Visitors always want to dig and find the most worthwhile souvenirs before they go back home from their Cambodia tours. They usually have a tendency to leave with bulkier luggage than on arrival: the country's markets are heavy with potential souvenirs, ranging from silks, textiles and statues to carvings, silverwork and Buddhist artworks.
Though Riel (KHr) is the official currency, the US dollar is the common currency in Cambodia. Many businesses, especially hotels, airlines, restaurants, souvenirs shops, set their prices in USD and all expenses can be paid in USD even minor ones. In the West of the country, use of Thai Baht is also commonplace.
At the time of writing exchange rate is US$ 1 = 4040 Riel, and 1 Euro = 4329 Riel. You can change Euros into USD, though the exchange rate is not always very competitive. There is no need to change your USD into local currency. Small bank notes of 10 or 20 US dollars are enough. Against payment in USD, the change will be given back to you in local currency as there is no USD cents in Cambodia.
Traveller’s cheques can be cashed only at major banks and usually incur a 2 to 5% transaction fee.
Credit Card: Visa, Master cards, JCB, CCB and American Express are accepted in top-end hotels, restaurants and shops in the main cities of Cambodia, such as Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, but can also be subject to 2 to 3% transaction fees.
ATMs (cash dispensers) are now available everywhere in the main towns (Visa, Mastercard). You can withdraw cash in USD only - transaction fees may apply. ATMs from ANZ bank are often available in souvenir shops and in most of the Caltex service stations.
Banks are usually open from 08h00 to 15h30 from Monday to Friday. Only a few banks are open half day on Saturday.
The best advice is to bring US Dollars in cash. Note that exchange rates for small and big notes vary, however we would recommend you to bring some small notes to settle initial expenses and then carry small riel for minor expenses. 500 and 1000 riel are the most useful denominations.
Be careful, banks and foreign exchange offices do not usually take old, scribbled or even stained bank notes.
Unique to Cambodia is the omnipresent krama (a unisex checked scarf usually made of cotton), while silk can be bought either by the length, or in the form of scarves and other garments. Jewellery, ceramics, clothing, CDs and DVDs are widespread in city markets.
What to Buy in Cambodia
Khmer Silk - The soft and beautifully designed Khmer silk is sold like hot cakes across the country. There are two kinds of Khmer silks: the old silk made years ago and the new silk produced in nowadays. They share the same quality but not the price.
T-shirts - Of course this item is the favorite souvenirs in any tourist destination. Bringing home a t-shirt featuring the famous Angkor Wat or other Khmer symbols is kind of cool. Price ranges from $2~5 depending on the quality and where you get.
Paintings - Cambodia has never lack outstanding artists. You don’t have to go to galleries to get great paintings because the one you find in the streets is also a stunning work. It’s also good to support the local artists who don’t have the privilege of specific galleries.
Handicraft, Statues and Gemstones - The Cambodians are endowed with genuine skill of making handicraft and the ancient traditions were handed down from generation to generation. Delicate carvings, Buddha statues bas-reliefs (just as those you find at the enclosure of Banteay Srei) are available in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. No one would deny the temptation of colored Cambodian gemstones. In Siem Reap you can see jewelers selling sapphires and rubies. It’s advised do some homework about gems before you decide to pay.
Prices displayed are usually fixed, but in other cases, bargaining is recommended.
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