Cyclo Driver Saves for New Year from $2.5 Daily Earnings  

Khoeum Van sits on his cyclo. Photo: Sem Vanna

PHNOM PENH – Cyclo driver Khoeum Van has seen his business decline over more than 30 years but he still manages to scrape enough from his $2.50 daily earnings to return home at Khmer New Year and buy food to dedicate at the pagoda.

He is one of a decreasing number of cyclo drivers in Phnom Penh in a job that used to be popular in the 1990s. 

Fewer passengers, particularly tourists, along with competition from tuk-tuk drivers have led to the decline. 

Van, from Prey Veng province, thinks of his cyclo as a family member because it is with him day and night.  However, he only gets two to three requests for rides daily and sometimes there are none.

“Cambodian passengers are the ones who have been my clients,” he said. “I drive them from the Central Market to Kandal Market, earning between two and three thousand riel.”  His passengers usually knew him from before, he said.

Van said he remains healthy because the cyclo requires physical effort. He will keep driving until he is weakened by old age because he does not intend to be a burden for his children. 

“My children also want me to quit but I don’t know what else I can do. The cyclo has been my job since the beginning. I don’t have any job at my hometown either.” 

“Sometimes I get more than $2.50 a day. I can only keep a little after spending on meals,” Van said, adding that he has no expectation of earning more because passengers prefer tuk-tuks. 

Regardless, his love for the cyclo means that he has decided to continue driving it and saving up from the little profit for religious ceremonies. 

Related Articles