Internet in Cambodia is not expensive compared to other countries. I have tried 3 different internet service providers in Cambodia. I am going to share my experiences and some useful tips with you here.
Data Card for Your Smart Phone
Once you arrive at the international airport in Phnom Penh (I am not sure about Siem Reap cos I hadn’t been to their international airport for many years), you will find many internet service providers at the arrival hall selling data cards for your smart phones.
If you stay in Cambodia for a week or two only and in major tourists areas, you can choose any of them. They are all ok in terms of reception.
If you are on a budget or if you don’t want to spend too much on this, go for the cheapest option and ask the service provider if you can ‘top up’ if there is no more data in your card. Topping up in towns can be as low as USD1 a week. Getting the data card can be as low as USD2 (this price does not apply to the shops at the airport. See below).
Make sure you have your passport with you when you purchase the data card. All service providers need to make a copy of it.
Internet Service Providers
I have tried these 3 internet service providers and here’s my review:
1) Cellcard (amber)
I chose it when I first went there in January 2019 based on some online reviews by expats. The major selling points of this company include:
a. the staff can speak better English than the staff from other service providers at the airport branch (only), both according to the reviews and my experience.
b. according to my students in the village, when there is a power cut in the village, the internet will not be interrupted. (I cannot verify this)
BUT according to my experience, when I was in the village, the reception wasn’t good and sometimes there was no signal at all. I spent most of my time in the village and the data plan was way more expensive than its competitors, so in the end, I changed.
2) Metfone (red)
My experience with this Vietnamese company in Cambodia was: strong signal.
Many places that I stayed at while I was in Cambodia also use their internet service.
BUT, when there was a power cut, the internet was down too.
Also, it was still more expensive than its competitors. If I remember correctly, I paid USD7 at the airport to buy a one-month data plan and to top up, I had to pay USD5 for around 8GB per month. Still, it was expensive.
So I changed.
All top up cards regardless of which company you use are like this – you need to scratch the top up card to get a number then follow the instructions on the top up card.
I once scratched it so hard that the numbers were scratched away too. In the end, I took it to the shop where I bought the card to get another one.
I have seen some people topping up using their phones. I guess they have installed an app. But I usually used the physical top up cards.
3) Smart (green)
This Malaysian company was the cheapest and the best among the three internet providers. It satisfied all my requirements.
It worked best in villages among the three providers and it’s USD1 for each top up which lasted for a week. That USD1 gave me 6GB to 10GB per week! What more could I ask for! To get this data card, I paid USD2 if I remember correctly.
Why is there the range, 6GB to 10GB? Because when I asked the staff in Phnom Penh, he said, ‘6GB’. When I asked the staff in Kampong Cham, he said, ‘8GB’. When I asked another staff in Kampong Cham on a different date, he said, ’10GB’. Can I check my data usage online? Of course, yes. But here’s what I got when I checked it ‘USD333 in your card.’ They never tell you in GB. They only tell you the USD amount but there is no conversion table for you to check USD? = ?GB.
By the way, when there is a power cut, again, it doesn’t work.
Whichever service provider you use, if you get the data card at the airport, all of them charge you a much higher price than their shops in town. You may want to take a tuk tuk to town, check in your hotel or hostel first and then ask the receptionists where you can buy the data card. Note, you will need to negotiate with the tuk tuk drivers the price. Alternatively, you can buy the data card and use PassApp which is slightly cheaper and skip the annoying negotiation part. Or, you can take an air conditioned public bus which is extremely cheap to get to town and then sort out everything there. Check out my 10 different ways of getting around in Cambodia blog to find out how you can travel around in Cambodia and within Phnom Penh.
Disclaimer: I usually don’t mention any brand names but here I have to. So I’d like to clarify that I am not paid to write this blog.
Like in any other countries, once you find a coffee shop, you can use their free Wifi after you purchase a drink. Note, I am not talking about the local Cambodian coffee shops where you have to sit outdoors and enjoy the heat and enjoy being bitten by mosquitoes or fleas or sandflies… . 😅 I am talking about those ones with air conditioning.
Major cities have more options in terms of coffee shops. You may find that some of the coffee shops look very familiar and you may have seen them in Thailand. That’s true. Most of the coffee shops in Cambodia are from Thailand.
You can check out the hot chocolate I ordered here. 😊
Needless to say, Wifi is available in most restaurants and hotels / motels / hostels, etc. unless you go for the ‘off-the-grid’ ones or the very local Cambodian restaurants. Even if they don’t provide Wifi, if you have bought a data card, you should be able to survive. I could survive. 😜
Life as a Digital Nomad in Cambodia
Because of the unstable electricity supply around the country, most of the digital nomads choose to stay in the neighbouring countries like Thailand. I have met a few in Siem Reap in the hostel where I stayed (forgot if they were on a border run but I remember the one I hung out with most intended to stay in Cambodia for a short while like a month only). Freelancers are ok but if you deliver lessons online, it would be a disaster. Some digital nomads told me costs in Thailand are actually lower than Cambodia. I haven’t stayed in Thailand long enough to make any comments though. But if/when I go back on the road again, I will also choose Thailand over Cambodia mainly due to the internet and the better medical facilities over there (with the pandemic experience, the latter becomes extremely crucial). Give Cambodia some time (not sure how long though). Things may improve.
Speaking of off grid, want to explore the off the beaten path in Cambodia and check out my suggested itinerary? You can find it here: https://learnxtravel.com/2019/12/14/off-the-beaten-path/
Now that you have sorted out your internet, it’s time to hit the road. How do you get around in Cambodia? Is tuk tuk the only option? Nope! I can think of 10 different ways of getting around in Cambodia. Check them all out here: https://learnxtravel.com/2020/01/05/getting-around/
Don’t forget to learn some Khmer to help you get around in Cambodia! You can find some simple words and phrases here: https://learnxtravel.com/2020/02/16/learn-khmer/
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