My Wife and I are going to spend about 40 days travelling from northern Laos to Siem Reap. We have travellers checks, debit and credit cards. We have read that Banks in Vientiane and Luang Prabang will allow us to get cash, but once we leave there we are not sure what we will do for cash. We will obviously have to carry some, but we are hoping not to carry several hundred dollars. What have others done for this predicament? Also we hear that US dollars are good for both Loas and Cambodia as their currency is quite weak. Does any one have any strategies or locations for getting US dollars in Loas and Cambodia?
Thanks for your suggestions
There are lots of ATM's in Phnom Penh that dish out dollars. In Cambodia you only need to keep on you a few thousand riel to pay for motorbikes, everything else is dollars. I think ATMs are quite scarce in the rest of cambodia. Sihanoukville had none in April, and i'm not sure on the ATM situation in Siem Reap, although i didn't see any, just one in the process of being installed - that was a year ago!!
As for Laos - no idea!!
There is only one ATM in Laos, in Vientiane, but there are money changers - you will find one on the main street in Luang Prabang, and banks in Vientiane. Make sure you take plenty of US$ with you and change some into kip/riel when you get there. don't forget to change your kip and riel before you leave Laos and Cambodia respectively as you can't change their currencies outside the country. Accommodation in both countries tends to be paid in dollars but smaller amounts such as taxis, bottles of water etc will need to be paid in the local currency. some places will also accept Thai Baht - we went in one restaurant in Vientiane and when the bill came it was quoted in US$, Euros, baht and kip!
Hope this helps.
There are now two ATMs in Vientiane for foreigners, one dispenses only a maximum of 700,000kip and the second allows a withdrawal of 2,000,000.
There is an ATM in Siem Reap, that dispenses dollars - perhaps there are even two, if I recall!? - and you can be sure to have a number of people waiting for you as you emerge, hoping that you might donate them a dollar.
As for travellers cheques, Cambodia is ok, and I'm not sure about Laos. Many hotels and guesthouses - even the smaller ones, if they have the facilities - will do credit card cash advances. The only trouble I have had with this (apart from the 3% commission charge!), is an occassional phone line issue that has prevented the credit card transaction machine from being able to dial and therefore from being able to verify my card!
If you can carry cash - US$ and local currency - its probably best (and cheapest!).
I've recently been to Siem Reap. Unfortunately, I didn't have to use ATMs and didn't notice if they have one. I would suggest to keep some cash for tuktuk rides and meals. If I remember correctly a meal only costs $5 a person. In Cambodia you could use your dollars, which I think is really convenient. There are a lot of large hotels and based on experience they are very accommodating. So if you need help I believe you could just pop in and ask even if you're not one of their guests.
Advice: use US$ but don't take large notes. You really want plenty of $1, $5, $10, $20
The trouble with larger bills are threefold:
1. These places are inexpansive to travel, eat and buy souveniers in general. Larger hgotels will take credit cards and smaller ones are also quite inexpensive. Large bills thus are quite uneccessary to have with you.
2. If you present a large bill for something smaller you should get plenty of change in US$ but you also stand the risk of getting a bucket full of Riels. Bear in mind that money goes along way here so you will not spend them all and you are not allowed to take them out of the country.
3. There are some very good fake US$ bills in circulation. Do not
run the risk of getting these larger bills in your change.
US$ are by no means a 'black market currency' in Cambodia. They are commonly and openly used in all the main tourist areas and are the official currency for such transactions as paying for your visa on arrival ($20) and for domestic (variable but around $6)and international departure taxes ($25)at airports.
There are now ATMs despensing US$ in Siem Reap.
Better - pre-pay for a well considered tour package before or on arrival then you only need to keep cash on you for spending money and meals.
hope all this helps