Posted by: Simon & Becci | May 5, 2011

Travelling in Phnom Penh

A typical day on the roads

One of the biggest differences that we’ll face in living in Phnom Penh will be getting around the city. The roads have improved a lot since we visited here three years ago (there are now are a lot more concrete roads) but that means they are even busier.

Steve describes traffic here as being like water – it flows wherever it likes. Cars will happily carry on through red lights, motorbikes will regularly drive down the wrong side of the road, and turning into or across a carriageway is all about “I’ll keep going if my vehicle is bigger than yours”.

Having been here for two weeks we have tested 5 different forms of transport – walking, bicycle, tuk-tuk, motorbike and car – and decided to rate them against 6 different criteria: speed, comfort, cost, safety, ease and stress level. We thought we’d share our results with you…

I am the stig

5th place – Motorbike – 14 points (out of maximum 30 points) – the most popular method of transport in the city but most insane. You can cling onto the back as a passenger whilst the driver weaves in and out of traffic, or choose to drive yourself. Imagine wearing a crash helmet inside a sauna for 20 minutes and you’ll get the idea….

4th place – Walking – 18 points – cheapest and most stress-free, but least effective – Phnom Penh is rather large….

3rd place – Car – 19 points – lovely as a passenger but driving is another matter. Most comfortable and safest (for you) but high likelihood of hitting one of the several million motorbikes pouring around both sides of you. This would mean ending up in lengthy negotiations with police and passers-by over what you as a Westerner will pay the person you hit (almost no-one has insurance). I have driven a few times, including to the airport to collect Peter Brooks today. My mum will be pleased to know that he described my driving as “careful”….

2nd place – Tuk-tuk – 21 points – this involves sitting in a covered carriage pulled by a motorbike driver in front. Its not quite a horse-drawn carriage at the Royal Wedding but does mean driving is up to someone else (albeit rather slowly). Explaining where to go if you don’t speak Khmer and don’t know the city is the challenge.

1st Place – Bicycle – 22 points – an unexpected winner as I thought cyclists were crazy when we first arrived. Yet speed is as fast as a tuk-tuk, cost is low, stopping to look at directions is easy, weaving in and out of traffic is controlled and accidents happen at lower speeds. I’m not convinced that Jeremy Clarkson would agree but the humble bike is the current champion

We shall re-evaluate our scores after a few months living here…..



  1. I knew it – I’ve always had a secret suspicion that you were the stig – ha, and they tried to convince us that you were always at prayer and fasting – filming schedule methinks?!

    Loving the grading scale of transport, very organised (and very Simon!). I think ‘Least likely to die’ might have been higher up my priority! Glad to see you’ve got the house sorted in your last post, the shape of it looks so different to houses in Cov.

    Looking forward to more news, God Bless
    Sarah and Joe of the Rabone variety

  2. Like!

  3. We’re glad you’ve found a house and are finding your way around PP. We enjoyed travelling by tuk-tuk, but we did always travel with map in hand to monitor where we were going! Love the Bromleys

  4. I suspect that you may change your minds come the monsoon season… Laay and Lat’s Tuk-tuk service all the way!!

  5. Asian traffic will take some getting used to but if you take the plunge may find it pays off 🙂

    Accidents aren’t fun to navigate though. Learn the language and get to know some local politicians, then get a car :p

    So excited you guys are on our side of the planet now!

  6. Just echoing Daniel… we’re so excited to have some new neighbors in Asia! Been praying for your move so its good to see all is going well. A lot of what you’ve written reminds me of us 6 years ago! Glad you have a big house too, we’d love to be your first visitors. 😉

    • You would be very welcome to be our first visitors!! 🙂

  7. Hi made us lol Do the bikes come with air conditioned bike helmets (ie do the bike helmets have holes in!!) Is there a prophetic connection here choosing a Bicycle and Starley House? Where are the ummin and thummin when you need them ?
    sounds like all progressing well praise God
    Love Martyn Judy Beth
    Love to you both Martyn Judy n Beth

  8. […] blogs readers may remember the “travelling around Phnom Penh” blog entry many months ago. I promised a revised “top 5 means of transport” once we’d […]

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