Going to Cambodia soon? You will have a great time for sure. Cambodia has fantastic beaches and seafood on the south coast. Moreover, there are plenty of temples to satisfy your need for cultural activities. Getting to Cambodia may be a bit pricy depending on where you are flying from, but Cambodia itself is relatively cheap.
Roaming with your provider, however, can be expensive if you are not careful. That is why many travelers explore the options of purchasing a local SIM card. Until a while ago, travelers were unable to buy SIM cards in Cambodia, but that changed a few years ago. Let's explore the SIM card buying options we have in Cambodia, shall we?
Telecom Providers in Cambodia
Cambodia has three major telecom communication carriers: Smart Axiata, Metfone, and Cellcard. There are a few other providers, such as qb and Yes Seatel, but they have such a small subscriber base, which often means that they do not provide (reasonable) nationwide coverage, which is why they will not be covered in this article.
Smart and Metfone are the largest providers in terms of subscribers, while Cellcard is the small one.
If you want to buy a SIM card in Cambodia, I would recommend getting one from Cellcard for most travelers. If you are planning on going to remote areas, Metfone will be your best bet, as they have the best coverage in Cambodia.
But if you are planning on staying near the popular tourist hotspots, then it does not really matter what provider you choose, as they all have excellent service in the big cities and doable service outside of them.
Just be aware that when you are buying your SIM card, you will need to have your passport with you. This will be straightforward when you purchase the card at the airport. If you decide on buying it in town, be sure not to forget your passport (which you should have with you at all times).
Let's check out the offering Cellcard, Metfone, and Smart.
Tip: Looking for cheap flights? Book with AirWander and add stopovers! Not in a hurry yet? Set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog and get notified when ticket prices for your preferred route(s) drop!
Most travelers will be fine with a Cellcard SIM Card. You can purchase one for about $0.50 and get 3.5 GB of data for about $5 that will last you a month. If you are flying into Phnom Pehn Airport, you will find a Cellcard booth when you leave the baggage claim area. There, the Cellcard employee can help you set up your new SIM card, which should take less than 10 minutes.
If you are flying to a different airport, you may still find Cellcard booths, but I cannot attest to that. Either way, you will see many Cellcard stores and signs once you go to town, even the small ones.
Back when I was in Cambodia, I typically got 3G/HSPA+ speeds, which is considerably slower than the 4G/LTE speeds I was used to (some of you may be enjoying 5G speeds already). I have, however, read that Cellcard has been rolling out its 4G network nationwide and even been called the fastest provider in Cambodia 3 years in a row. I will be in Cambodia in 2021, and I cannot wait to try them out again.
Cellcard also started to offer the Tourist SIM Pack, which are packages made for tourists. You will get 5 GB of data a day and $50 credit for on-net calls and SMS for $6, which will last you for 7 days.
Those who want more data or are staying in Cambodia for more than a week can take advantage of the following data bundles:
- $2 Data Bundle: 4 GB of data that is valid for 7 days. To activate, dial #6767#200#
- $5 Data Bundle: 8 GB of data that is valid for 7 days. To activate, dial #6767#500#
- $10 Data Bundle: 18 GB of data that is valid for 7 days. To activate, dial #6767#1000#
You can find more internet bundles here, but you would need to be able to read Cambodian or use Google Translate.
Metfone will be your best bet if you are planning on going to remote areas, as they provide the best network coverage in Cambodia. You can get a Metfone SIM card for less than $2. Below is the Metfone plan breakdown:
- You will get coverage with 4G/LTE.
- To get started, you will need to stop by an official Metfone Store in Phnom Penh or Siam Reap. Or you can find a store at the airport. They will register you properly and set up your SIM package at the store to make sure your phone works correctly.
- The 1.5 GB soft-cap plan costs $1.50, and you will get a week’s worth of coverage.
- The 3 GB soft-cap plan or 4 GB hard-cap plan both cost $5 and give you one month of coverage.
- With a soft-cap plan, your plan will be throttled once the data cap is reached, but you will not incur a surcharge.
Finally, we have Smart Axiata (just Smart), which is also a good provider when sticking to the bigger cities. You can get a Smart SIM card for about $1. Below is the Smart plan breakdown:
- You will get coverage with 4G/LTE.
- You can also get data-only plans that are called “SurfLikeCrazy” Plans.
- You can find the official store in Phnom Penh, Siam Reap, and major airports. Make sure you take your phone to a store or booth and have your package set up by a Smart employee.
- The SIM Price is $1 for the SIM card fee.
- The Traveler SIM Card gives you 2 GB of data and $1 credit for $5 and offers a week of coverage. You can only purchase this plan at international airports.
- The 1 GB of Data Plan costs $1 and gives you one day of coverage.
- The 4 GB Hard-Cap Plan costs $5 for one month of coverage. If you go over the cap limit, you will be charged an extra $0.01 per 500 KB that you go over the cap limit.
Other Connectivity Options When Traveling in Cambodia
Besides getting a Cambodian SIM card, there are different ways of staying connected when exploring Cambodia, such as using an international SIM card, roaming with your provider, using pocket WIFI, or WIFI networks.
International SIM Cards
There are many international SIM cards out there, such as OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, Simcorner, and BNESIM. These SIM cards with the same as roaming with your provider, but the charges are often way less than actually roaming because they have been set up for international travel.
International SIM cards give you the same convenience as roaming with your provider. As in, not having to get numerous SIM cards, you will not use again, and being reachable on one number instead of multiple. In most cases, you can use your international SIM when back home, but their rates will be high compared to using your carrier.
Do note that using an international SIM card is often more expensive than using a local SIM card but cheaper than roaming with your provider. International SIM cards are appealing for those who travel frequently and cannot be bothered with the hassle of purchasing a SIM card each time they arrive at a new destination. Additionally, constantly having to switch SIM cards and using different phone numbers may discourage seasoned travelers from buying local SIM cards.
If you are visiting only one destination for a short period, get a local SIM card (or roam with your provider if they have attractive roaming rates or plans). If you travel often and want to be able to be contacted on one phone number when visiting multiple destinations, international SIM cards could be attractive. Check out my international SIM card comparison article, where I analyzed the top 10 leading international SIM cards out there.
Roaming With Your Provider
Roaming is a term used in wireless telecommunication that indicates a mobile device is outside the range of its home network and has connected to a different, available cell network. If you use your phone in Cambodia without changing SIM cards, you would be roaming in Cambodia.
You have probably read numerous horror stories of travelers who went abroad for a while and came back home to a phone bill in the thousands because they were roaming. An example of such a story is this individual who received a bill of £8,348.41 for data roaming for 40 minutes. I also found the reason why roaming is so expensive.
No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!
Roaming can be convenient because you do not have to wait in line to get a local SIM card, go through the whole SIM card registration process, and can easily be reached when friends and family who are in your home country want to call or text you.
However, this convenience comes at a cost – a high cost if you do not watch out. But this does not always have to be the case.
Some carriers allow you to roam for free in select countries, such as Three. Three operates in multiple countries, such as Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and a few others. They have a program called Roam Like Home or a slight variation of that depending on where you are from.
Three Denmark includes free roaming in more than 60 destinations around the world – Cambodia is not included. Let's say it was, it would mean that Three customers could use their plan's data, voice, and text allowance in Cambodia at no additional cost, although certain restrictions apply (such as the hard cap of a maximum of 20 GB of roaming data regardless of whether you have a higher data cap in your plan or not).
Other carriers allow you to use your plan's allowance if you pay a fixed daily fee. For example, Koodo, a Canadian provider, allows you to use your plan's allowance with their program called Koodo Easy Roam International for $12 a day, which can be used in Cambodia as well. This means that if you get 10 GB a month, you can use those 10 GB in Cambodia as well.
However, you should take caution with such plans. They are convenient and inexpensive when done for a few days, but not when going abroad for a week or more. I often argue that one can use these plans if you are staying abroad for a maximum of three days. If longer, than you are better off with a local SIM card, which will give you more bang for your buck. Check out my articles to see if your provider offers roaming bundles.
Finally, you can roam on Pay As You Go roaming rates. With standard roaming rates, you get charged per action on the go. In other words, you get charged per minute, SMS, or KB/MB. Often, Pay As You Go roaming rates are insanely high (which leads to those stories where people got charged into the thousands), and should be avoided in most cases. However, some providers do have reasonable standard roaming rates, especially to neighboring countries.
In general, I would discourage you from roaming on Pay As You Go roaming rates when visiting Cambodia, but it is still an option to explore. If you want to see what your carrier would charge you, check out my roaming with your provider articles with my analysis and verdicts.
If you do not want to get a local SIM card or an international SIM card and do not feel like roaming either, then you can get pocket WIFI. A portable hotspot is a device that acts as your personal router that you can take with you. This hotspot connects to the cellular networks of your destination – just like your phone would do but without the roaming costs.
There are many portable hotspots out there. Two reputable pocket WIFI companies I know are Skyroam (use coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ) and Vision Global Wireless. WIFI access with Skyroam starts at $8 a day. Using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Both services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.
A pocket WIFI device is ideal for those who are traveling with families or multiple individuals. This way, everyone can connect to the device and enjoy the WIFI network on the go. Some companies will charge you per GB while others will give you unlimited data. Be aware of the data restrictions of your device so that you will not receive a high bill after your travels.
Using Free WIFI Connections
If you do not want to pay anything extra for staying connected while in Cambodia, then you can choose to connect to WIFI networks instead of cellular networks.
Although using WIFI hotspots may save you money, it may not be convenient as using a SIM card. First, you would have to find WIFI hotspots. Unlike North America and Europe, Cambodia does not prevalently use WIFI, meaning it may be a challenge to find a hotspot. Once you have found one, they may not even work or are extremely slow.
Additionally, public WIFI hotspots are unsecure. I would recommend using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if you connect to an unfamiliar network. The VPN will encrypt your data and will keep your data private. I use NordVPN, and you can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get your NordVPN subscription today!
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Cambodia
To get the most out of your money, I would recommend getting a local SIM card from Cellcard. You should also check the roaming options your provider has for you; they may allow you to roam for free in Cambodia or have attractive roaming deals.
You could also consider getting an international SIM card or using a portable hotspot. International SIM cards are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots will be useful when traveling with multiple people so that not each individual has to get a SIM card but can use the hotspot.
Visiting other countries in Southeast Asia? Check out my Southeast Asian SIM card buying guide, covering other Southeast Asian countries, such as Brunei, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.
What is next?
Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!
Book Your Flight for Cambodia
It is time to book your flight. Find cheap flights with AirWander so that you can add free or cheap stopovers in destinations you have not considered yet before going to Cambodia. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Cambodia drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Cambodia
I am a huge fan of Airbnb because it allows me to live with a local or get a local place for myself. Staying in someone’s house or apartment feels much different than being in a ho(s)tel, especially in Cambodia. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Cambodian hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Cambodia
You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. Nowadays, travel insurance is cheap and comprehensive unlike back in the days. World Nomads is by far the best travel insurance for adventurous travelers like yourself. You can even get insured WHILE already traveling in Cambodia, which is not something many insurance companies allow you to do.
Get a Travel Debit Card
Travel Cheques are outdated. Paying with your credit card or debit card can be expensive because of all the exchange commissions banks charge you. TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to the local currency for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment.
Enjoy your trip!