Cambodia has taught us that what is written and what is applied can be totally different. Therefore, we have to trust the locals. If the locals rent us a scooter and tell us that everything will be fine; well, everything will be fine (surely).
We just spent 2 days in Angkor by scooter.
Illustration photo: Jb trying to pass himself off as a Cambodian, without success.
A recent law prohibits locals from renting scooters to tourists. The reason behind this ban is that tourists drive very carelessly and aren’t familiar with Cambodian rules of conduct.
Having criss-crossed the roads of the Angkor temples for two days by scooter, I confirm this hypothesis.
- Many roads are one-way but this isn’t clearly indicated. Only the locals know it and the tourists don’t know it
- A tourist on a scooter bumped into me, without being able to stop. She shouted “sorry” and continued on her way
- If the traffic near the temples is quite easy, the arrival in Siem Reap is more delicate, and an accident happened quickly. In case of an accident, if you don’t have a motorcycle license, you will not be reimbursed by the insurance (no no the car license is NOT a motorcycle license, and does not automatically allow you to drive a motorcycle < 125cc, not even in France ! and the A1 license is only valid IN FRANCE)
Other rumours say that this would be something that tuk tuk lobbyists want (I like to think that there is a union or a tuk tuk lobby)
- Scooter vs. tuk-tuk: Simply freedom. The possibility to turn around the Banyon Temple several times (like around a traffic circle) looking for the best viewpoint for ONE picture – or turn around just for a mango. Ask a tuk-tuk for that, and he’ll give you two slaps (no kidding).
- Scooter vs. bike or electric bike: pedaling under 32°C, no thanks! Driving with a tiny electric bike that doesn’t go fast. No thanks! – Note: Angkor isn’t like Bagan (Burma), it’s much bigger, even if the road is in good condition and flat. Of course, there is more shade than Bagan but personally, I won’t choose to visit Angkor by bike when it’s hot
- The good thing about the tuk-tuk is that you’re better seated than on a scooter (more comfortable seat, away from the sun).
- In addition, most of the time one visits the temple on one side and leaves on the other. With a tuk-tuk, we can tell him to go look for us on the other side (if we know exactly where we will go out). And the tuk tuk costs hardly more: 15$/day. As soon as we are 3 people, the tuk tuk is more profitable than the scooter.
- If we get stopped by the police, it’s gone for 30mn to 1 hour of waiting.
- Fewer and fewer tourists come by scooter, so parking lots with guards no longer exist. Every time, we have to ask the beverage vendors to keep an eye on our scooter (but in reality, they don’t care).
- We rented the scooter to visit temples hidden in the jungle. But in the end, as we didn’t know the way well, we didn’t visit any of them, and ended up giving up the sandy roads for fear of having an accident.
Tips & Tricks
Well, if despite all this, you still want to rent a scooter, know that :
- You must tell the renter that you intend to use his scooter to go to the temples of Angkor. If he keeps telling you “no problem”, it means that there will be (a priori) no problem.
- Always ask for helmets, for everyone, it’s important (otherwise the police will have a reason to arrest you as well)
- Check brakes, lights, horn BEFORE.
- In case of an inspection, hand over the business card of the scooter rental company and everyone will talk friendly on the phone. If nothing happens, call the renter on the phone yourself (always have a Cambodian SIM card for such incidents), and hand the phone over to the policeman.
- If you don’t have a motorcycle license in addition, you are in the illegal. So if you get stopped by the police, keep a low profile. Then, if you ride with a license, in the event of an accident, you will not be reimbursed by your insurance. Be careful on the road!
- To avoid the controls, avoid parking right in front of the police car (as I did). They are numerous just at the entrance of Angkor Wat and the South gate of Angor Thom.
- Always return the scooter with a full tank of gas. There are gas stations all over Siem Reap for about $1/liter. If you run out of gas, look for stands with yellowish bottles, they are private individuals who resell gas (it is usually a bit more expensive and the quality of the gas isn’t guaranteed).
- Ask your rental company how to block the steering wheel of the scooter, it will make it much more difficult to steal (although any motivated thief will be able to unblock it). If in doubt, ask for a large chain with a padlock. Generally, we ask beverage vendors to keep an eye on our scooter, and helmets (without really believing it), by promising a purchase or a tip when we return.
- Take a picture of the license plate of your scooter + the business card of the renter – in case of theft. You never know…
- Download offline Google Maps and mark your scooter’s parking spot before visiting a temple. You enter from one side and leave from the other – and temples are often symmetrical. Marking the location makes it easy to find your scooter.
- The roads leading to the most popular temples are in very good condition
- From about 5pm, you have to light the fires (otherwise you will be fined). When you turn, you have to put on the blinker (fine too).
- Follow the Charles de Gaulle avenue to get to the temples. Because this path allows you to stop at a place where you are validated the ticket for the day. If this isn’t done, look for the Check Point to do so. If you enter the site without having your ticket stamped, you risk a fine.
- Cover your arms, neck and legs – otherwise sunburn is guaranteed (in any case, it is forbidden to visit the temples in mini-shorts – tank top). Otherwise, spread sun cream on your skin. Don’t forget your sunglasses and buy an anti-pollution mask if necessary (we have taken out our masks bought in Nepal).
If you want the address of the guest house that rented us the scooter, you can download its map here.
Otherwise, we highly recommend our Sakun Angkor Boutique Hotel (30$/night, Booking link) with swimming pool, nice staff. We rented the scooter through our hotel, and the scooter was dropped off right in front of the hotel.
Do not hesitate to read our more complete article on the temples of Angkor here