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Staying Connected in the Philippines: Domestic and International Calls, Internet Packages, Wi Fi
Several solutions are available if you’d want to stay connected with your family and friends (or work?) from home while you are on your holidays in the Philippines.
There are 3 major service providers in the Philippines for your SMS and phone calls: Globe, Smart and Sun (plus few others). Pre-paid SIM cards are available for sale almost everywhere, it’s enough to get one from a reputable convenient store in one of your stops. You will also easily find small kiosks of those communication companies in airports.
You will have to put credit in your SIM to be able to use it locally and internationally: “load” credits are available for sale everywhere too.
To understand the numbers below, take into consideration the following exchange rates (updated on May 2020): 1 USD = 50 Philippine Pesos circa. 1 Euro = 55 Philippine Pesos circa.
Domestic Call and SMS rates
The costs vary depending on the company you choose. In general, 1 local text costs 1 Philippine Peso. The price of voice calls is 6-7 Philippine Pesos if you call a number of the same company (ex. Globe calling Globe), 7-8 Pesos for a different company (ex. Smart calling Globe).
International Call and SMS rates
International Call and SMS rates depend on your operator and the country you’re texting/calling to. There are also packages to make these services more convenient. In general, the standard cost to send 1 text abroad is 20-25 Philippine Pesos. If you’ll need to text often, you could anyway activate specific packages that will allow you to send many texts per day at lower rates.
For voice calls to most western countries, the company Smart , for example, charges 0.4 USD for the 1st minute, followed by 0.04 USD for each additional 6-seconds.
Internet Services and Packages
Internet Services can be very useful while travelling and through common apps like Whatsapp, Viber, Skype, Zoom, Facebook Messengers or others, you could easily avoid costs of international calls and SMS, using your SIM card only for local calls if ever needed.
Costs depend on the network company you choose. Usually, you can purchase short-term prepaid Internet packages just by sending a text or through short codes. The most popular packages give you 1 Giga Byte of data for 3 days for the cost of 50 pesos. Other packages give 2 GB for 7 days for 99 pesos. Also longer-term packages are available. These packages already include a certain number of “free” texts and calls and they are definitely the most convenient option. You may inquire from the SIM vendors about these promotional packages.
Wi-Fi and Internet Cafes
You may not need to activate an Internet package and prefer to rely on Wi-Fi options when available in your hotel, restaurants, airports and other establishments that usually come for free. You may just have to ask for the password from the staff. Free public Wi-Fi zones are spreading around the country, though they are still relatively rare.
Many Filipinos don’t have their own laptops, computer units nor printers and they just love videogames: Internet cafes and stations are easy to find even in small towns. They operate with per hour of use rates and they often also offer printing, fax, quick photo ID, scanner and photocopying services.
Internet and Phone Signal in the Philippines: Are They Reliable?
Remember that Internet signal vary from one place to another. The Philippines is quite a digitally connected country, though the Internet is not among the fastest in Asia! Particularly in the provinces and isolated places, and especially during peak hours of active users, your Internet connection might be slow or even not function. Poor connections could happen either on your phone or with Wi Fi signals. In those cases, be patient and wait, change location or maybe grab this chance to enjoy some digital detox. Calls and texts are usually more reliable, though some rural and isolated areas may still not have signal.
Should I buy a SIM card for travelling around the Philippines?
Given the information above, it’s your decision and it depends on how you like travelling. Costs are low anyway.
If you booked one of our tours of the Philippines, we’ll advise you to use a local SIM card during your trip: it will be easier for us to stay in touch and give the latest information on your trip, if needed. You could also contact us in case of emergency and communication will also be cheaper (using your country’s SIM card could be very expensive!). We can easily coordinate with you on purchasing the SIM card and activating the connection packages you need.