As Europeans we are accustomed to a certain set of traffic rules. However attempting to adhere to these rules in Cambodia can be a dangerous matter, as there either don’t seem to be the same rules here or if there are, nobody cares much about them. In fact I have never even actually seen traffic signs here.
In case you ever come to Cambodia here are six rules on how you survive the Cambodian traffic without getting hurt:
  1. Honk:
    In Europe honking is meant as an insult for people who drive badly, slowly or dangerously. Not here. Honking is used as an auditory warning to fellow drivers that you are about to recklessly overtake somebody who is in your way.
  2. Be confident: 
    Even the few pavements there are, are usually blocked by massive 4×4 cars, street stalls, men relieving themselves, or they are used as an additional street lane. Some are also just chained off (yes that includes you German embassy!). As a result pedestrians have to walk on the busy roads. To do that without dying our tip is to keep walking without looking any driver into the eye. That would be a sign of weakness and they won’t let you past. If you keep walking you will find that miraculously you will have been able to cross a street without a scratch on you.
  3. Don’t pay attention to traffic lights:
    Why should you stop at a red traffic light, when instead you can risk your life by driving straight into the opposite traffic?
  4. Lanes are a nice to have:
    With so many lanes about why should you just stick to the one dedicated to your direction of traffic? Just use the lane meant for the opposite traffic, or even better, use the pavements. Who cares about pedestrians anyway?
  5. Distance is for the weak:
    Who needs 2m security distance between vehicles if you can drive right up to somebody’s backside anyway. Who cares about a few scratches on your vehicle or burned calves?
  6. 4×4 drivers:
    Because you are bigger than motos or tuk tuks it is essential that you drive like complete bullies with no respect for others.

cambodian trafficThree modes of transport – the Cambodian equivalent of a class system!

Much more fun on the back of the lorry – who needs seat-belts anyway
A sign outside a driving school. Funny that the school has closed now.
Now that’s more my type of transport
The woman on the right is just coming straight at us.
The guy in front of us decided that he wants to go to the right after all.
I am an orderly German-get me out of here!!! :-/

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About Tammyonthemove

Tammy & Chris are a couple hailing from Germany and England, meaning between them they are efficient and polite, but unable to talk about football. Find out why they stopped pushing pens around the British civil service to travel the world on their blog.

2 Thoughts on “How to survive traffic in Cambodia

  1. This is absolutely one of the most accurate depictions of traffic behavior in Phnom Penh that I’ve ever read! This should totally be part of every guide book!

    I also LOVE the last picture from your perspective on the tuk tuk… I’ve been trying to capture the pure insanity that is traffic-light-less intersections at rush hour, but I haven’t managed it nearly as well as your snap of the chaos – well done!!

  2. Thanks very much. It took me months of careful observing, trial and error on the back of my trusted tuk tuk before I could write this post. 🙂 I agree, it is very difficult to capture the chaos in photos actually. A video might be easier. Glad you enjoyed the post and I would love this to be part of a guide book. 🙂

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