I consider ‘no traffic’ to be a big part of a city's attractions. Having experienced Manila's traffic hell, Jakarta's traffic's jams, and having used to commute in traffic 2.5 hours every morning, I really really loved Siem Reap's virtually nonexistent traffic.
But the city is so small to warrant serious traffic jams, which is why I love it even more.
Siem Reap, as many people know, is the base town for tourists who visit the ancient temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The town is so small that you can actually explore it on foot. Not very comfortably and quickly, perhaps, But it is still doable.
Even then, there are several transportation choices in Siem Reap, that it won't ever become an issue there. Here are some of them:
1. Foot - What better way to really experience a new place than to walk around leisurely, observing every little thing that could otherwise be missed? You'll get to see the Khmer people up close, see how they trade, how they eat, how they interact with each other, and see how nice, or not nice, the infrastructures are.
2. Bicycle - Siem Reap people use bicycles often, and for good reason too: the terrain is pretty flat! For in town purposes, a bicycle is a good choice. Apart from walking, this is another great way to experience the small town. It's also very easy to rent one, because most guest houses and hotels offer this service.
Cost: $2 - $4/ day.
3. Motodop/motorcycle - No helmet necessary, just hop on the back of the driver, and tell him where to go. Within five minutes, you'll most likely arrive at your destination, wondering why you've paid $1 for such a short ride. In Siem Reap, foreigners aren't allowed to rent motorcycles. Probably in part because motodop services provides employment to so many men.
Cost: 2000 Riel - $1 for short trips around town. $8 - $10/day for around the Angkor area.
4. Tuktuk - the budget-luxury mode of transportation. You can sit back on cushy cushions, be protected from the sun, wind and rain, and still be in close contact with the surroundings. Tuktuks in Siem Reap are motorcycles pulling a carriage that could fit up to 4 people comfortably. It is probably the de facto form of transportation there. When you see an almost endless line of tuktuks at the foot of Phnom Bakheng temple, you would think the same, and you'd wonder about the state of Siem Reap tourism industry.
Cost: $1 for short trips around town. $12 - $20/day for the Angkor area.
5. Car/taxi - the luxury transportation in Siem Reap. Almost all are equipped with air conditioning, which is a lifesaver if you're visiting Angkor Wat during the dry season. Going around by taxi is somewhat a sterile experience, because you breathe none of that natural Cambodian air. But, taxi is great for visiting faraway temples.
Some Angkor temples like Beng Mealea or Phnom Kulen are located further away from the Angkor Archeological Park complex, 50 - 100 km away. When you're in a tuktuk for that long, you'll start to like it less and less. The wind will be to strong, the sun too bright, the dust to dusty, the roads too bumpy. All those things that you previously thought were wonderful about tuktuks, now become horrible. Save yourself the annoyance and use a taxi for faraway temples. You'd be glad you did.
Cost: $5 for short trips around town. $25 - $30/for the Angkor area. $30 - $60 and up for more remote temples.
6. Van - well this is only of use if you have a large group of more than 4 people. A van is similar to a taxi in terms of facilities (air conditioning, good interior, etc), only that it's a bit pricier. But then again, if you have decided to rent a van, most likely it will come out cheaper per head.
So In Short. . .
Travel by foot and bicycle for in-town and Siem Reap business.
Travel by tuktuks and moto for Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom business.
Travel by car or van for out of town and faraway temple business.
No traffic jams and road rage, just the soothing view of paddy fields and tree lined empty roads. Who knew that some people can derive extreme happiness from simplicity and the absence of traffic?
Rahmi Hidayat writes and maintains the contents of the Holiday In Angkor Wat website, a resource website for first time and repeat visitors to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It provides free information about the different ways to experience Angkor Wat and Siem Reap.