Getting a SIM card in the Philippines
As a solo traveller, wherever I am in the world, my main priority is my safety. When in Asia, despite being one of the safest places for female travellers, travelling solo and carrying camera equipment draws unwanted attention without any intention. So I have my sensible head well and truly switched on. Something I always make sure I do is purchase a local SIM card so that I have access to the internet, or at least to calls.
WiFi, or good WiFi at a good price at least, is harder to come by in the Philippines than it is in destinations such as Australia, Thailand, Bali and New Zealand. So, here having a SIM card was more of a priority for me.
I am not recommending the purchase of a SIM card to encourage one to be on one’s phone more.
Why do you need a local SIM card in the Philippines?
Having a SIM Card is a safety net should you…
- get lost and need GPS.
- need to transfer money via online banking when out and about.
- need to contact people overseas in an emergency, or just out of choice.
- head out on a road trip and want to find your location on a map.
Having a local SIM Card, particularly in the Philippines is also extremely useful because…
- The lack of internet means people don’t use it here. Many locals have simple ‘brick’ phones, not smart phones. Business is done via texts and calls and so having a local SIM card saves you a gigantic phone bill made up of international texts and calls.
- If you book a tour, it’s good for the tour company to have a local number they can contact you on about pick ups and trip details. Times are relaxed here and so you may find you want to make a call more often than you think.
- If you want to book a hotel or make an enquiry about availability, having a SIM card is by far the easiest way to do this.
Where can you get a SIM card in the Philippines?
At the airport
There are counters at the airport selling SIM cards, but I couldn’t get one when I landed because I didn’t have any cash. I think they are a little more expensive here, but not too pricey in the grand scheme of things. Buying one when you land will save you heading to a city to buy it afterwards, and will mean you are sorted from the beginning of your trip.
At any of the street sellers
They are everywhere; you will see what I mean as SOON as you get here. SIM cards are a given in any mini-market or roadside shop. It won’t be long before you see the TNT, Globe and Smart advertisement banners.
In a phone shop in the city
Just like in Europe, there are shopping centres and shopping malls, and phone shops within both. People in the Philippines are taught English at school from a young age, so if you can’t find your way just ask someone and they will be able to direct you to the nearest phone shop.
SIM Card networks to choose from…
You can get most of the SIMs above for 20-40PHP. There are lots of deals floating around for unlimited calls or texts too; simply ask the adviser.
If you want a data/3G based plan (like I did), there are deals for these too.
You will need to buy a SIM card and then purchase a ‘load’ which gives you your data plan.
I went to the nearest city to do this.
- I bought a Globe SIM Card for 40PHP.
- On top of that I bought a ‘load’ for 599PHP (5GB data).
I got the lady in the shop to do the admin and activation, which took about 10 minutes, and then I was ready to go!
This SIM card was valid for 30 days (the length of most tourist visas anyway).
Hopefully this post has helped you, or will help you find the right SIM card for you.
If you’re still stuck and don’t know which one to buy, I would recommend heading to a phone shop in your nearest city to seek help.
The Philippines is a beautiful place to travel through, so if you’re heading there or are already there… I wish you a wonderful adventure!
Have you been to the Philippines?
What are your top travel tips for the Philippines? I’d love to know!
Love as always and happy adventuring,
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