Jan 08 2011

The riel deal: Currency in Cambodia

Published by at 4:08 am under Money & costs


The riel is the official currency of Cambodia, but you don’t need to rush out and change money before you arrive. The US dollar is an unofficial second currency that is actually used more — there’s a 90% level of dollarization in the country. In fact, if you’re getting a visa on arrival, plan to pay in US currency.

Various Cambodian riel notes

The Cambodian riel you get won’t be this crisp

Most prices in stores are quoted in dollars and it’s only at local markets and for small transactions that you’ll be asked for riel. Even so, you can pay with dollars — the “street” exchange rate that you’ll get from small shops, motodops and local cafes is 4,000 riel to the dollar. With the actual exchange rate today at 4,050, there’s no advantage to changing money into riel to make these purchases (the 50 riel difference is equal to $0.01).

They don’t have coins, though, and you’ll be getting the change for your purchases in riel notes. If you insist on getting yourself a stack of riel notes, the moneychangers around all of the larger markets in town give good rates and are generally reliable. Be warned that you’ll end up with a large pile rather quickly due to the small denominations.

There are many ATMs in town that accept foreign cards, although most will levy a hefty $4 surcharge. These ATMs all dispense dollars. Canadia Bank is the exception — they allow transaction-free withdrawals. There are also ATMs at the Phnom Penh airport dispensing US dollars.

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8 responses so far

8 Responses to “The riel deal: Currency in Cambodia”

  1. Shirleyon 11 Jan 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Great post! While the “street” exchange is an advantage if you pay in riel, some establishments will use the exchange rate to accept bills – in that case, it would actually be more beneficial to pay in dollars and receive your change in riel. I agree with you Lina, no point in exchanging to riel in Cambodia (hassle free).

  2. [...] Foreigners are a particularly good target for this scam because we often shop at stores that give prices in dollars and change in riel, and most of us aren’t quick enough to figure out how much we are really owed and tend to trust [...]

  3. Jon Bensonon 03 Aug 2011 at 11:00 pm

    Great tips! I have a question about exchanging yen. I’ll be coming from Japan to Cambodia soon. Is it better for me to change my yen to dollars in Japan or Cambodia?
    Thanks!

  4. Linaon 04 Aug 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Hi Jon, there are places in town that exchange yen to dollars or riel, unfortunately I don’t know the rates so I can’t tell where you’ll get the best rates. I assume you’d get better rates here because they usually have very good exchange rates at the markets here. I rarely exchange money and just take money out of the ATM because I find it more convenient.

  5. Linaon 04 Aug 2011 at 1:35 pm

    And here’s what my friend, who travels between Japan and Cambodia every month, said:

    There are [money changers that work with yen] between Olympic stadium and Orrussey Market , acrross from Ford company and it’s on ST 182 .

  6. Jon Bensonon 04 Aug 2011 at 10:25 pm

    Thanks!

  7. Reinier Bakelson 22 Jan 2013 at 11:49 am

    Today I travelled from Cambodia to Vietnam. Last minute I received a fair amount of riel. Allegedly changing riel to dong would be possible in Vietnam at a favourable rate, but the two banks I visited this afternoon both refused my riel.

    Is the riel (like the Lao kip) a worthless currency outside Cambodia, or has anybody managed to change riel into a more current currency outside Cambodia?

  8. Samantha Brownon 24 Jan 2013 at 12:49 pm

    Hi Reinier, yes unfortunately riel is a non-convertible currency like kip.

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