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Meters might save the tuk-tuk in Cambodia

The solution to haggling over fares is -- surprise! -- a ride-hailing app

PHNOM PENH -- Three-wheel tuk-tuks are a popular means of transportation in Southeast Asia, but negotiating fares with drivers is a headache for locals and foreign tourists alike.

EZGo, whose drivers can be hailed with an app, has been on the streets here for more than a year now. It is the first service in the country that offers metered tuk-tuks. So go ahead and unpack all that haggling anxiety.

EZGo tuk-tuks can be hailed via PassApp. The app allows passengers to ask the nearest yellow tuk-tuk to swing by. The destination can also be designated via the app.

The meter appears on a smartphone kept by the driver. Passengers are required to pay a minimum fare of 3,000 riel (75 cents) for the first kilometer, then 360 riel for every 300 meters after that. The meter only takes distance into account, so fares do not go up if a tuk-tuk gets stuck in traffic.

Once you get to your destination, the fare is settled with the driver in cash.

EZGo owner Top Nimol said metered tuk-tuks are simpler and slightly cheaper than traditional ones.

Currently, some 100 metered tuk-tuks operate in Phnom Penh. Nimol plans to expand the business to Siem Reap, close to Angkor Wat, by June.

Van Nith, 42, a regular EZGo customer, said he likes the metered tuk-tuks because they save him from having to negotiate a fare every time he steps into one.

EZGo has caught the attention of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association, Cambodia's largest tuk-tuk guild with more than 5,000 member drivers. Its president, Vorn Pao, is concerned that someday customers might demand meters in all tuk-tuks.

In Bangkok, the capital of neighboring Thailand, tuk-tuks have largely been replaced by metered and air-conditioned taxis. In Cambodia, meters might end up saving the tuk-tuk.

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