The official currency of Cambodia is the riel. However, US dollars are widely used and accepted. In Battambang and other areas near the Thai border, the Thai baht is also accepted.
The exchange rate is roughly 4000 riel to one dollar, although the last couple of months the rate has gone up a bit, reaching 4200 riel to the dollar. Many businesses still use the 4000 riel exchange rate, as it’s easier.
Hotels, guesthouses, and other larger businesses will quote their prices in dollars. Smaller shops and market stalls quote prices in riel.
Tuktuks and motodops will also try to quote the fare in dollars. But, for short distances on a moto the normal price should be around 2000 riel. Don’t be fooled into paying more!
Dollars must be clean, riels not
Take care of how you treat dollar notes. A dollar note should be clean and without imperfections. When you pay with dollars, they will check the bill carefully. If they find something in the bill, like it is too much old or deteriorated, they will ask you to change it. Best to do this check yourself too, and refuse dollars that are not perfect.
This doesn’t apply to the riel notes. They can be old, torn, or dirty, and nobody cares…
So, how does it work when you have purchased something for US$ 1.25 and pay with 2 dollars? Well, you’ll get 3000 riel back, which relates to US$ 0.75. Cambodia does not use coins, so you’ll never see a ‘dime’ or a ‘quarter’. Change less than 1 dollar will always be given in Cambodian riel.
If you already have dollars, there is no need to change at the borders. Touts will try to convince you that ‘the dollar is not legal tender’ or ‘the government has just decided to abolish use of dollars’. It’s all bullshit, and they only try to make good money by changing your dollars at a much inflated rate (like 3000 riel to a dollar, yes it happens!).
If you do want to change some dollars into riel or vice versa, the best and most efficient places to do that are the money exchange booths near the markets. They all clearly publicize the current rate and are reliable. Oh, and fast too; it takes ages to change some money at a bank!
Cambodian Bank Notes
100 riel = $0.025
You’ll only get this one as change in supermarkets.
500 riel = $0.12
1000 riel = $0.25
5000 riel = $1.25