Travellers cheques in Cambodia

Feb 26th, 2003, 11:42 PM
  #1  
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Travellers cheques in Cambodia

I would welcome any information about using travellers cheques in Siem Reap and Phnom Phen. I know we should take US dollar cheques- but how easy is it to use them. Most places you would cash the cheque converted to local currency. Can you get actual dollars for them in Cambodia bearing in mind that everything seems to work in dollars.

If we take notes instead, what demominations are best.
MaryW is offline  
Feb 27th, 2003, 01:13 AM
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Mary,
Haven't been to Cambodia yet, but I've done quite some travel in Asia. So, I try to answer your questions and tell you about my experiences made so far (in Thailand, Vietnam, China).

Personally, I use TC very seldom, but always bring some as a backup, jsut in case... In general, I change USD bills into the local currency and use ATMs.

Take small denominations. Use the larger ones first.
I never take 100 USD bills, because, prices are low and you go much further with your money than in Europe/USA.
I would take 50, 20, 10, 5 and a lot of 1 USD bills. The latter ones are very convenient for tips, etc.

I might be wrong, but I don't think, they will give you USDs back. And if, it will be at a bad exchange rate.

Next to USDs bills, that are welcomed all over the world, you will also need some local currency (for tips, etc.).
One USD bill is often too much, even if it isn't a big deal for us in the Western world.

Hope this helps for a start and have a wonderful trip.
Ursula is offline  
Feb 27th, 2003, 02:28 AM
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Amy
 
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No ATM's in Cambodia yet (as of July 02), although you can get advances on a credit or debit card. I'm not sure about TC, but cash is probably your best option, in small denominations. Cambodia seemed a little more dollar-centric than, say, Vietnam.
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Feb 27th, 2003, 06:10 AM
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Cambodia uses US dollars as their preferred currency. Everywhere else in SE Asia, you'll want to trade your cash or travelers checks for the local currency. Not in Cambodia. You want lots of small bills (not the large bills you carry elsewhere to convert to local currency). Expect to pay for everything in US $. You'll get riel in change for small items, and can use riel for buying water at the temples or other small purchases. I just gave away the riel I received - as offerrings at the temples or to beggars missing limbs.

There are no ATMs in Cambodia. While you can cash travelers checks, it's expensive. It's possible to get a cash advance (also expensive) at a few banks.

Your best bet is to carry US$. The more expensive hotels will take credit cards (Visa), but don't expect to use your cards elsewhere. I took a hundred $1 bills, some fives and a few 10s and 20s. I stayed at the Angkor Village Resort, so was able to put my room and food on a credit card.
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Feb 27th, 2003, 06:08 PM
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Kathie, I'm going to agree with everything you've said once again! Especially want to encourage MaryW to bring single dollar bills, and try not to have them too ragged looking. I would take maybe 10-15 singles per day of being there, in addition to other bills. We changed about $5 per day into riels just to give away to those who seemed to need it.
Marilyn is offline  
Feb 27th, 2003, 06:29 PM
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Why bother using traveller's cheques in Cambodia? Just bring U.S. currency and your credit cards. Nobody uses the riel, except maybe some merchants at the Central Market, and even then they will take dollars if you don't have riels. Everyone in Cambodia LOVES U.S. money. They won't evem take riels when you get your visa at the airport.
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Feb 27th, 2003, 10:00 PM
  #7  
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Thanks all but particularly to Kathie and Marilyn. Thats exactly the sort of info I was looking for. Now I know which bills to stock up on. The main reason for asking about T/Cs was for the security. Carrying a largish amount of bills is not normally a good idea. Even if you don't take them each day, you have to come into the country with them and carry them from one stop to the next. Always a risk! But I greatly appreciate the info - now I will prepare.
MaryW is offline  
Feb 28th, 2003, 04:18 PM
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You don't have to carry around large amounts of cash. They take credit cards in Siem Riep for large purchases, nice restaurants, etc. Things in Siem Riep are DIRT cheap. You can buy 2 t-shirts for a buck. 4 bottles of water are a buck too. A tuk-tuk ride all over town is $2. A nice meal is $5. If you want to go to Artisans D'Angkor and buy some carvings or nice silk, they take credit cards. You also get a better rate of exchange when you use your credit card. Something to think about for the unexperienced traveller.
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Feb 28th, 2003, 09:28 PM
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Definitely check out Artisans D' Angkor, we bought three nice pieces there. We were in Vietnam before visiting Cambodia and went through more of our dollars than expected. We ended up getting a cash advance in dollars on our debit card at the HSBC bank in Saigon. We could have done it in Siem Reap too. As long as you wear a money belt, you should be fine carrying large amounts of dollars. Be sure to bring the new style of larger bills, our friend had an older $100 that no one wanted to take. We took $100 in singles, $100 in fives, $500 in fifties, $200 in twenties and $300 in hundred dollar bills. We had no problems with anyone taking the larger bills as long as they were the new style and in mint condition.
anna_k is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2003, 01:06 AM
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Thanks again to all - its great getting an indication of prices and also how much people have felt they should take in small or large notes.

As we have to change our currency into US dollars and have to order in the type of notes we want its quite important. I'm hoping we can get the new style larger notes this way but can't be sure. I recall people having lots of trouble with US 50/100's in Thailand over the years so we didn't want to get caught by that.

Its good to know that the Artisans D' Angkor take cards and we have read about this place and intend to go there.

Although you do get a better rate on the credit card, many places in Cambodia are charging a 3% surcharge for cards so it sort of cancels it out. Also I don't rely on using my card, as I've been caught out before now - sometimes the lines are not working between countries and so you simply get a denied card (even when there is pots of credit on the card) We've also had a mysterious charge (of $1000) appear on our account after using the card in a good hotel in North Thailand. So again I only use it if I have to.
MaryW is offline  
Mar 9th, 2003, 06:06 PM
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i think most of your questions have been answered, but i will add my comments...we stayed at angkor village and they take traveler's checks and credit cards...i did bring quite a bit of american cash with me too....i would be very careful about how you handle this while there and before and after you are there....large amounts of cash (say $100 in $1. bills is a bundle to start with)...we took $2000 in cash (we went to both cambodia and myanmar on this trip as well as thailand---50's for drivers and guides, 20's, 10's, 5's and 1's)this was too much but id did not want to have too little either...
we made sure that this money was in the hotel vault all the time---NOT IN OUR ROOM SAFE, if there was one for security....i will tell you that the hotel vault at both siem reap and yangon were both wooden boxes hammered together and you could practically see through them and the locks were best described as simple....i did feel secure with them however....
in bangkok and other thai places they were regular hotel style safe deposit boxes.....the last thing you want to be doing on vacation is worry about your cash, especially when you are carrying more cash than you would normally....never mind the bulk of it...you also don't want to draw attention to yourself in customs during inspections which we all know are at their peak just now...
the dollar is the standard in siem reap even when being given change, although change is sometimes a mixed bag or you will be asked what you would prefer---they prefer dollars i can tell you that...
you are limiting yourself if you don't have cash or if you rely on trav cks...

relax and enjoy it..it sounds more difficult than it is
rhkkmk is offline  
Mar 11th, 2003, 02:10 PM
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Thanks again, I had a feeling that it might give me a few headaches carrying all those small bills. I'm not worried about Thailand as we know it well and stay somewhere good (the Pen) but were going to go down market in Siem Reap and Phnom Phen! Have talked to the guesthouse in Siem Reap and they have a safe we can put things in. Hopefully not of the wooden box variety. It's so good to get an idea of how much actual money people have used - I know it depends on individual spending but it gives us a guide.
MaryW is offline  
Mar 12th, 2003, 05:52 AM
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I don't know why rhkkmk specified not putting his money in a room safe. The room safes at the Angkor Village Resort are the usual international type, where you set your own code. I've used such safes all over the world for the last 30+ years, and I've never had a problem with them. We left most of our money (plus passports and tickets, etc) in our room safe when we went out to the temples, taking with us only small bills we'd need for buying water, T-shirts or other small purchases.
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Mar 12th, 2003, 12:31 PM
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MaryW -- Just checked back on this thread and want to recommend that you NOT go down market in your accommodations in Phnom Penh. The poverty and crime in PP is a lot worse than SR, and we found the atmosphere to be quite different. While I always felt safe in SR and no one ever tried to scam us or change a price after it was agreed on, we had a far less pleasant experience in PP. If I returned to PP I would stay at an upscale hotel and arrange a driver or whatever through the hotel.
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Mar 12th, 2003, 10:08 PM
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Marilyn, Thank you. We thought we'd try the Foreign Correspondants Club - so about mid scale there. They have just a few rooms but very nice looking and are very central so we can avoid the dramas of having to walk out in dodgy places. We can organise a driver etc through them - do you have any ideas about the FCC. All thoughts gratefully received.
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Mar 13th, 2003, 09:32 AM
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LOVED the FCC -- we were there every day to check mail or have a coffee. Didn't know they had rooms available, but seems like it would be a great place to stay.

Do post when you return to tell us how your trip went. I would especially be interested in your experience in Phnom Penh. I'm looking for encouragement to go back, because I wasn't crazy about it, to tell the truth.
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Mar 13th, 2003, 02:20 PM
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Hi Marilyn, I'd be interested in hearing more about your perceptions of Phnom Penh. I will be spending the very last day of my Vietnam & Cambodia trip there & was thinking about doing some last minute shopping by making my own way to the Russian Markets (Psah Toul Tom Poung). Would a solo female be relatively safe doing this do you think? Many thanks.
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Mar 13th, 2003, 02:55 PM
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Hi Lucy -- Yes, I do think you'll be fine. I did not feel unsafe during the day in main areas of PP, including the one afternoon that I was on my own.

There are two large markets. I can't remember which one was the Russian, but do check because they are quite different and in different parts of town. Both were full of tourists. US dollars is the currency of choice.

But the street poverty in PP was horrendous and the beggars much more aggressive than in Siem Reap. In Siem Reap I tried to give some riels to everyone who asked until my daily supply was gone. In PP it was so bad that we couldn't even give anything -- we would have been absolutely overrun. And I am talking about mothers with a baby at their breast and a toddler in tow, or a child carrying a younger sibling who had lost a limb. I have traveled a fair amount in poor places so I am not naive about how tough life can be, but this was some of the worst I've seen.

We also had other unpleasant experiences. "Tuk-tuk" drivers demanded more money than originally agreed on. My husband lost a photo tripod and a complicated scam ensued to try to extort money from us for the return of the tripod. What was distasteful about this last situation was that both our hotel desk clerk and our driver seemed to be in on the scam. Yuck.

Just so you know, I'm not one of those travelers who always finds something to complain about. My travels are usually full of wonderful experiences and I'd like to go back to almost everywhere I've been, with very few exceptions. PP was such a contrast to Siem Reap -- I'd like to think we just had bad luck and keep an open mind about it.
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Mar 13th, 2003, 03:59 PM
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Thanks for your prompt reply Marilyn (you have a great attitude!).
I'm not sure yet how I'll respond to the begging - I think I'll find it hard to deal with. The lonely planet guide is particularly discouraging about giving money to children but with amputees its a different matter I think - but its also difficult to know what to do if you get surrounded by others after they see you giving to one person.
Anyway thank you for your advice!
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Mar 13th, 2003, 04:35 PM
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Thanks for the kind words, Lucy. Hope you will also post after your return and let us know what you thought of Phnom Penh. Have a great trip!
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