There are currently almost no local bus networks in Cambodia. Phnom Penh now has a few local bus routes that are proving popular with local students, but are not yet widely used by visitors.
The remork-moto (tuk tuk) is a large trailer hitched to a motorcycle and pretty much operates as a low-tech local bus with oh-so-natural air-conditioning. They are used throughout rural Cambodia to transport people and goods, and are often seen on the edge of towns ready to ferry farmers back to the countryside.
Most popular tourist destinations, including Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and the South Coast, have their very own tourist versions of the remork, with a canopied trailer hitched to the back of the motorbike for two people in comfort or as many as you can pile on at night. Often referred to as tuk tuks by foreigners travelling in Cambodia, they’re a great way to explore temples, as you get the breeze of the bike but some protection from the elements.
So just what are those motorbikes with the cute little carriages pulled behind? Remork-motos? Remorks? Tuk tuks? The debate rumbles on. Officially, Cambodians call them remork-motos, which is often shortened to remork. In Thailand, the high-octane three-wheeled taxis in Bangkok are known as tuk tuks, and this moniker has hopped across the border into common usage in Cambodia. However, some Cambodians take offence at the use of the name tuk tuk, so for the time being we are opting for remork. Remorkable.
As in Vietnam and Laos, the cyclo (pedicab) is a cheap way to get around urban areas. In Phnom Penh cyclo drivers can either be flagged down on main roads or found waiting around markets and major hotels. It is necessary to bargain the fare if taking a cyclo from outside an expensive hotel or popular restaurant or bar. Fares range from US$1 to US$3. There are few cyclos in the provinces, and in Phnom Penh the cyclo has almost been driven to extinction by the moto.
Motos, also known as motodups (meaning moto driver), are small motorcycle taxis. They are a quick way of making short hops around towns and cities. Prices range from 2000r to US$1.50 or more, depending on the distance and the town; expect to pay more at night. In the past it was rare for prices to be agreed in advance, but with the increase in visitor numbers, a lot of drivers have got into the habit of overcharging. It’s probably best to negotiate up front, particularly in the major tourist centres, outside fancy hotels or at night.
Be careful not to put your leg near the exhaust pipe of a moto (motorcycle taxi) after long journeys; many travellers have received nasty burns, which can take a long time to heal in the sticky weather, and often require antibiotics to recover.
Outboards (pronounced ‘out-boor’) are the equivalent of Venice’s vaporetto, a sort of local river-bus or taxi. Found all over the country, they are small fibreglass boats with 15HP or 40HP engines, and can carry up to six people for local or longer trips. They rarely run to schedules, but locals wait patiently for them to fill up or you can charter the whole boat and take off. Another variation are the longtail rocket boats that connect small villages on the upper stretches of the Mekong. Rocket is the definitive word and their safety is questionable.
Taxi hire in towns and cities is getting easier, but there are still very few metered taxis, with just a handful of operators in Phnom Penh. Guesthouses, hotels and travel agents can arrange cars for sightseeing in and around towns.
Rotei means ‘cart’ or ‘carriage’ and ses is ‘horse’, but the term is used for any cart pulled by an animal. Cambodia’s original 4WD, ox carts, usually pulled by water buffalo or cows, are a common form of transport in remote parts of the country, as only they can get through thick mud in the height of the wet season. Some local community-tourism initiatives now include cart rides.
In these days of improving roads, share taxis are losing ground to ‘express minibuses’. When using share taxis, it is an advantage to travel in numbers, as you can buy spare seats to make the journey more comfortable. Double the price for the front seat and quadruple it for the entire back row. It is important to remember that there aren’t necessarily fixed prices on every route, so you have to negotiate. For major destinations they can be hired individually, or you can pay for a seat and wait for other passengers to turn up. Guesthouses are also very helpful when it comes to arranging share taxis – at a price, of course.