To preface this helpful little blog, john and I are on a budget. We have saved enough money to do this for about 2 months, so we are trying to stay frugal and spend $50 or under per day, so about $3000 total over the 2 month time period.
We have had multiple, and I mean MULTIPLE, mobile misadventures which has inspired me to write some tips for how to get around in Cambodia without screwing yourself ☺
John and I are picked up in Cambodia and taken to our hostel by our Tuk Tuk driver, Chen, who I’ve written about before. He seemed very nice, helped us around town picking up the things we needed, he took us to the Floating Villages the first day, and Angkor Wat the second day for sunrise, and then later that same day he promptly lied and screwed us over.
This is what happened:
Chen said the Tuk-tuk ride around the Floating Villages for our first day out together was 18,000 Riel ($4.45), which John confirmed “eighteen, as in one-eight.”
Chen said “yes.”
So we paid him the first night 20,000 Riel and told him to split the change (2,000 Riel) with another guide that had helped us out.
When we got back after the second day at Angkor he claimed the night prior that he had said “80,000 Riel,” ($19.81) and not “18,000 Riel.” So we owed him 62,000 Riel from the first day (18,000-80,000) PLUS what it cost for the Angkor Trip.
After some berating from me about honesty, trust and the fact that not all Americans are filthy rich I was able to whittle down the astronomical cost to a smaller (but still painful) amount.
So! Tips for Tuk-tuks so you don’t go through what we went through:
1. Prices depend on how far you’re going; start the bid price ultra-LOW, they will start mega-HIGH
2. Don’t get a Tuk-tuk in a major area (ie. Pub Street in Siem Reap, or Khoa San Road in Bangkok) as the prices are inflated
3. Decide on the price BEFORE you accept the ride & get in the Tuk-tuk
4. Confirm on the price, perhaps write it out on paper so there is no miscommunication between “eighteen” and “eighty.”
John and I are bummed about losing 1/2 a day’s budget on the Tuk-tuk so we decide to rent a motorbike.
John grew up in New Hampshire, riding four wheelers and dirt bikes all the time so he’s needing the freedom that a motorbike gives him. I don’t trust the bikes at all due to the fact that they look like they are glued, twist-tied and taped together, but… they ALL look like that and we’ve seen other foreigners riding them around and John’s a mechanic so we look it over and do our due diligence.
We take pictures of the motorbike because we’ve heard that the company you rent from will claim any damage that was already done to the bike is your fault and make you pay for it. We don’t see anything too bad (except of course the headlight is smashed and it looks like it lost a fight with Godzilla, but it’s still in working condition so whatever.) We are excited to not have to count on a Tuk-tuk and be independent. This is our second day at Angkor so this time we venture farther out. It’s really nice being able to go down the mini side roads in the jungle and be able to ride faster and not depend on someone else to drive us where we need to go.
Of course we get lost a thousand times and John knocks the bike over with both of us on it and we suffer some minor injuries, but that’s neither here nor there. Fast forward to about dusk, the sun has set, it’s beautiful out, bats are flying around our head, we're getting nommed on via mosquitos; john and I are just about to turn around and make our way back home, when, dun dun dun! John hits a pothole, all of a sudden we smell a LOT of gas and the bike dies.
We call the company who said they would come get us if something happens and they refuse. They say it’s our fault and they will fix any MECHANICAL error but because this is a gas line, read: TECHNICAL error, it’s our fault. They tell us we have to somehow bring the bike back and we may be responsible for the repairs.
A $15 tuk-tuk ride later (with john riding the motorbike ON a trailer ON a tuk-tuk) we get the bike back to the company and pay $10 for our stupid fatally flawed motorbike. Thankfully, the guy doesn’t make us pay for the repairs, so we walk away with our tails tucked between our legs vowing to not trust anyone (again.)
So! Tips for motorbike rentals:
1. Motorbikes in Siem Reap should cost $10/day
2. Inspect your motorbike, any holes / tears / damage in ANYTHING can & WILL be an issue on these roads! They are potholes aplenty!
3. Check your blinkers and headlights to make sure they work
4. Take it out on a spin before you buy/rent, so if it dies you can a) return it then before you’re responsible for anything or b) learn other crafty ways to restart it
5. Take pictures of your motorbike, they’ll claim the damage is your fault regardless if it really is
6. Make sure it does NOT say on your receipt that you are responsible for any damages done outside the shop (this one’s a doozy)
7. Make sure the company tells you they will COME PICK YOU UP if it breaks! It might break and you won’t want to have to pay for repairs AND a tuk-tuk to come pick you up AND the motorbike! It’s terribly annoying and cuts in to your fun!!
8. On your way to wherever you’re going, takes notes of where any street mechanic is, you most likely will need to know where they are at least once on your journey
John wants to rent a motorbike again despite my feelings to the contrary. I think it’s a stupid idea because everything I’ve already mentioned.
So, naturally, we go get a motorbike. The lady shows us the first one which is nicer than the one we had the day prior.
John starts it and it dies.
He starts it again and it dies.
The lady doesn’t seem to think there’s anything wrong with it and shows John a new fancy way to start it. He takes it for a spin and it dies 3 times.
We tell the lady “nooo, thank you.” And she offers us another one. This one looks glued together but doesn’t seem to have any mechanical or technical errors, just superficial ones, so we ask her “if something happens, will you come get us?”
She promises “yes.”
So we take the motorbike out, meander around all the rest of the temples at Angkor and on our way back, nighttime, we hit something mysterious and get a flat tire. We call the lady and ask her to come get us because we’re mildly far away from the location and guess what?! she’s not there.
Another dude is, who, naturally, DOESN’T BELIEVE US! (Crazy!)
He tells us to go to a street mechanic, fix the flat and bring it back by 8 o’clock or he’ll charge us for another day (oh, and it’s 7:00pm).
Luckily numerous Cambodian people on the street felt bad for us (I think the look on my face was utter despair / mild loathing); they helped us bring the bike to a street mechanic and get it fixed. We brought the bike back and had more problems about how much gas there was in the tank when we began our journey…. Inspiring more tips:
1. Make sure on your receipt it says how much gas there was when you started your journey. They’ll claim you had a full tank no matter what, so when you rent it have the person write out the amount of gas presently in the tank.
2. Get the phone number of the person you rented it from, don’t count on them to share information to the other employees because they won’t.
Hopefully this is helpful on your journey. Trust your intuition and perhaps your girlfriend when she says “this is probably a bad idea.” Good luck! 🍀