Thursday, January 22, 2009

Phnom Penh Post Office

Visiting the main Post Office here in Phnom Penh is always an amusing experience.

First there are many counters to choose from - Letter, registered letter, registered packet, packet etc etc. There is never a queue of any kind [because no one uses the post for the reasons I am about to explain]. At the right counter you will be ignored by the two women behind it who are "busy" sorting their pencils or similar. When you have their attention they will proceed to "weigh" your letter/packet in a place where you cannot see the weight for yourself.

They will then randomly pick a charge for the packet. You may manage to work out the cost yourself from a faded list they have stuck to the glass and manage to have a conversation about why they have asked for 12,000 Riel when the table says it should onlybe 8,000 Riel. If you are lucky they will shrug and reduce the price. Otherwise, they may just stare blankly (or still shrug) and you are stuck with the random price.

Next challenge... you get the stamps... or do you? Often the (now helpful) clerk will state that they will now deal with the stamping and posting of your packet. Bad idea to accept this. The idea is that if you do not see the stamps being stuck on your packet then your letter will be binned/the contents of the parcel treated as a gift and the money not put in the Post Office till.

So you have got the thing "weighed", you have paid the "fee", they have stuck on the stamps.... Next challenge, get the stamps franked (they have to be franked before you put it in the post box). This is where lots of had actions and drama is necessary to get the job done.

Once you have the letter in your hand fully stamped and franked all that is left is the post box which is far less of a challenge (unless you are using the Post Office on Sihanouk Bvd where the slot is practicially narrower than a letter and looks like it hasn't been opened to collect the mail for a century). You can then inform the person (by email) the packet is on its way - only to be told 3 months later by them that it never arrived.
So the idea I had to post a good book to a friend at home was never a good one. The charge was incomprehensible to me - so I failed at the first hurdle. I was out-numbered. 2 clerks against 1 foreigner. The cost was $13 (more than the book itself)! Having been ripped off (I think) at this stage I was determined to get my stamps. This is when I was greeted by the ever present phrase uttered here ... "sorry cannot". "Sorry cannot"..... aghhhhhhhhh!!! I had paid my money I was trapped. "Sorry cannot" does not usually follow with an explaination here. However, "Late. [it was 5.30pm] Machine off. I will do" - ummmm. Perhaps being British I couldn't bring myself to challenge this explaination and accuse the women of conspiracy to de-fraud me of my stamps. I just said "please - do it tomorrow".

I had no hope of the packet ever reaching the UK. $13 that would be more than a week's salary so the temptation too much.... On the upside when I went outside the PO I saw a whole family of monkeys - including tiny baby ones...walking across the main electric cables!

But monkeys were not the purpose of the trip and so I sadly emailed my friend apologising for my lack of conviction in the Post Office to get the stamps stuck and cursed my wasted $13 (equaling 13 beers in happy hour). Then behold!!!!!!! Today, about ten days later, the packet arrived! Oh sweet JOY! and faith in the Cambodian postal system restored!!!! On reflection it was a book (Cambodian's don't generally read let alone read English novels) and I bet the stamps were far stuck on were far less than $13....


the nibbling marmot said...

I'm so glad I dropped in on your blog again, esp. for this posting. I just moved here, and the p.o. is still a bit daunting to me. Your blog is helpful, though, thanks!

dsingis said...

The Phnom Penh Post Office is, indeed, a very funny typical Cambodian specialty. After shipping a lot small parcels, I thought I would know the system. Weighing the letter or parcel at home, look in the tariff list, how much it is, write it on the enveloppe. And go to the post-office.
Their scales were always better than my electronic scale, saying 200 gramms heavier or more.
Than they tried to charge the tariff for the most expensive Zone F (USA), even when the shipping was going to Asia.
The best way to get things done, is shipping by registered letter or parcel. Than they cannot cheat and You can be sure, Your shipping reaches its destiny in less than a week.
Tomorrow I have to go to this very nice place to ship 2.8 Kg to Europe. With a big smile in my face I will enjoy that adventure.

Tim said...

can you advise how reliable their poste restante service is?

Many thanx in advance

Anonymous said...

poste restante.... I got a postcard via this service. They keep the letters in a basket by the far left hand window behind the counter. There is no order to the collection. I had to show ID and then got the card. There was also a small charge of a few 1000R I think (it was a long time ago). A postcard clearly has no value to the workers (unless the picture on it is particularly nice!) - I wouldn't send parcels or cards/letters with important things inside.... good luck!!!!!

Anonymous said...

poste restante.... I got a postcard via this service. They keep the letters in a basket by the far left hand window behind the counter. There is no order to the collection. I had to show ID and then got the card. There was also a small charge of a few 1000R I think (it was a long time ago). A postcard clearly has no value to the workers (unless the picture on it is particularly nice!) - I wouldn't send parcels or cards/letters with important things inside.... good luck!!!!!

Paul said...

Lived here for 4 years now (from UK), and use the Post Office about 3 times a week (a sucker for punishment).
For the average tourist, you will be better (as another poster said) to use the registered service, as the paperwork has to be completed and rubber-stamped, in front of you.
If you use the counters round the back, the chances of your package reaching your destination are not that good.
I work for a big company here, and receive parcels very regularly, but only because they are adressed to a company,they dare not 'intercept' them.
I get very good service, partly because I 'speaka da lingo', and partly because I always drop a couple of thousand reil extra, onto the counter for the girls.
2000r is only about 30p (50c), but is good insurance for ensuring good service, and a welcoming smile when you arrive.
They also call me on the phone, as soon as the package arrives, to make sure I'm not having an unnecessary ride into town from work/home (9Km).
Bottom line is; spend a little bit extra, and go the registered route.
Oh yeah, re the monkeys - they look cute, but they're thieving little sods!
Watch your camera/phone/wallet etc.

JLTan said...

Thank you for sharing your experience. I have used the main post office in Phnom Penh twice. The system left me with many doubts, as it did to you. However, it worked fine for me the first time. Am hoping that it works fine the second time also.

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jetteholt said...

Hi. I am about to send my niece who is travelling in Vietnam a package of bandages - as she has gotten a severe wound on her leg. It seems to be infected and she is not being treated correctly. I was going to send it to the Postoffice Ang Eng (St. 13), corner Street 102
12206 Phnom Penh - but it does not sound like it will reach her from your comments on the blog. Have you got any suggestions on how to do it? Say that it contains something boring (not worth stealing) writing a well know danish company´s name on it ex. Maersk?

Will appreciate your suggestions.

MHJ said...

Hi Jette
Thanks for your comment. I think your parcel might be OK. I don't think there is a big demand for bandages in Cambodia on the black market (but who knows) so it won't be worth stealing - perhaps! On another note eve if it does not reach her there is a good pharmacy in Phnom Penh called U Care. There is on the corner near by the FCC (Foreign Correpondents Club) (at the door of the FCC turn left past the FFC cafe and then the pharmacy is on the next crossroads - just ask one of the many many tuk tuk men who hang out there) or there is another one on Shihanouk Blvd - near to Lucky Supermarket. She should find good bandages and medicines there. Good Luck! Michelle

Anonymous said...

Hi there!
So I am trying to find an email address for the post you know if they have one? I was in Cambodia in Sept. and sent 2 boxes to arrived and was returned back to Cambodia(because the person here did not pick it up in the alloted time...) and I am trying to have it sent back to me....
The other box has yet to arrive...any advice?

Combedowner said...

I need to send a debit card to my daughter in Phonm Penh, who had her wallet stolen in Vietnam. I was going to send it to Poste Restante at the Phnom Penh Post Office. If this is dodgy, how else can I send it?

Anonymous said...

you could try sending it by international courier to her guest house - have a look at DHL who operate in Cambodia as well as all over the world.
Good luck

combedowner said...

well call me an old cynic, the bank cards arrived safely for my daughter in Phnom Penh Poste Restante, and had to pay 20pee to collect. thanks for your thoughts Michelle.

beanoz said...

Hello there, hope you don't mind my posting on your blog - but am in need of some advice. I want to send my daughter a Global Sim card via DHL, Siem Reap, for her to collect, as she is travelling around and therefore doesn't have a permenant adddress. Is it ok to send a Sim card this way and would there be any import duty payable. It only cost 30$
Many thanks

Jen said...

Hi there! I have to go to the PO for the first time this morning and thought I would do a little research by google-ing "Phnom Penh Post Office". Your blog appeared and I was amused as I read your post that you wrote a year ago. I don't know if the procedure is the same now, but you at least have me better prepared for what to expect. Thanks! I am thinking of doing a similar post on my experience getting my excess baggage picked up at Cargo (what a trip that was!!)

Jefferson said...

Dear Fren,

My stamps collection:

Could you help me to get the Cambodia stamps?

Thx & Brgds,

Caron Margarete said...

I find the post office here infuriating, mostly because most offices close for a 3hr lunch between 11-2 and the front counter staff are the closest thing to useless, lazy and unreliable, and that's just those that can actually speak some English.

If you have any drama ask for Mr Mardy (small packets counter) who is undoubtably the nicest man ever because he knows his fellow employees are unhelpful on purpose.

Do not get upset or angry because the Khmer will laugh at you and ignore you. This is common throughout the country because of their custom for saving face.

Mr Mardy tells me that come January 2011 (which will more likely be March knowing this place!) that they're privatising the postal service so here's hoping that makes things better.

Definitely use registered post to send/ receive mail.

Anonymous said...

Hi i am a Cambodian i living in USA i really want to support Cambodia post office by using their service but it seem not a good service as it use to be lost package, took too long to delivery to deliver to receiver when it arrived in Cambodia, unfriendly employees, treat people difference. When should this be improved?

等爱的小孩 said...

goodness, luckily saw ur blog, I m about to visit PO tml~ gonna send a urgent and important document back to my homeland...

will DHL serve better? and ensure it arrive?

Mat Mirosaty said...

Who can tell me If the post office cannot find our address and on the envelope has no my phone number. My question is how many day that they will send the products back to the old owner?

Emaly Chuon said...

I sent a very package to Cambodia and realized I put the wrong number on the envelope. I heard that once it reaches the Cambodian postal service they call the number on the package and have the receiver come to the office and pick it up. Is there any way I can have them change the number on the package once it gets there?

GI CheapChalyMan said...

I have travelled to Cambodia sometime and i would love to send some DNA testing kits to my friends in USA. How can i send it and how much does it cost ?
email me at :

Anonymous said...

On Street 178 just round the corner from the FCC is a shop with a post box outside. It's generally half the price to send letters to NZ and British Isles there.

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Rima Mar said...

Endless warmth

According to reliable furniture shop in Phnom Penh construction materials information, the old day when homeowners have to wait until the water becomes heated again is no more with Noritz tankless hot water heater that provides infinite hot water for bathing and showering indulgence.
The product also cost-effective and energy-efficient.
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"Safety is also a key consideration. This system incorporates the latest safety device technology and is backed by an extensive warranty." he added.

RedJuly said...

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In addition, the house has been created as a modern of traditional Koran Villa with linear volumes to maximize the contact with external space.
As the official descript from architects, “The two rings of volumes sharing the circulation space of the house separate the private living spaces and the more public area within the house.
In the design process, the interaction between them produces a certain indeterminacy which triggers spontaneous use of space”.

James Camb said...

Hello, from Laos and Vietnam they check what is in your parcel before you close it and don't accept closed boxes, can you tell me if in Cambodia we can send parcels without showing the personal items that we put inside ? Thank you for your reply.

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Thank you so much


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