Pass App Cambodia, the country’s first ride hail app, takes the hassle out of ordering a tuk tuk or taxi. Here is my complete guide to using the app during your visit to Cambodia.
When I lived in Phnom Penh in 2016/17, my biggest bugbear was using tuk tuks.
Tuk tuks are ubiquitous in Cambodia and by far the easiest way to get around Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and other cities and towns. But negotiating fares and explaining directions to drivers who you often can’t communicate with (and who sometimes can’t read maps) can be really frustrating. I always found haggling with tuk tuk drivers over tiny amount of money soul destroying.
When I returned to Cambodia this year, I was gleeful to discover ride hail apps have finally made it to the Kingdom. Grab launched a few months ago, but it’s Pass App Cambodia, a locally developed app, that’s been making big waves.
Judging by the hilariously inadequate FAQ page, Pass App Cambodia is still ironing out some kinks in its business model. I thought I would weigh in with my personal experience of using the app to offer you some tips.
What exactly is Pass App Cambodia?
Pass App Cambodia is a ride hailing app that makes it easier to find a tuk tuk or taxi. It was developed in Phnom Penh, making it the only local app of its kind. For this reason, it’s more popular among locals than the main competitor, Grab. It also has a larger cohort of drivers.
Some of the features I like about Pass App Cambodia:
- It’s fast. The longest I’ve had to wait for a tuk tuk is 2 minutes (and the shortest I waited was 15 seconds).
- There are fixed fares – no more haggling over money or falling victim to dual pricing.
- You input your destination on a map – no need to explain directions to your driver.
- After your ride, you get an invoice straight to your email – great if you’re budget-savvy or you need to keep tax receipts.
When Pass App arrived in Cambodia, it brought with it a new fleet of apes or rickshaws – enclosed three-wheeler vehicles that are very different to traditional Khmer tuk tuks. I like riding in these much better, as you feel less exposed.
Overall, using Pass App Cambodia has made my time here so much easier. However, there are some downsides to the platform, too.
- There’s no option to pre-order a ride – you can only instant book.
- You can only make payment in cash. Unlike Grab, you can’t link your credit card to your account. (Local users can connect with Wing.)
- The company’s reporting and feedback mechanisms are very weak (although I expect this will improve with time).
Is Pass App safe?
In my mind, travelling with a tuk tuk booked through Pass App is no different to hailing a driver off the street. If anything, I feel safer knowing my route is being tracked and my driver knows exactly where they should be heading.
With Pass App, you have the option to add an emergency SOS contact to your profile. I also advise against adding a profile photo (there’s no need), and recommend using a nickname rather than your full name (I use ‘Em’ to make it less obvious that it’s a barang ordering the car!). Before you leave Cambodia, remember to delete your account.
Pickpockets are still a big problem in some cities in Cambodia, and it’s not uncommon for people (especially tourists, but locals too) to be targeted while they’re riding in a tuk tuk.
General safety tips when using tuk tuks in Cambodia
- If you’re alone, sit in the centre of the seat, not pressed up against either side.
- Hold your belongings firmly on your lap. Put suitcases or larger bags directly at your feet. This is especially important when travelling to and from the airport (sadly, it’s common for people to be targeted on this route).
- Keep your phone and wallet inside your bag during the ride.
- If you feel unsafe, ask your driver to slow down.
- If you’re staying at an Airbnb or smaller guesthouse, don’t get dropped off right at your accommodation. Give an address that’s a few doors down instead.
- Pay with small bills to avoid miscommunications around change.
Is Pass App cheaper than a regular tuk tuk or taxi?
Not only are Pass App Cambodia fares cheaper than hailing a tuk tuk off the street or ordering a taxi through your hotel, they’re also cheaper than the competitor service, Grab.
Pass App operates with a fixed price schedule and minimum fares:
|Flag down fee||Cost/KM||Minimum fare|
|Classic (taxi car)||3,000 KHR||2,000 KHR||5,000 KHR (1.25 USD)|
|Rickshaw||2,000 KHR||1,000 KHR||3,000 KHR (0.75 USD)|
|Khmer tuk tuk||3,000 KHR||1,300 KHR||4,000 KHR (1 USD)|
|SUV||3,000 KHR||2,300 KHR||6,000 KHR (1.5 USD)|
I used Pass App Cambodia every day – at least twice a day, actually – on my recent trip. Looking back through my log, the average I paid was 4,000 KHR (1 USD) to travel across town. This is significantly cheaper than a regular tuk tuk.
At the end of the post, I’ll run through some popular routes in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and what you can expect to pay.
I heard it undercuts drivers. Is it ethical?
This is a sticking point for a lot of people. When Pass App first launched, drivers across Cambodia voiced their dissatisfaction. There were protests in Phnom Penh. It only got worse when competitor Grab entered the market in July 2019, precipitating a price war.
I am not one to advocate for services or products linked to financial abuse. I take these concerns seriously, and I tried to read up on the issue before I got to Cambodia so I could make an informed decision. (It’s worth noting that ride hailing is different to ride sharing, and any registered tuk tuk or taxi driver can sign up to become a Pass App Driver.)
Obviously, I don’t object to using ride hailing or ride sharing services. I think there are ways to make these systems work fairly for everyone.
Pass App charges drivers 15% of their daily earnings. So, every time I take a ride, I leave my driver at 10-15% tip. I know that doesn’t solve any problems, but it’s something small you can do – especially us tourists who are getting ultra cheap fares to begin with. A small tip goes a long way.
Getting started with Pass App Cambodia
The only thing you’ll need to use Pass App Cambodia is a smartphone and a working phone number (more on this in a moment). Note that the app is all in English.
Step 1: Download the app
You need an internet connection to order a ride through Pass App. WIFI works fine for this, and it doesn’t matter if you drop out during your ride when you leave whatever WIFI zone you were in.
Importantly, though, you need a phone number to register the app when you first download it. If you’re not planning to buy a simcard in Cambodia, you’ll need to download the app before you leave home and use your regular number to register. (Don’t worry, you don’t need to activate roaming once you get here.)
Buying a local simcard to use Pass App
If you’re going to be using the app a lot, it’s preferable to buy a local simcard with 4G. This will let you track your ride and order tuk tuks even if you can’t get on WIFI.
As long as your phone is unlocked, it’s easy to set up a Cambodian sim. I always opt for Cellcard, which costs $8 for 80 GB of data (valid for 30 days) plus 50 cents for the sim.
Step 2: Set up an account
Open the app and click ‘Allow’ when prompted to share your location. Complete the process by entering your phone number and using the SMS code to activate your account. Pop your email in, too, to receive the automatic e-reciepts.
Step 3: Request a ride
Set your pickup location
When you open the Pass App, it will automatically use your phone’s GPS to determine your location. The charcoal circles hovering around are registered vehicles in the area. As a passenger, you are represented by the orange plumbob. The glowing blue dot is your physical location. If you want to get picked up somewhere different, just move the plumbob to pin your pickup location on the map.
When you’re done, hit ‘Set pickup’.
Choose the service (vehicle) type
The next screen gives you the option to choose what type of vehicle you want. Remember that rickshaws and tuk tuks can only carry a maximum of three passengers.
Select the vehicle type you want to proceed with.
Add dropoff location
Here, you have the option to enter your dropoff location. The app works without entering a dropoff – in this case, you would need to explain your destination to your driver. Not having to do this is one of the main benefits of using an app, so I always set a dropoff location.
Click ‘+ Add dropoff’. In the grey search bar, you can either enter a street address or search for a business name or hotel name. This data gets populated from Google Maps, so as long as the business is listed, you will be able to find it. Every time I use this function it works great.
If you can’t find your location for some reason, go into Google Maps and copy and paste the street address back into the app. If your destination is approximate, you can use the ‘Set location on map’ function to pin your desired dropoff point.
You also have the option to star locations for easy reference in the future.
Before you confirm, make a mental note of the fee estimate
Once you specify your destination, you’ll be taken to a confirmation screen. Flashing above the green button is the approximate wait time and a fee estimate. Make a mental note of this fee estimate, because as soon as you confirm the ride, it will disappear.
Wait for your ride to be accepted
After you’ve confirmed your booking, the app will automatically search out drivers in your vicinity. I suspect that rides are automatically assigned – once my driver was asleep in his tuk tuk and couldn’t possibly have manually accepted the ride!
Sometimes it can take a minute to find a driver. If it’s peak hour or it’s raining outside, demand is naturally going to be higher. If it’s taking too long, you can cancel the ride and search again. I’ve only had to do this once and it worked the second time.
Once your ride has been confirmed, you’ll be able to track your tuk tuk on the map. A countdown timer will start, telling you how long you have before your driver arrives.
Greet your driver
When your driver is close by, a message will appear to say ‘Driver arrived’. Sometimes it gets a bit ahead of itself and the driver is still a few seconds off.
How do you know if it’s the right vehicle? On the screen you’ll see a registration number and a brief vehicle description (if you ordered an ape, it just say white or yellow). Match the number on your screen with the registration sticker in the tuk tuk’s windscreen. I always pop my head in and eyeball the driver’s phone just to be sure it’s my name on his screen.
Step 4: Pay your driver
You can use the app to track your journey as you go. The app suggests a route, but don’t be alarmed if your driver goes off course – they know the traffic and road rules better.
Remember the fee estimate you saw before you booked? The final fare due will usually be exactly the same, but occasionally it might fluctuate. You won’t know exactly what you owe until you reach the destination. Even then, it doesn’t appear on the screen – rather Pass App sends you an alert. I find it easier just to look at the driver’s screen.
What currency should you pay in?
Khmer riel (KHR) is the official currency in Cambodia, but it’s pretty much interchangeable with USD. Pass App Cambodia quotes fares in riel and drivers will accept either currency. The conversion rate is 4,000 KHR = 1 USD.
You can pay with a mix of currencies. E.g. if your fare totals 5,000 KHR, you can pay with a 1 USD bill plus two 500 KHR bills. Use small bills whenever possible.
Should you tip?
Tipping isn’t mandatory in Cambodia but it’s very much appreciated. This is one of the few places where you can be extremely generous and still only shell out pennies. At the end of the day, it’s a personal decision – but I do recommend tipping your tuk tuk driver.
This is how I do it. First, I round the fare up to the nearest 500. So if a trip cost 3,276 KHR, I round it up to 3,500 KHR. I then leave a tip on top of that – usually 15-20% (in this case 200 or 500 KHR, depending what bills I have on me).
Step 5: Leave a review
This step isn’t mandatory, but when prompted, you can leave your driver a star-rating review. Note that drivers don’t rate passengers.
If you had any problems during your ride – or heaven forbid you leave something behind in the tuk tuk – Pass App’s advice is to contact them via their Facebook page. This is definitely one area where they can improve their service.
In the app’s ‘My Bookings’ log, you have a record of all your trips including the vehicle ID number. This also gets emailed to you immediately after the ride has finished.
Pass App Cambodia pricing for popular routes (Phnom Penh)
- Riverside to Phnom Penh Airport: ≈13,000 KHR
- Riverside to the Killing Fields: ≈15,000 KHR
- Riverside to the Russian Market: ≈7,000 KHR
Pass App Cambodia pricing for popular routes (Siem Reap)
- Old Market to Siem Reap Airport: ≈11,000 KHR
- Old Market to Siem Reap Bus Station: ≈7,500 KHR
- Old Market to Angkor Wat entrance: ≈11,000 KHR
Have a question about using Pass App Cambodia? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to help out.