Back in the day, getting a SIM card in Cambodia was no small task. You had to have a Cambodian sponsor or else you’d be stuck with an overpriced tourist SIM especially for foreigners. But those days are long gone, and now anyone can get a regular SIM card in Cambodia with relatively little hassle.
Cambodia has one of the most competitive mobile markets in the world, with seven phone carriers for a population of about 15 million (down from 9 carriers when we first updated this page). Although it’s a complicated market, it’s good news for consumers, who can take advantage of numerous special promotions and deals as the companies vie for new customers.
The Cambodian cell companies are: Cellcard/Mobitel, Metfone, Smart, qb, Beeline, CooTel and Excell.
Each brand has different levels of coverage around the country (although all seem to work well in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap) and different price packages. To complicate matters, making cross-network calls can be expensive and difficult, which is why you’ll often see Cambodians with three or even four cellphones in hand.
Most expats, though, choose pre-paid Cellcard plans due to their English-speaking staff and cheap data packages. Smart is also a good bet for international long-distance calls–rates are currently 7 cents per minute and there are promotions for overseas calls for as low as 4 cents per minute–although it’s not considered as reliable for day-to-day phoning.
You can buy SIM cards at any of the phone shops in Cambodia, but it’s best to get them directly from the mobile company. Carriers are required to keep a copy of your passport on file, but many of the small shops don’t bother with this requirement. If you lose your phone, though, you can easily get a replacement SIM if your passport has been registered. If not, you’re out of luck. Additionally, phone shops charge a large markup on SIM cards; ones that will cost $2 at the carrier office will be $10 at a shop.
To purchase a SIM card, just bring a passport with a valid visa to the office. You’ll be offered a variety of cards starting at around $2. More expensive cards don’t actually have more value, just supposedly lucky combinations of digits in the phone number. At Cellcard, SIMs cost $2 and you’re required to add at least $1 in credit when you purchase one to activate it. In-network calls cost 5 to 7 cents per minute and it’s 8 cents per minute for cross-network calls. International calls cost 20 cents per minute, or as low as 4.5 cents a minute if you dial 177 before the country code.
If you’re looking for a data plan on your phone, Cellcard is also the carrier of choice. They offer a monthly package with 3.5 GB for $5. To activate, just dial #8181#3#2# from your Cellcard phone. You’ll probably need to configure the following information:
Phones are available at any of the thousands of phone shops all over the country. The cheapest are Nokias, which sell for $20 to $22 and have a handy flashlight feature. Smartphones are also available all over the country, and most phone stores can unlock the phone you brought from home.
In Phnom Penh, Cambodian-American phone whiz Danny at CitiPhone is the man to visit with all of your phone repair issues and need–he specializes in unlocking iPhones.
33 Street 128 (Kampuchea Krom), Phnom Penh
T: 023 216 456; 013 733 777
33 Sihanouk Boulevard, Phnom Penh
T: 012 800 800
50 Sivutha Street, Siem Reap
Tel: 012 829 909; 017 829 909
This is an excerpt from Move to Cambodia: A guide to living and working in the Kingdom of Wonder. To learn more about 100+ topics that pertain to Cambodia expats, please consider buying the book.