Monday, December 28, 2009

Relentless Cambodian Taxi Drivers

Put yourself in this situation... you arrive past midnight to a city you've never been to before. In this case, it's Siem Reap, the tiny bustling city right next to the famous Angkor Wat religious complex. Your guidebook tells you to easily grab a cab from the airport to your hotel and pay no more than $5 total for the ride.

Only by the time you clear customs and groggily saunter over to the taxi stand, there's not a taxi in sight. Except for one. The driver tells you with a serious face, he'll take you to your hotel for $20. You know this is the marked up price for desperate late arrivals and tourists who don't know any better, so you try to haggle the price down. After a somewhat harried negotiation, you finally agree on paying $12 even though you know you're getting cheated. The driver insists the price is different this late at night, and since he's the sole means of transport at that moment, he's got a point.

So, you resign yourself, hop in the car and drive along the dark and dusty roads, feeling relieved as you peer out at the few homes with twinkling lights. Then the taxi driver starts telling you that instead of your hotel, he's taking you to his house so his wife can make you a special dinner from fresh chickens they raise in their yard. Fresh delicious chickens killed in your honor. You tell him you're grateful for his hospitality, but no thank you as you're not hungry in the wee hours of the morning. But the taxi driver is just not giving up. He keeps insisting on those chickens, and in addition to those chickens, he's offering a special price for his excellent driving services every day during your stay in his city. Chickens and driving tours. Chickens and driving tours. Chickens and driving tours. Broken record at 1 am.

What a start to our Cambodian and Vietnam holiday trip last week! But oh so worth it when we finally feasted our eyes upon the very reason for our trip.

Angkor Wat at sunrise

Cambodia Travel Tip #1: If you're arriving late at night like we did, don't assume there will be plenty of taxis to whisk you away. Honestly this surprised me as I wrongly imagined we'd have our pick. Instead, arrange ahead of time with your hotel for a car or tuk-tuk pick up.

Have you ever had a similar traveling experience? How did you handle it?

So, how did we escape the clutches of the tenacious taxi man? Well, I have a special thing I say that works wonders when I'm feeling my most desperate and annoyed in these situations. I promise to disclose it at a later date, but in the meantime, I want to hear about your troubled experiences with taxi drivers abroad.


Kirsten said...

Oh man..I had quite an experience in Stockholm but I hesitate to write details on here. There were some heated political debates going on between my dad and the speeding driver though. I was seriously grateful to get out alive! Looking forward to reading more about Cambodia!

Liza said...

I have no troubled taxi stories, yet. But in Singapore, we rode in quite a few taxis that were Mercedes Benz's and for a cheap fare too! Fancy!

Or I could share a drunken story or two about taxi's here in Okinawa taking us home after drinking a bit too much, and the drivers always ready with tissue paper and newspaper! LOL! :)

Chris and Amy said...

When we were on our honeymoon (insert young and broke) we were at a hostel on the rim of Lake Quilotoa and needed to get back to town. The taxi cost $7/person (a fortune) while the bus was $1.50 each. We had to catch the bus at 3:30 in the morning and the driver liked to take the mountian roads at high speed. Plus, every time we entered a town the driver announced our arrival with this blaring horn so there was no sleep to be had. Looking back I wish we had just paid for the taxi. :)

Mary and Sean said...

Yes, I've learned from experience not to have political discussions with taxi drivers... I'd love to hear the whole story sometime!

Mary and Sean said...

Wow, I never knew Okinawan taxi drivers were so prepared. I guess they have to be considering the likelihood of pukers!

Mary and Sean said...

Chris and Amy,
Your bus trip sounds nightmarish and like something I would have done too! In hindsight, why don't we just pay the money for a more comfortable ride?

The Howes Family said...

I am looking forward to your tip...
Looks like an amazing trip.

Anil said...

India is a pretty wild place when it comes to cab drivers and I've had some pretty wild rides there.

Curious to what your trick is - I'm guessing a woman only thing.


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