The secret life of tour guides at Angkor

Tour guide at Angkor, Phnom Penh Post 20120203

The Phnom Penh Post has a revealing article about how tour guides at Angkor view the world and make their living. It’s fairly common knowledge that tour guides get a commission for leading tourists to restaurants and stores – but what does this story tell us about conducting responsible tourism in Cambodia?

Tour guide at Angkor, Phnom Penh Post 20120203
Tour guide at Angkor, Phnom Penh Post 20120203

Gold rush at Angkor
Phnom Penh Post, 03 February 2012

It is not hard to get an official license as a tour guide, but it is expensive. Quite often you must bribe an officer from the Ministry of Tourism up to $1,000.

Of course you have to pass an exam, but that’s a joke. They check your language and historical knowledge in a mock exam, but in order to get the title as a tour guide you have to pay. I would not pay in the beginning and failed twice. The officer did not even look at my test sheet. After paying $1,000, I passed the test. Many of my colleagues had the same experience.

We must buy the official logo of the Ministry of Tourism for $2-$3. Then we buy the shirts and sew the logo onto them.

Travel agencies know the good and the bad tour guides. They hand out questionnaires to their clients, and if you receive too many bad reviews, they will not book you again. All agencies have their favourite guides and want to book them, but if they are unavailable, the agencies must decide for their second, third or, in the peak season, their 100th choice.

Full story here.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

One thought on “The secret life of tour guides at Angkor”

  1. Hi,
    Thanks for great information you write it very clean. I am very lucky to get this tips from you.very well information you write it very clean. I’m very lucky to get this information from you.

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