KHR (Cambodian Riel)

What Is the KHR (Cambodian Riel)?

KHR is the currency code for the riel, the official 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 during two separate periods, from 1953 to 1975 and from 1980 to the present.

As of December 2020, 1 U.S. dollar is worth roughly 4,000 KHR.

Key Takeaways

  • The Cambodian Riel (KHR) is the national currency of Cambodia, and has circulated in its current form since 1980.
  • The currency float freely against others, but it has lost a large degree of its value against major currencies in the past decades, and so U.S. dollars are commonly accepted in exchange.
  • The riel first replaced the Indochine piastre after independence was achieved in 1953, but Cambodia went without a monetary system during the communist regime of the Khmer Rouge, from 1975-1980.

Understanding the Cambodian Riel

The 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 communist Khmer Rouge regime abolished money altogether, and the country went without an official 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. The value of the riel currently holds near one-twenty-four-thousandths of a dollar.

Other Considerations

Though the riel is still in use in Cambodia, it now 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 U.S. money if it’s old or torn. Foreign currencies, particularly U.S. dollars (USD), are more popular in cities and international destinations. Businesses in cities are likely to list prices in USD. Overall, the economy is 90% 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 both 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.

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.

Article Sources
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  1. East-West Center. "The Riel Value of Money: How the World’s Only Attempt to Abolish Money Has Hindered Cambodia’s Economic Development," Page 6. Accessed Dec. 21, 2020.

  2. Khmer Times. "Cambodia’s Rich Currency Heritage." Accessed Dec. 21, 2020.

  3. National Bank of Cambodia. "Exchange Rate." Accessed Dec. 21, 2020.

  4. National Bank of Cambodia. "History." Accessed Dec. 21, 2020.

  5. National Bank of Cambodia. "Previously Used Banknotes." Accessed Dec. 21, 2020.

  6. East-West Center. "The Riel Value of Money: How the World’s Only Attempt to Abolish Money Has Hindered Cambodia’s Economic Development," Page 4. Accessed Dec. 21, 2020.

  7. Wharton School of Business. "Is It Time for Cambodia to Wean Itself Off the Greenback?" Accessed Dec. 21, 2020.

  8. National Bank of Cambodia. "Exchange Rate Policy." Accessed Dec. 21, 2020.

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