Cambodia Money & Tips

The official currency of Cambodia is Riel (Khmer: រៀល; sign: ៛; code: KHR). There have been two distinct riel, the first issued between 1953 and May 1975. Between 1975 and 1980, the country had no monetary system. A second currency, also named "riel", has been issued since March 20, 1980. However, this currency has never gained much public acceptance, with most Cambodians preferring foreign currency. The UN peacekeeping operation of 1993 injected a large quantity of U.S. dollars into the local economy. As a result, the dollar has become the country's common currency. Riel notes are used for fractional dollar amounts as U.S. coins are not in circulation. The symbol is encoded in Unicode at U+17DB ៛ Khmer currency symbol.

Popular belief suggests that the name of the currency comes from the Mekong river fish, the riel ("small fish" in Khmer). It is more likely that the name derives from the high silver content Mexican real used by Malay, Indian and Chinese merchants in mid-19th-century Cambodia.


1. Money Exchange

Major foreigner currencies or travelers’ checks can be exchanged at airport, big banks and hotels (travelers’ checks mostly not accepted). Most banks are open from 8:00 to 15:00 or 16:00PM, Monday through Friday. Some are open Saturday mornings until 11:30.  In Cambodia, money changers are concentrated at the markets and change all well-known currencies into US dollars. The exchange rate at black market may be better than the banks, sometimes.


2. ATM Service

They are available in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville and now also in smaller towns like Battambang and Kampot. With a very few exceptions, they dispense US Dollars, not riel. Those that do dispense both will give you the option of what you want. ACLEDA Bank has the most extensive network with ATM’s across the country, but ANZ’s ATM’s you will see the most in the capital and tourist places. The limit of cash withdraw also varies depending on banks and credit card type but it is no more than US$ 2000 per day or 1 600 000 Riel per day.

ATM’s current charges are about $4 for using a foreign ATM card in a Cambodian bank plus whatever your bank charges for foreign use. However, if you have a visa debit card, you should be able to use Canadia Bank ATMs for free. Branches in Sorya Mall and check their website for others. Some visa debit cards may still be charged, depending on your bank but you will be warned before the transaction is complete.

You can also use a Visa debit card in some banks over the counter to withdraw as much as you like, subject to available funds. In this case there is normally a fee of 1% or $5, whichever is the greater. The exchange rate used will be set by your bank, normally the visa rate which you can check online on the visa website.


3. Credit Cards

Actually, major credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard and JCB cards have been accepted in most of the major tourist areas in Cambodia. You can use credit cards at high-end hotels, shops and restaurants and some mid-range places as well. Keep in mind that you will often be charged extra for using a credit card (another 2-4% on your bill). Cards such as the Amex card are gaining popularity as well. Remember to prepare enough cash because credit cards are often not recognized  out of the expat or tourist areas.