Interestingly enough, the preferred local currency is US dollars. There is a Cambodian riel and it is excepted everywhere but most transactions are in US dollars. ATMs give you the option of USD or riel and change is often given as both. Any change less than a dollar is given in riel notes so there are no coins.
I’m just surprised the USD is the chosen currency given that Europeans are far more common visitors and several other stable(ish) currencies are close by. We have been told several times that the USD is the most stable currency and after keeping up with ours and several other currencies the last two years, I’d have to agree.
Cambodia has made it pretty easy for us to convert. Most prices are in USD and it’s 4,000 riel to a dollar, 1,000 riel is a quarter. Now the vietnamese dong will be a whole other challenge. As of this morning 1 USD = 22,324.50 dong. I’ll try to be better than when we were at the Phnom Penh airport – I held 200,000 reils and couldn’t help but say (a little too loudly) “I’m rich!”. McKayla gave me a well deserved stink eye.
We did a pretty fair job of budgeting in Cambodia. Not great, but fair. The biggest underestimated cost was in between travel. Tuk tuks, taxis and buses have been more frequent and necessary than expected and therefore a bigger part of the budget. We may try to mitigate these with longer stays at places we enjoy but if it comes to hiring a 20 dollar tuk tuk to see something cool, we’re going to do it.
This isn’t a food blog and I don’t pretend to be a critic or an expert. I’m not a huge fan of posting pictures of food, so I dont think it necessary to talk about every meal we’ve eaten but after a month in Cambodia, I’m going to share some thoughts.
Nowhere we’ve been has had access to a kitchen. That means we’ve eaten out for every meal. Whether it’s out of a cart, a restaurant, someone’s house or bought off a plate being carried on a woman’s head (that just happened. It was some delicious lobster like creature drizzled with lime and sprinkled with pepper. If I was more sure it wouldn’t make me shit my brains out, I’d have an entire meal of those things). There are small grocery stores where you can buy cookies, nuts, dried fruit and Pringles (always Pringles, Pringles everywhere). So we usually have some dried mangos or banana chips and pistachios with us for snacks.
For whatever reason, most restaurants in Cambodia have a novel for a menu, pages and pages of options. A lot of times there will be a Khmer section and a western section. At first I was hesitant to go with anything from the western section, like going to a burger joint and ordering a fish. As time has gone on and my cravings for bread and potatoes have become too persistent, I have wandered onto the dark side of the menu. The results haven’t been too bad, for the most part. Most places have baguettes sandwiches and french fries.
Obviously, the really good food lies on the Khmer side of the menu. I’ve done my best to get to all the best known local dishes and I think I have a fairly full bingo card of Khmer food. Noodles are my go-to but I’ve happily gone out of my comfort zone for things like amok, lok lak, randaang and a variety of other rice dishes I can’t pronounce. All in all, it’s been a really wonderful culinary experience, but not enough spice for my taste. On to Vietnam for some quality face melting meals.
For those curious, there have been bugs for sale and no, I haven’t indulged… yet. It’s going to happen, I just need to be in the right fram of mind (hammered).