What is KHR (Cambodian Riel)

KHR is the currency code for the riel, the currency of Cambodia. Its symbol is ៛, and its sub-units are the sen, one-hundredth of a riel, and the kak, one-tenth of a riel. The riel circulated in Cambodia in two separate periods, from 1953 to 1975 and from 1980 to the present.

Breaking Down KHR (Cambodian Riel)

KHR (Cambodian riel) first came about as an at-par replacement for the piastre de commerce, the currency of French Indochina, after Cambodia gained independence in 1953. The Khmer Rouge discontinued the riel upon seizing power in 1975, with the 1975 issue of banknotes printed but never circulated. The Khmer Rouge regime abolished money altogether, and the country went without a currency until 1980.

Cambodia began issuing riel again in 1980, shortly after the toppling of Pol Pot’s regime, setting the value at four riel to $1. Since then the relative values of the two currencies have diverged, and the value of the riel is currently holds near one-four-thousandth of a dollar.

Though the riel is still in use in Cambodia, it dominates only in rural areas, where it would be difficult to break a $20 bill and travelers won’t find anyone who will accept their US money if it’s old or torn. Foreign currencies, particularly USD, are more popular in cities and international destinations. Businesses in cities are likely to list prices in USD. Overall, the economy is 90 percent dollarized. Even Cambodian visas must be paid for in USD. The Thai baht is a common currency in areas near the border with Thailand, the Vietnamese dong is common near the border with Vietnam.

Cambodian ATMs dispense USD as well as Cambodian riel, but foreign travelers will only be able to draw from their foreign accounts in USD. Typically, they acquire riel in change from transactions and try not to keep too much money in the Cambodian currency because it can be inconvenient to change back into USD or another currency.

Cambodian Currency Restrictions

The Cambodian government places no limits on the import and export of local or foreign currency. However, because the government fixes the exchange rate, only legitimate banks may legally perform exchange services. These financial intermediaries bear sole responsibility for reporting these transactions to the government.

The National Bank of Cambodia is empowered to impose greater control on foreign exchange transfers in the event of a crisis, but it typically takes a hands-off approach.