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a light in Cambodia

Lessons as a foreign motorist

CAMBODIA | Saturday, 3 November 2012 | Views [293] | Comments [4]

I think the most common comment that I get from people outside Cambodia about driving a moto is how brave I must be to be joining the masses on the road. In all honesty I still feel like the same giant apprehensive chicken that I was when I first arrived to this city, but driving around has become a necessity for my ability to live here with more freedom.

Huge credit needs to be given to my friend Johnathan, who taught me how to drive when we were in Mui Ne Vietnam. Thanks for not giving into my reluctance and graciously assisting me with your patient instruction and bundles of encouragement.

So having said that I thought I might write up a blog about being a motorist on the Cambodian roads and lessons learnt along the way. I want you to remember everything you learnt about driving a car, traffic rules and reading road condition and then put that to one side as none of that applies to driving here.

First everything 180 degrees in front of you has right away. Peripheral vision is necessary as motorists in side streets can slip into the traffic at any moment and have the right to as they are in front of you as you approach that intersection. It is important to scan the traffic in front of you, with fingers near the break so you can gently apply as to make room for someone else. I describe it as fish swimming in the ocean – they don’t use lanes they use their keen senses to get around and not collide with each other.

Having said that, as a driver you have right away of anyone 180 degrees behind you. So, be aggressive and owe it! Reluctant driving and hesitation to flow with the traffic can cause accidents. It is important to be safely assertive on the road. The other motorists can sense fear! Your horn is your friend – use it!

Traffic lights are often just for display rather than being adhered to. If the light is green, wait for the traffic to stop and proceed while glancing both ways ready to move around any motorists they may wish to continue through the red light or are turning in front of you.

It’s perfectly ok to drive through petrol stations, to make right hand turns, as to quickly continue you passage and slip with ease into the traffic. It is also ok to turn left and drive on the wrong side of the road and then glide over to the right when there is a break in the traffic.

During traffic jams it is perfectly normal to maneuver your moto onto the pavement and continue along to the front of the masses of cars in the way. Just remember to position your wheel so that you mount the curb right - made that mistake a couple of times. Also consider your moto being like a cat when trying to get through busy traffic. Your mirrors are your whiskers. I like to think about the spaces between cars and see if I can squeeze through those gaps so I can get to the front of the cars and continue on with more ease.

When taking a passenger on the back of your moto you need to adjust to the changes in weight and how that will impact your steering and balance. The best passengers are those who don’t wiggle and have complete confidence in their driver.

Potholes are everywhere so be ready to gentle swerve to avoid them. If hitting the pothole is unavoidable then gently apply the breaks and take the hit. Hopefully at a lower speed it will not cause damage to your bike.

Speed limits are about 30 km/h for motos so we are not travelling at crazy fast speeds. However after 9pm, when the roads are more peaceful, it is common to travel faster. Traffic lights may also be turned off, more ignored or flashing orange at this point and some motorist drive without headlights being on so scanning of the road is really necessary.

When travelling along a road covered in water keep your accelerator slightly on but your fingers on the break and proceed slowly. The last thing you would want is water flooding your exhaust.

Police should only be paid about 5000r ($1.25) if you are cornered and are forced aside. However make no eye contact with the cops, make sure your headlight is off during the day, helmet on, registration sticker is affixed and you are not in the process of breaking any “laws”. If all these can be checked then confidently weave your way pass them without a second thought.

At the end of the day driving here doesn’t need to be a difficult experience. I must admit it does wonders for my prayer life and I know with complete certainty that I have some angels watching over me.

Tags: challenges, im here as the entertainment, outside my box, traffic



I don't know about driving there. No wonder your prayer life has increased. I mean "It is also ok to....drive on the wrong side of the road and then glide over to the right when there is a break in the traffic." It certainly doesn't sound like it is for the faint hearted!.
Congrats on joing the blogsphere. Look forward to more on life in general in Cambodia.

  Michelle Nov 3, 2012 3:30 PM


Love your post!! And I found out that the part about 'is also ok to....drive on the wrong side of the road' is only if there isn't police present. For us foreigners this is a stoppable offense.

  Kristie Nov 3, 2012 4:27 PM


Haha - yeah there are "laws" but at times it is better to break them rather than putting yourself in harms way waiting for breaks in traffic. Important to be safely aggressive and street smart.

  me Nov 3, 2012 4:32 PM


Haha! U are so brave and amazing to ride in Cambodia!! Very practical sharing!! Haha!!

  Fiona Lai Nov 3, 2012 6:10 PM

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