THE U.S. DOLLAR IS KING
As it turns out, the currency of choice in Cambodia is the U.S. dollar — the newer the bill, the better. I’m writing this in my hotel room (Almond Hotel — not bad by the way; it has free Wi-Fi) while on the sixth day of a business trip to this country of sweet, smiling, friendly people.
Cambodians will not accept soiled or damaged U.S. bills. Even tuktuk (motorized pedicab) drivers who charge about a dollar per trip will not accept your $1 if there’s a tear in it or has some kind of stain. Prepare for your trip by having on hand $1, $5, $10 bills.
I had a hundred dollars worth (from a money changer in Singapore’s Changi International Airport). I don’t know if local money changers will do this for you in Phnom Penh. What I do know is that every time I got change worth less than a dollar, they always gave it to me in Riel, the local currency.
Almond Hotel Phnom Penh
N 128F, Sothearos Blvd Corner of Russian Embassy
Tel: (+855) 023 22 08 22. Fax: (+855) 023 22 07 22
Hotel Manager: (+855) 12 91 00 22
My twin-sharing room cost $46 a night, with free a la carte breakfast. Hot water, cable TV, free Wi-Fi, small refrigerator, queen size bed, air conditioning. Meals in the hotel run from $4 all the way to $20, plus tax.
Some other useful things to know:
- Taxi from international airport to downtown Phnom Penh, US$9.This is a marked taxi with a “Taxi” sign on it (they usually give receipts). Private car owners also moonlight as “taxis” — for about $10-$13.
- Exchange rate as of this writing is 4,100 Riels to $1, but you really don’t want to be stuck with too much of the local money.
- It’s cheaper to buy a local SIM card and put it in your cell phone, rather than use your international mobile service to make local calls. But, buying a SIM card in Phnom Penh requires you to produce a residence ID card. A local can buy the SIM for you. Or you can borrown a SIM card from a resident who has an extra one. Phones are “loaded” with minutes of use. You buy “refill” cards from street vendors. Make sure you buy a card that matches both the network (or service provider) and the first three digits of the phone number (like an area code). I used a borrowed SIM card which I “refilled” with $2 before returning it.
- There is no McDonald’s in Phnom Penh, but look for Lucky Seven, a fastfood that serves good sandwiches.
- A new recordable CD-R (no-name brand) costs about 2,000 Riel or 50 cents. I bought mine in a street market stall. I think you can buy branded CD-Rs but they’re only sold by the box.
- Contact info for a car rental company I used in Phnom Penh: H.R. Car Rental Service. Look for Mr. Him Virak, mobile (855) 012 923 913. Address: No. 540, Street 369, Chba Ompov, Meanchy, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Very reliable and safe service.