Tuk Tuk Trials

Marissa Carruthers is a freelance journalist who, five weeks ago, left behind life in the UK for the sun and smiles of Cambodia. In her weekly column, she will be sharing the ups and downs of settling into life in Phnom Penh as a new expat.

Phnom Penh’s Wat Langka, as seen from a moving tuk tuk.

Endless hours have been wasted trawling the streets of Phnom Penh in a tuk tuk, the driver aimlessly ambling round hoping to stumble across where I want to be in this sprawling city.

What should be a short, five-minute journey down the road suddenly turns into 10 minutes, then 20, then 30. At night, lost in a city I’m still getting to know, panic starts to bubble and a voice in my head whispers: “you’re never going to get home.”

Of course I do every time, thanks to the many moto men and tuk tuk drivers who are asked for directions along the way. Some will have sent us on a wild goose chase, others one step closer to home and as soon as I see a familiar sight a sense of relief washes over me.

Frustrated and desperate, I started carrying round a map. I’d show the driver where I wanted to be, slowly tracing the route with my finger to make sure he definitely understood.

“Yes, yes,” he’d say each time, nodding his heads with an authority that gave me complete confidence that he knew exactly where they were going. I’d jump in and soon discover he didn’t.

Exasperated, I relayed my frustration to an expat who’s been living in the city for 18 months. “Yeah, most of them don’t know street names,” he said. “But they’ll never let you know that.”

It turns out they go by landmarks – especially wats – and it turns out that luck is on my side because I live pretty close to Wat Langka, one of the city’s oldest temples and a place that every tuk tuk driver I come across is familiar with.

Since then, getting lost has become a thing of the past and I’ve not once had a problem getting home or anywhere else.

Read more about getting around by tuk tuk from Move to Cambodia and never get lost in again.

3 Responses to Tuk Tuk Trials

    […] pretty much the only person in Phnom Penh who doesn’t have one and I was getting tired of relying on tuk tuks who, unless you stick to the same few, are constantly trying to rip you […]

    Johnny Rocket says:

    You know those visiting should do themselves a favor and get a smartphone with google maps. You can get a data plan and it will update your location with it’s GPS and cell signal. You can pin your key locations and then direct your driver based on a working map showing you real time location. You’re right though, no one knows road numbers or names. You need to find key land marks and make sure you say them correctly in the local tone.

    Stephane says:

    I do agree with what you said about tuktuk who doesn’t know, most of the times, the place you go nor the way to go.
    I call it “jet ski syndrome” : when you fall from a jet ski, it goes round… I talk about that here : (in french) http://www.kambodia.info/tuk-tuk-jet-ski/. PP is still an adventure !

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