Communication in Cambodia
The official language of Cambodia is Cambodian, or Khmer. This language belongs to Mon-Khmer or Austro-Asiatic language family of language. The language of Cambodia is not as easy to pick up as other languages might be and westerners might find it a little difficult to follow.
The Mon-Khmer languages are the autochthonous language family of Indo-China. Together with the Munda languages of India, they are one of the two traditional primary branches of the Austro-Asiatic language family. The Eastern Mon Khmer languages include languages like:-
- Khmer in Cambodia, southern Vietnam, and northeastern Thailand
- Pearic in southern Cambodia
- Bahnaric in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos
- Katuic in central Laos
- Vietic in Vietnam
Another important spoken language in Cambodia is French. Your Cambodia Overview will make clear that French has been and still is to some extent the lingua franca of Indochina. The language is still by spoken by some, mostly older Cambodians as a second language. The French language is also the means of instruction in various schools and universities. There are many such educational institutions that are funded by the government of France.
Cambodian French is virtually another language of Cambodia. This dialect is a reflection of the country's colonial past and is still frequently used in the government.
Another Cambodia Language that is slowly finding prevalence is English. Many younger Cambodians and those in the business class speak the language these days. Thus the prevalence of English as a language of Cambodia should not pose too big a problem for tourists in Cambodia.
2. Sim card:
When buying a SIM in Cambodia, it is best to head to one of the official stores as opposed to buying from a street vendor.
Whilst most shops and vendors do have SIM cards for sale, they often whack the price up to make a healthy profit. It is not uncommon to see SIM cards being sold for 5X their actual value!
You will be required to show ID for the purchase of a SIM card. This ID will be copied and kept on file in order to register the SIM. Small vendors may not be able to register the SIM but will still be willing to sell you one. This means that there is a possibility that the SIM could be cut off without warning.
Be sure to ask for a 4G SIM card, as these are not always given out as standard. If you do accidentally get given a 3G SIM, it can be swapped at an official store free of charge.
Sometimes you might get lucky and find that Smart or Metfone are offering free SIM cards to passengers arriving at the airport. You will need to activate and top these up following the instructions given to you in the welcome pack.
If you’re in a rush and want a quick recommendation, in our opinion, the best SIM for backpacking in Cambodia is the Cellcard Tourist SIM. If you want to know why we’ve selected this one, keep reading!
Where to get a SIM: Available almost everywhere but it is best to visit an official store.
Where to top up: Available anywhere displaying the Metfone Logo.
Cell network: 2G/3G/4G.
ID Required: Yes.
Bands/Frequencies: 2100MHz (3G) Band 3/5/7 (4G).
Metfone is owned and operated by the Vietnamese military network Viettel and as such, provides good coverage across much of the country. The peak 4G speeds are often slightly slower than the competition but the larger coverage area makes Metfone an attractive option for travellers.
Whilst there is not a straight-up tourist SIM available from Metfone, they do have a number of options that work great for backpackers. The deals are often changing so check out their website for the most up to date information.
As a general rule, you will not be able to use data unless you have purchased a package. $5USD will buy you around 7GB which will be valid for 30 days. Often, you will be able to find deals with top-up bonuses or extra data so don’t just settle on the first package you see, some are only available in person and some only available online.
Where to get a SIM: Available from official stores, most small shops or vendors. There is also usually a booth open in the arrival area in airports. Make sure you get the regular SIM and not the discounted option that does not have data packages available.
Where to top up: In official stores or any shop displaying the Cellcard logo.
Cell network: 2G/3G/4G
ID Required: Yes.
Bands/Frequencies: Band 3 (4G) 2100MHz (3G)
Since introducing their 4G network in 2015, Cellcard has been going from strength to strength and is quickly becoming Cambodia’s fastest 4G network. Their cell towers now cover over 80% of the country and they offer great deals for locals and backpackers alike.
Before the introduction of the 4G network and the massive expansion that has taken place over the last few years, Cellcard was not a good option for travellers. Recently though, they have been winning Cambodia’s fastest network awards and are looking set to become the dominant force of Cambodia’s mobile networks.
Tourist SIMs are only available in airports and offer competitive rates with up to 5GB of data per day as standard. Initially, the tourist SIM is only valid for seven days but this can be extended with each top-up. Make sure you keep the SIM topped up because some users have reported being unable to reactivate it once it has expired.
Where to get a SIM: Available from official stores, street vendors and most shops. Just look out for the Smart logo.
Where to top up: Top ups available wherever you can buy a SIM.
Cell network: 2G/3G/4G.
ID Required: Yes.
Bands/Frequencies: 900MHz (2G), 2100Mhz (3G), Bands 1&3 (4G)
Smart claim to have covered 98% of Cambodia with their 2G network and over 75% of the country with 3G. Their 4G network was originally only rolled out in large population centres but as of 2017, it has been spreading further and further afield.
Tourist SIMs are only available in the arrival areas of Cambodia’s international airports but it has been reported that they often run out and end up pushing the normal SIM cards instead. If this happens to you, it is worth paying attention to the deals that are offered with each SIM.
Some give you extra minutes each day, some provide bonuses with each top-up but data does not come as standard with any of them. You must purchase a data package in order to access the internet and these are usually valid for between 1-30 days.
Overall, coverage in cities and large towns is great but as with all the networks, it does drop off as you get more rural.
Where to get a SIM: Official stores and some smaller shops.
Where to top up: Available in kiosks, official stores and anywhere displaying the Seatel logo.
Cell network: 4G only
ID Required: Yes
Bands/Frequencies: Bands 5&7 (4G)
Seatel, or South East Asia Telecom Group, are a bit of an oddity in the mobile phone network business. They originally gambled on the CDMA network type but after it became clear than GSM was much more ubiquitous, they closed the old network and reopened as a 4G only carrier, using the GSM technology.
Being 4G only means that there are no 3G or 2G networks to fall back on. If there is not a 4G signal available, you will not get a connection elsewhere. This makes Seatel a good option if you are staying in cities but not good for those who plan on visiting more rural areas.
It is also worth noting that earlier iPhones did not work on the Seatel network, some travellers claim this is no longer the case but it may not be worth taking the risk. Most Samsung and Huawei devices will work with no issues.