The Dual Currency System: A Traveler's Guide to Using U.S. Dollars in Cambodia

There are too many unfounded rumors, inaccurate articles, and information taken at face value about such a crucial subject for travelers written by individuals who have no redeeming qualities in Cambodia.

Ehh, yes, it would be time for some clarity.

The Dual Currency System - A Traveler's Guide to Using U.S. Dollars in Cambodia

You often read: Yes, you can use U.S. dollars in Cambodia, as they are widely accepted as a second unofficial currency along with the Cambodian riel (KHR). 

That’s a true statement, but how about you consider this important detail: the Cambogian central bank has long since discontinued transferring to banks notes smaller than $100 USD. This is due to the nation’s intention to only denominations of Khmer Riels for everyday business operations.

Here are some key points about using the U.S. dollar in Cambodia: 

  • Most tourist places, such as restaurants, tours, and long-distance buses, display prices in both U.S. dollars and Khmer Riels (KHR). 
  • It is possible to pay with either currency.
  • For smaller purchases under US$100, it is best to use KHR because the exchange rate is better. 
  • Make sure that the banknotes, perhaps given as remainders in USD, are in good condition, without rips, marks, or heavy creases. As of now, merchants, banks, and exchanges will not accept banknotes older than 2006.
  • USD 2 bills and U.S. coins are not accepted in Cambodia.
  • You are likely to receive a change in a mixture of USD and KHR.
  • It is absolutely preferable to receive a change in local currency only. 
  • ATMs in Cambodia dispense both KHR and USD but only 100$ notes. Check with your bank before your trip to avoid problems with your credit/debit cards.
  • Visa fees on arrival must be paid in cash in USD, Euro, and Thai Baht.

In summary, traveling in Cambodia with a mix of USD and KHR is not ideal. 

Expert quote:

“Exploring Cambodia is like opening a treasure chest; each experience is more valuable when you master the art of currency. Using dollars and riels smartly isn’t just about spending—it’s about immersing fully and respecting our rich culture,” shares Mr. Brown, our seasoned tour guide leader at My Siem Reap Tours.

You can reap numerous perks when you arrive in Cambodia and exchange your US Dollars, Thai Baht, Australian dollars, or Euros for local currency.


Converting your foreign currency into the local Cambodian Riel when you arrive in Cambodia can indeed have several benefits.

Let’s unpack that:

  1. Better Exchange Rates: Often, you might find more favorable exchange rates within the country as opposed to exchanging money before departure. Local banks and exchange booths tend to offer competitive rates.
  2. Ease of Transactions: While US dollars are widely accepted, having local currency can simplify smaller transactions such as paying for street food, local transport, or market purchases where prices might be quoted in Riel.
  3. Reduced Transaction Fees: By exchanging a larger amount at once within the country, you might save on transaction fees compared to multiple smaller exchanges or frequent withdrawals from ATMs.
  4. Supporting Local Economy: Using local currency helps ensure that small vendors don’t encounter losses from currency conversion when they need to exchange USD or other currencies back to Riel.
  5. Avoiding Counterfeits: Exchanging money at a reputable place within Cambodia can reduce the risk of receiving counterfeit bills, which can be an issue with popular currencies like USD.
  6. Flexibility in Spending: Having Riel on hand makes it easier to manage and track your spending, ensuring that you’re not overpaying for small items due to rounding off figures in USD.

So, it’s a wise move to consider changing at least part of your money to Riel after you arrive, even if you carry other currencies like Thai Baht, Australian Dollars, or Euros. 

This approach balances convenience and cost-efficiency, enhancing your travel experience in Cambodia.

This article is peppered with insights from seasoned travelers and updated regularly to reflect the current currency trends in Cambodia. Whether you’re planning your first trip or you’re a returning enthusiast, our guidance stems from deep local knowledge and firsthand experiences.

The Currency Conundrum: Tips for Using USD and KHR in Cambodia

Whether you’re planning your first trip or you’re a returning enthusiast, our guidance stems from deep local knowledge and firsthand experiences.

Key Takeaways for Currency Use in Cambodia

  1. Understand the Dual Currency System: Most transactions in tourist areas can be conducted in both USD and KHR, offering flexibility in payments.
  2. Best Practices for Small Transactions: Use KHR for purchases under $100 to secure a better exchange rate.
  3. Condition of US Banknotes: Ensure your USD notes are crisp—ripped or marked bills might be rejected.
  4. Navigating ATM Use: Confirm which currencies local ATMs dispense and check with your bank about international fees.
  5. Visa Payment Options: Prepare to pay your visa fees in USD, Euro, or Thai Baht, strictly in cash upon arrival.

How do you decide whether to stick to the dollar or switch to Riel?

It’s not just about what’s accepted; it’s about getting the most bang for your buck. Whether you’re sipping coffee in a chic café in Phnom Penh or bargaining in a Siem Reap market, understanding the nuances of each currency can lead to significant savings and a smoother experience.

Exchange Without the Hassle: Money Changing Services in Cambodia

Stepping off the plane, you might be tempted to exchange all your cash at the airport. Hold that thought! Explore local banks and licensed money changers with better rates and lower fees. A little patience can lead to a lot more cash for your adventures.

Card or Cash? Using Credit Cards in Cambodia

While cash is king in many places, don’t underestimate the power of plastic. Major hotels, upscale restaurants, and some shops welcome credit cards. 

However, it’s wise to use cash for smaller, everyday purchases to avoid extra charges.

Can I Use USD at Angkor Wat?

Yes, but there’s a twist! While the grandeur of Angkor Wat might seem like a place untouched by mundane concerns like currency, even here, knowing when to use dollars or Riel can enhance your visiting experience.

Can I Use USD at Angkor Pass?

Yes, you can use USD at the Angkor entrance ticket. The Angkor Pass, required for visiting the temples in the Angkor Archaeological Park, can be purchased using US Dollars, along with other accepted currencies like Cambodian Riel, Thai Baht, and Euro. Payment methods include cash or credit card, with options like Visa, MasterCard, UnionPay, JCB, Discover, and Diners Club cards being accepted.

Is it better to use US dollars or Riel in Siem Reap?

Dollars or Riel in Siem Reap: What’s the Better Bet?

In the heart of Siem Reap, both currencies circulate with ease. Yet, savvy travelers keep a stash of Riel for street food and tuk-tuk rides, ensuring smoother transactions and often better deals.

Navigating Denominations: What USD Bills to Carry in Cambodia

Stick to smaller denominations—ones, fives, and tens. Larger bills can be hard to break, especially in more rural or less touristy areas.

ATM Tips: Withdrawing Cash in Cambodia

Do Cambodian ATMs dispense US dollars?

Many ATMs offer both USD (only 100$ notes) and KHR withdrawals. Be mindful of fees and always inform your bank about your travel plans to avoid card blocks.

Unexpected Fees When Using USD in Cambodia

Small fees can add up! Be aware of potential charges when paying with USD, especially if the price was originally quoted in Riel.

Making Small Purchases with USD in Cambodian Markets

Got a dollar to spare? Think twice before using it for that small purchase. Riel might get you a better deal and less hassle in local markets.

How Do Restaurants Handle USD Payments?

From street food stalls to high-end eateries, most places are flexible with currency. Yet, it’s polite and practical to use Riel for smaller tabs.

Exchanging USD to Riel: Know Before You Go

Exchange a portion of your money to Riel upon arrival to cover various small expenses—it’s practical and often appreciated by local vendors.

Places That Don’t Accept USD in Cambodia

While rare, some smaller, local establishments might only accept Riel. Keep both currencies handy to avoid any spending snafus.

By weaving these tips and insights into your travel plans, you’ll not only navigate Cambodia’s currency landscape like a pro but also enrich your overall travel experience

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