Years ago, getting a SIM card in Cambodia wasn’t easy. You’d need a Cambodian sponsor or purchase an overpriced tourist SIM. Those days are gone and now anyone can get a regular SIM card in Cambodia quite easily. All you need is a few dollars and your ID.

Cambodia has one of the most competitive mobile markets anywhere (around 10 providers for 17 million people, wow) the choices are almost endless. Albeit a complex market, there are countless deals as these companies compete for business.

The main Cambodian phone companies are Cellcard / Mobitel, Metfone, Smart, CooTel and Seatel. Each has a different level of coverage (although all work well in urban areas) and different price packages. But, why would you want to know about Cambodia Mobile Operators? Well… if you don’t, you could end up with a large phone bill or lose your credit in the middle of an important call.

So… when possible, call the same service as your own. You may have to get another SIM card to enable this. Usually Cellcard and Smart are all you’ll need, which is why you may see locals placing 3 or 4 phones on the table before they eat rice. Having said that, new smart phones allow multiple SIM so the playing field has changed somewhat.

Most expats choose pre-paid Cellcard plans because of the good customer service, English-speaking staff and cheap data packages. Smart is a choice good bet for international calls but with the market saturation of communication media (Messenger, Telegram, Zoom, WhatsApp, Line, Viber), why would you bother?

Buying a SIM card

Basically, you can buy a SIM card at any phone shop in Cambodia, but it is often best to get them directly from a mobile company and you can choose your own lucky number! Carriers are required to keep a copy of your passport as do most small shops. This means that, if you lose your phone, you can easily get a replacement SIM.

To purchase a SIM card, just bring your 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 have more value. They supposedly have lucky digits in the phone number. At Cellcard, for example, SIMs cost $2 + $1 credit to activate. In-network (i.e. same company to same company) calls cost 5 – 7 cents per minute and 8+ 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.

Phones are available at phone shops all over the country. The cheapest are Nokias, which sell for $20 to $22 and have a handy flashlight feature. Smartphones are available almost everywhere and most phone shops can unlock the phone you brought from home.

Phone prefixes to keep your phone bills small

Cellcard
  • 011, 012, 014, 017, 061, 076, 077, 078, 085, 089, 092, 095, 099
  • Check number: press *012#
  • Check balance: #124#
Smart
  • 010, 015, 016, 069, 070, 081, 086, 087, 093, 096, 098.
  • Check number: press *567#
  • Check balance: *888#
Metfone
  • 088, 097, 071, 031, 060, 066, 067, 068, 088, 090, 097
  • Check number: press *200#
QB
  • 013, 080, 083, 084
SEATEL
  • 018
  • Check number by sending SMS 106 send to 1800
  • Check the balance by sending SMS 101 send to 1800.
Cootel
  • 038
  • Check number by Go to your phone Menu -> Accounts -> Subscriber No. -> OK
  • Check balance by Go to Menu -> Coo Bill -> Balance

Background information for geeks

Telecommunications in Cambodia include telephone, radio, television, and Internet services, which are regulated by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. Transport and posts were restored throughout most of the country in the early 1980s during the People’s Republic of Kampuchea regime after being disrupted under the Khmer Rouge.

In January 1987, the Soviet-aided Intersputnik space communications station began operation in Phnom Penh and established two-way telecommunication links between the Cambodian capital and the cities of MoscowHanoiVientiane and Paris. The completion of the earth satellite station restored the telephone and telex links among Phnom Penh, Hanoi, and other countries for the first time since 1975. Although telecommunications services were initially limited to the government, these advances in communications helped break down the country’s isolation, both internally and internationally.

Today, with the availability of mobile phones, communications are open to all, though the country’s Prime Minister Hun Sen decreed that 3G mobile phones would not be allowed to support video calling.

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