Cambodia certainly is a relatively cheap country to travel. Food, transportation, tours and accomodation are all very reasonable and the country has a lot to offer. Still, in order to safe unnecessary expenses, I felt like putting together a short list of tips that will help you prevent rip-offs and extra charges.
No-Fee ATM at Canadia Bank
Almost every decently sized cambodian city has banks and, due to the ever-increasing number of tourists, there are ATMs everywhere. However, most banks will charge you quite a sum for withdrawing money using a VISA or mastercard. Fees are differing, ACLEDA Bank charges $4 per withdrawal for example. Preventing these fees is easy: Only use the Canadia Bank ATMs, which won’t charge you for money withdrawal (your bank at home still might add fees though). Don’t feel bad, Canadia will still profit from the exchange rates.
Pay in Riel
This is something I just realized today actually. The street rate for Dollar to Riel is 4000. That means if a bottle of water is 1000 Riel and you pay with a one Dollar bill, you will get 3000 Riel as change. Now, since the ATMs are only handing out Dollars, most people simply pay with them.
However, there are many many small shops (e.g. jewelleries) that also offer money exchange and their rate can be anywhere between 4050 and 4100 Riel per Dollar (as of September 2013). That means if you exchange 100 Dollar to Riel there you can raise the value of your money uo to $ 2,50. Thats two beers in most places here.
This one might go without saying but haggling is essential in almost all places here. Whether its the Motortaxi, food, services or other goods, almost no price is fixed here. Asking for a price as a foreigner will almost always lead to a statement that is far above the usual. Stay friendly and don’t get too aggressive while negotiating and you have a good chance of cutting the price to 50% or less of what was originally stated. Keep in mind though that many people are desperate to support their families so don’t forget to haggle for a “fair” price, not the lowest possible.
Getting your VISA for one of the neighbouring countries in Cambodia is easy but the prices are varying heavily. Usually you would think that the embassies offer the cheapest prices (as its the direct line, without any commissioned travel agents) but that is not always true. When looking around for a partner that I could get my Vietnam VISA through, the prices for a 3 month VISA differed between 88 and more than 100 Dollar. While the vietnamese Embassy apparently requests 100 Dollar, most travel agents would be able to offer it for 95. With a bit of haggling and comparing I was able to get as low as $ 88. This is still quite a sum for a stupid VISA but there is no way around it.
The reason that the travel agents can go cheaper than the Embassy is simple: They are dealing with volumes of travellers and therefore they have certain special conditions. They drop of dozens of Passports at a time and the Embassy does not have to deal with every single one of these people.
My tip for your Vietnam VISA: Lucky Lucky Motorbikes in Pnomh Penh. Very professional, very good english and cheaper than all the other travel agents (most of them drop their customers passports off at Lucky Lucky as well).
You got more hacks for Cambodia? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to the list. Thank you!
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