Cambodia Photo by Paul Szewczyk

Cambodia Driving Guide

Cambodia is a unique beautiful country. Explore all of it by driving when you get your International Driving Permit

2021-07-29 · 9 mins
Cambodia Road Photo by Sim Kimhort
Angkor Wat Photo by Paul Szewczyk
Ratanakiri Province Cambodia Photo by Bram Wouters
Kratie Province Cambodia Photo by britt gaiser

Get your International Driving Permit today and unlock the freedom to explore Cambodia's breathtaking attractions.

Cambodia has limited infrastructure, but don't let this deter you from exploring this captivating country. Angkor Wat is not the only worthy attraction; the bustling markets of Phnom Penh, the serene beaches of Sihanoukville, and the picturesque countryside landscapes await your discovery.

Driving through Cambodia offers an authentic experience, connecting you with its rich history, diverse culture, and warm hospitality. Some of Cambodia's best places to visit include the vibrant capital city of Phnom Penh, the charming riverside town of Battambang, and the tranquil islands of Koh Rong.

While the roads might be challenging, the scenic routes and unique destinations make the journey rewarding. With proper preparation and a spirit of adventure, driving in Cambodia can be an unforgettable way to explore its hidden gems and vibrant cities.

Checklist when driving in Cambodia

Being well-prepared with the necessary documents and items when driving and renting a car in Cambodia will ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Driver’s license

  • Your home country’s valid driver’s license.
  • An International Driving Permit for Cambodia is highly recommended.

Vehicle registration documents

Ensure the car rental company provides the vehicle’s registration papers.

Insurance papers

Proof of valid car insurance (both local and international).


Carry your passport at all times, as it may be required at police checkpoints.

What to bring in the car

  • Emergency Kit
  • First aid kit
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Reflective warning triangles
  • Spare Tire and Tools
  • Ensure you have a spare tire, jack, and tools for tire changes.
  • Reliable navigation tools, such as GPS or smartphones, with offline maps.
  • Keep hydrated and have some snacks handy, especially for long journeys.
  • A flashlight with extra batteries for emergencies or nighttime use.
  • A fully charged mobile phone with a car charger.
  • Sunglasses, hats, and sunscreen for sun protection.
  • Personal identification and contact information.

FAQs: International Driving Permit (IDP)

What countries accept the IDP?

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is recognized in over 150 countries worldwide. Some countries that accept an IDP include the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Brazil. Always check the specific requirements of the country you plan to visit, as regulations may vary.

Can I drive in Cambodia with a US driver’s license?

No, you cannot drive in Cambodia with just a US driver’s license. You must obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive legally in Cambodia.

How do I get an IDP?

To be eligible for an IDP, you must have a valid driver’s license and be at least 18.

For locals looking to drive abroad:

Visit the Ministry of Public Works and Transport or the new Public Service Centre at Chip Mong Noro Mall in Phnom Penh. Bring your driving license, identification documents, and all required paperwork.

For foreigners looking to drive in Cambodia:

Fill out an application form from your country’s automobile association or online via reputable providers like the International Drivers Association (IDA). Provide two passport-sized photographs, submit a copy of your valid driver’s license, and pay the fee online. Your IDP can be processed and shipped to you, often within a few days.

What are the costs associated with obtaining an IDP?

The cost of obtaining an IDP varies by country but generally ranges from $20 to $50.

What is the validity and renewal process for an IDP?

An IDP is typically valid for one year from the date of issue. However, with the International Drivers Association (IDA), you can get an IDP with a validity of up to three years. If you plan to stay longer, you can renew your IDP through the same process before it expires.

Renting a car in Cambodia

Car rentals in Cambodia

When looking for the best car rentals in Cambodia, it’s essential to consider factors such as vehicle selection, rental terms, and customer service. Major cities like Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville have a variety of reputable car rental agencies. Some of the top choices include:

  • Avis Cambodia: Known for its reliable service and wide range of vehicles, from compact cars to SUVs.
  • Budget Car Rental: Offers competitive prices and various rental options, including short-term and long-term leases.
  • Europcar Cambodia: Provides a good selection of well-maintained vehicles and excellent customer support.
  • Sixt Cambodia: Renowned for its premium cars and high-quality service, it is perfect for a luxurious ride.

Requirements for renting a car

To rent a car, you’ll typically need the following:

  • Valid Driver’s License: An international driving permit (IDP) is recommended in addition to your home country’s driver’s license.
  • Passport: For identification and verification purposes.
  • Credit Card: This is for security deposit and payment.
  • Some rental agencies may have age restrictions, usually requiring drivers to be at least 21 and sometimes imposing additional fees for drivers under 25.

When renting a car, always check for hidden fees, insurance coverage, and the vehicle's condition before signing any contracts.

Car insurance in Cambodia

Securing the best car insurance in Cambodia is crucial to ensure you are protected in case of accidents or other unforeseen events. Here are some options to consider:

  • Comprehensive Insurance: Most rental companies offer this coverage, which covers damage to the rental vehicle, theft, and third-party liability.
  • Third-Party Insurance: Covers damage to other vehicles and property and medical expenses for third parties involved in an accident.
  • Collision Damage Waiver (CDW): This policy reduces your financial liability in the event of an accident, though it often comes with a deductible.
  • Personal Accident Insurance (PAI): Provides coverage for medical expenses and accidental death benefits for drivers and passengers.

Essential traffic rules in Cambodia

Understanding the local road and traffic rules is essential for a safe and hassle-free journey. Here are the key things to know before traveling to Cambodia:

Driving side

In Cambodia, vehicles drive on the right-hand side of the road.

Speed limits

Here are the maximum speed limits by road:

  • Urban areas: 40 km/h
  • Rural roads: 90 km/h
  • Highways: 100 km/h

Seat belts

Wearing seat belts is mandatory for the driver and all passengers.

Use of mobile phones

Using a mobile phone while driving is prohibited unless you use a hands-free device.

Drunk driving

The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.05%. Penalties for exceeding this limit can be severe, including fines and imprisonment.

Turning and overtaking

  • Overtaking is allowed, but only when it is safe and there are no solid white lines on the road.
  • Use indicators to signal turns and overtaking maneuvers.

Minimum driving age

The minimum driving age in Cambodia is 18 years old.

Additional tips for driving in Cambodia

Every 3 hours, someone dies in a road crash in Cambodia, with road crashes ranking as the 10th leading cause of death in the country. According to the Asian Transportation Outlook, the road crash fatality rate is 19.6 per 100,000 population, with vehicle occupants making up 40% and motorcyclists 22% of these fatalities.

The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study (2019) reports a slightly lower fatality rate of 18 per 100,000 population, with pedestrians and bicyclists also significantly impacted. In 2019 alone, Cambodia saw 3,223 deaths due to road crashes.

Awareness of local conditions and practices is essential to ensure a safe journey. Here are some additional driving tips to help you navigate the roads effectively:

When to visit Cambodia

Knowing about the weather is crucial for planning your trip. The best time to visit Cambodia is during the dry season, which runs from November to April. During this period, the roads are generally dry and easier to navigate. The wet season can bring heavy rains from May to October, leading to flooding and muddy, slippery roads, particularly in rural areas.

Tuk-tuks and motorbikes

Tuk-tuks and motorbikes are ubiquitous in Cambodia, especially in cities. These vehicles often weave through traffic and make sudden stops or turns, so it’s crucial to stay alert and give them plenty of space. Always check your mirrors and blind spots for motorbikes before changing lanes or turning.

Pedestrians and animals

Be mindful of pedestrians, especially in busy urban areas. Pedestrian crossings may not always be well-marked, and people often cross the road unexpectedly. In rural areas, be prepared to encounter animals on the road, such as cows, dogs, and chickens. Slow down and drive cautiously to avoid accidents.

Safety precautions

Avoid driving at night

Driving at night can be hazardous due to poor visibility, unlit roads, and the increased likelihood of encountering drunk drivers or stray animals. If possible, limit your driving to daylight hours.

Emergency numbers

Know the local emergency numbers: 117 for police, 118 for fire, and 119 for ambulance services. Keep these numbers handy in case of any emergencies.

Health and safety

Stay hydrated and take regular breaks during long drives. Cambodia’s heat can be intense, and staying hydrated is crucial for maintaining focus and energy. Carry a first aid kit and basic medical supplies in case of minor injuries or illnesses.

Police checkpoints

Expect regular police checkpoints, especially on highways and major routes. Always carry your driver’s license, IDP, vehicle registration, and insurance documents.

Interacting with police

Be polite and cooperative if stopped. Most interactions are routine checks.

Planning your road routes in Cambodia

Here’s our suggested itinerary to help you make the most of your journey, including stops at some of the best restaurants in Cambodia:

Day 1-2: Phnom Penh

Start your journey in the bustling capital city of Phnom Penh. Consider staying at Raffles Hotel Le Royal, blending colonial charm and modern luxury.

  • Royal Palace: Begin with a visit to the stunning Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda.
  • Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum: Learn about Cambodia's history at this sobering museum.
  • Central Market (Phsar Thmei): Explore this iconic local goods and souvenirs market.
  • Dining: Enjoy a meal at Romdeng, known for its traditional Khmer dishes and unique delicacies.

Day 3-4: Siem Reap

Drive to Siem Reap, the gateway to the Angkor Archaeological Park. Book a room at Park Hyatt Siem Reap, known for its luxurious amenities and central location.

  • Angkor Wat: Spend a full day exploring the world-famous temple complex.
  • Angkor Thom and Bayon Temple: Discover the giant stone faces and intricate carvings.
  • Ta Prohm: Visit the temple made famous by the movie "Tomb Raider."
  • Dining: Try Haven, a restaurant that supports young adults in need and serves delicious, locally sourced food.

Day 5: Battambang

Head to Battambang, a charming riverside town. Stay at Bambu Hotel, a boutique hotel that combines traditional and contemporary styles.

  • Bamboo Train: Experience a unique ride on the famous Bamboo Train.
  • Phnom Sampeau: Visit this historical site, which has a hilltop pagoda and killing caves.
  • Battambang Bat Caves: Witness the impressive sight of thousands of bats emerging at dusk.
  • Dining: Enjoy dinner at Jaan Bai, a social enterprise restaurant offering exquisite Khmer cuisine.

Day 6-7: Sihanoukville and Koh Rong

Drive to the coastal city of Sihanoukville, then take a ferry to the island of Koh Rong. Stay at Tamu Hotel on Otres Beach in Sihanoukville, known for its beachfront views and relaxing ambiance.

  • Otres Beach: Relax on the serene and less crowded Otres Beach.
  • Koh Rong: Explore the island’s beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant nightlife.
  • Dining: Savor fresh seafood at The Big Easy on Koh Rong.

Day 8-9: Kampot and Kep

Travel to the quaint town of Kampot and the seaside resort of Kep. Stay at Knai Bang Chatt Resort in Kep, one of the best hotels in Cambodia, offering luxurious rooms and breathtaking ocean views.

  • Kampot River: Enjoy a boat cruise on the Kampot River, taking in the scenic
  • views and stunning sunsets.
  • Bokor National Park: Explore the park’s lush landscapes, waterfalls, and abandoned French hill station.
  • Kep National Park: Hike through the park and visit the iconic crab market in Kep.
  • Dining: Indulge in a meal at Rikitikitavi, a riverside restaurant in Kampot renowned for its delicious food and relaxed atmosphere.

Day 10: Return to Phnom Penh

Make your way back to Phnom Penh to complete your road trip. For your last night, consider staying at Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra, a luxurious hotel with excellent amenities and service.

Phnom Penh Night Market: Spend your final evening exploring the night market, sampling street food, and picking up last-minute souvenirs.

Dining: Cap off your journey with a meal at Malis, a highly acclaimed restaurant known for its authentic Cambodian cuisine.

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