Currency in Cambodia: Explained
Confused about the currency in Cambodia? We were too before we moved to the capital city, Phnom Penh, in 2018. The bad news is that it’s definitely confusing, but the good news is that you get used to it pretty damn quick.
Here’s our breakdown:
There are two operating currencies throughout Cambodia: the US dollar and the Cambodian riel.
By rule of thumb: $4,000 riel = 1 USD.
When you are making a day-to-day cash purchase, i.e. paying a tuk tuk driver, buying a coffee from a cart, purchasing street food, etc. you will use this rule. For example, if the vendor tells you your noodles are $8,000 riel and you only have US cash, you can hand them $2 USD and be done with it.
However, as we know, currencies fluctuate and this calculation isn’t always technically right.
That’s why when you visit a more “professional” establishment, such as a chain clothing store or a hotel bar, you may see the “proper” calculation on your receipt (i.e. $1 USD = 3991.94 or whatever it is at the time). This is why it’s important to always pay attention to the currency rate when making bigger, “more legitimate” purchases.
Are you following yet?
KHR & USD … which one to use?
Eventually, you will have both KHR and USD in your wallet at the same time. While you’re still getting used to it, consider the USD your “bigger bills” and the KHR your “change”, as there is no coinage in Cambodia.
Yes – you can mix them. For example, if something costs $5,200 riel (KHR), it is completely acceptable to pay with $1 USD + 1,200 KHR.
I know. You’ll get used to it.
ATMs will always dispense USD. You’ll want to be sure to break $20s and even $10s into smaller bills, as most things cost less than $5 USD and many vendors don’t have a lot of change (or they will tell you they don’t, at least). In fact, we recommend that you have mostly $1 USD bills.
They do not use American coinage in Cambodia.
What to look out for
Cambodian vendors will not take ripped or “damaged” USD bills. When you are accepting change from somebody, make sure your US bills are in great shape or else you may not be able to use it again.
In our opinion, most Cambodian people understand that tourists get confused by this and tend to help you out. Take your time and don’t let anybody rush you – we’ve made some big mistakes in rushed moments.
Making sense now? 😉
Are you moving to Cambodia? Visiting to Cambodia? Wondering how safe it is? Find our video below on the topic: