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The national currency in Cambodia is the Riel. Travelers should carry at least a day’s worth of cash in smaller denominations for quick purchases. US dollars are accepted in most hotels, restaurants, and shops, so they can be relied upon for larger purchases.
To get some of this cash to spend, travelers can stop at any one of the numerous ATMs around the cities Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. If you prefer plastic transactions you can use your Visa or MasterCard in upscale hotels and restaurants.
Banking, and specifically buying things, is very easy in Cambodia - no matter how you plan to do it.
As both currencies are widely accepted, many travelers must decide which to use. Using dollars will prevent you from paying an exchange fee (assuming you possess them prior to arriving), however, they are not universally accepted. Some small shop owners might refuse to accept dollars and in many cases they will not have change (or pretend not to) so avoid only carrying large denominations.
Another limitation for using dollars is that the locals are somewhat picky about the condition of the bills. If the bill is old, worn or torn, most will refuse to accept it. ATM’s only issue Riel (with a few exceptions) and so you might find yourself with a mix of dollars and Riel. Shop keepers prefer and occasionally insist you pay in one currency, so this can get complicated.
As a general rule, carrying enough Riel to cover one night in a hotel and one meal in case of emergencies is recommended (around $50 worth).
Cambodia is a relatively affordable place to travel. Here are average prices for common goods in USD:
Until recently it was unadvisable to rely on your credit card while traveling in Cambodia. Today, many major hotels, restaurants, and shops will accept Visa and MasterCard. However, if you plan to do any bartering, eating of street food, or buying gifts and crafts from small vendors, you will need to carry cash as well.
Carrying a credit card while traveling, offers you more security than cash alone, so having both but keeping them in separate locations is the best option. If you have concerns about your credit card make sure to call your bank before you depart.
In Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, and other tourist cities, such as Sihanouk Ville and Battambang, you will find ATMs.
The majority of these ATMs will accept any card backed by Visa or MasterCard. Additionally, Cirrus, Plus and Maestro are widely accepted. If you use one of these cards, the ATM will likely offer you the choice of withdrawing either Riel or USD.
As when traveling in any country, carefully check around the ATM before you use it to ensure that there are no cameras or devices used to acquire your information attached to the machine.
Traveler’s checks and checks are accepted by higher-end restaurants, hotels, and even a few chain stores. Traveler’s checks can be excellent in emergencies but with the advent of ATMs in Cambodia, they are quickly waning in their daily use.
Money orders are generally not accepted, although MoneyGram and Western Union do offer this service and have offices in Cambodia. You can also seek out one of these companies if you need to do a cash transfer, though be prepared to pay a significant fee.
Below are the contact addresses for the major Cambodian banks in Phnom Penh . These locations, as well as their other branches, can cash traveler’s checks and exchange currencies.
Cambodian Commercial Bank #26 Monivong Street - Tel: (23) 426145
Cambodia Mekong Bank #1 Street 114 - Tel: (23) 430518
Foreign Trade Bank of Cambodia #24-26 Norodom - Tel (23) 724466
Standard Charters Bank #89 Norodom - Tel: (23) 216685
At a bank you are likely to be charged as much as 4% to exchange USD to Riel. Private money exchangers are legal, easy to find, and will often offer a lower rate. The locations of these exchange offices vary in frequency but fear not, a short walk will almost always take you past one. Look for yellow Western Union signs that many use to advertise their services.
Whether you plan to use your card or cash, keep these safety tips in mind:
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