The EverydayGuide Rundown
Cambodia is one of the most beautiful countries on Earth and is still relatively untapped by western tourists. If you’re lucky enough to travel to Cambodia, you’ll probably want a way to get around that’s free of hassle and hotel arranged tours. Vacation packages are usually a hindrance to actually getting out and seeing what a country has to offer, so many tourists opt to rent a car.
Now, here is where the problem lies. Car rental in Cambodia isn’t like the traditional car rental services you’re probably used to in the western world. Let us explain.
For those that want a quick overview, here’s the rundown of renting a car in Cambodia.
- Car hiring facilities are few and far between.
- Foreign insurance companies won’t carry over insurance to insure foreign drivers in Cambodia.
- Accidents are common.
- Most foreign travelers should hire a private driver or taxi to show them around.
- Private drivers usually cost about 80USD/day.
- Taxi meters don’t exist, so negotiating the price of a trip with a taxi before leaving is a must.
Coming From Vietnam
Because anywhere in Cambodia is a relatively short drive to the Vietnamese border, many foreign tourists opt to try and drive from Vietnam into Cambodia. Once they reach the border, although they have all of the necessary permits and visas, they still won’t be allowed in. Why? Vietnamese vehicles are designed as left hand drive vehicles, whereas Cambodian cars are designed as right hand drive. The two countries refuse to let each others’ vehicles cross the border and mingle with the other drivers, meaning that if you try and drive from Vietnam to Cambodia or vice versa, you’ll be denied access. Special tourist buses can get permits that let them in for a short time, but the average car renter won’t be able to have access to these permits.
Renting a Car
While it is possible to rent a car while in Cambodia, car rental embassies are few and far between. Because of the traffic laws in Cambodia, or rather the lack thereof, driving for foreigners is often considered extremely difficult or impossible. Accidents are common and many foreign insurance providers won’t let their policies be transferred over because of the almost guaranteed accidents you’ll have. In some parts of Cambodia the local authorities won’t even allow foreign nationals to rent cars or motorcycles because of the high accident rate on them. So how do you get around the almost guaranteed accidents and inconveniences?
Hire a Driver
The most common way to get around Cambodia is by hiring a car and a driver. Many of the western hotels in Cambodia have systems in place that allow local taxi drivers to sit outside the hotel and wait for guests. If you want a lift around the city, hiring a local taxi driver is the best and cheapest way to go. All of the money you would waste on insurance and car repairs trying to rent a car will be better spend just paying someone else to drive you around. Local taxi drivers are sometimes hesitant to take on an all day fair as they’re unsure if you’ll come back and they can make much more money elsewhere, so try and plan your day around tourist hot spots if you’re taking a self-hired taxi. Tourist hot spots will have plenty of taxis waiting and getting one to go back to your hotel should be no problem.
The other alternative is to hire a driver through your hotel. Private Cambodian car drivers for hotels are the best way to see the country. Because driving is impossible, private Cambodian drivers will help you around. Unlike taxi drivers that may not speak any English, drivers hired through a hotel should be able to act as both a driver and a tour guide. Also, as an added bonus, they’ll be able to wait for you wherever you go. This means that if you want to take a late night stroll somewhere, your driver can simply wait for you while you take your time. Private car companies or hotel car drivers are your best option.
Price for private hotel drivers for an all day trip usually average around 80USD, but prices can be negotiated at the front desk if you only want something like a half day trip. Taxi prices fluctuate greatly and from year to year you can expect to pay different prices, so it would be impossible to gauge how much a daily taxi would cost. It’s always best to ask the hotel concierge how much drivers cost before you rent one yourself.
Now that you have the driver situation figured out for your stay in Cambodia, what else should you know about the road systems?
Quality: The road quality in Cambodia varies quite a bit. In the big cities you’ll find that the roads are fairly well kept and pleasant to drive on. But as soon as you start venturing past the hotels and into the real Cambodia, you’ll notice things could get a lot worse. The roads may be completely broken or non-existant in some parts of your journey, but don’t worry. You have a….
Seatbelt: Seatbelts aren’t required to be worn under Cambodian law and you may find that many taxis are without them entirely. Renting a car from the hotel will almost guarantee seatbelts, but you don’t have to wear them if you don’t want. However, it is recommended strapping in if you’re heading out into the country as bumpy roads and accidents can happen at any time and you don’t want to go flying.
Other Cities: To go from the main city of Phnom Penh to other major cities in Cambodia can take quite some time. On average, expect to spend about 3 to 4 hours in a car if you’re thinking of taking a car elsewhere in the country. It may be difficult however to find a car that is willing to take you all the way to the other side of the country. Consult your driver ahead of time, unless the trip is organized by the hotel, and negotiate how much the trip is going to cost before leaving. 3 or 4 hours is a long time to wonder how much your trip will cost.
Negotiate: Never get into a taxi until you’ve fully negotiated the price of the fare first. None of the taxis in Cambodia are metered so it’s imperative that you calculate the cost of the trip before leaving otherwise you could be in for a scam.