Currency in Cambodia
Currency in Cambodia
When shopping be sure to look for businesses that display the Heritage Friendly Business Logo. Heritage Watch has launched a campaign that aims to encourage support for Cambodia's arts, culture, heritage and development. Businesses that are giving back to the community are certified as Heritage Friendly by the independent organization and permitted to display either a gold or silver Heritage Friendly logo. Look for the logo to ensure that you are supporting socially responsible corporate citizens!
You can get away with pretty much haggling for anything in Cambodia. Restaurants, outdoor food stalls, even rates for guesthouses. The Khmer are notoriously quiet up, however they are not prepared to lose face and if pushed they lose their temper. A few guidelines:
- Many products, especially those not aimed at tourists, are fixed price, and while it is possible to get a minor discount if you ask, you cannot get things significantly cheaper than this. Many markets have the prices of goods painted on the walls in Cambodian.
- In Cambodia where dining out isn't really common among local people, restaurants cater almost entirely for foreigners and tend to be a little bit more expensive than neighbouring countries. However in Siem Reap, it is, sometimes if not always, possible to haggle with street food vendors over the portion of a dish, free side dish, and get 20-30% discount.
- US dollar is widely used in Cambodia but no circulation of coins will end up giving you a lot of Cambodian Riels when the price you pay is not an integer. This gives a chance for shortchanging, which is particularly popular in several grocery stores in Siem Reap. For example, you give $1 for buying a bottle of water which is $0.6, the staff should return the amount of riels equivalent to $0.4, but they may keep some of them. The money cheated is usually minimal. Just be smart at mental arithmetic.
- Haggle in groups. Having two other friends will make it much easier to convince Cambodians to give a discount: one person can play bad cop, the other good cop.
- Ask to speak with the manager/owner (this applies to guesthouse and restaurants). Usually if you try to haggle at a restaurant or guesthouse the employee will say that the boss needs to be there. If so, then just ask to speak with him or ask the employee to speak with him. You would be surprised at how easy it is to haggle down once you speak to the boss, many times he doesn't even want to be bothered and will give the discount to you.
- Never pay the asking price for anything near the temples of Angkor. This includes books, souvenirs, paintings, water and food. During the offseason, the foodstalls near the temples will have a separate menu, ask for it. You can even bargain on top of that too! Note that it's much harder to bargain at the foodstalls at Agnkor Wat and especially at the breakfast restaurants across the street from Angkor Wat.
- Try not to haggle too harshly with the moto drivers and tuk tuks that work near where you stay. Most are honest, but they will look after your safety more if you are seen as a good customer. Some will decide they will get the money from you another way, and could take you to be mugged. Agree upon the fare before your ride or you may get into a very uncomfortable situation.
- If haggling isn't your strong point the easiest way to get a good price at a market is to pick up an item, ask how much, look disappointed and start to walk away. The price will usually drop twice as you walk away with vendors unlikely to go below this second price.
Siem Reap is the easiest place to bargain, Phnom Penh may be a little harder but still worth trying. Just be polite and persistent.
The Cambodian riel and US dollar are both official currencies, with riel only used for small transactions (i.e. below $5). US coins are not used in Cambodia. ATMs will generally only dispense US dollars though some are loaded with both currencies. They generally charge $US3-5 per withdrawal but Canadia Bank and Mekong Bank are fee free. ATMs are common throughout the country with a surprising penetration even into backwater towns, though if in doubt stock up before a trip into the wild. High denomination notes are easy to break. Even in the smelliest of provincial markets, traders will not flinch at the sight of a $US100 nite,just look for traders with glass cabinets filled with money (they're advertizing a service rather than showing off).
The Cambodian Central Bank maintains the riel at around 3800-4200 to the dollar. In day-to-day commerce, 4000 riel per dollar is ubiquitous. So $US1.50 is one dollar plus 2000 riel or 6000 riel. Riel notes go as high as 100,000 ($25) but 10,000 ($2.50) is the highest denomination that is commonly encountered. Riel only have value outside Cambodia as souvenirs, no-one will exchange them.
Near the Thai border (for example Battambang, Koh Kong, and Poipet) Thai baht is commonly used but the locals use a hopelessly unfavourable 40 Baht to the dollar as a rule of thumb. Try to change any baht rather than spend them as banks and money changers will give you $1 at a cost of about 30 Baht (as of March 2012). Baht and indeed euro can easily be exchanged in any city. Shop around if a good rate is important to you: sometimes the banks are best, sometimes the market traders.
Torn or old foreign currency notes may be difficult to exchange, except $1 bills which change hands often. Refusing imperfect notes is normal, traders may try to take advantage of tourists' naivete and try to palm off dud notes. Just smile and hand them back.
Banks sometimes operate as Western Union Money Transfer agents.
ATMs are spreading far beyond the main cities. They are generally compatible with Maestro, Cirrus, Plus, and VISA cards. Cash advances on credit cards may also be possible.
VISA and JCB are the most widely accepted credit cards; MasterCard and American Express cards are slowly becoming more widely accepted.
ATMs dispense US$ in varying denominations from 10 to 100. If you receive bills in poor condition (especially $50 or $100) from an ATM attached directly to a bank try to change them there immediately as they may be difficult to change later. 100 and 50 dollar bills may be difficult to use in general in any smaller shop as they will not have change and are advised against. If using them expect them to be inspected with great scrutiny for forgeries, and if they are to be removed from your sight verify the serial number first to avoid them being swapped for counterfeit bills and returned to you because they "can't make change".
Traveller's cheques, like credit cards, are accepted in major business establishments, such as large hotels, some restaurants, travel agencies and some souvenir shops; American Express (in US$) are the most widely accepted. However, competitive rates are only usually found in banks in Cambodia's larger cities (guesthouses in heavily touristed areas may offer similar services but at horrendous rates). The usual fee for cashing traveller's cheques is 2% and US$2 minimum.
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