Money and Costs
riel (r); US dollars (US$) universally accepted
Budget: Less than US$50
- Cheap guesthouse room: US$5–10
- Local meals and street eats: US$1–3
- Local buses (per 100km): US$2–3
- Air-con hotel room: US$15–50
- Decent local restaurant meal: US$5–10
- Local tour guide per day: US$25–35
Top End: More than US$200
- Boutique hotel or resort: US$50–500
- Gastronomic meal with drinks: US$25–50
- 4WD rental per day: US$60–120
It's important to haggle in markets in Cambodia, otherwise the stallholder may ‘shave your head’ (local vernacular for ‘rip you off’). As well as in markets, bargaining is the rule when arranging share taxis and pick-ups, and in some guesthouses. The Khmers are not ruthless hagglers, so a persuasive smile and a little friendly quibbling is usually enough to get a price that's acceptable to both you and the seller.
ATMs are widely available, including in all major tourist centres and provincial capitals. Credit cards are accepted by many hotels and restaurants in larger cities.
Cambodia’s currency is the riel, abbreviated in our listings to a lower-case ‘r’ written after the sum. Cambodia’s second currency (some would say its first) is the US dollar, which is accepted everywhere and by everyone, though small amounts of change may arrive in riel. Businesses may quote prices in US dollars or riel, but in towns bordering on Thailand in the north and west it is sometimes Thai baht (B).
If three currencies seems a little excessive, perhaps it’s because the Cambodians are making up for lost time: during the Pol Pot era, the country had no currency. The Khmer Rouge abolished money and blew up the National Bank building in Phnom Penh.
The Cambodian riel comes in notes of the following denominations: 100r, 200r, 500r, 1000r, 2000r, 5000r, 10,000r, 20,000r, 50,000r and 100,000r.
Dollar bills with a small tear are unlikely to be accepted by Cambodians, so it’s worth scrutinising the change you are given to make sure you don’t have bad bills.
There are credit-card-compatible ATMs (Visa, MasterCard, JCB, Cirrus) in most major cities. There are also ATMs at the Cham Yeam, Poipet and Bavet borders if arriving by land from Thailand or Vietnam. Machines usually give you the option of withdrawing in US dollars or riel. Single withdrawals of up to US$500 at a time are usually possible, providing your account can handle it. Stay alert when using ATMs late at night.
ANZ Royal Bank has the most extensive network, including ATMs at petrol stations, and popular hotels, restaurants and shops, closely followed by Canadia Bank. Acleda Bank has the widest network of branches in the country, including all provincial capitals, but their ATMs generally only take Visa-affiliated cards. Most ATM withdrawals incur a charge of US$4 to US$5.
The US dollar remains king in Cambodia. Armed with enough cash, you won’t need to visit a bank at all because it is possible to change small amounts of dollars for riel at hotels, restaurants and markets. It is always handy to have about US$10 worth of riel kicking around, as it is good for motos (unmarked motorcycle taxis), remork-motos (tuk tuks) and markets. Pay for something cheap in US dollars and the change comes in riel.
The only other currency that can be useful is Thai baht, mainly in the west of the country. Prices in towns such as Koh Kong, Poipet and Sisophon are often quoted in baht, and even in Battambang it is common.
In the interests of making life as simple as possible when travelling overland, organise a supply of US dollars before arriving in Cambodia. Cash in other major currencies can be changed at banks or markets in major cities. However, most banks tend to offer a poor rate for any non-dollar transaction so it can be better to use moneychangers, which are found in and around every major market.
Western Union and MoneyGram are both represented in Cambodia for fast, if more expensive, money transfers. Western Union is represented by Acleda Bank, and MoneyGram by Canadia Bank.
Top-end hotels, airline offices and upmarket boutiques and restaurants generally accept most major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, JCB and sometimes American Express), but many pass the charges straight on to the customer, meaning an extra 2% to 3% on the bill.
Cash advances on credit cards are available in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Kampot, Battambang, Kompong Cham and other major towns. Most banks advertise a minimum charge of US$5.
Several travel agents and hotels in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap can arrange cash advances for about 5% commission; this can be particularly useful if you get caught short at the weekend.
For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.
Tipping is not traditionally expected, but in a country as poor as Cambodia, tips can go a long way.
- Hotels Not expected outside the fanciest hotels, but 2000r to US$1 per bag plus a small tip for the cleaner will be a nice surprise.
- Restaurants A few thousand riel at local restaurants will suffice; at fancier restaurants you might leave 10% on a small bill, 5% on a big bill.
- Remorks & Moto Drivers Not expected for short trips, but leave a dollar or two for half-day or full-day rentals if the service was noteworthy.
- Temples Most wats have contribution boxes – drop a few thousand riel in at the end of a visit, especially if a monk has shown you around.
- Service Charges Many of the upmarket hotels levy a 10% service charge, but this doesn’t always make it to the staff.
In many Cambodian restaurants, change will be returned in some sort of bill holder. If you leave the change there it will often be taken by the restaurant proprietor. If you want to make sure the tip goes to the staff who have served you, leave the tip on the table or give it to the individuals directly. In some places, there may be a communal tip box that is shared by staff.