Cambodia, Funny & Weird, Life in Asia

Making Some Riel Change!

One the best/worst parts for an American traveling in Cambodia is the currency. Most of the country operates on the US dollar [why, I don’t know…], and everything is listed in the familiar currency. It’s so great not having to do math in my head when I want to know how much a cup of coffee costs! Indonesia about killed me with it’s 11,000 to 1 rupiah exchange. That’s some hard math. But Cambodia is great, just simple dollars. Until there’s change involved.


Cambodia has not adopted the US coins, however. They prefer to use the Cambodia riel [pronounced real] to make change, where it’s 4000 riel to one dollar.  [That alone took me almost a week to learn.] So your bill is $9.50? Hand over a $10 and get 2000 riel in return. No problem. If only all transactions were that simple. When my coffee is $1.64, I have NO IDEA how much riel to use or how much I should get back. I just awkwardly hold out the bills and let them take whatever they want. They could be completely ripping me off. I probably look like a ridiculous tourist. Such is my life shopping in Cambodia. No matter how hard I try to get rid of those pesky riel, counting each 100 riel bill, I know that on my next transaction, I’ll get more. It’s a never ending cycle. Doomed to be my Cambodian souvenir, a handful of riel.

Way to keep things interesting, Cambodia. With the English and the US dollar, you lull me into familiarity, and then BAM, hit me with the 10,000 riel instead of $3 in change. You keep me on my toes, I’ll give you that.

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