Cambodia is a truly remarkable country filled with jaw-dropping temples, unforgettable people and pristine white sand beaches. It’s also super friendly on your wallet, which is perfect if you’re a budget traveller! Getting the most out of you’re hard earned dollars is far easier here compared to the majority of South East Asia. However, there are a few things to know, before you go and waste your days away.
The national currency of Cambodia is Riel, but don’t let that fool you. All over Cambodia people do business in U.S Dollars. It holds a much higher value for them compared to their own. You’ll often do all of your payments in USD and receive all of your change in Riel. For small purchases this isn’t much of a problem as you’ll only loose a couple of pennies, which is generally going to someone who needs it much more than you. If you are ever spending a large amount in dollars (which is unlikely, because everything is super cheap), just make sure to ask for you’re change in dollars as well. Outside of Cambodia, Riel holds pretty much no value anywhere else, so its best not to be left with a pocket full of it when you leave.
Quality of your dollars
The one big problem you’ll most likely encounter during your time in Cambodia is the quality of your U.S Dollars. Unless they are in PERFECT condition, chances are they won’t be accepted. That means, no rips, folds or even creases. They’ve gotta’ look like they’ve just come fresh off the factory printing line. Annoyingly, American Dollars are the largest notes we’ve ever come across (typical America, eh?), and they didn’t fit very well in my own or many other travelers wallets without being damaged and rendered useless. Storing your notes inside a book or travel organiser is the best way we found to keep them looking brand new.
When we first arrived in Cambodia, we went out for our first meal and when the bill came they wouldn’t except our money due to a tiny hairline crease near one corner. We had over 10 members of staff surrounding our table to inspect the note, all tutting and shaking there heads. After much deliberation and a small tip, it got accepted, but we were warned for the future that this was a common issue. So always be sure about your money before you sit down and eat. This does work both ways though, as you’ll often find people trying to give you their own useless US notes as change. Make sure you always fully inspect you’re change before walking away, and if you find that it isn’t perfect, don’t take it.
The One Dollar Rule
As we’ve said earlier, the dollar holds much more value than the riel and the people of Cambodia tend to use this to their advantage when trying to close a deal with you. Nine times out of ten, for most small transactions, you’ll be quoted one dollar. You want a taxi to the beach? One dollar! Ice cold beer? One dollar! Some new sunglasses? You guessed it. One dollar!
Like me, you’re probably thinking that sounds to good to be true and are happy to pay one dollar, and if you are, great! If money isn’t too much of a problem or you’re only going to Cambodia for a few weeks, then by all means, spread your money around! The country really needs it! Although, if you are on a budget, then these one dollar prices are easily halved. The one dollar slogan that you’ll grow to love and hate, is tactically used to make it seem like a smaller amount. Compare this with 4000 riel and it makes you feel like you’re getting a better deal. A nice, round, singular number. With absolutely zero haggling experience and a bit of confidence, these prices can be slashed in two with no effort. You’ll be driving off to the beach, with your new sunglasses on and a cold beer in hand for a cool, one dollar fifty. That sounds much better to me and the locals are still happy.
Read up more about our favorite beach in Cambodia here.
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The Carefree Couple