Last updated on November 5th, 2017
When do you need a money changer in Siem Reap?
As a visitor, it is unlikely that you would need to change your US dollars into Cambodian riels, since dollars are commonly accepted. You would need to change money into dollars only if you’ve travelled to Cambodia with a stash of Euros, British Pounds, Japanese Yens etc. Basically if you don’t have any US dollars!
If you’ve brought only $100 bills, you probably need to break them into smaller denominations at a money changer. They usually wouldn’t charge you, unless your bills are torn and dirty. Anything above a $20 note is cumbersome to spend. You need $1 dollar bills and 1000 riel bills for motodup and tuk tuk rides, buying fresh fruits at the market, getting a grilled banana skewer etc. You can also break your larger dollar bills at the supermarkets in Siem Reap.
If you have other currencies than US dollars, it may be more advantageous to change your bills at a money changer, rather than at the shop where you want to make a purchase. Banks in Siem Reap also have foreign exchange counters but the bid-ask spread is usually larger than at money changers.
Cambodians do not generally use banks for foreign exchange and some of the holes in the wall money changers / jewellers / gold sellers have massive volumes of transactions. The area around Phsar Kandal has the best foreign exchange rates in Siem Reap, followed by the Old Market.
Easy steps to money changing in Siem Reap
Make sure you count your change (it’s rarely a problem). The money changer will give you a small receipt with a wad of Khmer riel and US dollars. The exchange rate has been stable at about 4000 Cambodian riels to a US dollar for years.
You don’t have to get $100 in riels! Just ask for $20 dollars in riels for a start and get $80 back in smaller dollar bills! Just make sure none of your dollar bills are not torn (it’s okay if they’re filthy). Your riel bills can be reasonably dirty and torn without any issue, but money changers will usually give you sparkling new riels in 100, 500, 1000, 5000, 10,000 and 20,000 denominations. The 50,000 riel bill is a relatively recent addition and definitely harder to spend for small purchases.
Some money changers will even give you packs of chewing gum as a kind of customer loyalty programme!
For more tips on money matters in Cambodia, check out our post on ATMs and banks in Siem Reap, and on paying in cash and when to use riels versus dollars in Cambodia.