Due to improved economic opportunities, traffic in the streets of Cambodia has increased as more people are able to purchase cars and motorbikes for personal use. The spike in the number of tourists visiting the country has also increased the number of tour buses in areas with popular landmarks and attractions.
Unfortunately, with this economic boom comes challenges: heavy traffic has become a concern in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and worse, the number of traffic accidents has increased as well.
Despite an increase in traffic law enforcement and awareness, the number of traffic-related deaths was still a major concern in Cambodia for the first six months of 2018. The National Police states, “The major causes of accidents are speeding, not respecting people turning, overtaking in dangerous conditions and driving while sleepy or under the influence of alcohol” and the number of fatalities are growing as Cambodia continues to develop economically.
If you decide to visit or volunteer in Cambodia, we recommend that you take the following precautions to stay safe on the road.
You may notice that we like to repeat this point over and over again. The health system in Cambodia is that of a developing country and should you unfortunately have an accident in Cambodia, a travel and medical insurance can save your life. In particular, look for a health insurance that can send you to Bangkok or even back to your home country in case of a serious accident. You can easily get a quote online with World Nomads.
Wear a helmet when riding a bicycle
Be smart and wear a helmet when you’re riding a bicycle. Remember this simple rule when you’re at a crossroads: the biggest vehicles have precedence. This means buses go first, then trucks, SUVs, cars, motorbikes, and then finally bicycles.
Get off a tuk tuk if the driver is intoxicated
Tuk tuks are safe and cheap. In Cambodia, hiring a tuk tuk is often the way to go when visiting tourist attractions or going around town. However, if you sense that the tuk tuk driver is driving recklessly or is under the influence (it happens!), don’t be afraid to disembark the tuk tuk and find a safer way to get to your destination.
Hire a driver
Short-term visitors or tourists who want to have a car while they’re in Cambodia need to rent one with a driver included, as international driver’s licences are not recognised in Cambodia. Before you hire a vehicle, check your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for injuries suffered in motor accidents.
Even the rental of a motorbike may include a driver, since the rental of motorbikes to foreigners is forbidden in Siem Reap. Tourists and visitors who are just staying for a few days tend to ignore this rule, and opt to pay the small fine if stopped by the police. If you decide to do this, it will be at your own risk.
If you have an accident while driving without a valid Cambodian licence, your health or travel insurance may not cover your claim.
Beware of night buses
Travelling after dark significantly increases the chances of accidents. If possible, try not to take night buses.
Organise your information. If you had a traffic accident, would your friends know where your insurance information is stored, who your emergency contact is and whether or not they should call your family? Before your trip, send a group email to a few people you trust to let them know about your trip.
Keep a copy of your insurance in your wallet and save the insurance company’s emergency number on your speed dial in case of emergencies.
Stay safe and enjoy your time!
As we always say, Cambodia is still one of the safest country in the world—all you have to do is to take precautions and avoid unnecessary risks.