Cambodia is an impoverished country so when tourists come, the locals automatically (often mistakenly) assume that they have lots of money so as a tourist, you will always be seen as a packet of walking bank notes. Cambodians (Khmer) are generally nice people, but their tight economic situation forces them to take firm grasp of opportunities that deliver easy income. To earn an equivalent of one dollar in wages, a Cambodian would have to spend many hours at work busting his ass off. Realizing that one dollar is an easy tip and a cheap transport rate for most westerners, when an obvious tourist comes to vicinity, they get swarmed by dozens of locals at the same time, each competing for that much desired dollar that a tourist can easily afford to spare, but it means so much for them.
Unfortunately for you as a tourist this means that you will be hackled to no end on every step, repeatedly and unceasingly over and over, non stop at all times throughout your entire stay. None of the locals will let you just pass by without approaching you. You will be constantly hackled about something, being offered this and that and then something else and then yet some more. You will have those locals breathing down your neck non stop and if you say you’re good, they will continue harassing you never the less in hopes that eventually they will hit the spot and offer something you will need so you agree to use their services.
They will always make it look like they are “offering you their service and complimentary advice” but that is only because you don’t know what really is going on. The thing is – everyone in Cambodia, including business owners who cater to tourist will want to get the business of sa many tourists as possible. As such, there is this deeply embedded and omnipresent commission system that works everywhere and all the time. Basically, in 99% of cases involving a transaction with a tourist, somebody will collect a commission for that tourist. In other word, each time a tourist spends money – whether it’s for the food in a restaurant, or for a room at a guesthouse, or for a boat ride, or whatever else it is you are going to pay for, if you were taken there by a Tuk Tuk driver or other referred to (even if you don’t realize), your referred will collect their commission from the business you spent your money on. This commission system always works and never stops. And what’s best – oftentimes it’s you who covers the difference in price so the business can pay their commission to the referrer. In other words, you end up paying extra – you pay regular price plus the commission.
For a Cambodian, commission money can add up to a lot. Few regular jobs can earn money equivalent to the commission they can gather by “helping” tourists with advice. Because of that, there is never a shortage of locals preying on tourists offering Tuk Tuk rides to a better and cheaper restaurants than the one you are intending to use, offering stay in much better and cheaper guesthouse than the one you are intending to stay – often having any and all stories at the ready to deter you from going to your intended location. You could be told that the guesthouse is no longer in business because the owner dies last week, or that they had a recent rat infestation, or “fill in the blank”. These claims are hardly ever true. The real purpose behind them is to argue you into being taken to a place that offers then highest commission – at any cost to you. They will do anything and everything in their power to get you to a place that offers the highest kick back. Period. Never any other. Not for any reason.
Whether you see it or not, this commission system is deeply embedded in Cambodia and is a natural part of local life. As visitor to Cambodia, you will become a part of it by being hassled non stop, mostly by Tuk Tuk drivers. Because commissions can earn locals far more money than regular jobs, Tuk Tuk drivers heavily outnumber tourists even in the most tourist dense areas. You will have dozens of them on your back at any given time. You will have rejected scores of them yet you will continue getting approached. It will make you wonder what the deal is – can’t they see that if you wanted a ride in a Tuk Tuk you would have taken one of last two hundred who asked if you needed a ride in past 2 minutes? They will run to you, point at you, yell at you, clap their hands at you or use any other means to attract your attention. It is a nature of every person to not be rude and ignorant so you will turn your head and will have to explain yourself to them.
It truly is aggravating and pushes you to the limit. However despite all that, Cambodians are a friendly bunch and affordability of the place makes it extremely attractive. Afterall, they are just trying to survive. They do it in the worst way possible, but this is the way it is. Commission system always works. If you are a traveller on a budget, you can keep your stay in already inexpensive country down by going everywhere on your own and never taking on an advice for trying a different place from locals. No matter how friendly and genuine their “advice” may seem. It’s not. It’s always and only an advice to get you to a place that offer the highest commission.