The official currency of Cambodia is the riel (KHR). The unofficial currency is the United States dollars (USD).
You can pay for goods and services in Cambodia using KHR, USD or a combination of the two. Don't bother getting your money changed to riel when you arrive in Cambodia, as you will get riel as small change when you pay with US Dollars.
A dual currency system gives you more travel money options than other countries in Southeast Asia. Like most countries in the region, cash speaks loudest. The best travel money strategy for Cambodia will give you a convenient way to get cash at a good price. Here we look at the different travel money options for Cambodia and the best ways to spend and save.
What's the best way to take money to Cambodia: Travel card, credit card or debit card?
Use a combination of travel money options for your trip to Cambodia. Credit cards make the perfect travel companion. You can make interest-free purchases and there are a number of conveniences like emergency card replacement, access to emergency cash and complimentary insurances to protect you, your family and the things you buy.
You can take a travel card preloaded with U.S Dollars and withdraw USD from an ATM in Cambodia. USD can be used almost everywhere. Travel card ATM fees can be lower than debit card ATM withdrawal fees, Cambodia is one country where a travel card can work in your favour.
The other choice is to use a debit card to get cash. There are a few travel-friendly debit accounts for you to compare. Some debit cards waive international transaction fees such as ATM fees and currency conversion fees. Transaction accounts are free to open and won't cost you anything unless you use the card. Read on to compare your different travel money options and to determine which one is best for your trip.
Travel money options for Cambodia at a glance
Travel money option
Debit cards for travel
Emergency cash facilities
Ideal for managing your travel budget
Unlimited Free withdrawals at selected banks
Save on overseas ATM fees when you withdraw
Currency conversion and international ATM fees
Can't be used over the counter
No emergency cash
No backup cards
Prepaid travel money cards
Can pre-load USD which is one of the currencies widely accepted in Cambodia
Protected by PIN & chip
Emergency card replacement and backup cards
Ideal for managing your travel budget
No prepaid cards support the KHR
Local ATM fee
Credit cards for travel
High availability of ATMs in Cambodia for cash withdrawals
Protected by PIN & chip
No currency conversion/ transaction fees
Benefits including rewards points on spending, 0% purchases, frequent flyer perks
Emergency card replacement
Can charge high withdrawal and cash advance fees
Higher spending limit (depends on your approved credit limit)
2% charge for cashing traveller's cheques can be cheaper than the flat fee for using an ATM
Secure and can be easily replaced if lost or stolen
Photo I.D. needed to cash cheques
Can be costly with initial purchase charges
Not all merchants accept traveller's cheques
Both USD and KHR currencies used in Cambodia
More difficult to manage expenses
Higher risk of theft
This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.
How the different travel money products work in Cambodia?
There are many ways you can take your money to Cambodia, but the most valuable option will depend on your financial situation, spending habits and travel plans. Compare prepaid travel cards, credit cards and debit cards to find the right option for you.
Using a credit card
Visa, Mastercard and American Express credit cards are accepted in a few places in Cambodia such as large restaurants and hotels. You usually need identification to use a credit card in Cambodia, so make sure to have your passport or licence handy.
Consider some of the following factors when considering whether you should use a credit card in Cambodia:
Line of credit. As a credit card offers a line of credit, they can be a good option for large and emergency purchases when you're overseas. If you're prone to overspending though, you'll need to reign in your purchases and remember that everything that you charge must be repaid.
Currency conversion. If your card isn't designed for overseas purchases, you'll incur a currency conversion fee when spending in Cambodia. Compare credit cards with no foreign currency conversion fees to keep these costs low.
ATM withdrawals. A credit card can come in handy, but you'll also need cash on your trip. Unfortunately, ATM withdrawals are considered cash advances and immediately incur a high cash advance rate. If you're planning on frequently getting cash out on your trip, you might want to save your credit card for EFTPOS purchases and use a prepaid or debit card for withdrawals.
Extra features. Credit cards often come with beneficial features such as complimentary overseas travel insurance, airport access and a rewards program. However, these cards usually come with high fees. Consider the cost of the card and the value of the benefits to determine whether the extras worth the fees.
Interest-free purchases. Look for a card with 0% on purchases for a promotional period or with interest-free days (when you pay your balance in full before the due date). This will help keep your interest costs under control and will reduce how much you have to repay.
Using a debit card
Debit cards are another way you can take your cash overseas. Not all Australian debit cards are suitable for overseas use though, so you'll want to compare your options to find one that offers you the most convenience on your holiday.
Using your everyday debit card. We all have a transaction account that more or less works the same in Australia as it does overseas. The big difference is the fee schedule. Using your everyday debit card overseas has the potential to smash your bank balance each time you make an ATM withdrawal.
Currency conversion fees. Most Australian debit cards will charge a currency conversion fee when you use your card overseas, so you might want to look for a travel debit card that doesn't.
ATM withdrawals. Debit cards are an easy way to access cash overseas, but you'll usually be charged an international and ATM operator fee when you make a withdrawal. If you use your Australian debit account to make frequent cash withdrawals in Cambodia, don't be surprised if you end up paying as much as $50 - $100 a month in ATM fees. Look for a travel debit card that belongs to an ATM alliance to avoid paying some of these withdrawal fees.
Your own money. If you open a debit account to take overseas, you'll have the benefit of accessing your own savings without the inconvenience of having to top up your card as you run out of money. Plus, accessing your own funds might help keep your travel budget in check more than if you had access to a large line of credit.
Using a travel money card
Load your holiday savings on to a prepaid travel card and spend in multiple currencies with a prepaid travel card. These cards have many benefits, but there are also some limitations you'll need to keep an eye out for. Consider the following:
Multiple currencies. The currencies you can spend in without incurring currency conversion fees will vary from card to card. Unfortunately, no Australian travel cards currently support KHR, but all of them support USD. This means that if the merchant accepts USD, you won't be hit with the standard currency conversion fee or 3% that is charged when you make a purchase or withdrawal in an unsupported or unloaded currency.
ATM withdrawals. Like a debit card, you can use your prepaid travel card for ATM withdrawals. Depending on the card you're using, you might be charged an ATM withdrawal fee, so that's something you'll want to confirm before applying.
Load and reload fees. Depending on the card, you might be charged a fee when you first load funds onto your card or when you continue to top up the card with money. If you're thinking you'll need to top up your card with Australian dollars to transfer (to a foreign currency) several times throughout your trip, you'll want to look for a card that doesn't charge high reload fees.
Exchange rates. When you load your funds onto your card, they'll be locked into the exchange rate that's in place at the time. Travel card foreign exchange rates are higher than Mastercard and Visa debit and credit card forex rates. Prepaid travel cards use the bank's 'cash' foreign exchange rate, which is usually quite high.
Using a traveller's cheques
For a small fee you can cash traveller's cheques at Cambodian banks and exchange offices. This can be a cheap way to get US Dollars. A 2% charge for cashing traveller's cheques can be cheaper than the flat fee for using an ATM.
David and his friends spent 3 weeks in Southeast Asia. One week in Cambodia and a week in Thailand and Vietnam. He visited Angkor Wat and Bayon Temple in Siem Reap and then headed to Sihanoukville on the coast. This is what he told us about using travel money in Cambodia. What cards did you take with you?
David says he used the Commonwealth Bank for his everyday banking in Australia, CommBank suggested he apply for the Commonwealth Bank Travel Card as it supports US dollars, Vietnamese dong and Thai baht. He took their advice and kept his card loaded with the three currencies while he was travelling between the 3 countries. He transferred funds from his Smart Access account when he needed to top up his travel card balance and kept his Low Rate Mastercard for the times he needed to put down a security at hostels.
Where could you use your cards?
David says he mainly used cash in Cambodia. For the times he did use his card, besides ATMs, David says he was able to make over the counter purchases at convenience stores, supermarkets, restaurants (big and surprising some small ones too), department and clothing stores.
What about ATM withdrawals?
He withdrew funds from his travel card at Canadia Bank ATMs, which he read online were free, but when he checked his statement, he saw that he was charged a $4 fee by the ATM operator. He paid a small amount ($2-$3) to Commonwealth Bank as well. He didn't have problem using ATM machines and was able to withdraw about $200 each transaction, which he needed to do twice in the week he was there (even cheap beers can add up).
What is your travel money recommendation?
David says he would have applied for a debit card with no currency conversion fee instead of take a travel card. He had his eye on the Citibank Plus Account but took the advice of his bank and applied for their product instead.
Do you have any travel money tips?
David says that it's always a good idea to tell your bank about your travel plans. He was in touch with the Commonwealth Bank before he left (to talk about travel money options for Cambodia), so there was no need. However, one of his friends was with ANZ, and they blocked his credit card after he made a purchase in Southeast Asia.
USD and KHR are both used in Cambodia. Buying an item worth $2.50 and paying with a US$5.00 note gives you US$2.00 in change and the rest in Cambodian riels. There are different exchange rates between riels and dollars used in Cambodia, too. $1.00 US dollar works out to be roughly 4,000 - 4,200 Cambodian riels.
If an item costs $1.00, you can pay $1 US dollar or 4,200 riels.
If an item costs 5,000 riels, you can pay $1 US dollar and 1,000 riels.
The value of a US Dollar changes between 4,000 and 4,200 riels depending on how you pay. Use riels to make smaller purchases to get the best price.
Tip. Make sure all the money you get back as change and money you get from the ATM is clean, crisp and untorn. Many Cambodians will not accept dirty or weathered bank notes.
Did you know?
The riel has been issued twice in Cambodia's history. During the Pol Pot period, the country did not have a currency.
How do I access money in Cambodia?
ATMs are widespread throughout Cambodia. You shouldn't have any issues finding an ATM in the large cities that accept Mastercard and Visa issued credit, debit and travel cards. Note there are some Visa-only ATMs. Be sure to look for the Visa and Mastercard logos displayed on the front of the ATM if you're unsure which cards the ATM takes.
The standard charge is approximately $5 per withdrawal. ANZ Royal charges the most and Bank of Canadia ATMs are the cheapest. All ATMs dispense US Dollars, while some dispense riels.
ATMs will dispense large denominations, which can be hard to change. Request an ATM withdrawal that includes multiples of $20. For example, instead of withdrawing $300, you can ask for $280. This way you get some smaller notes as well as larger notes.
Tip: Be sure to spend all your riels before you leave, as the currency has no value outside Cambodia.
Common ATMs where you can withdraw cash in Cambodia
Finding cash and ATMs in Cambodia
Why you'll need a combination of travel money options
Each of the travel money options discussed has its own benefits and drawbacks, so using a combination of options can help balance it out. For example, you could use your prepaid travel money card and debit card for everyday purchases and cash withdrawals and save your credit card for large or emergency purchases. Not only can you avoid some fees, having more than one travel money options means you have a back up in case one card is lost, stolen or damaged.
Take US Dollars on your trip to Cambodia. US Dollars are accepted almost everywhere in Cambodia. The "official" currency, riels, can not be exchanged back to US Dollars or other major currencies when you leave the country. Don't bother getting your US Dollars changed to KHR either, you will be given KHR as change when you pay for goods and services if the change is only a small amount.
Tipping is appreciated, but not expected. If you're visiting a Wat (a temple), it's polite to leave a small tip when you leave. Most Wat's have a contribution box where you can leave a tip at the end of your visit. Otherwise tipping is at your discretion. Leaving a tip for a taxi driver, a waiter, a cleaner or a guide is a good way to show your appreciation for quality service. Rounding up the bill or leaving an extra dollar (or two) will go a long way in a country where the wages are low.
You can apply for a Cambodian tourist Visa when you arrive in the country via an international airport. You can also apply for an e-visa online, which can save you time to get through immigration. More information is available via government websites.
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