At the time of writing this, there is no metered taxi in Cambodia. ‘Taxis’ are private cars but they are not Uber or Grab.  This is how the locals do it:

1) book a taxi

The locals are amazingly resourceful. When I was working in the college, the staff would travel back to Phnom Penh every weekend to spend time with their families. I had to do the same because they didn’t want to leave me alone in the school campus, for security reason. I had seen my colleague calling different taxi drivers to take us back to Phnom Penh. Sometimes, she’d tell me with a sigh, ‘the taxi driver that I know is not coming today. I need to keep finding another taxi driver.’ It could take her a few hours just to look for a taxi. She usually could find one in the end. She said when I asked her how she managed to do it, ‘I just keep asking my friends for their taxi drivers’ contacts.’

These taxi drivers she used usually would take us to our homes. I know this sentence sounds strange to you. You might be thinking, ‘Of course, taxis stop in front of our homes. This sentence is redundant.’  BUT, we are talking about Cambodia.  Things can be different.

For Cambodians, taxis that travel from one town to another don’t necessarily stop in front of their homes. Like in my case, the college is in another village which is 2-3 hours (due to road construction. Before that, it took less time) away from Phnom Penh. The taxis could drop you at a random place like the international airport in Phnom Penh. Then you will need to take a tuk tuk or PassApp or a bus to your home. My colleague doesn’t like it at all because she usually needs to carry quite a lot of stuff for the college. Hence, she usually asks the drivers to take her to her home. That is considered as a special request. Fortunately, it doesn’t cost extra.

My college is closer to the international airport than the city centre of Phnom Penh so the drivers were willing to take us to our homes since we lived in that area. However, I once stayed in the city centre in Phnom Penh. The driver said he couldn’t take me there. So in the end, he dropped me at the airport where I took the bus to my lodging (my accommodation was not guaranteed so I sometimes needed to move).

Overloading is also common. This is how the taxi drivers earn more money.  For a private car, usually, if there are only two seats in the backseat, in most countries, you can only accommodate two people but in Cambodia, you will see three or sometimes four people sitting on those two seats if the passengers are slim.  Bear in mind, we are not talking about luxurious cars with large seats.

2) hail one on the side of the road or go to a specific petrol station to find one

You need to know which part of the road and which petrol station and you need to negotiate with the drivers before you hop in their taxis. Usually, someone that I know offered to help me to negotiate. Sometimes you get a taxi or a minivan.

Regardless of the kind of taxi you take, you can see that some taxi drivers also deliver goods for their customers. You may see some local people giving them a parcel and some money before they leave the ‘terminus’. Then the drivers will stop somewhere to deliver the parcels. This is another way for them to earn extra cash.

Note: Some local people like to open the windows when the air-conditioner is on.

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