For travellers, there’s a lot to like about Cambodia. Great beaches and seafood on the south coast, beautiful colonial architecture of Phnom Penh, the jaw-dropping temple complexes of Angkor Wat, and much more.
It’s often overlooked by visitors to the region, especially anywhere outside Siem Reap and Angkor, but the country deserves far more time and attention than that.
If you’re planning to stay connected while you’re there, the news is good. It wasn’t so long ago that tourists couldn’t even buy a local SIM, but that’s all changed in recent years. Prices are extremely reasonable, the process is very straightforward, and speeds and coverage are more than acceptable.
Here’s what you need to know.
There are six cell networks in Cambodia, although some of them are quite limited outside the major cities. Of the major players, Metfone has the best coverage, with Cellcard and Smart both having good service in the cities and reasonable service outside them.
If you’re only visiting the major tourist hotspots, any of those three providers should meet your needs. If you’re going off the beaten track, stick with Metfone.
I went with Cellcard, primarily because I was only visiting major centres on this trip, there was an official store a few hundred yards from my hotel in Kampot, and prices were low.
Buying a Cellcard SIM in Cambodia is straightforward. If you’re arriving into Phnom Penh airport, there’s a booth in the terminal, on your right as you leave baggage reclaim.
When I flew in there on a previous trip, the person working at the booth spoke excellent English and set everything up for me in a few minutes, at no charge.
If you’re buying elsewhere, as I was this time around, it’s still not a complicated process. You’ll see Cellcard signs everywhere, but while any tiny store can likely sell you a SIM, you’ll get better service (and the official rate) at official stores. At the store in Kampot, all setup was done by the salesperson.
In either case you’ll need your passport, plus 5-10 minutes of your time. All SIM card sizes were available.
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Both the cards and data packages were very inexpensive. I paid all of $0.50 for the card itself (Cambodia operates a dual currency system, but all prices were quoted in USD).
“iNet” data packages ranged from $0.50 for 250MB valid for one day, to $20 for 15GB valid for a month. As I’d only be in the country for another week by the time I bought the card, I opted for the $2/7 day/1GB option. Yes, my total price for a week of connectivity was $2.50.
If I’d been in the country for longer, 3.5GB of data for 30 days cost $5. This poster was on the wall of the store, which shows all of the data packages and the codes to activate them.
If you have enough credit on your account when one of the packages runs out, it’ll automatically renew. You’ll pay 5-8c/minute for national calls, and 3-5c/minute for national SMS.
It’s almost impossible to walk a hundred metres in any Cambodian town without seeing the logo for a cell company — you can top up pretty much anywhere you’re ever likely to be as a tourist.
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Coverage and Data Speeds
Coverage was good in the major towns and cities I visited, but less so outside them.
I had full signal and 3G service in Kampot, Siem Reap and in and around Sihanoukville, but only 2G service (or no service at all) in much of the Angkor Wat complex and on the roads between towns.
Data speeds weren’t super-fast, although they were more than enough for browsing, emails, using maps and making voice-based Skype calls. The speed shown below was fairly typical wherever I tested it.