Cambodia is a beautiful and peaceful country situated in South East Asia. Experiencing all that this beautiful country has to offer will require you to plan a week-long trip, or even longer if you want to visit the islands of Koh Rong or some off-the-beaten-path destinations. Cambodia is still in the initial stages of development compared to other fast-developing nations across Asia. As a result, your access to modern payment and cash withdrawal methods varies depending on the area.
ATMs Availability. Most ATMs are present in the larger, urban cities of Cambodia, such as Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Smaller towns have ATMs too, but there are very few to go around. More importantly, ATMs charge withdrawal fees that range from $3-6 USD. You may only use your card to make payments in touristy establishments, including restaurants and hotels.
Official Currency Riel. The official currency of Cambodia is the Cambodian Riel (KHR). Currently, 1 USD is approximately equivalent to 4100 KHR, here is the official website National Bank of Cambodia if you wish to follow the exchange rate. It's not essential to keep an eye on this exchange rate before and during your travels in Cambodia, as the value of the KHR generally remains relatively stable.
Influence of US Dollar. Despite having its national currency, Cambodia is significantly influenced by the US Dollar. Notably, visa-on-arrival charges must be paid in cash, specifically in USD. Please remember this while planning your trip to Cambodia, as almost all transactions during your visit will be conducted in US Dollars.
You have the flexibility to exchange your currency for currencies other than the US dollar in Cambodia, such as the Thai baht, euro, or even the Japanese yen. Rest assured, I've done it many times in euros, and often the exchange rates have been more favorable than if I had exchanged dollars for euros in Europe.
Recent Changes. Recently, the government has shown an interest in reducing the predominance of the US dollar. As part of this initiative, banks have been instructed to withdraw one-dollar and five-dollar bills from circulation. While you can still use US dollars for transactions, you'll receive your change below $10 in Riel.
In your travels to Siem Reap, it's crucial to be exceptionally vigilant about the condition of your dollar bills. Whether you're bringing them with you or receiving change, any damage, discoloration, or even the slightest tear on your banknotes can lead to serious issues. Banks will not accept such compromised currency or will impose a guaranteed penalty ranging from $5 to $10! Therefore, it's not a matter to be taken lightly. By carefully inspecting and safeguarding your dollar bills, you'll save yourself from unnecessary penalties during your visit to vibrant Cambodia.
Exchanging Currency. Currency exchange in Cambodia is a relatively easy process. You can exchange foreign currency for KHR in several ways. Visit the official exchange offices that can be found throughout the country, or visit the local markets. The markets are dotted with shops that are willing to exchange the USD for KHR. Spotting these shops is extremely easy since they have currency notes in a glass cabinet at their entrance. These shops offer much better exchange rates compared to the official exchange offices. However, exercise extreme caution to avoid scams. Choose a store that is reputable and recommended by locals, and be sure to count the notes in front of the person; they won't object to this.
Currency Mix, You will always need to carry with you a mix of both USD and KHR, though you can complete most transactions using USD. You will only need to dip into your KHR reserves for anything less than 1 USD or spare change. Even if, as said previously, the state has removed the $1 and $5 bills, shop owners will accept them without trouble. There is also the option of acquiring KHR on your trip in the form of spare change.
Another important tip is to ensure you carry notes of smaller denominations. Even in the larger cities, you will find it difficult to procure change for anything over $20 USD. Also, keep in mind that torn currency notes will not be accepted anywhere in the country, not even the banks will help you in this case.
The Riel Deal: Currency in Cambodia. Currency Exchange on arrival. Cambodia's official currency is the riel, but there's no need to rush and exchange money before you arrive. Riel isn't available outside Cambodia and can't be exchanged back in your home country. It's best to exchange currency once you arrive, preferably in town rather than at the airport exchange shop, where the rates tend to be much higher.
Travelling to Cambodia. Payment Options. With its different currency, banking system, and money customs, figuring out the best way to pay in Cambodia if you travel there can be tricky. Fortunately, many forms of payments have become ubiquitous around Cambodia, including:
In Cambodia, mobile payments are reshaping the business landscape. Traditionally reliant on cash transactions, businesses, and customers alike are now experiencing a swift and positive transformation thanks to mobile payments.
Mobile payments have made life simpler. Customers can pay with their smartphones, eliminating the need for cash. This is especially beneficial for small businesses that may not accept credit cards. This is very true for Phnom Penh and Siem Reap; I myself have experienced paying at Sombai with Apple Pay. Please be aware that you may not find this in the countryside or more remote areas.
Sending Money to Cambodia, international Money Transfers. Every year, numerous individuals send money to Cambodia for various purposes, such as supporting friends or family, covering tuition fees, conducting business transactions, or investing in property, among others. If you intend to send an international money transfer to a Riel bank account in Cambodia, it's essential to be mindful of the high fees and exchange rates associated with global money transfers through your international bank.