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Toby Keps

Travelled to 12 countries / regions

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Backpacked across Thailand and Cambodia in 2019

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Asia > Cambodia > Useful Info
Submitted on Feb 02, 2020 Useful Info

How to get money and pay for things in Cambodia

  • The main method of payment in Cambodia is cash. Credit cards are accepted at upscale hotels, restaurants, and boutiques in major cities (meaning Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, and Sihanoukville to a lesser degree). Even then it's really just Visa and Mastercard. Outside of international hotel chains and airlines, I don't think I saw any American Express logos while I was in the country. So while I encourage you to have a credit card on you just in case, 95% of the places won't accept credit cards
  • What makes this country interesting is that for almost all everyday transactions it accepts US dollars almost as equally as it accepts its own currency (see here). Most places in cities straight up just price everything in USD:User submitted photo of CambodiaSo for visitors this means you never have to worry about getting the local currency Riel, since you'll be paying for everything almost exclusively in cash US dollars. Even the ATMs in Cambodia only dispense US dollars for foreign card holders, so it's as if you're in the US itself
  • Here are the 3 ways you can get money to spend in Cambodia:
  1. Bring US dollars with you into the country: before you go to Cambodia, get your hands onto as many US dollar notes as possible, in small denominations like $1, $5, $10, and some $20. Make sure the notes are in mint condition, and not creased or torn; the notes in poor conditions will frequently get rejected by locals for payment. Also don't bring in any USD coins, which are not accepted in Cambodia. A good rule of thumb is to bring $30USD for visa on arrival plus $70USD per day you'll be in the country. You do not need to exchange this cash for the local currency after you arrive; you can just spend it as is
  2. Use your bank card to withdraw cash in the country: if you do run out of cash, you can use local ATMs to withdraw additional cash USDs. Foreign bank card holders cannot withdraw Riel (the Cambodian currency), only USDs. Although this is convenient, there is a cost. ATM fees: Most ATMs in Cambodia charge $4 (e.g. ABA Bank, ACLEDA Bank, BRED Bank) or $5 (Maybank, Canadia, ANZ Royal, Mekong Bank) per withdrawal, and limit you to $500USD per withdrawal. Additionally there's also a 2% foreign exchange fee as well. No matter what your bank account's currency is, the money will be converted to and dispensed in US dollars to you. One problem with getting money from ATMs is that they only dispense $50 and $100 bills and most businesses in Cambodia won't accept these denominations for payment, because the price level in Cambodia is so low and most of your transactions are just a few dollars each. So what you need to do after you get the cash is to go to your hotel, a bank branch, or an upscale supermarket to try to break the larger denominations into smaller ones (no more than $20) so you can spend more easily. Accepted bank cards are anything that are on the Visa or Mastercard networks, like PLUS, Cirrus, Maestro, and UnionPay. Most bank cards issued these days are good
  3. Use credit card wherever you can: I always paid my hotel bill in Cambodia with my credit card, and wherever else it's accepted like nice restaurants and shops. This is a good practice because cash USD can be spent in far more places and therefore much more flexible, so you should try to conserve as much of it as possible. Even if you have lots of it leftover at the end of your trip, so what? It's USD it can be converted to any currency anywhere you go next. So, try to pay for all your large purchases in Cambodia with credit card wherever you can so you don't run low on cash USDs


  • Additional money tips for Cambodia:
  • When you buy things at local markets you'll notice a funny thing: you will pay the business in USD and the changes given back to you are in Cambodian Riel. This is because the $1USD is the smallest denomination in circulation in Cambodia, so if the change given back to you is less than $1, they will give it back to you in Riel. 1USD = 4000 Riel, so each 1000 Riel is basically worth a quarter. When I was in the country I ended up accumulating lots of 1000 Riel bills
  • If you do need to get Riels for whatever reason, you can always go to one of the many exchange shops available on the main streets in town centers. For example, if you're planning to spend an extended amount of time in the countryside, you might want to get a bunch more Riels because while USDs are accepted in the countryside, their circulation isn't as frequent as in the cities so there will be some frictions in using USDs there
  • I already mentioned this but really make sure your USD notes are in near perfect condition. In the US it's fine to pay with notes that have a little bit of wear and tear, but even the slightest blemish on the note is grounds for refusal of acceptance in Cambodia. I had a $20 note with me that had about a quarter inch of tear on one corner, and no one accepted that note in Cambodia (someone offered to accept it as $15USD instead of $20, yikes!)
  • This likely won't happen, but make sure you avoid having too much Riel with you when you leave Cambodia. This currency is not a freely tradable currency, so once you leave Cambodia they're worth nothing. There's likely not going to be any currency exchanges anywhere outside Cambodia that will convert Riel to something else, including in neighboring countries like Thailand too. When I was in Bangkok before going to Siem Reap, I looked around and couldn't find a single exchange shop or bank that accepted Riel. So get everything back into USD before you leave Cambodia!
  • In border towns with Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, their currencies are also used alongside Riel and USD (for ex. using Thai Baht in Poi Pet). So if you're just going to the border town for a day trip, you don't have to convert anything