Khmer New Year is just around the corner, and the taxi drivers are smiling.
“I am happy when I can make money in the days before Khmer New Year,” said Hor Nguon, who has been driving a taxi for the past decade.
He said the New Year and Water Festival holidays always mean more customers, and more money.
The one-way fare from Phnom Penh to Battambang is normally 30,000 riel (about $7.70), but on the big holidays it shoots up to 40,000 or 50,000 riel ($10.25 to $12.82).
It’s a simple matter of supply and demand.
“I am very busy because many people want to get in my taxi,” said Chan Thorn, who also travels the Phnom Penh-Battambang route. “I’d like to be able to make two trips a day, but the road is not good enough.”
Chan Thorn said the ride is also more fun than usual, because people are heading out from the city to visit family and friends in the provinces.
“It is the time to have parties and drink together to welcome the New Year and honor dead ancestors,” he said.
Those traveling shorter distances also have to pay more, but the increase is not as steep.
Chhiev Theng, who drives his taxi from Phnom Penh to Kompong Cham, said his normal fare of 8,000 riel ($2.05) only goes up to 10,000 riel ($2.56).
But he still makes good money, he said, “because I have many clients who go and come back on the same day.”