US Dollar and Cambodian Riel are both accepted in all establishments in Cambodia. When I first travelled here, I never really bothered to change my money to Riel since I know that $ is widely accepted in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. But now that I have been back here (and stayed) for almost three months now, I realized that interchanging your use of both currencies has its benefits.
Here are some tips on how you could stretch your money by using both currencies in Cambodia.
1. Watch Out for The Exchange Rate: The Cambodian Riel fluctuated from 4200 – 3950 in the past year and if you’ll check the forex online and in money changers you might be able to take advantage of the good exchange rate.
If you exchange $100 and got a 4100 Exchange Rate, you’ll get almost a $2.5 (10,000 Riel) more out of your money. Most small restaurants and shops in Cambodia always benchmark their prices on $1 – 4000 Rate.
And of course, if the exchange rate is lower than 4000, don’t bother exchanging at all.
2. Better Bargaining Power: It’s easier to ask for a 500 or 1000 Riel discount than a $0.125 or $0.25 discount given the fact of the language barrier.
3. Don’t Change Money at Poipet Border :(and maybe in other borders too) In case you’ll be doing an overland travel from Bangkok to Siem Reap, don’t change money at Poipet border. I often hear some people in Poipet border always telling tourists that Riel is the only accepted currency in Cambodia (of course you know that it’s not true). But some tourists still fall for this and change their money in the border. The exchange rate is ridiculously low. If you need to change your money to Riel, wait until you get to the town as they have better exchange rates than in the borders.
4. Don’t Use Riel in some Shops: Some shops have a $1 – 4200 exchange rate and you’ll get more out of your money if you use US Dollar in these shops instead of Riel.
If you’ll be staying in Cambodia for a very short time, you don’t need to bother on these things as you’ll just be able to save only a few cents to a couple of dollars (depending on current exchange rates) by doing this. But if you’ll be travelling around here or staying here for a couple of months I suggest that you try these tips out to help you save more money.