Traffic rules in Cambodia

Another quiet day in Phnom Penh traffic

For newcomers, finding out about the traffic is a very complex thing indeed. So for your convenience, I have collected some of the rules of traffic in Phnom Penh. This will hopefully give you an idea about how to act in traffic (hint: carefully).

Indicating to the left/right: Someone turned on their indicator by mistake and haven’t discovered it yet.

Honking your horn: Can have several meanings, including: “I go straight”, “I turn left”, “I turn right”, “I stop”, “I speed up”, “You should move”, “You should stay”, “I have a new car” and “Don’t you honk your horn at me”.

Driving side: Right-side-driving seems to be the most popular, with almost 50% choosing to drive here. Middle-of-the-road is second most popular, with about 30% of the traffic, and Left-side-driving only sees about 20% of the traffic. Left side and middle-of-road seem to be gaining popularity, though no official polls are known to this author.

Max load:  An ongoing competition to see who can put most people and stuff on any vehicle.

Not even serious contenders in the max load competition.

Zebra crossing: If you are an actual zebra, traffic might stop for you here. Purpose of these drawings are hitero unknown, though, as the number of zebras in Phnom Penh is rather low.

No u-turn: This indicates the place best suited for a u-turn and people queue up to do one here.

Full stop: This sign decorates many streets. Its origin and purpose has not yet been discovered, but it is assumed to be religious.

Speed limit signs: These indicate 2-digit numbers on streets where your max speed is 5 km/h. This explains to drivers that it would be safe to go this speed if it weren’t for all those other guys blocking your way, which seems to make everyone happy to know.

Traffic lights:  A festive decoration in the main streets. Red means “go if you can”, as do yellow and green.

The traffic light’s festive colors soothes everyone.

Drivers license: A souvenir sold to expats and other long-term visitors in Cambodia. A very small group of locals have been known to purhcase this souvenir too.

Sidewalks: A convenient location to park motorbikes and do street vendoring. Walking here is frowned upon, as it may inconvenience someone trying to park a motorbike.

Tuktuk: Both a means of transport, and the most popular way to greet westerners visiting the Land of Wonder.

But seriously, though

When you do walk in Phnom Penh traffic, walk slowly. In Bangkok it is necessary to run across streets to get over while the light is green. Here, if you don’t walk slowly, you will be hit. Walk a few steps further over the road when you see your chance to do so.  Walk as close to the sidewalk as you can come, but not on the pedestrian street itself (except on Riverside). Oh, and stay alert.

If you choose to drive a motorbike, go with the flow. If it is “your turn” to go, even if the light is red, people will get annoyed at you for standing still. You should always wear a helmet and have indicators and lights working on your bike – but this is more about getting pulled over than for actual traffic purposes.

Bicycles seem to go by pretty much the same rules as motorbikes, albeit a bit more carefully. There are no rules about helmets on bicycles,

If you choose to drive a car – best of luck to you.

Chaos in the dorm

Well chaos may be a big word, but the customers seem to have been playing musical beds!

The keys left at reception did not match with the empty beds in the dorm, so some people are not sleeping in their assigned beds, this made it quite difficult to check in the last few arrivals, especially the one who arrived after midnight.

The new night guy was having difficulties on his first day on the job.

Full house

So today we are almost sold out, all rooms, and most beds in the dorm are occupied.
It is fun to see so many different people during the day.
We have quite a few nationalities among the guests today. It will be interesting to see if that makes for a lively evening or not.

The chess game is already in use – as usual.

A few of the guests have stayed here before, and it is fun to hear what they have been doing since they left. Some tall tales are being told at the tables outside.


Vittou, the afternoon coffee assistant, quit…

No warning, he had an extra day off to go to a wedding and his family convinced him to quit.

So now we have to find another coffee assistant – so far Jakob is doing what he can, but he already had a full schedule of his own.

The parents came for a visit yesterday, they will be here for almost 3 weeks, I think my dad will be polishing up his chess skills…


I had to change the beer keg.

Ok, how hard can it be? The keg is empty, right?

Wrong…. It contains just enough to get the floor wet and sticky, get my dress wet (and smelly) and spray a few droplets into my eyes. And the new keg is heavy, realy heavy, and I have to get it from the storeroom into the bar….

Luckily the customer who is to get the first beer from the new keg is one of our regulars, so he gives me a hand moving the keg and I connect it all by myself.

Mission accomplished!

Locked in

I was late this morning.

I got up on time, showered and dressed etc, at normal speed, went down the stairs – then got stuck… someone had changed the padlock on the outer door. I could not get out, the downstairs neighbor didn’t have a key for that padlock either, he had to break the door to let us out.

What a crazy situation.

Tuesday is our quiet day

Quiet Tuesday evenings are the norm, but yesterday was exceptionally so, most of our guests retired early, so the bar only had one or two customers at a time. There was plenty of time to talk with each guest which is always nice.
A few of our regular bar customers showed up, but not a single game of chess was played. Very quiet indeed.
The funny thing is, that on this very quiet Tuesday all our rooms and half the dorm was full of guests.

It is funny how even people on vacation seem to reserve their late evenings to Friday and Saturday.

Total panic

So yesterday started out just like normal. We had a full house, but it was very quiet at 6 AM. A few people leaving on an early bus, a couple who had arrived on a night bus looking for a bed in the dorm, a few people wanting an early breakfast, all in all just a normal morning.

During the day we got all the rooms rented out so when I came back to take over the reception in the afternoon I was surprised that the key for room 8 was missing, since the people who had booked it had not yet arrived. It turned out that the people from the day before had not checked out, that they had actually planned to stay another night, but had not made a booking. Really bad…

Room not vacated, clothing spread all over the room, room dirty, cleaners have left for the day, the new people are arriving… total chaos.

Luckily we still had room in the dorm for the people without booking, and I was able to get the room clean before we had check-in, even if housekeeper would despair over my bed making skills, but the whole thing was chaos for almost one hour.

On days like that I really like running a hostel, rather than a hotel, the guests here are much more laid-back and accepting of a little chaos, as long as someone mans the bar and the coffee cart.

Good morning and welcome

I am new at this, blogging, but so many interesting things can happen at a little hostel, so I thought I’d share some of our daily life.

I’ll start out by introducing you to all of us.

This place is owned by Jakob and Hanne.

Behind the bar we usually have Soka in the mornings and Leo in the evenings.

Outside, manning the coffee cart, we usually have Pisey in the mornings and  Vittou in the afternoon.

Our night watch and evening bar helper is Sayha

All the cleaning is done by Ry and Vary.

I’ll edit this later in the week, when I have learned how to add pictures