Find the prepaid SIM cards that will work best for you when in the Philippines
Don’t pay roaming bills when abroad – buy a local SIM card that suits your needs.
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When travelling to Asia, make sure you live within your budget. One thing you should consider is allotting a portion of your funds to your communication needs. It’s important to stay in touch with friends and relatives, and make sure they can contact you in case of emergencies. You might think this is costly, but you can save money by switching to a local mobile phone provider and buying a prepaid SIM card. A 1GB data package is usually priced at PHP50 (AUD$1.25).
The Philippines offers many prepaid SIM card options. Costs are competitive, making it difficult to choose which prepaid SIM card is right for you. Whether you’ll be staying for a short time or longer, get to know the plans and offers at finder.com.au that will help you save on your communication costs.
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- Calls or data-only SIMs available
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Mobile phone carriers in the Philippines
There are two mobile phone networks in the Philippines: Smart and Globe. Both networks offer prepaid SIM cards that can meet your needs.
In the 2017 Asia Communication Awards in Singapore, Smart was recognised as Asia’s top digital services provider for 2016 due to its efforts to improve the accessibility of digital services for Filipinos. However, Globe has been the country’s leading telecommunications provider since the third quarter of 2016, having 200,000 more subscribers than Smart. In 2017, Globe overtook Smart as the country’s largest mobile operator with more than 10 million subscribers.
Prepaid SIM cards for both networks can be purchased in the airport, at phone kiosks, local shops and supermarkets, or from street vendors.
Users get 2G on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G up to HSPA+ on 850 MHz on Smart and 900 MHz on Globe, as well as 2100 MHz for both. 4G/LTE is currently being rolled out nationwide by both networks, with Smart using 2100, 1800+ and 850 MHz while Globe is using 1800 MHz, 2500 MHz and 2600 MHz.
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Plans offered by Smart and Globe
Smart and Globe offer prepaid SIM packages that, when activated, let you enjoy perks, especially when you load credits. Reload credits can be purchased in local shops, supermarkets and anywhere you see their sign, as well as online.
The Smart LTE Tourist SIM is free upon arrival at any international airport in the country. Just show your foreign passport to claim one. This Smart SIM card is already loaded with 300MB of data upon activation and is valid for three days. An additional 700MB will be added when you load at least PHP30 within three days of activation. The pack comes with Iflix and Uber voucher cards.
Smart LTE Prepaid SIM costs PHP40. The SIM is already loaded with 300MB of data upon activation and is valid for three days. An additional 700MB will be added when you load at least PHP30 within three days of activation.
Both prepaid SIM cards come in card denominations of PHP100, PHP300 and PHP500. You can also load via Smart Online Store. Denominations are PHP50, PHP100, PHP200, PHP300, PHP500 or PHP1,000.
Current Smart data packages
Smart offers SurfMax, Big Bytes, All Out Surf and GigaSurf data packages. All data packages use 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE where available. (Smart UnliSurf was discontinued in 2015 and replaced by SurfMax.)
SurfMax data packages:
These packages have a data cap of 800MB per day.
|PHP50||All-day surfing for 1 day|
|PHP299||All-day surfing for 7 days|
|PHP999||All-day surfing for 30 days|
Big Bytes data packages:
These packages have varying data caps.
|PHP10||40MB||2 days||+200MB music streaming from Spinnr|
|PHP15||40MB||2 days||+300MB Spinnr, iflix, YouTube, Vimeo,|
Dailymotion, Dubsmash and Skype Qik
|PHP30||100MB||1 day||+400MB music streaming from Spinnr|
All Out Surf data packages:
These packages also have varying data caps:
|PHP20||150MB||1 day||Facebook, unlimited SMS and free 20-minute calls to Smart, SUN and TNT|
|PHP30||300MB||2 days||Facebook, unlimited SMS and free 20-minute calls to Smart, SUN and TNT|
|PHP50||500MB||3 days||Facebook, unlimited SMS and free 20-minute calls to Smart, SUN and TNT|
|PHP99||1GB||7 days||Facebook, unlimited SMS and free 20-minute calls to Smart, SUN and TNT|
GigaSurf data packages:
These packages have varying data caps too:
|PHP50||1GB||3 days||+300MB for iflix, YouTube, Spinnr, Vimeo, Dailymotion and Dubsmash,|
as well as unlimited SMS to Smart, SUN and TNT
|PHP99||1.5GB||7 days||+300MB for iflix, YouTube, Spinnr, Vimeo, Dailymotion and Dubsmash|
|PHP299||2GB||30 days||+1.1GB for iflix, YouTube, Spinnr, Vimeo, Dailymotion and Dubsmash|
|PHP499||3.5GB||30 days||+1.1GB for iflix, YouTube, Spinnr, Vimeo, Dailymotion and Dubsmash|
|PHP799||3.5GB||30 days||+1.1GB for iflix, YouTube, Spinnr, Vimeo, Dailymotion and Dubsmash|
|Connection name||Smart Internet|
|Access point name||internet|
Globe TravelSurf offers free prepaid SIM packs customised for travellers. They are available at the Globe booths in the following international airports: NAIA Terminals 1, 3 and 4, Clark, Kalibo, Mactan-Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Caticlan and Laoag. Card denominations come in PHP100, PHP300 and PHP500. TravelSurf offers the following features:
Travel3 for PHP150 with 250MB mobile data valid for 3 days
Travel7 for PHP500 with 1GB mobile data + PHP200 credit valid for 7 days
Travel30 for PHP1,000 with 5GB mobile data valid for 3 days
Just text “Travel3”, “Travel7” or “Travel30” to 8888 to activate the service for your preferred package.
Globe Non-LTE SIM costs PHP40. It uses the 3G network, and you get to choose your own mobile number. Globe LTE SIM also costs PHP40 and uses a 4G network. It has a pre-set mobile number. Call card denominations are PHP100, PHP300 and PHP500. Over-the-air prepaid reloading rates start from PHP10 and go up to PHP900. They are available nationwide from authorized Globe Load outlets.
Current Globe data packages
Globe data packages are called GoSURF and SuperSURF. GoSURF may be suitable if you’re using your mobile phone for both calls and data, but if you’re a heavy data user, it’s advisable to use SuperSURF.
GoSURF data packages:
These packages have varying data caps. Free apps are as follows: Facebook, Viber, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pokemon GO, Spotify Basic, Musical.ly, Vimeo, COC + Clash Royale, Mobile Legends and Disney (available on GoSURF 599 and 999 only).
|PHP15||40MB||2 days||+30MB Mobile Legends game|
|PHP50||1GB||3 days||+300MB for app of choice|
and unlimited SMS to Globe,
Touch Mobile and abs-cbnmobile
|PHP299||1.5GB||30 days||+1GB for app of choice|
|PHP599||4GB||30 days||+1GB for app of choice|
|PHP999||8GB||30 days||+1GB for app of choice|
SuperSURF data packages:
These packages have a data cap of 800MB per day.
|PHP50||All-day surfing for 1 day|
|PHP120||All-day surfing for 3 days|
|PHP200||All-day surfing for 5 days|
|PHP999||All-day surfing for 30 days|
|Connection name||myGlobe INET|
|Access point name||http.globe.com.ph|
Case Study: Tried and tested by finder.com.au
Buying a prepaid SIM card in the Philippines is easy. Aside from kiosks that can be found in the airports when you arrive, almost all stores with Smart or Globe signage, street vendors, 7/11 stores and other convenience stores carry prepaid SIM cards.
There are also stalls and kiosks inside the malls where you can purchase cards. Store clerks are very accommodating when you ask them for a recommendation. If you have your mobile phone with you, they will even volunteer to install the prepaid SIM for you.
Communicating with the local vendors and store clerks is easy because English is a second language in the Philippines. But for posterity, here are some phrases that may help you communicate better when buying a prepaid SIM:
|How much is this prepaid SIM?||Magkano itong prepaid SIM?|
|Where can I buy a prepaid SIM?||Saan ako bibili ng prepaid SIM?|
Some top tips:
- If you’re on mobile data, activate your GPS and use Google Maps. These can help you identify where you are.
- Download the Philippines map for your phone.
- Use Uber or Grab taxi. It’s advisable to have both apps in your phone so if you can’t book using Uber, you can use the other app.
- Electronic loads or e-loads for mobile credits are available. You can go to the nearest 7/11 store and ask for that if you don’t want to buy prepaid call cards.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions, as many Filipinos are friendly and will readily answer you or refer you to someone who can help you.
Because there are only two mobile network operators in the Philippines, there are areas in the country that do not get strong coverage from either Smart or Globe. In some areas outside metro Manila, there’s only one network available for data usage, and this changes per region. For example, Boracay, the country’s top summer destination, has a strong signal and coverage from Smart compared to Globe. Up north, in Baguio City, the capital of the country enjoys a strong signal and coverage from Globe, while Smart is weaker.
It’s advisable to ask the local vendor which has a better signal when buying a prepaid SIM. Don’t ask anyone connected to Smart or Globe, as they will push their respective products. It also pays to be observant. Check out which provider has many outlets in the area. It’s more likely that outlets carry the dominant brand that has better coverage over the other.
The current state of mobile phone networks in the Philippines
OpenSignal is a wireless coverage mapping company that crowdsources data on carrier signal quality from users who have downloaded its app. As of September 2017, Globe leads in 4G availability, with users able to latch onto Globe’s LTE signal 62.6% of the time, while Smart is at 52.7%.
- OpenSignal awarded its 4G speed award to Smart for its average download of 10.6Mbps.
- Both networks tied in the 3G speed award again.
- Overall speed went to Smart for faster LTE connections to its customers at 4.2Mbps.
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