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Modes of Transportation in Cambodia

Welcome today's guest contributor Valerie, my cousin in Texas, who has researched a topic that says alot about the daily life of Cambodians and one of the major differences you will notice from America.
{Click on photo above to see photographer's site.}

The common name for tricycle rickshaws, as used in Vietnam and Cambodia; a form of public transport consisting of a tricycle with the passenger compartment up front. Seats up to three passengers.

Less-than-brave tourists might want to avoid the cyclo’s low speeds and high exposure to city traffic, but intrepid travelers will appreciate the cyclo’s convenience and amazing ability to weave through congested streets. By
Michael Aquino, About.com


{Tuktuk and driver, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 2003 by Sophorn. To bid on signed photo above, click here}

Tuktuk {Alternate Spelling tuk-tuk}
A form of public transport used in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos. The basic tuktuk configuration resembles a motorized rickshaw: a cabin compartment attached to a motorcycle. Its compact shape and nimble performance makes the tuktuk a popular choice of transport in traffic-ridden cities like Bangkok.

{My mom and sister Sophak in Tuktuk, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 2003 by Sophorn}

Regular tuktuks, like the ones found in Bangkok and Phnom Penh, can comfortably seat two passengers, with bigger configurations seating up to six passengers. The Jumbo tuktuks in Laos can seat up to twelve.

In Bangkok, it’s standard practice to agree on a fee with the tuktuk driver before proceeding. (You risk being charged an exorbitant rate if you ask after the ride is done.) Tuktuk drivers are permitted to charge a maximum fee, which they may not exceed. By
Michael Aquino, About.com


Using the common transportation in Cambodia is one of the most deadly things a person can do. The number of daily fatalities and injuries from traffic causes is huge. Probably the main cause is the lack of traffic law and traffic enforcement. A close second is the variety of unsafe modes of transportation the people must depend on.

Tens of thousands of young women factory workers are carried in open trucks every day from their villages to the garment factories. And even the NGOs and schools transport children and students in ways that are totally illegal in developed countries.

An NGO working with street children carries them in trucks that at least have benches to sit on.


{Streets of Siem Reap - cropped, near Angkor Wat, Cambodia, 2003 by Sophorn.
To bid on signed photo above, click

Motorcycles and Cars
Cambodia has the highest traffic accident rate of all ten member countries of ASEAN. Four people a day are killed in road accidents and many, many more are injured.

The traffic in Cambodia can be quite messy from a tourist’s point of view. I’m not sure that it’s as disorganized for the natives who understand the accepted rule of the road.


Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Cambodia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor Availability of Roadside Assistance: Non-existent

Driving at night in Cambodia is strongly discouraged. In both urban and rural areas, road maintenance is sporadic. Roads between major areas are adequate; however, those leading to more rural areas are poor. During the rainy season both urban and rural road conditions deteriorate considerably. Roadside assistance is non-existent. The safety of road travel outside urban areas varies greatly. Even on heavily traveled roads, banditry occurs, so all travel should be done in daylight between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at
For information concerning Cambodian drivers' permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Royal Embassy of Cambodia in Washington, D.C. or go the Cambodian Embassy's web site at http://embassy.org/cambodia.

Other Modes of Transportation
The U.S. Embassy advises Embassy personnel not to travel by train because of low safety standards and the high risk of banditry. Travel by boat should be avoided because boats are often overcrowded and lack adequate safety equipment. Several years ago an armed robbery of a number of tourists occurred on a "fast boat" between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Boat owners accept no liability for accidents. Moto-taxis and cyclos (passenger-carrying bicycles) are widely available; however, the Embassy does not recommend using them due to safety concerns and because personal belongings can be easily stolen.


Thanks Valerie! {styling in photo above}

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