Five reasons not to travel by night bus in Cambodia

Night buses are the buses most prone to accidents in Cambodia. Last year in one two-week period there were three night bus crashes, that caused the death and injuries of several tourists. People often want to take night buses in Cambodia because they save time, and the Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and Siem Reap to Sihanoukville routes are particularly popular. They may save time, but avoiding them saves lives. Here are five reasons not to take night buses in Cambodia:

A couple of Cambodian buses parked in the bus yard, waiting to transport passengers.

Imagine how much more foreboding they are after midnight!

1. Cambodians get sleepy at night

Most Cambodians live with their families and sleep in communal living spaces. Most of their families wake up around dawn and begin going about the business of daily life, usually in a normal, noisy way. This means that your bus driver has probably been awake and eating prahok since 6 a.m. and is going to start getting very, very, sleepy come 2 a.m.

2. Roads are dark

Outside the major cities, roads are not lit. In fact, they are pitch black. Many are also still unpaved. Unpaved and cloaked in darkness. There are also no enforced laws that drivers must turn on their headlights and many choose not to in order to “save gas.”

3. Speeding merrily along

Cambodians are not big fans of staying out incredibly late at night. So when they are done doing whatever they are doing, they want to get home as quickly as possible. In order to do that, they drive as fast as their car, moto, or their/your night bus will allow.

4. There is no wrong way

Because of their great hurry to get wherever they are going, Cambodians drive on the wrong side of the road when it’s convenient for them and even more disconcertingly, they will attempt to overtake other vehicles on a two-lane road when there are cars coming directly at them.

5. Everyone is drunk at night

While Cambodia is no longer the wild west it once was, Cambodians and expats alike seem to have no problem swilling down cans, nay, cases of Angkor beer and then hitting the road. Most traffic accidents are caused by inebriated drivers, and a much higher percentage of drivers are drunk at night. Cambodia does not yet have a designated driver program. Even if your bus driver is not drunk, everyone else on the road is.

Combine all of the above and imagine a dark road with your sleepy driver at the wheel while other half-drunk drivers on the road try and overtake by driving straight into your bus at 90 miles an hour, and you’ll understand why I have never, and will never take a night bus in Cambodia.

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