Cambodia Money Matters and Business
Cambodia has a dual currency; their own currency is the Cambodian riel and their second, widely accepted, currency is the US dollar. Please be aware that the US dollar notes are inspected carefully, and that any ripped, torn, faded or stained notes may well be rejected. People are not quite as critical as in Myanmar (Burma) where only pristine notes are accepted. A fold, for example, is not a problem in Cambodia, but fading on the fold is.
People are more critical if the note is of a larger denomination. If you have a banknote you are stuck with, you may try bargaining at the money exchangers at local markets, they are sometimes willing to take the risk of taking over the note for a fee. This fee increases with the value of and the damage to the note.
Don’t bother changing for riels. You’ll get what you need in change. The US dollar is the de facto currency in Cambodia and most prices are quoted in dollars. Thai baht can be spent here but the rates are generally not favorable. Most of the Khmer-businesses give okay rates on baht, but many western-owned establishments especially of the bar and restaurant variety offer atrocious rates of 40 and even 45 to 50 baht to the dollar. If you have baht, you would do better to change some in town rather than try to spend it as you go.
The best place to change money is at any of the number of money changers scattered around town. There is always a concentration around the markets. Rip-offs are rare. More common currencies (Japanese yen, euros, Aussie dollars, Brit pounds, Thai baht) usually pose no difficulties, though rates may vary slightly from changer to changer and a little bargaining is sometimes necessary. However, the more obscure the currency is, the less likely the money changer will know the actual rate nor be willing to offer a fair rate as it may be more difficult for them to reconvert the notes later. It’s also been my experience that the money changers will offer a better rate than the hotels regardless of what currency you’re changing. Banks are generally not in the currency changing business here and don’t be surprised if they send you out to a street money changer if you try.
Cambodia’s currency is the riel (KHR) – named after the small fish used for making the ever so pungent Prahoc.
The riel comes in notes of the following denominations: 50៛, 100៛, 200៛, 500៛, 1,000៛, 2,000៛, 5,000៛, 10.000៛, 20,000៛ and 50.000៛.
There are no riel coins in circulation.
In 1993, the UNTAC (United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia) injected a large quantity of US dollar into the local economy. Until this date, the US dollar is still the favored currency. Like there are no riel coins, there are also no US dollar coins in circulation; the Cambodian riel notes function as small change and are used for smaller purchases.
Don’t expect shop venders to have change of anything more than a US$5 note, but do expect small change in riel.
NOTE: NOTE: Faded notes or notes with even a small tear are unlikely to be accepted, so check the change you are given carefully. Criticism increases with the value of the note. For more info, read our page on Damaged US dollar notes.
NOTE:US$100 notes printed in 2009 are not accepted by Cambodian banks and business owners.
The economy in Cambodia is very much cash driven. More and more (international) banks are popping up in the capital and there is a choice of banks in larger cities like Siem Reap, Kampot, Sihanoukville and Battambang. Cambodia’s own Acleda Bank is widespread throughout the country, but the services they offer are limited. Canadia Bank (Cambodian) is dotted around the country and ANZ Royal (Australia/New Zealand) is well represented in Phnom Penh.
There are no banks at the border towns, so make sure you bring along some US dollars.
Most banks are open Monday to Friday from 8:00am until 15:00 or 16:00pm. Some banks are closed for lunch time, some are open on Saturday mornings. Banks are closed during important festivals and holidays.
All banks offer money changing services, but you will get better rates at the money changers in or around markets. These are usually grouped near the gold sellers, and are easily spotted: look for the small glass cabinets with stacks of money in it. Main currencies (US dollar, Euro, British pound, Thai baht) should not pose a problem anywhere.
There are now ATMs with international access in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Kampot and Battambang. ANZ Royal Bank and Canadia Bank ATMs both accept Cirrus, Plus, Maestro, Visa and MasterCard systems. SBC Bank ATMs accept Visa and MasterCard. All ATMs dispenses US dollars, sometimes you have the option of withdrawal in Cambodian riel.
Acleda bank have ATMs spread throughout the country, but they only rarely work with international cards.
Credit cards are not widely accepted in Cambodia. Upscale hotels, restaurants and shops in major tourist towns (Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville) and casinos will accept credit cards. Expect to pay around 4% fee when paying by credit card. Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted cards, and some places will accept American Express and Diners Club.
Most banks offer cash advances on credit cards.
Traveler’s Cheques are accepted in Cambodia and can be cashed at some money changers and most larger banks. Shop around for the best conditions and insist that you get small to medium denominations. AMEX in US dollars are the most widely accepted travelers checks.
In Kampot, Acleda Bank can help you cash traveler’s cheques.
Acleda Bank offers Western Union services and Canadia Bank offers MoneyGram services. These services are certainly not cheap, but it is the fastest way to get cash in hand at short notice.
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