Today I wanna write about the traffic situation in Phnom Penh. First of all the traffic here is special! When I first moved here in 2012 I said I’ll never drive a car in this craziness but I changed my mind and it was really helpful to get more familiar with the road network in town. My first rides I did during the night when there’s literally no traffic but after some time I got more and more confident and even managed to drive during the rush hour. I can say I was used to it.
But now I was away for almost 4 months. I enjoyed the organized traffic in Germany and I also enjoyed the speed of the traffic there. I love to drive fast on the “Autobahn”. The first car ride back in Phnom Penh was a shock even if I wasn’t driving myself. It took us about 30mins to drive less than 5km to the next grocery store! Few days later I drove the first time on my own plus I had our little daughter with us who didn’t enjoy the car ride really well which means she screamed for the first 10mins. That was stressful – it felt like forever to reach our destination and to be responsible for the crying baby and to manage the car was a big challenge. Anyways we made it and after the first 10mins the little one fell asleep and I could focus more on what’s going on around me.
Rule #1 – drive slowly!!
The good thing with the traffic here compared to Germany it’s really slow motion. We’re talking about a maximum speed (during day times) of 30km/h and I guess the average is more around 15km/h. So first of all take it easy and just go with the flow.
Rule #2 – have your eyes everywhere
A car has mirrors and here in Phnom Penh there’s definitely a need for it. As you’re usually surrounded by thousands of motorbikes you need to have your eyes everywhere. But if you follow Rule #1 there won’t be a problem. Cambodians have a really defense way of driving which is definitely a plus. As long as you’re not too fast the bikes and other cars will drive around you and will always create some space for you. You only need to be careful when you want to turn because even if you indicate doesn’t mean that someone will quickly overtake you. So always have a look to the back and the side before you actually make your turn.
Rule #3 – there are no rules!
Or better no one cares about them. Generally they have a driving school in Cambodia but generally they teach how to move a car forwards and backwards and make a turn with it. Beside of that I guess there’s not much of teaching. You can find signs but the most of the people just ignore them. You wanna make a U-turn you’re just doing it even if it’s not allowed. You just need to be careful that the police is not watching you cause they’re always waiting for some extra income 🙂 Especially as a foreigner they keep an eye on you. Just because the locals can do it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can do it as well!
The good or maybe bad thing about the police is the corruption. You always have 2 options…get an ticket with a fine OR tip the officer which is generally way cheaper. It happened actually once that an officer told us we should just give him some money so he can buy food for his family. That made me actually a bit sad. A police officer who is hard working, the whole day outside in the heat trying to organize this playground on the street and in the end he has not enough money to feed his family?! But that’s another story. If the government would pay a proper salary so the officers wouldn’t have a need to ask for a tip and charge the official fine instead I’m sure people would think about ignoring the rules more often.
My personal advice:
If you need to drive on your own just go slow and give yourself a chance to get used to it. The more you drive the more you will learn the Cambodian way of driving. Even if you shake your head all the time about what they are doing while driving you will get used to it for sure.
And if you can’t imagine to drive on your own just take a TukTuk and enjoy the entertainment around you 😀