Many people who visit Siem Reap to enjoy the beauty of the Angkor Wat temples and other interesting locations in and around Siem Reap, rent a motorbike, bicycle or electric bike for one or more days. It’s the great way to get around Siem Reap and can also save you some tuktuk fare. If you are planning to rent a motorbike, bicycle or electric bike, there are some things to consider. IN this article we gathered all the information about renting a bicycle, motorbike or electric bike.
You need a license to drive a motorbike
There are many places in Siem Reap where you can rent a motorbike without any problem. Just bring your passport, pay the fee (somewhere between $8 – $15) and you’re good to go. However, according to Cambodian law all foreigners must possess a valid Cambodian license if they want to drive a motorbike above 125cc.
The only place where you can get such a license is the General Department Of Public Work and Transport (GDPWT) in Phnom Penh. If you are only visiting for a couple of days, this is obliviously not an option and you’re better off renting an electric bike, which doesn’t require a license.
Traffic can be hectic and rules unclear
Traffic in Siem reap can sometimes be hectic and unwritten rules are considered more important than the official traffic rules. The most important unwritten rules are: keep moving, give way and be patient.
You will see motorbikes driving on the right AND on the left. Taking over other vehicles on the left AND on the right. As long as you don’t endanger others, no one really cares where you driving, as long as you’re in motion. This is why you will see many motorbikes make a short turn when they need to turn left or right. Waiting for a chance to take the long route, often means they have to stop in the middel of the road. Stopping in the middel of the road means you’re not moving and there is an increased chance a traffic jam will quickly build up.
It’s very difficult to determine when you are driving on a road that gives you right of way. In some situations the right of way is visible through signs. In other situations, it;’s psychology that decides who has right of way: the bigger your vehicle the higher your right of way (pedestrians are at the bottom of the ladder). But most of all your kindness and courtesy will determine when you slow down, take way or (ignore the most important rule) come to a full stop!
Cambodians tend not to interfere with other peoples business, even when they are hindered by it. If they have to wait a bit longer for someone to park a car, take a turn (bus, van, truck) or even unload items, they will wait patiently.
These offences WILL get you pulled over by traffic police
There are regular checks by traffic police, especially in the center of Siem Reap and on the road to Angkor Wat. There are three traffic rules that are strongly enforced by traffic police and not complying will definitely get you pulled over:
Not wearing a helmet. Although you will see many people driving without a helmet, it’s illegal to drive without a helmet. This rule applies to the driver and all passengers;
No mirrors: Even though Cambodians rarely use the mirrors on their vehicles, they are compulsory.
Driving with your lights on during day time: There is always a clear view on the road, even when it’s raining, so logic and law requires you to turn off your headlights during daytime.
If you ARE pulled over by traffic police, and you’re on a motorbike above 125cc, the first thing they want to see is your drivers license. Remember that your international drivers licences is not valid in Cambodia. If you don’t have a Cambodian licence, you may be required to pay a fine or you are risking that your motorbike is confiscated and the owner (rental shop) needs to recover the motorbike. Your best option (obliviously) is to pay the fee.
Driving a bicycle or electric bike will NOT get you pulled over by traffic police, unless you did something really, really, really dangerous or stupid.
Should I rent a motorbike, an electric bike or bicycle?
Bicycles are easy to rent. Normally they don’t require you to leave your passport behind, but just a deposit amount between $20 and #30. Riding your bicycle through Angkor Wat is a great experience, but keep in mind that it can (and probably will) be extremely hot between 11 am and 3 pm.
Electric bikes are safer and will not get you in trouble with the police. You don’t need a license and you don’t need to wear a helmet, although it is safer to wear one, of course. However, if you are planning a long trip, you need to make sure the electric bike is charged on time.
How much does it cost?
Normal fee for renting a bicycle is between $2 and $4 depending on the place and the type of bicycle. Renting an electric bike or motorbike will cost you between $6 and $12 depending on the rental place and season. Always try to negotiate the price. A valid passport is required when you want to rent a motorbike and you need to leave your passport behind. The rental company will give it back after you’ve returned the electric bike.Hostels and hotels sometimes also rent motorbikes and bicycles.
Renting a motorbike without a license comes with risks
If you don’t have a Cambodian license you are taking the risk that you’re pulled over by the police and have to pay a fine. However, that’s not the biggest risk you’re taking.
If you’re unfortunate enough to get involved in a traffic accident, your insurance will most probably NOT cover any of your expenses, since you don’t have a license and thus in violation of local laws. You will be liable to pay all damages to other vehikels and people, as well as all medical bills.
It’s fair to say that renting a motorbike without having a valid Cambodian license, is a great way to get around Siem Reap, but is also a huge risk.
What you should keep in mind
A good rental service will provide you with a signed contract. Besides your personal information and the information of the rental place, it will also state the exact time you have to return the motorbike or electric bike. If not, request the seller to write it on the paper (and the copy).
Check the vehicle to see if there are any damages. The rental place will provide you with a helmet and an extra lock. If not, request these items. If the rental place is not willing to provide the extra lock, it’s advisable to find another place.
Getting fined by the police
If you’re stopped by the police and required to pay a fine, there are two options: you either pay the fine on the spot or you follow the official procedure, which is lengthy, complicated and very costly. The best way is to go along with the process and don’t make a fuzz.
Police officers are basically kind to tourist and won’t get too much in your way, unless you’re giving them a hard time. Keep in mind that you have to pay the fine directly to the officer. Demanding a receipt, automatically implicates that you rather do things the hard and more expensive way.
Isn’t it shocking?!
When you arrive in Siem Reap (or other parts of Cambodia) you may be surprised by what you see on the roads. For example, you may see 9 year old kids driving a motorbike or see motorbikes with 4, 5 or even 6 people.
You’ll probably see vehicles that almost fall apart but are still able to drive. And you may see people transporting live animals on the back of their motorbikes, like pigs, dogs or chickens. You will definitely see drivers using their phone to check e-mails, Google Maps or their Facebook profile while they are driving.,
If you do…, keep in mind: no one cares, as long as you keep moving, don’t get others into trouble and stay cool.