Cambodian riel (R) is the official tender in Cambodia but the US dollar is the de facto currency and the most useful for the average visitor to Cambodia. Most hotels and restaurants, shops, taxis, buses and airlines set their prices in US dollars. Even the visa prices and departure taxes are set in US dollars. Small transactions (less than a dollar) are usually done in Cambodian riel. Change of less than $1 is given in riel. Always carry some small riel for motorcycle taxis (motodups), snacks and other small purchases.
There is no coinage in Cambodia, only currency notes. Cambodian riel notes come in 50, 100, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 50,000 and 100,000 denominations, but the distinctive red 500 riel note and the 1000 riel note are the most useful and common.
If you thought the Riel had always been Cambodia’s official currency, you are completely wrong. Instead, our currency has changed rather significantly throughout time, both in form and name.
According to Global Financial Data, from the ninth to tenth centuries, Cambodia imported Pyu and Mon coins from the Mon kingdom of Dvaravati, whose remnants can still be found in the central part of present-day Thailand. For a fact, coins were not produced in Cambodia until the sixteenth century. In the 1850s HM King Ang Duong of Cambodia (1841-1859) issued the first machine-made coins, known asCambodian Tical. The Tical was divisible into 8 Fuang and 64 Att.
12 years after Cambodia became a part of the French Indochina, the Banque de l’Indochine was established. A branch was set up in Phnom Penh, which became the note-issuing bank for all of Indochina from February 22, 1891 to December 31, 1951. It is in this period that Indochina’s currency, the Piastre, was introduced.
During the Second World War, French Indochina (Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam) and Thailand, though occupied by Japanese troops, did not have Japanese occupation currency; rather, they paid a kind of ransom by creating domestic currency and giving it to Japan to pay for local expenses. The Piastre was divisible into 100 Cents.
After the war, France initially revalued the Piastre to equal 17 French Francs, but the Piastre was devalued back to its old level of 10 French Francs on May 11, 1953. On December 31, 1951 the exclusive privilege of banknote issue was transferred to the Institut d’Émission des États du Cambodge, du Laos et du Viêt-Nam, which also had its headquarters in Phnom Penh. Although separate notes were issued for Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, the notes were legal tender in all three states.
Banks There are banks in all provincial capitals in the country, including Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Kampot and Battambang. Banks offer the usual banking services - cash advances on credits cards (most accept Visa card,) international currency exchange, telegraphic transfers, cash travelers checks and ANZ Royal Banks, Canadia and SBC Banks offer ATMs with international access. Most banks are open from 8:00 to 15:00 or 16:00PM, Monday through Friday. Some are open Saturday mornings until 11:30. ATMs are available 24 hours.
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