Your guide to money, currency, exchange rates and payments in Cambodia
Official currency: US dollar and Cambodian riel
Exchange rate: Small businesses use a fixed exchange rate of 4,000 or 4,100 riel to the dollar to facilitate payments
Where to exchange foreign currencies: Any bank branch, with better rates available from moneychangers at local markets
Credit/debit card payments: Card payments (Visa and Mastercard) are now increasingly accepted at many large hotels, restaurants and other retail outlets. Cambodian bank transactions fees are usually passed onto the customer on credit card transactions.
Cost of one can of beer: $0.50 to $1.50
What currency is used in Cambodia?
With the entrance of the UN into the country in 1993, the economy became dollarised and it’s stayed that way ever since. Today however, Cambodia has two official currencies: US dollars for large transactions in established outlets, like supermarkets and major hotel chains and riel for small items like groceries at traditional markets.
There are no coins in circulation so petty change is given in riel, for example you buy a can of beer for $0.75 and pay with a $5 bill, you will get $4 and 1,000 riel back in change.
In rural areas, riel is still the dominant currency, though you will be able to make payments in dollars up to $5- carry plenty of $1 and $5 notes.
Need to know
US dollar notes which are less than immaculate are refused by business owners and shopkeepers but are often given to unsuspecting travellers as change- be sure to inspect your notes! Watch out for:
Any rips or tears
Scribble or stamps on notes
Old, worn bills
$2 are official tender but are so seldom seen that they may be rejected out of hand
Old-style bills no longer in circulation
Ripped, torn or worn bills can be exchanged at the local money changers for a small fee.
Your guide to payments and transfers
Western Union and MoneyGram services are available but are comparatively expensive.
Transfers from overseas accounts transit through a correspondent bank in the USA so can take a couple of days, and the correspondent bank may charge a processing fee, as may the originating bank for incoming transfers, or the destination bank in the case of outgoing payments.
A few mobile payment services are now operating, with WING being the leading electronic money transfer system – transfers are straightforward to make and cost just 6000 riel ($1.50) regardless of the amount transferred.
Payment via new cashless payment platform Pi Pay (available for download as a consumer-facing app) is accepted by a growing number of retail partners in Cambodia- look for the Pi Pay sign.
PayPal and Google checkout are not currently licensed to operate from Cambodia.
Your visa on arrival must be paid for in dollars.
At border towns such as Koh Kong and Ha Tien, the currency of the neighbouring country (Thai Baht and Vietnamese dong respectively) may also be in circulation.
At land crossings, travellers may be told that there are no ATMs in the next town or that you need Cambodian riel to get through but this is not the case – visa prices are charged in US dollars.
Notes on withdrawing money
Be sure to notify your bank with the dates of your stay in Cambodia ahead of time as many banks will freeze accounts if unexpected transactions occur within the country.
You’re never far from an ATM in any major city, and those that accept foreign cards dispense US dollars. Standard ATM charges are around $5 per withdrawal (your bank may also levy a charge).
ATMS usually dispense $50 and $100 notes for which the majority of businesses (except larger hotels, restaurants and supermarkets) don’t have change. One way around this is to withdraw amounts that aren’t multiples of $50, like $380, giving you four $20s and three $100s rather than four pesky $100s.
ACLEDA has the most branches of any bank in the country and concurrently has the largest number of ATMs, having established their network into the remote areas of the country.
Many ATMs also offer international access for withdrawals at a fee, which varies considerably so it’s wise to shop around. Some ATMs offer additional services including mobile phone top-ups.
Notes on exchanging money
Any bank will be happy to exchange foreign currency and most display their rates visibly in-branch. Better rates can usually be obtained from moneychanger at local markets- look for glass cases displaying notes.
If changing large dollar bills for riel, be aware that the largest (scarcely seen) denomination is 100,000 riel (equivalent to $20) but generally 20,000 ($5) is the largest commonly used note – be prepared to receive a large stack of riel notes if exchanging large amounts of currency.