Money Matters in CambodiaKirsty Turner
Cambodia has its own currency, which 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. However, visitors are most likely to come across the 500 and 1,000 riel notes, 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.
In addition to the riel, US$ are also widely accepted throughout Cambodia, and the pricing for hotel rooms and often food and other items in tourist areas tends to be quoted in riel. Travellers who have just come from Thailand will also be able to spend any leftover Baht in areas close to the Thai/Cambodian borders. It is a good idea to carry a selection of US$ and riel notes and take good care of them as notes that are torn and crumpled will usually be rejected.
While the cost of visiting Cambodia is cheap by Western standards, it is quite a bit more expensive than in the neighbouring nations of Laos and Thailand. The biggest costs here are accommodation and transport, although both can be done cheaply by those who are on a shoestring budget. By cutting back to the absolute necessities it is possible to send just US$10 a day, while those who want a few little luxuries such as beer should allow themselves US$25. A budget of US$100 a day offers access to some of the country’s best hotels and restaurants, while the sky is the limit for those who can afford to spend US$200 per day.
Changing your money
Banks can be found in all major tourist areas of Cambodia and while these establishments offer to change currency, local moneychangers generally offer much better rates. Changing riel into other currencies can be rather tricky and costly, so it is best to avoid changing large amounts of cash unless you really need to.
The number of ATMs in Cambodia is on the rise and although there are incidents of cards being swallowed, this is becoming less common. ATMs usually accept just MasterCard and Visa and dispense cash in US$.
Travellers’ cheques and credit cards
Traveller’s cheques and credit cards can usually be used in up market hotels and banks in most tourist areas of the country. However, changing travellers’ cheques elsewhere can be difficult, and it is best stockpile some cash before heading out into the countryside.
Although tipping is not expected it can make a big difference as wages are extremely low and even a tip of $2 might almost double the waiter or waitress’ wages.