As you might already know, the official currency in Cambodia is called Cambodian Riel (code: KHR). Currently, Riel trades at around 4,000 to the US dollar. But what many visitors to the country find surprising is that in the country, there is a 90% level of dollarization. It only means is that you do not have to be worried about exchanging currency when you get to Cambodia if you’re coming from America or other countries that use USD.
Most tourist-oriented establishments like hotels, restaurants, and groceries quote their prices in US dollars. Little stores might quote their prices in riel; however, they wouldn’t refuse you if you want to pay in dollars.
Another thing you have to know is that Cambodia only uses $1 and above in notes. If you need a change lower than $1, you’ll be given riel. If you want to exchange money to have riel at hand, it’s best to do it in the bank.
At border towns like Ha Tien to Vietnam or Koh Kong to Thailand, you will normally find that they still use the currency of their neighboring country, which means Vietnamese dong or Thai baht. If you’re going to Cambodia by land travel, you’ll more likely be told that there are no ATMs in the following town, or that it’s necessary for you to use riel. Both statements are not true.
Most ATM machines in Cambodia dole out US dollars or Cambodian riel, while there are also ones that dispense both. If you’re using a foreign ATM card, however, you can only withdraw your money in US dollars.
You have to be aware of the withdrawal fees, though. The current withdrawal fees are about $4 if you’re using foreign ATM card in a local bank on top of the amount your bank charges for foreign transaction.
So, which one to use?
Actually, it doesn’t really matter. If you have dollars in your hand, there’s no need for you to get exchanged. If you withdraw from an ATM and you get Riel, it’s okay, too.
But if you still can’t decide, let these points below guide you:
The Exchange Rate
The Cambodian riel fluctuated from KHR 4,200 – KHR 3,950 in the previous years and if you will check out the forex and in money changers, you can take advantage of the great exchange rate.
So, let say you want to change your $100 to Cambodian riel, and the current exchange rate is $1 = KHR 4,100, you will then get nearly a $2.5 or KHR 10,000 more! However, you have to keep in mind that many small shops and restaurant in the country scale their prices on $1 =KHR 4000 rate. But this shouldn’t be bothering.
Given the language barrier, it is a lot easier to ask for a KHR 500 or KHR 1,000 discount than asking for a $0.50, on top of the fact that they don’t have USD coins.
If you don’t want a thick wallet, then go for the USD. Cambodian riel is available in KHR 50, KHR 100, KHR 200, KHR 500, KHR 1,000, KHR 2,000, KHR 5,000, KHR 10,000, KHR 20,000, KHR 50,000, KHR 100,000. Just imagine having 40 pieces of KHR 100 in your wallet, that’s only $10!
Important tips to remember:
Don’t exchange money at Poipet Border. Again, avoid, avoid, avoid! This may also apply to the other borders, but Poipet border is notorious for pushing foreign visitors to withdraw and exchange their money there, telling them that it’s going to be their last chance to do it. In case you will be doing an overland trip from Bangkok to Siem Reap, it’s best to have some dollars to pay for the visa at the immigration office, but it’s not necessary to get all your travel money there. The rate at the border is ridiculously very low, and not sure if the agents at the borders have a connection with the money exchange shop on why they are pushing the travelers to make transactions there.
Avoid using Cambodian riel at some shops. There are shops that have a $1 = KHR 4,200 exchange rate. This exchange means you will save more money if you are going to use US Dollar to make a transaction. It would be better if you are going to ask the shop first how much a certain item cost before deciding whether or not you will use riel for buying.
All in all, if you are planning to stay in Cambodia for only a few days, you do not have to bother on a couple of cent differences. However, if you are planning to travel around the country or stay here for a long period of time, then I would suggest for you to follow these tips in order to help yourself save money.
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