As I set out on long term travel, I packed up my unlocked LG Chocolate cell phone to use with local SIM cards at places I stop for an extended period of time. Since my cell was a GSM phone and was unlocked, it should work with any GSM network anywhere in the world and given that most mobile phone providers are GSM, this should be a good enough solution.
I knew I was gonna stay in Cambodia for a while so I wanted to get myself a local SIM card there so I’m connected and easily accessible. From the beginning it seemed like a big deal because there used to be only limited mobile phone services available to tourists but it all seemed to have changed when Metfone launched in Cambodia.
Metfone, from what I understand is a subsidy of a successful mobile provider from Vietnam that expended their services to neighbouring Cambodia where tourist boom took significant proportions and income from tourism grew exponentially. From what I was explained, prior to Metfone, tourists were only able to purchase temporary SIM cards which expired after 2 weeks and were not rechargeable. The way around it was to bribe a Tuk Tuk driver and have him buy an unrestricted SIM card under his name and use it yourself. This approach was no longer relevant since Vietnam based Metfone entered Cambodian mobile market.
The availability of unrestricted SIM cards for tourists from Metfone was a brand new thing when I came to Siem Reap so I went to the main branch located on Sivatha Boulevard, right across the street from Canadian Bank and enquired about the possibility to purchase a SIM card for long term use with my cell phone. I brought my LG unit with me to test it out first in order to make sure I don’t spend money for something that would be incompatible with my cell phone.
To my pleasant surprise, everything went smoother than I anticipated. Metfone representatives were very welcoming and put one of their SIM cards into my phone and let me use it to see that it works without issues. It costs only $3 to purchase a brand new SIM card that has no restrictions and it comes with $2 worth of call credits plus a bonus of $5 worth of call credits within Metfone network. You get your own number that you can recharge when your credit is used up and you can continue using it until you have not recharged your credit for over a month.
I have hesitated not and pulled $3 out of my pocket to get a Metfone SIM card. I was asked to provide a passport as a requirement in order to purchase a SIM card with Metfone, which I did not have on me (it wears out quickly when you carry it in your pockets all the time, plus losing it or having it stolen results in way too much headache, hence I don’t normally carry my passport on me unless can’t otherwise) and thought it was gonna be a problem, but wasn’t. I was simply subsequently asked if I had any other picture ID on me I could provide to prove my identity. I told them I had my Alberta Driver’s License which they said was OK, so I handed it to them so we moved to the last part of sealing a deal – choosing a phone number.
Metfone has that policy that for any decent, half decent and not even remotely good, but better than a randon sequence of numbers phone number you have to pay extra. All numbers available for $3 were plain and simple shit. Anything that has repeated digits or some cool combination of numbers was priced way up ($300 or so). It made no sense paying so much money for a number I’d only use for a month or two, so I was stuck with crappy numbers, but I still tried to nail down one that would be somewhat cool. I settled down with one that ended with 420.
Things change quickly in Cambodia. Only days prior to my arrival it would have been impossible to get an unrestricted cell phone number for use by a tourist (unless you’d cheat the system and obtain one under the name of a local whom you’d have to pay for doing it for you). There was even a law if my sources are correct that disallowed possession of unrestricted SIM cards by foreigners but Metfone changed it all and lawmakers followed by making Cambodia more foreigner friendly. By now, it is possible that there are other mobile providers that offer unrestricted SIM cards to tourists. Shop around to see what’s out there. At the time of this post, there were 9 different mobile providers in Cambodia. That makes for more than enough competition and tourists are the ones with money to spare. They all will want to accommodate the needs of tourists so prices and availability will match the demand.
Getting myself hooked up was really easy. No hessle whatsoever, not even absense of passport was a problem. I would just close this article with a disclaimer statement that I do not endorse Metfone, am not in any way affiliated with them nor get paid in any way. This is my journal so I’m describing things as they happened. Because I was able to get a cell number without hassle from Metfone, I have never checked with any other provider. At the time, I was quite happy and content with what I got from Metfone so I went with it.