Crossing Cambodia

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Are you paying too much?

An often debated argument is that of whether in Cambodia are you paying too much for the services on offer or not. In Cambodia there is no one answer, the ignorant get fleeced (but still believe they have a bargain), the cautious get a better deal while the locals will usually get rock-bottom prices on the assumption that the service deliverer should share some of his well-earned fleeced gains. This of course results in considerable paranoia among tourists and local expats alike, the only difference in that the expats know they are paying too much but are resigned to this, their destiny.

Where's this leading us to?

Today's (August 16, 2007) Cambodia Daily mentions that:
'Phnom Penh now has what most cities take for granted: a metered taxi service'.
Shock and awe! Well, not really as the service consists of 11 green sedans, hardly set to make a dent on the transportation services on offer in Phnom Penh. But the odd thing is their pricing. They will charge a flat fee of US$ 1,50 for the first 2 km traveled. The article then quotes Marc Vanhemelryeck, who (used to?) owns Taxi Vantha which started services in 1996. However they stopped using the meters as the inflation back then led to recalibrations which
'... became too much hassle'.
The article then quotes:
'"Metered taxis are a good thing to have in the city, but a competitive service won't be able to cover costs", he said'.
But the Cambodian Daily then seeks to oppose Mr. Marc by bringing tuk-tuk drivers in the argument:
'"If they charge customers only US $ 1,50 for the first 2 km, it will kill our business", Ouk Kim Heng [tuk-tuk driver] said Wednesday'.
Either that or the tuk-tuk drivers follow the prices set by the taxi company, that's how most things work in the real world. But Cambodia is not the real world.
The director-general of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport's General Directorate of Transport said:
'... price of taxi's should be set higher than their competition'.
Logic? This way they of course would never make money. And as if this piece of advice is not enough he then continues by
'... adding that he will suggest price-setting to Phnom Penh Municipality officials as a remedy to the problem'.
So now the government is officially encouraging tuk-tuk drivers as well as the new taxi service to overcharge? What happened to consumer power? Or protection of consumers of extortion practices?

In Bangkok the taxi's charge 30-35 Bt for the first 2 km, which is around 1 $ US ; in Ho Chi Minh city they are around 12000 dong for the first 2 km, which is less than 1 $ US. In Singapore 2 $ Singapore for the first km (=1,20 $ US) and Kuala Lumpur the first 2 kms would set you back 2 Ringit (0,57 $ US).

Conclusion: Cambodia's not a country for cheap skates and is increasingly looking more like Singapore (sic).
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