Money matters in Cambodia

Cambodia, a country located in Southeast Asia, is known for its rich cultural heritage, stunning temples, and beautiful landscapes. Understanding the local currency, exchange rates, and banking system can help tourists make informed financial decisions while traveling in Cambodia. In this article, we will delve into the basics of money in Cambodia, providing you with essential information and tips to navigate the country's financial landscape!

About money in Cambodia

The official currency of Cambodia is known as the Riel and comes in denominations of 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 50,000, and 100,000 riel notes and there is no coin in circulation then. However, the distinctive red 500 riel note and the 1000 riel note are the most useful and common while changing 50,000 and 100,000 riel notes can be rather tricky and should be done at up-market hotels as well as fancy restaurants and banks.

Currency use in Cambodia

In addition to the riel, US$ are also widely accepted throughout Cambodia. Most hotels and restaurants, shops, taxis, buses, and airlines set their prices in US dollars. Even the visa prices and departure taxes are set in US dollars. You can also spend Thai Baht in areas close to the Thai/Cambodian borders but less so elsewhere. It is a good idea to carry a selection of US$ and riel notes together for any deal. Remember to stock up enough small bills for your petty deals when you around.

Small transactions (less than a dollar) are usually done in Cambodian riel. Change of less than $1 is given in riel. Always carry some small riel for motorcycle taxis (motodups), snacks, and other small purchases. The trick of collecting small change in riel is to buy small items, such as mineral water and canned drinks, at the local shops – using small US dollar notes.

It’s a good idea to check that any bills you take do not have any tears or look too tatty, as shops and restaurants will not accept them.

Euros are not commonly used. You can change both of these and many other currencies in banks and exchange shops.

If you want to change money, try not to change too much at one time as you will end up with a large wad of notes. Keep big notes separate from other smaller notes to avoid confusion then.

cambodia money

Exchange money in Cambodia

The official exchange rate is approximately 4,000 riel to one U.S. dollar and 100 riels to the Thai baht. It's possible to change dollars to riel just about anywhere.

There are banks in major towns and tourist hubs. Banks offer the usual banking services - cash advances on credits cards, international currency exchange, telegraphic transfers, and traveler checks. Most banks are open from 8:00 to 3:00 or 4:00 PM, Monday through Friday. Some are open Saturday mornings until 11:30.

While these establishments offer to change currency, local moneychangers generally offer a bit better rates. Please, note that exchange money on the streets with the individual is vulnerable to get risk. Fake money or a cut of the amount is rather common in this case. Travelers’ cheques have become easier to cash in well-touristed areas, but they remain difficult to change upcountry. Again, it is preferable to have US dollar cheques. Banks and businesses usually charge 2% to cash traveler's checks.

cambodia's money

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ATMs and Credit cards

ATMs are available in the cities of Cambodia and the number of them is growing. Some banks will have an ATM and they’re often inside convenience stores. ANZ Royal Bank and Canadia Bank ATMs both accept Cirrus, Plus, Maestro, Visa, and MasterCard systems. SBC Bank ATMs accept Visa and MasterCard. You can withdraw dollars or riels. Some cash machines will charge a $2 U.S. fee but others are free.

Credit cards have also become more widely accepted. Most good hotels, restaurants, and boutiques will accept Visa, JCB, MasterCard, and sometimes AMEX. Cash advances on cards are possible in some banks in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang, and Sihanoukville. Most businesses charge a 2%-4% fee for credit cards.

Costs in Cambodia

While the cost of visiting Cambodia is cheap by Western standards, it is quite a bit more expensive than in the neighboring countries. The higher price is partly due to Cambodia’s reliance on the US dollar, and because so many products are imported.

The most expensive stuff is the entrance fee for tourist sites then food and drink. Meals start from about US$4at the cheaper places, rising to more like US$10 at the smarter ones, and US$50 or more is possible if you go wild with the wine list.

Beer is from 1.5 to US$2.5 in bars and a bit higher in discotheques. Of course, you can find cheaper stuff in local places with a lower standard.

A budget of US$100 a day offers access to good hotels and restaurants, while the sky is the limit for those who can afford to spend US$200 per day.


Bargaining in Cambodia

Bargaining is essential in most shopping places except supermarkets and department stores. Remember that in Asia ‘saving face’ is important, so bargaining should be good-natured. Smile and don’t get angry or argue. This is not only for a deal but it is a type of art of living. Bargaining is applied for both locals and tourists without exception.

In some cases, you will be able to get a 20-30% discount or more, at other times this may only be 10%. And once the money is accepted, the deal is done. Don’t be upset if you find someone can get a better price than you did; it is about paying the price that is right for you.

Tipping in Cambodia

Although tipping is not compulsory it can make a big difference and is highly appreciated.

If you're happy with the services provided then some tip is appropriate. It's of great significance to the people who take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry.

Although in some hotels or restaurants, a service charge of 5% is sometimes put on your bill but this money most likely not going to the pocket of workers. So, if you are happy with the service provided, tipping should be given directly to the recipient.

The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travelers:

  • In local restaurants, if you are a single diner, then a tip of around US$1 is appropriated. It is from 10% to 15% of your bill in the more up-market restaurants. If you are in a group then depends on the group size, a gather of US$4 or 5 is good.
  • For drivers, we suggest US$5 if you are a single traveler and an amount of US$10-15 from the whole group per day can be used.
  • For your tour guides or group leaders, tipping is much depending on their services. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however, it is US$5-7 per day or US$2-4 per person in a group tour is appropriate.
  • Of course, you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
  • Not knowing the proper tip or gratuity for a service can be very unsettling. Deep inside, one may feel highly stressed as the waiter brings back the change. How much tip to leave on the tray?
  • When traveling, tipping etiquette can be a real mystery, but stress not. In Cambodia, there is no fixed amount; tipping is all up to the individual. No one will frown even if you don’t leave anything on the tray.
  • However, although it is not necessary to tip, a dollar or two is the norm and this applies to any form of service rendered across the board. The receiver, the service provider, is usually very appreciative and you can tell the gratitude for your gratitude from the sweet smile on your face.

By following the tips and advice provided in this article, you can feel more confident in managing your money while enjoying all that Cambodia has to offer!

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