Buying a Bicycle with Help from a Tuk Tuk Driver

I didn’t know where to start with my bicycle purchase so regardless of how much I have already hated Tuk Tuk drivers, I have jumped on one and asked him to take me to a bicycle shop. I primarily needed to know where the good shop is and wanted to see what they have and what the prices are like.

I was taken by the same Tuk Tuk driver who drove me to Two Dragons Guesthouse from the airport when it was raining cats and dogs. The bicycle shop he took me to was not far from the guesthouse at all. It was just up the Wat Bo street and then turn right on National Road 6. This whole area seemed vastly local, full of shops with signs in unreadable Khmer language and full of Khmer people shopping there.

View of Wat Bo Road from the Tuk Tuk on My Way to the Bicycle Shop
View of Wat Bo Road from the Tuk Tuk on My Way to the Bicycle Shop

We went probably only about a kilometre (likely less) down National Road #6 and stopped at the bicycle shop on the side of the road. The entire road is lined on both sides with shops of all sorts. The bicycle one we stopped at had dozens of bicycles piled up one next to another outside of the shop for easy access form the road.

I got off the Tuk Tuk and the driver offered me he would help translating since as he had claimed, none of the staff spoke any English. The offer was a kind one and I welcomed it with a smile, but unfortunately, the greed and intent to take advantage of me were the real reasons why I was offered this “help”.

Riding a Tuk Tuk Down National Road #6 in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Riding a Tuk Tuk Down National Road #6 in Siem Reap, Cambodia

I started looking at the bicycles and mostly saw second hand, bad quality bikes I thought went extinct at the end of 70’s. But not in Cambodia. These looked like overused rejects from perhaps China or maybe somewhere else. Most bikes looked in very poor shape but as I took a closer look at locals riding along the National Road 6, I noticed that this is in fact what they ride here.

My Tuk Tuk driver translated for me that these are “only” $40 each. I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t. Further at the back of the store, they had a few, also overused second hand bikes, but these were with gears and resembled mountain bikes, hence did not have the 70’s feel and were presumably newer. When I asked about prices for those, I was translated that they were going for about $185 each, depending on the model.

At this time I surely knew he was messing with me. First of all – I imagined what kind of mountain bike I could buy in Canadian Tire for $50. It would be a no name, not much bike, but it would still be a usable mountain bike with frontal suspension, derailleur made by Shimano and would come with 1 year warranty. And here I am, in a country which is far less expensive than Canada and they are allegedly asking $185 for a visibly inferior beater that was no longer usable for its previous owner and was replaced, discarded and somehow made its way to Cambodia. This beater would come with no warranty whatsoever, had no recognizable components on it and would require constant flow of money on maintenance to keep it going. I kept doing my math, but in no way did I see myself spending this type of inadequate money for this type of piece of crap bicycle.

I firmly assumed that the Tuk Tuk driver was abusing the fact that this is the second time I was riding with him and wrongly assumed that since this is only my second day in Cambodia, I won’t know any better and will pay vastly overquoted price. He was obviously “translating” actual quotes and bumped them up sky high to keep the difference for himself. He did not take into an account that while this is my second day in Cambodia, I am not new to budget travelling and have spent a lot of time in other third world countries. I instantly knew the “free translation service” he offered was not a service but an attempt to make money at me.

There was truly no way why a beater like that was to cost $185 and whatever was the real reason behind such high quotes, I did not see myself spending this type of money for that type of bicycle no matter what. I closed it with “I will think about it” and told the Tuk Tuk driver I would walk back to Two Dragons. I explained my reasons by saying that I wanted to go to a nearby open air market and have more look around other shops in the area.

I have come to solid conclusion that asking Tuk Tuk drivers for help translating is not the best of ideas. Unless it’s someone you know well and trust, you may be subjected to overpaying. How to deal with these situations, when you want to buy something from a store where they don’t speak English is a whole new issue I had to face.

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