What the best way of handing money round these regions? It seemsa little awquard that they all have a different currency and some of them have little ATM's. I understand the American dolar is quite widely accepted in Cambodia but what about the others? Best to take travellers cheques and change them when in the country?
Dollars... In Laos the de facto exchange rate on the street is 9,700 kip to the dollar, or 9.8 if you're lucky. Cambodia the "peg" is 4,000 riels to the dollar. In Vietnam the dollar is also widely accepted - if you really dont have dongs they'll take whatever dollars you have (at a bad rate at the "no change" situation does crop up a bit...)
Atms are sprouting out all over the place - all the major cities have atms (even in small Laos towns now). in Vietnam i was quite surprised to see in Saigon they had ATMs in pretty much every shop and bar to "facilitate" spending in the tourist areas...
Travellers cheques are actually more inconvenient. i usually just take my atm cards with me (but check the rates the banks charge)...
Simply use your bank/debit card at the ATM - they're everywhere. Last thing you want to do is to bring traveler's checks - an outmoded way of handling money worldwide. US dollars are accepted, yes, but I like using the local currency. Bring a credit card for emergencies.
Just got back from Vietnam and i didn't have a clue what to do about currency with regards to Dong and US$. In the end it was pretty simple. Most hotels and bigger shops/restaurants quote all the prices in US$ but they all accept Dong at a reasonable exchange rate in my experience. I took some Sterling with me and exchanged for V.Dong at the local jewellery shop at a much better rate than was being offered at the airport/local bank. Later in the trip i then used ATM machines. I have a flex account with Nationwide so the rate was pretty good and no comission.