Just so you know, one cultural difference over here, that is a bit weird, but is very apparent, is that you cannot use notes that are ripped or too tatty.
The official currency is the reil, which I haven’t got my head around at all. It’s all notes, and most are in 1000s though not to the extent of Vietnam where you can easily be a Dong millionaire without even trying (I got paid 4 million dong a month when working there). However, Cambodia’s second currency is the American dollar, but basically it is the accepted one. You pay for everything in dollars, and get change in reil if it is a smaller amount. However, be aware that dollar bills with even the smallest of tears will not be accepted. You can read this in Lonely Planet guides, on the intrepid note trips and our guide also advised us of this. However, there are some people who know otherwise. These rules are not meant to apply to them.
I am embarrassed and horrified to report that our Mansplaining American traveling companion has taken great umbridge at having one of his $100 bills refused. He is beyond outraged, and has taken to bombastically declaring this to be a scam Three days in, despite us being briefed on exactly this point he is outraged beyond belief. ‘It’s fine in America’, he repeatedly announces with a wince-inducing brashness. Oh really? That makes it all completely legitimate to make such a declaration then, and show no respect for local norms, nor the fact that a $100 dollar bill is such a fortune in Cambodian terms that no-one would want to chance it not being legal tender.
I had hoped once he understood the cultural aspect he might reflect and modify his response. He is from America, it’s not like he wont be able to use it once he gets home. But no, he continued to thrash and crash around offending all and sundry whilst being super proud of standing his ground and avoiding being cheated by being wise to this ‘now I know it’s just a scam‘. Is this the new Trump era made manifest, or just business as usual? I dread to think.
Eventually, once we got to Siem Reap, his desire for currency got the better of him. Our guide recommended a money changer who would convert his dollar bill into reil. He emerged with a wad of reil and an air of annoyance. ‘That cost me $3, she wouldn’t even haggle, that’s me robbed‘. Aaargh, he really has no grasp of it, I can imagine in leaning in and pointing at some poor cashier, besides which, why wouldn’t he at least pay a commission for any money conversion. It’s extraordinary.
For the record, ripped notes are not OK. Nor are very tatty or dirty ones. They will be at best refused as payment, at worst, the very offering of them will be taken as an insult, do not use torn or damaged notes for tips especially, that is considered very rude indeed – a deliberate insult. Weirdly, and I do concede this is inconsistent, dirty notes in the local currency are fine. I’ve got some that have seriously dubious coating of sticky detritus. I’ll try to remember to photo some at some point to upload later. Can’t be bothered to do it right now though. It will be something for you to look forward to, or not.