standing in front of me with his vehicle. He finally found his Cambodian customers standing right across the street. He then said to me, ‘oh!’ and then pointed at his Cambodian customers and finally he left. Is it because of the newly constructed roads? Or is it because they don’t know how to use the App and their smart phone? Please feel free to leave a comment below.
2) if you stay in suburbs or some remote places, there could be no PassApp drivers who are willing to pick you up.
When I first arrived in Cambodia in May 2019, I was staying in the suburb of Kampong Cham. For a few times, the PassApp drivers cancelled the booking. Yes, they cancelled it. In the end, I had to go to the main road to hail any vehicle that I could see including motorbikes, minivans, and tuk tuk to go to town. It sounds like hitchhiking only that you need to pay when you get off.
After weighing the good and bad points above, I still chose PassApp to travel within a city. I didn’t like to negotiate the prices with the drivers and most of the time, I encountered drivers who knew how to use PassApp and their smart phones.
Do they have Grab in Cambodia? Yes, but I have seen them in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh only, at the time I write this. You can use your Grab to call a tuk tuk-like vehicle. It’s linked to your credit card. It’s the same Grab as the one you use in other Southeast Asian countries. Sometimes Grab offers discounts. Sometimes Grab is more expensive than PassApp. When I was with another traveler, this was what we did: I checked PassApp while she checked Grab to compare the prices.
Note: whichever you take, PassApp or Grab, they are similar to tuk tuk so make sure you wear a mask. It’s very dusty in Cambodia.
Want to know more about internet service provider in Cambodia and my experience with them? Check out my blog here: https://learnxtravel.com/2020/01/11/internet/
Want to know more about how to communicate with your PassApp drivers? Learn some basic Khmer here: https://learnxtravel.com/2020/02/16/learn-khmer/